Saturday, September 26, 2009

SF Chronicle: West Portal immersion program still thriving

Today, a story on West Portal's Cantonese immersion program ran in the Chronicle.

Here's an excerpt:

It was 1984 when a handful of San Francisco parents embarked on a controversial education experiment to open the first Chinese immersion public school program in the nation.

The idea was to immerse the students in Cantonese from the first day of school, teaching them math, science and other subjects in Chinese and gradually increasing English skills along the way. Success would mean that by the time the children finished elementary school, they would be grade-level literate in both languages.

The pioneering venture, which operates at West Portal Elementary's kindergarten through fifth grades, was launched as U.S.-China relations were just warming. Today, it has become one of the school district's shining stars, gaining steady popularity among families and setting an example for similar programs in San Francisco and across the country.

This year, there were 34 spots for incoming kindergarteners and 446 families trying to get one in the first round of applications, according to district officials.

The school also includes general education classrooms, which comprise two-thirds of West Portal's enrollment, and the Chinese immersion students contribute to its test results, which are among the highest in the district as well as the state.

To read the full story by Jill Tucker click here.


  1. I was disappointed that the article didn't follow up on how the original students from the program are doing now: graduated from college? Still speaking Cantonese? Would the original students consider placing their own children in language immersion programs?

  2. I think the article misspoke when it said there are 6 Cantonese immersion programs in the city. There are only 2: West Portal and Alice Fong Yu. And I think it implied that there is a Japanese immersion program. There isn't.

  3. De Avila is a new Cantonese program this year, so that makes three.

    There are also two Mandarin programs, one at Starr King and the other at Jose Ortega.