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Why MI at Ohlone is a Good Deal for PAUSD

Original post made by Jerry Underdal on Jun 1, 2007

Every thread associated with Mandarin Immersion recently in the Town Square has been dominated by critics. We have learned a lot about perceived and actual drawbacks. What we haven't had since January 30 when the effort to persuade the board to approve Choice MI at Ohlone fell one vote short is a discussion of why the plan before the board is a good deal for PAUSD.

The best argument for MI at Ohlone is not that a charter will be more detrimental than choice. It may appear to be the clincher, but that's not a reason worthy of this district.

What's your best argument for why the plan before the board (see PAUSD web site to refresh your memory) should be approved and the community should appreciate having this option available?

Comments (109)

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

I have no argument for MI at Ohlone - or ANY other new choice program at this time. Mandarin is not a PAUSD priority.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

Here's something for people to consider:

Last evening, I attended the end of year awards ceremony for the Foreign Language Department at Palo Alto High School, where my daughter was among those recognized. Sitting next to her was another Junior, whom I did not know, who was recognized for outstnading achievement in the advanced Spanish Literature class, typically an AP class taken by the best senior year Spanish students at PALY. My daughter explained to me that this young lady had been a Spanish Immersion student in PAUSD.

After the ceremony, I introduced myself to this girl, and explained that I had been involved in getting SI launched some years ago. She thanked me, genuinely and sincerely. There are eleven other grades worth of students in Palo Alto now also benefiting from this form of instruction. This does not feed my ego, but it is a most gratifying thing for me to know I had a small part in something like this becoming a part of so many students' lives.

Immersion is not for everyone, and I hope that we finally can get a world language instruction component introduced for all our elementary students within the next couple of years--that is critical. I prefer to think about an additional immersion program, in this case Mandarin, from the lens from which I last night viewed Spanish Immersion's impact in this District.

Let me suggest that some of the myriad details and issues we face around this in the current moment will fade away from our memories when our first MI students receive their language recognition awards at Gunn and PALY in 2018 and beyond.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:04 am

Paul

Thank you about telling us the tale about the lucky winner in the lottery. I would rather hear about those who won awards last night who did not have the luck that this bright young lady had. The whole point of the argument is that she got something most everyone else did not get and now she can be rightly proud of her achievement, but it stemmed from luck.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:18 am

Yes, my worries would also be faded in 10 years if I won the lottery today and could pay off my mortgage. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You should look at the MI debacle now, and thank yourself heartily for it. If anyone is doubting the slippery slope effect, please take a look at the early rhetoric of the MI efforts, and see how jealosy over SI was the impetus that started us down this path. All because a very few very selfish parents wanted something for themselves, but didn't care to figure out how to take care of the greater PAUSD in the process.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:35 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Puzzled, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm

How is it a CHANCE at getting lucky is worse than NO CHANCE AT ALL?

This line of anti-MI argument makes no sense to me what-so-ever.

If FLES were a real priority and "majority" in our school community (which I wish it were), I would have imagined some group would have organized itself and had presented a coherent CONCRETE plan to implement FLES (a group that ought to be stronger than PACE---if it really were a majority in our district)...but disappointingly, in the last few years, no such united group has emerged. I believe the problem lies in the details of a FLES plan...which languages should PAUSD offer? How often? At what cost?...though I would STRONGLY support a concrete FLES plan (I am NOT a PACE member), no such FLES plan currently exists.

At this point, I'd rather have a CHANCE at an additional foreign language learning opportunity for my child in elementary school in fall of '08 rather than NO CHANCE AT ALL...district inertia is a very strong force, it's always EASIER TO OPPOSE than to UNIFY PEOPLE ENOUGH TO PROPOSE SOMETHING NEW.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:10 pm

"Parent, a resident" and "no-more bonds",

Paul got us off to a start for considering some positives about what is relentlessly branded as a selfish, out-of-order, district-destroying proposal by opponents, and then got jumped on.

It would be helpful if this thread could be a place to listen and respond as if the person who posted was a friendly member of the community that you happened to disagree with, not a target for attack. We might get some different perspectives aired that way.


Posted by I'm impressed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:22 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by tax payer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Well, since a "chance" at getting lucky happens because Becky Cohn Vargas, Marilyn Cook, Norm Masuda, MFC, Susan Charles, Bill Garrison, Jerry Matranga, Scott Bowers, and others - spend a bunch of district staff time developing, instituting and managing an MI program that they shouldn't have to run, and which the community really doesn't want, and which takes away spaces that could have otherwise been used for Ohlone waiting list, that means that a "chance" at getting lucky for a few, is using up district resources that could be used on other programming that could be better used for the benefit all. So a "chance" at getting lucky is taking away something for everyone who doesn't luck in.

