Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reader Request: Chances of Getting SFUSD Mandarin Immersion in K vs 1st grade?

A reader sent in this question:Our older child has been attending a Chinese immersion preschool that continues to elementary. We will be considering Kindergarten options for this coming year. Our family is very interested in the Mandarin Immersion programs at Starr King and Jose Ortega, but may put off placing our older child in the public school system until 1st grade, primarily to allow a younger sibling access to a spot in the preschool program.Spots at the preschool are in pretty high demand. 

Therefore, I'm wondering whether our chances of a SFUSD Mandarin Immersion program in 1st grade are a lot worse than for Kindergarten. If we ultimately want to be at either Starr King or Jose Ortega's programs, would it be foolish to wait out the Kindergarten placement process in the hopes that there will opportunities to enroll for 1st grade? We are assuming that our child will place as bilingual in both Mandarin and English in the language placement test.

Parents of students in SFUSD Mandarin immersion, what's your take on openings in first grade vs kindergarten for a Mandarin-speaking student?

Chances for K vs 1st grade are unknown for 2 reasons:
  1. For the purposes of the SFUSD lottery, Mandarin-speaking (MN) and and English-only (ME) are separate, mutually exclusive programs. SFUSD doesn't break down requests for Mandarin Immersion by Mandarin-speaking (MN) vs. English-only (ME) applicants.
  2. Openings in first grade are completely dependent on students leaving the program after kindergarten. I can tell you that for Korean immersion this year, all of last year's kindergarteners returned, so no 1st grade spots opened up.
         With three classes for Mandarin immersion, the chance of a student leaving is higher. However, a Mandarin-speaking (MN) kindergartener would have to drop out. An ME student leaving wouldn't help. As you can imagine,students who already speak Mandarin are probably less likely to drop out.
Below is a summary of total requests (MN and ME) for Mandarin Immersion for the last 3 years.
Starr KingTotal
requests
1st
choice
2nd
choice
3rd
choice
2014
   K19053167
   1st grade4100
   2nd grade1100
2013
   K17941245
   1st8311
   2nd1100
2012
   K149461518
   1st4200
   2nd2020


OrtegaTotal
requests
1st
choice
2nd
choice
3rd
choice
2014
   K224343513
   1st13431
   2nd1000
2013
   K173332213
   1st5300
   2nd1100
2012
   K155282214
   1st11421
   2nd1100

Sources for First Round Requests 2012-2014: 
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2014-15/request_report_2014-15.pdf
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2013-14/2013-14_requests.pdf
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2012-13/Requests.pdf

Historically, Starr King has had more Mandarin-speaking (MN) spots for it could fill, but this may be changing. In 2013, the list of open spots after Round 2 included openings for Mandarin speakers at Starr King for K and 2nd grade (but not 1st grade). However, in 2014 after Round 1,  King had no open Mandarin-speaking spots for kindergarten. Some spots probably opened up in later rounds since King had no waitpool for Mandarin speakers in any grade on the June 2014 waitpool list.

A first grade spot is less likely to open up at Jose Ortega, which is more popular and has fewer spots than King. Total requests for Mandarin immersion at Ortega increased 45% from 2012 to 2014, compared to 28% for King. Waitpools have been consistently larger for Ortega.

For 2nd grade, the chances look better because only Mandarin speakers can be admitted for 2nd grade and up. In the past 3 years, there's only been 1-2 "top 3" requests for 2nd grade Mandarin immersion. However, depending on the spacing of your kids, you may lose sibling priority for your younger child by waiting until 2nd grade for the older child.

My own opinion is that if you want SFUSD Mandarin immersion and get a kindergarten spot, take it. The younger child will get sibling priority for Mandarin Immersion K-5, which will matter more than 1-2 years of preschool in developing language proficiency.

Parents of students in Mandarin immersion at JOES or Starr King, what are your thoughts?

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