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Mandarin school backers seek district sponsorship
Original post made
on Aug 27, 2014
Backers of the proposed Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School say they will officially ask the Menlo Park City School District to sponsor their school at the board's Sept. 9 meeting.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 7:22 AM
Posted by MMICS Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 28, 2014 at 2:42 am
To hopefully answer any questions, I copied my post from the earlier Almanac article below. Also, just to clarify, the charter school is seeking authorization from the district, not sponsorship.
There are a number of misconceptions with respect to 1) charter schools, 2) language immersion programs, 3) the value of Mandarin, and 4) cost/funding that I will attempt to clarify. It's extremely important that the community has this information in order to form an educated decision/opinion, instead of an emotional one based on assumptions. Also, please note that the school is not just based on Mandarin immersion. It integrates innovative curriculum with progressive teaching methods to develop 21st century skills for college and career readiness in our dynamic global society.
1)Charter schools provide families with a choice when it comes to public education and I think most people support having choices. Starting a charter school is also a *lot* of work and not some "crafty" ploy to circumvent the system.
The Charter Schools Act of 1992 states that:
It is the intent of the California Legislature…to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method to accomplish all of the following:
a)Improve pupil learning.
b)Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.
c)Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
d)Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.
e)Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
f)Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
g)Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.
-California Education Code Section 47601(a)-(g)
2)Although counter-intuitive, language immersion programs are actually much more cost-effective than enrichment programs. The reason for this is because you are delivering the core curriculum/state standards in the target language (and you can only do this starting when kids are young), teacher and facility costs don't increase. Budget constraints were the reason why Spanish For All was eventually discontinued, but Spanish immersion survived. In fact, many school districts are able to run immersion programs cost-neutrally (or close to it), and even revenue positive as in Minnesota's case, and no, districts don't have to hire a separate administrator to run the program.
Also, immersion is *the* most effective method for developing advanced proficiency (bilingualism/biliteracy) and academic competency in both languages, whereas enrichment programs provide limited exposure only, so you don't gain the cognitive (and other) benefits. Developing true proficiency in other languages is actually a priority at all levels of our government, even in our own school district. You can refer to the State's and County's Seal of Biliteracy programs, as well as the MPCSD's strategic plan. Some educators even believe that immersion will become the norm for education in the future.
More information and research, including the cognitive benefits of bilingualism and academic achievement data (which I don't believe are "narcissistic"), are available in the white paper posted on the menlomandarin.org website, so I would encourage you to read this.
3)Learning any language is excellent for cognitive development and in fact, one of the charter school founders, who is a neuroscientist and 2013 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, believes it is more important for a child's development in the first 10 years than learning math or science (because learning multiple languages expands the brain's capacity and stimulates learning in all subject areas)!
However, there actually is an added benefit to learning Mandarin specifically, not only because of its tonal nature and characters, which builds connections between both hemispheres of the brain (English speakers are only using the left side), but because it is also the most widely spoken first language in the world and 3rd most widely spoken in the US. In addition, China has the second largest economy in the world and one of the fastest-growing, expected to surpass the US in the next 10 20 years.
According to our US government, Mandarin is 1 of only 2 critical languages, which means there is a strong demand, but limited supply. The challenge is that language takes many years to develop, so by the time you realize you need the skill, it's too late, and the US is trying to play catch up. Also, education has a long time horizon, so educators have to be progressive (forward-thinking, innovative, visionary) to anticipate the skills and needs 15+ years out. We know enough about China's rising economic and political influence to anticipate the practicality of Mandarin for many generations to come, so this isn't some "crap shoot". If others believe that the future language should be something else, then I highly encourage you to present your case (and supporters) to the school district, as the parents did with Mandarin.
4)Cost is a sensitive topic and understandably so. However, charter schools are unfairly targeted. As one commenter indicated, it is actually to the district's financial advantage to approve the charter school, which is probably a surprise for many people. The district actually retains a larger share of the property tax revenue than what the charter school will receive, so the charter school needs to educate these district children with less tax revenue than if they were to attend the district's schools. Also, the funding follows the student, so charter schools will receive the same ADA for out-of-district students and they aren't getting a free ride on the backs of Menlo Park taxpayers. Therefore, charter schools do not siphon money away from the district nor its programs. In fact, it's the opposite.
In terms of facilities, the charter school needs 80 in-district signatures of families who are meaningfully interested in enrolling in the school in the first year in order to receive classroom space. Even then, this space is usually leased to the charter school based on a couple of different methods, so again, there's no free ride here.
One final note, learning Mandarin doesn't threaten English or challenge its dominance in the world. Learning other languages actually improves English, and the academic achievement data consistently indicates that children in immersion programs outperform their non-immersion peers, even on tests of the English language. However, if history is any lesson, we should remember that there were many great civilizations and powerful countries that have risen and fallen, so what is clear is that nothing lasts forever and the US is not immune. If anything, we are already losing our competitiveness in many fields and if we keep denying the impact of globalization, we will be victim to our own "narcissism".