By the way, what did the feasibility say about the use of district staff resources????? (Nothing. They ignored those costs. Which is different than saying ZERO.)

Matranga pointed out something important. He said a charter would not reduce number of teachers in PAUSD because those kids would come from all over the district, and so no existing classrooms would really go away. Well, guess what. Exactly same case for a choice program. But the difference is - the CHARTER would pay for the additional teachers. But a CHOICE program - WE PAY for the incremental teachers. But they just label them as 'cost neutral' in the feasibility study and brush the incremental cost of hiring these new teachers under the rug. And notice Jerry Matranga last night said the incremental costs would be 'transparent' - well what he means is they costs are INVISIBLE because they don't track them, and don't pay attention which causes them to conveniently disappear into the system. Its not that they're not there - they just can't be called out and specified.

Which the MI and SI proponents have jumped on as their justification to claim 'cost neutral'. What they should be calling this program is COST INVISIBLE.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:06 pm

I am opposed to choice programs in Palo Alto, because they break up the neighborhood schools. However, I do support charter schools and vouchers and privates. I think immersion is probably a great way to learn a language.

I think the opposition to charters has a lot more to do with protecting the current power structure and the teachers union. There seems to be so much fear associated with the concept. If PAUSD wouold get behind the charter concept, it could be a very good thing for all stake holders.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:09 pm

To anyone looking in on this thread,

I apologize for not modeling what I called for in the original post. Think of it as completing the prompt "Why is MI at Ohlone a good deal for PAUSD"--

MI at Ohlone is a good deal for PAUSD because it give the district a chance to test out implementation of a Mandarin Chinese program at the elementary school level at minimal cost. There's been a great deal of speculation about whether Chinese is different in its suitability for dual immersion programs with English from languages with the same alphabet and basic grammar. That figured in some of the discussion before the board. We get to test the hypothesis--without a huge investment.

There. I haven't addressed everything, pro or con, about the program, but it does give a reason why someone might like the idea beyond selfishness and sheer orneriness.


Posted by Troubled, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Puzzled,
"it's always EASIER TO OPPOSE than to UNIFY PEOPLE ENOUGH TO PROPOSE SOMETHING NEW."

Yeah, and it's easier to threaten charter with MI than with FLES. Just because MI *can* be legally pushed through the process and onto a no-voting board doesn't make it right to do so. It's easier to threaten charter than wait for the board to say yes, in due time, when it fits in with the priorities of the entire district. The nature of FLES prevents it from being rammed through in the same way. Thankfully.

It's hard to wait. I can appreciate that. But having waited, strung along, asked to leap hurdles, or however you want to describe it, doesn't make it *right* to take advantage of a weakness in the system. Because you've experienced a hardship is not enough of an argument to say that therefore you are now entitled to turn the district upside down.

Frankly, I think PACE took the easy way out by forcing this outcome. The harder thing to do would be to exercise a bit more patience in the interest of the entire community, the well-intentioned school board members, and the hard-working district staff.


Posted by no more bonds, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Jerry, I am not in favor of experimenting on children for the sake of seeing if chinese can be taught this way. (In fact the question "why at Ohlone" was a key part of the question, because it raises the point of whether the Ohlone method is at all appropriate for the MI challenge - we have no idea since our own staff didn't study it but only had visions about it, and they admit its never been done anywhere else in this manner.

I also don't find it compelling because why should we experiment on a program that we don't hold as a priority anyway. The question is, why should we care about holding this experiement? Why should we put forth the effort when its effort that could be used on other topics?

Your contention that its a cost neutral experiement is false. The district staff will be pulled in to this grand experiment, when they could be "experimenting" on improving other programs, developing programs to close achivement gap, to improve young fives offerings, to deliver FLEX to all, or to improve many many other miriad of other programs to a much broader benefit of all kids.

Its rather backwards logic. Perhaps we should figure out what the priorities are, then start experimenting with cost neutral alternatives for going after that.

You really didn't answer your own question - what's the benefit to PAUSD for going after MI?


Posted by KETTLE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Puzzled: Its easier to bully your way through the system with force, than it is to UNIFY PEOPLE with a PROPOSAL FOR SOMETHING NEW that serves of the greater good of the community.

Yes, coming up with a viable FLES model, or other altnetive language options would be hard.. But infinitely more noble than what is occuring now.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Parent,

A benefit to having Choice MI at Ohlone is that it would be show that PAUSD is capable of accommodating the interests of subgroups within the community in a way that welcomes them in rather than isolating them.

I appreciate the educational values of the "Ohlone Way" and the willingness of the Ohlone community to push aside the argument that what matters in a school are the STAR test results and API score. Incorporating the Ohlone Way into an MI program is a way of extending those values into the educational experience of a significant and growing segment of our population. That could have district wide benefits to the extent that it reduces the pressure to prioritize test scores in other schools as we go forward.

The benefit of demonstrating that PAUSD and MI supporters can work productively and cooperatively at the small scale represented by this pilot program will be evident in the future if, as I believe, the population in Palo Alto shifts significantly in its ethnic composition.

Having a charter school established would set up real competition for attention and resources going forward with an inherent antagonism built in from the start.

I can imagine the conversation years from now, when Palo Alto Mandarin Charter School is fully formed and so well-established and respected that it's hard to remember it could have gone another way.-- "Why was the charter formed?" "Because Palo Alto was more ready to accept the cost (known--$100,000 per 80 students, and unknown--impact of having a competitive school looking to grow within the district) of a charter than the minimal cost of an Ohlone Mandarin Immersion program."


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 1, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Jerry: "The best argument for MI at Ohlone is not that a charter will be more detrimental than choice. It may appear to be the clincher, but that's not a reason worthy of this district."

I agree, it's not a worthy reason. However, it is THE reason. Read the handout by Mandy Lowell and Dana Tom that was distributed at the Town Hall meeting:

"If we do not have a choice program, we will surely have a charter. Either option can set a precedent, but a choice program is the better alternative. A choice program would have a lower impact on staff, building, and financial resources than a charter school."

That seems pretty clear to me. If it's not, try this one:

"The effort to launch a choice program would be lower in cost to our District and primarily localized to Ohlone." (In other words, Ohlone will shoulder the brunt of the detrimental effects.)

Not convinced? Flip the page over and you'll see a graph with pro-con charter-choice bullets. It all points to identifying which option is less detrimental. It's not a particularly worthy reason, but it is what it is.

Please don't ask us to fabricate "more worthy" spins so that the PACE individuals can feel better about the lousy situation they've dumped on our district.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 4:48 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Ohlone is a wonderful school, Jerry, it doesn't deserve to be split by an unpopular program.

And it is unpopular and has gotten more so every week and with every meeting. Why? Because it offers a worse educational experience for kids at Ohlone who aren't in the program. It is dividing our community, despite Susan Charles efforts to pretend otherwise, and overcrowding the school. It's even jeopardizing Ohlone's current size when at the end of three years there's no place for MI and we know we can get another round of charter threat if the MIers don't get everything they want.

My kid receives no benefit here--quite the opposite. Gosh, guys, thanks.

But we're supposed to say how wonderful this would be? Come on, those sales pitches have been made.

And they failed.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Jerry - where are they isolated? Are you suggesting we have a subgroup that is isolated because of a language barrier that this program would address. You know very well we do not, and this is NOT designed to be a program that addresses english/mandarin language learners.

You have it exactly opposite. This is a program which the proponents will achieve isolation of themselves from regular PAUSD

Has the Ohlone approach at Ohlone achieved a reduction of emphasis in test scores yet to date? Why would this?

Prove we can work together? I believe the only way to accomplish this is to keep the diversity alive in our neighborhood school models. You can not possibly believe that we will improve diversity through programs that will create exagerated ethnic imbalance and de-deversify our neighborhood schools.

Don't try too hard too imagine that version of the future. It's about as realstic as the empty feasibility study.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 8:26 pm

And Jerry - your "imagine the future when we're all bemoaning a charter" argument is exactly what you said was not a good reason.


Posted by Still??, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2007 at 8:53 pm

You're still at this? Thought it was all over.

The communities around you are welcoming of minorities. We like them. What is Palo Alto's problem? We'd love to take engaged, energetic new residents, and we're not afraid of change.

Something stinks over there. Think I know what it is, too.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Dear Still -

We'd love the MI group to be in MV (although MV students are not quite the type they want their children associating with), a district which could benefit from a MI or World Languages Charter, one with declining enrollment, a large Chinese population and a wonderful, diverse community. Unfortunately, PACE kids would no longer be going to school in PA (although, I guess Cupertino is ok)

The claim that Ohlone Way will prevail - will there be two PTA's like Escondido? Will the non-immersion kids get to middle and high school feeling like second class citizens (like Escondido)?

Who really believes the Ohlone cooperative, team building, non-homework way is compatible with the all-for-us, we don't need to volunteer, our kids don't need to/can't play because they have violin, swimming, Chinese 9(guess that would go away) tennis, non-team, non-group activities?


Posted by memory, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:58 pm

Regarding the argument that MI should be abandoned because it is stirring too strong emotions and angering a so-called "majority" of the community--seems to me the civil rights marches did the same thing not too long ago somewhere down south.

Courteous objection is one thing---angry hostile objection seems to mask something else...not participating in MI because of fear of persecution by a majority of the community---what would have happened had the first black students entering an all-white school felt the same during the civil rights era? Is Ohlone afraid of asian-contagion? --if so, it very well is a fear blown way out of proportion to an actual risk--many of the pro-MI'ers as far as I could see were not necessarily "asian" and in San Francisco, I understand that a significant portion (perhaps even a majority) of mandarin dual immersion participants are non-asian.

I was also originally against MI because of a vague fear of polarization...now the more a self-described "majority" tries to bully a minority group (not in the sense of "race", but in the sense of number)into shutting up --the more I sense something else is afoot which is much more menacing...something that would be quite dangerous to allow to win the day---majority tyranny fueled by a subconscious paranoia, thought our progressive community was better than that.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:02 pm

"Who really believes the Ohlone cooperative, team building, non-homework way is compatible with the all-for-us, we don't need to volunteer, our kids don't need to/can't play because they have violin, swimming, Chinese 9(guess that would go away) tennis, non-team, non-group activities?"

Susan Charles and her staff at Ohlone seem to feel it's worth a shot. At least some of the PACE leaders feel this would be a wonderful step. The administration hasn't flinched from all the demeaning abuse thrown at its study, two BOE members voted in favor of it straight up on Jan. 30, and the two who have suggested they might reluctantly change their vote to allow the experiment must feel there is a feasible match here. If not, they should certainly vote against the Choice MI proposal and move on to address the charter. One board member has been entirely consistent throughout in her no vote and the reasons for it from the beginning.

We're not talking about the bulk of the Mandarin-speaking families in the district here, at least not with the Choice program. Who knows whether a Charter school would attract a significant percentage of the Chinese population of Palo Alto, but the choice program wouldn't. Your characterizations would seem much less likely to apply to parents who chose to put their kindergarteners in an Ohlone program. You may know families that match your description. Do you know any of the families who have supported having Choice MI at Ohlone?


Posted by Sutter, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Parent,

"Excuse me Jerry - where are they isolated? Are you suggesting we have a subgroup that is isolated because of a language barrier that this program would address?" ... this is NOT designed to be a program that addresses english/mandarin language learners."


I was thinking of a different kind of isolation, social and political, within the community.

Grace Mah was at the Ohlone meeting last night. I was pleased to meet her and had a nice chat with her after the meeting broke up. I was astonished that few people in this group of people passionate about MI and steamed to ask questions and make comments approached her for informal conversation afterwards.

That's isolation.

Gathering signatures for a petition to force a costly election to remove Grace Mah from an appointed position she had fairly won. That's isolation.

"... this is NOT designed to be a program that addresses english/mandarin language learners."

I believe you are in error here. This program is designed so that a class with 50% non-English speakers and 50% non-Mandarin speakers could achieve fluency in both languages--and learn the California curriculum--in elementary school. I suspect there won't be many, if any, monolingual students in Palo Alto's implementation of MI, but it would be great if there were.


Posted by Puzzled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Taxpayer,

"because its a PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA its wrong to lavish a few with luxury benefits, and turn away a bunch."

You mean like team sports (which I assume you and I both like), AP classes, IEP plans, tutors (when only available for "special needs" children--a worthy benefit, but definitely not often freely available to a bunch of just "normal" kids)....?


Posted by terry, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by terry, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Jerry,
I agree with you on the isolation observation and how very few seemed to talk with Mah in person.

That's part of what racism looks like: isolation, separation and ostracism.



Posted by linda, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:19 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



Posted by terry, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by jerunder@yahoo.com, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:45 pm

Yet another Parent,

"Please don't ask us to fabricate "more worthy" spins so that the PACE individuals can feel better about the lousy situation they've dumped on our district."

No one is asking you to fabricate "more worthy" spins. It would be wonderful, though, if supporters of MI felt comfortable laying out their thinking here in this public space without concern about being bullied for their trouble.


Posted by shocked, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:27 am

really shocked to realize how much hostility is here towards Chinese community. speechless.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2007 at 10:11 am

In my view, more choice is a good thing. It would be nice if all (more) students had access to programs like MI, SI, Ohlone, or Hoover, but that's the way the district has chosen to institute "alternate" forms of education. I don't see that it makes sense to fight against what is an established methodology. One that has demonstrated no small amount of success/traction.

On the other side, I also feel that making anything specialized available to all reduces the value/quality to those that _really_ care about it....regardless of the nature of the specialty!

Also the majority of Palo Altans, I feel, don't care about MI one way or the other. Sure, there's a minority of support, and a very expressive (vocal) minority of opposition, but most don't care enough to spend time on the issue.

As I've mentioned before, my family will take advantage of what the district has to offer, and supplement where we feel it's necessary, regardless of the outcome of this whole MI thing.

I don't believe that having SI has reduced the value of education the district offers, and MI won't either.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:00 am

This racism thing that is supposed to be behind it all is only a myth. It is a cultural thing. I have many Chinese friends, yes friends, you are not interested in MI in schools. They are concerned that their children learn about Chinese culture and language, but they are also concerned about the whole child and their children becoming rounded adults. They do volunteer in schools, they do have their children in normal fun activities like sports and other after school pastimes which are not there just because the colleges might like them.

The culture of many people (often Chinese) whereby the child doesn't have a life apart from academics, music, etc. is the culture of the MI proponents, regardless of their ethnicity. I believe even the non-Chinese families in this group follow the same ideal.

So please don't call it race. Call it culture. It is not an Asian culture, or European culture, or a Jewish culture, etc. It is a culture that some people have bought into which makes them radical in their thinking about education for their children and not worrying about the rest.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:01 am

"I believe you are in error here. This program is designed so that a class with 50% non-English speakers and 50% non-Mandarin speakers could achieve fluency in both languages..."

Jerry, I respectfully disagree. SI is 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. I'm not trying to splice hairs, but there's a difference. Non-English does not equal Spanish, and vice versa.

For example, if a child is bilingual, s/he would likely apply for the Spanish slot since they're far less competitive to get in. I don't know how non-Spanish non-English students (Japanese only, for example) are handled: are they even eligible?


Posted by memory, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:16 am

Parent,

I'm not sure what proportion of the pro-MI camp they make up, but I certain do know of passionate pro-MI'ers who EXTENSIVELY volunteer at schools, do playdates, believe in child-centered whole child teaching methods, value arts, value community participation and reaching out to your neighbors no matter their background....we must always be wary of stereotyping an ENTIRE group.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:20 am

Linda,

My "lack of leadership"? What makes you think I'm trying to be a leader?


Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:33 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:41 am

Jerry,

Why didn't Grace Mah approach people and try to ease their concerns?

You talk about isolation--exactly my point that the PACE crowd are seen as pariahs--and that includes the white ones, of which there are several. It's funny that you've made the same point I have, but my making it offends you.

Where we differ is that I think the pariah status is the result of their own actions. You'd prefer it to be about something else--racism. Which is a convenient way to dodge examinatino of one's own actions.

As for the some of my best friends are Chinese, yes, of course. It's why I know something about the cultural pressures behind this and that there's far from a consensus about PACE. I know people who really want it. I know people who cringe. I know people who are trying to figure out the ins and outs of how the system works here.

Anyway, one more time. MI overcrowds my child's school, curtails expansion of the most popular choice program in Palo Alto and may even downsize it in three years when there's nowhere for it to go.

Can you find some way to understand why this might concern me without resorting to attacking my character?

Oh, and general note. Grace Mah was appointed. She was never elected. Faith Brigel, in contrast to PACE, withdrew the petition when she realized that a recall would be very expensive. PACE, on the other hand, has shown zero concern with district growth and lack of facilities.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:09 pm

One other point.

Susan Charles has emphasized that Ohlone and MI are supposed to be one big community. As the trial run's being set up, however, that's not going to happen.

Instead, it's become a lose-lose situation--and we're only going to come back to the mess in three years anyway when Ohlone reaches its 500-student cap and MI will want to expand to the upper grades.

There's no good solution at that point. An overcrowded mega-campus is not a good solution. Cutting into Ohlone's strands is not a good solution. Cutting short the MI program is not a good solution.

So what then? Garland? Is there any guarantee Garland will open and, if it does, that there won't already be enough kids in the neighborhood to fill a relatively small site?

But I think that's what the BoE is banking on even if it won't admit it.

It's not my attitude that's the problem guys, it's the reality.




Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:27 pm

It is comforting but sadly inaccurate to think the racism is a myth or exaggerated or just about culture. Many comments have surfaced over the course of this debate that show racist underpinnings.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Palo Alto should be ashamed of this line of thinking.


Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Amy -

I don't think PA mom wants Chinese people out of Palo alto, I think she wants the MI program in a district which would both welcome it and benefit from it.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Yet Another Parent,

The confusion is natural because everyone tends to use shorthand for speed and accuracy gets dropped. The relevant categories are Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking. The Spanish speakers are imp. for the model to work since you're counting on those kids as languagemodels and culture informants for the others. The home language of the other students can be anything. There are several students in SI right now whose home language is French or Chinese--maybe others as well. I don't know.

I assume they would apply the same considerations to the Mandarin Immersion program: you need a certain ratio of Mandarin speakers (from one-third to a half) for each class.

This is not a program that moves students quickly to English mastery from the start. Most parents whose home language is neither Mandarin nor English would prefer that their child focus on English, supplemented with foreign language instruction as desired and as available.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 2:58 pm

OhlonePar,

"Anyway, one more time. MI overcrowds my child's school, curtails expansion of the most popular choice program in Palo Alto and may even downsize it in three years when there's nowhere for it to go. Can you find some way to understand why this might concern me without resorting to attacking my character?"

Of course I can. Those are realistic concerns, and I do try to understand them. I have attacked your positions several times but I don't think I've attacked your character in doing so. It's kind of awkward to ask for examples, but I have skimmed my posts to see what would qualify as an attack on your character rather than your position and don't see it.

Ohlone/MI would overcrowd the Ohlone site to the same extent that expanding the Ohlone program without MI would do. It provides a different kind of expansion of the most-popular choice program in Palo Alto. And there are many possible ways that the question of expansion (or contraction or abolition of the pilot MI program) could play out in three years. Being concerned about these issues is legitimate and important for the community to understand.


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2007 at 3:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 2, 2007 at 3:51 pm

"They claim that Ohlone Way will prevail - will there be two PTA's like Escondido?"

Well, yes, there would be two organizations (not two PTAs). One reason is that the immersion program is responsible for supplementing (or supplying?) the classroom with language-specific books and learning materials. At least that's my impression. It's part of the cost-neutral thing. There are other reasons why they benefit from a separate organization - field trips, fund raising, support, cultural events, etc.

Although I think Susan Charles' public support of a single-community Ohlone way vision is to be expected (how else would you like a leader to respond, other than embracing and calming?), I do think she's in for a challenge.

And, to set the record straight, the dynamic of a community within a community was NOT a deliberate design of the Spanish Immersion program, as Susan Charles falsely stated at the meeting and subsequently was reported in the Daily. It was far from deliberate.

The initial SIPAPA parents bent over backwards to be part of the Escondido community: they volunteered in the PTA both at the school and district level, and they worked hard to integrate. Friendships were made among families even between SI/non-SI classrooms.

Except for SIPAPA meetings and SI field trips, all Escondido events are widely attended by both programs. School assemblies are held for the entire school.

Escondido has a few advantages that Ohlone does not:
1. Principal Gary Prehn and Secretary Bella Almanzan speak Spanish. They are able to communicate with SI students and Spanish-speaking parents directly. School assemblies are primarily in English, but when it involves an SI-specific topic, Gary seamlessly transitions to Spanish with a brief English translation.
2a. Many non-SI families are Spanish speaking - including parents and/or students. Language is not a major barrier between the programs.
2b. Spanish is a common second language regardless of ethnic background - many parents took Spanish back in high school or college.
2c. Spanish is an easy language to pick up casually, which the non-SI students are readily doing.
3. Escondido had ample space for the SI program to grow. Since SI arrived, I don't think any neighborhood student has ever been turned away from Escondido due to lack of space. This is big.

One challenge both schools face in creating a single community is that the students speak only the foreign language in the first few years. It's hard for children to run outside at recess and be expected to instantly switch to English. They tend to play with each other, continuing to speak in the classroom language. Their English-only friends can't easily join in if they can't understand their new friends. Having the classrooms clumped together for teacher support purposes can amplify the effect.

Another challenge in creating a single community is how there will always be a division of students as they advance each year. Typically a neighborhood school (used loosely here to include Ohlone & Hoover) mixes students together in new classroom combinations at the start of each new grade. It's nice for students and parents, and one of the ways new friendships are formed while old ones remain. With a dual-program school, the students are only mixed "in kind". Friendships within programs tend to become stronger and more plentiful, while friendships across programs are regrettably fewer. It's simply human nature. Not a race thing, not a language thing, not an ethnic thing. You make friends with the people you come in contact with.

Sorry for not being brief, but these aren't simple issues that can be condensed into sound bites.


Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:17 pm

The "Concerns Aired" post had a comment which highlights why many think an immersion program is unfair, yet takes any potential race factors out the discussion. Think of this scenario, pretend we don't have an existing SI program and see if you feel any differently.

"If we had no art in any of our elementary schools and an Art choice program was proposed (and the other kids still got no art instruction) and 1/2 of the students in the choice program needed to be skilled artists if they were older than Kindergarten, would that be unfair or fair to the rest of the palo alto kids?"


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Jerry,,

Attack on me instead of my position? Here you go--you wrote of me:

"Your enthusiasm for attack runs far higher than anything any of us have seen from PACE and its supporters. It must be frustrating that they won't respond in kind."

You don't like my style. Fine, but that's about me, not my position. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

In other words, my position is that I don't think there should be an MI choice program *at this time* at Ohlone or any of the elementary schools. I think a charter in MV would be a good thing. I think programs that combine year-round instruction with summertime immersion would be a good thing. It's not about whether I'm harboring a secret racist agenda--or whether PACE is for that matter--unless it shows up clearly in the attitudes expressed. And, then, I think discussions, not accusations, are more valid.

Okay, back to the position. The expansion of the Ohlone program and the introduction of the MI program have different space requirements. The Ohlone program could be easily expanded with three cubicles and 60 students. MI requires 6 to operate one full strand--or 120 students. The split classroom issue makes a small Ohlone increase feasible.

Also, Ohlone can take students in later grades to compensate for transfers. MI can't take students past Grade 1 with rare exceptions. It's a less efficient use of space--particularly given that immersion programs do appear to have an issue with drop-outs in the later grades.

Brendan,

PA Mom was using a confusing shorthand--she was referring to an option often discussed here of opening an MI charter in Mountain View. MV has room--a school it's renting out to Google for child care--and its general revenue status means it financially benefits from charters and kids coming in from out-of-district. Kids who went to an MV MI charter would then attend middle school and high school in Palo Alto if they're Palo Alto residents. So, the MI program could expand to take in all who wanted it; MV would gain revenue; Palo Alto could free up a couple of elementary-school spots.

Frankly, I think it's something PACE should look into longterm anyway as Ohlone can't fit more than a single MI strand--and only that if it's turned into a megaschool.

Yet Another,

Thank you, I found your post informative. I think there will be additional problems at Ohlone because of the overcrowding/forced marriage aspect.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Tired,

I appreciate your taking the time to set race aside.

The analogy you mention--linking art to language--doesn't hold up for immersion. The view that language is an additional element to the curriculum--as art is--holds in a FLES context but not in an immersion context.

This confusion appears to be wide-spread, so I'll explain it here. Immersion programs do not add language instruction as an additional subject to be covered. The language is the means by which the curriculum is delivered.

A better analogy is to an alternative philosophy of instruction. Suppose, for instance, that we had a choice program in which the teachers used an alternative method, call it constructivist for argument's sake, and kids in other schools still got no constructivist instruction. Would that be fair or unfair to the rest of the Palo Alto kids? When you answer, keep in mind that this method is not universally liked and that some parents prefer its polar opposite.




Posted by Horrified, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 4:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 6:20 pm

"This confusion appears to be wide-spread, so I'll explain it here. Immersion programs do not add language instruction as an additional subject to be covered. The language is the means by which the curriculum is delivered."

Wow, that is a stretch. The result is expert ability in a subject, call it Spanish or Mandarin, by 6th grade that nobody else had even an introduction to.

Sorry, I have heard the "different instructional method" before, and the fruit of the education belies the argument.

True differences in instructional methods result in similar outcomes in subject matter.




Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Horrified, Amy,

Good grief. No one is being made to go anywhere. Those who wish for the specialized Mandarin Immersion curriculum oould open a charter school and attend it.

Why do you assume all MI students would be Chinese? Why do you assume all students of Chinese ethnicity would want Mandarin Immersion? Why did you jump to those conclusions?

Why Mountain View? Because it's a general-revenue district that would profit from a charter school. The same charter would cost Palo Alto money, according to the district. Mountain View has a school that's being used for short-term childcare, but would probably be open to having a strong charter program there.

There are other districts open to charters, but MV is adjacent to Palo Alto, so it's convenient, and it's in the county so PA kids would be in the priority group to get in. Charter-friendly EPA was originally suggested, but the discussion switched to MV because EPA's in a different county.

An MV charter would also allow for a much larger number of kids to get an MI education. MI at Ohlone is going to be 20 kids per grade and that's only if the school becomes a mega-sized 620 students.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 7:02 pm

"True differences in instructional methods result in similar outcomes in subject matter."

What? No, the whole point of different instructional methods is to achieve different outcomes. Think about it: do parents enroll their kids in Ohlone because they want the same outcome as Hoover. Naw.

The expert ability at the end of immersion is proof of the different instructional method.

MI and SI are analogous to Hoover and Ohlone.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 7:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 7:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by another parent, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 2, 2007 at 8:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Brendan Rankin, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Parent,

I don't think I'd have to "teach or tell" my kids anything in this regard. They've been taught to be open, fair-minded, and honest in all of their dealings. I'd like to think they'd naturally avoid those who aren't. Kids are naturally pretty smart in this regard.

I do know stereotypical overtones when I see them, and I don't appreciate it. Some of the comments have been thinly veiled racism (or, at least, anti-culturism), and I appreciate that even less!


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 10:18 pm

OhlonePar,

Thanks for pointing out the comment from another thread that you were thinking of. You're right that it wasn't constructive and was more of a response to my perception of your tone and purpose in your choice of colorful language. I don't like the easy tossing about of loaded terms--we've seen them proliferating--but I do want people to analyze carefully and critically what they both read and write about serious matters affecting community perceptions and interactions.


Posted by Fly on the Wall, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:33 pm

I have a parent from China but don't look Chinese, so I get to witness a lot of unguarded racism and stereotyping. The way I see this discussion, I think a lot of the posters are fabricating charges of racism for their own advantage because they don't have a good response to the solid arguments against this program. Just because people are against a certain Chinese language program does not automatically make people racist.

I think people are also being ignorant (racist themselves?) when they lump all Chinese or Asians together as if this is one unified group with no internal or external racism, elitism, or antagonism. I am not saying everyone is like this, but I know people from Taiwan and China who won't have anything to do with anyone from Japan because of the unspeakable things that happened to their families during WWII, not such ancient history for the older family members. No, I don't agree with not giving the next generation who had nothing to do with it a chance, but knowing their stories, I can see why they feel as they do. My own parent went through a lot of soul searching over the years before doing business in Japan because so many immediate family were killed by Japanese forces. I know people from Japan who readily admit that they have a hard time thinking of Koreans as equals. I know people from China with pretty big prejudices and stereotypes of both whites and blacks. China itself is an enormous and diverse country, it's definitely got its own problems with prejudice. There remain antagonisms between some Taiwanese and mainland Chinese. There are also hierarchies and prejudices between different immigrant groups in this country, even among different Chinese immigrant groups.

It was actually more disturbing to me to hear PACE's knee-jerk anti-Mountain View stance, because the Chinese community in MV is larger, more diverse, economically and socially. A charter in MV would be cheaper for Palo Alto because space is cheaper, and if the charter were proposed through MV-Whisman could be more advantageous to that district than PAUSD because of the different ways the districts are funded. MV is closer to some parts of PA than even other parts of PA. Most important, there would be none of the restrictions on space and the program could grow to what it should be and could use the most well-researched and tried instruction methods to teach fluency -- isn't that the priority? Without any reasons except that PACE want to remain in PA -- even with a countywide charter -- and knowing from personal experience some of the prejudices that run strong in many upper class Chinese groups, I searched for reassurance that prejudice and elitism by PACE members was not the reason for this knee jerk rejection of MV. Unfortunately, I heard none. I'm still not assuming prejudice is the reason they reject MV, but pro-MI posters have made some pretty denigrating posts about MV this forum. It's disturbing to hear the inflammatory accusations of pro-MI crowd twisting around the suggestion that a charter would be more advantageous in MV to mean anything else.

I also don't see the racism in pa mom's post because I have been following this debate and I can see she is spouting about perceived selfishness and self-absorbtion by the pro-MI crowd, who, by the way, are an ethnically mixed group. Pro-MIers seem to refuse to see that selfishness, so of course they would interpret it another way.

I can see why others would interpret the comments about volunteering -- I would want to hear more from pa mom about what she meant. However, even if she was making an unfair generalization, that's not the same as racism. Our own new Superintendent, Kevin Skelly, has said in print that he was surprised by how parent involvement dropped in Saratoga when the district became predominantly "Asian." (from the article) Is observing that fact a racist attitude? Skelly responded by figuring out why the "Asian" parents was differently involved, the article pointed out how it came down to cultural perceptions of teachers, and how he did ultimately get parents involved in a culturally sensitive way.

I don't think that has anything to do with pa mom's comments. If she perceives PACE members as selfish as seems the case and as a lot of us do because of their actions, she has described the selfish parents. Sometimes a selfish parent is just a selfish parent...


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2007 at 11:47 pm

Parent,

Unh-unh. I'm not concerned about the outcome, I'm concerned about the process. The outcomes of Hoover and Ohlone are roughly equivalent. And their curriculum, in terms of outcome, are in keeping with the neighborhood elementaries. MI and SI offer expertise in a second language, so not the same.

To me, though, the bigger issue is that the unavailability of the choice programs to most families creates resentment in the district. I hate to see this resentment strengthened. And I don't think it should be ignored.

Amy,

Where does PA Mom say Chinese kids should go to Mountain View? She says MI kids should have a charter in MV. Again, why do you conclude all MI kids would be Chinese and all PA Chinese kids would be in MI?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:10 am

Fly,

Thank you. Interesting comments. I hadn't given the volunteering thing a lot of thought. Ohlone's a volunteer-y sort of school, so everyone volunteers. You wouldn't choose the school if you weren't willing to be involved. I've been told by some Chinese-born friends that parental involvment in the school is almost seen as being disrespectful of the teacher.

It's just a very different concept of education. The American style, I think, has a lot to do with the country's do-it-yourselfism. Schools didn't exist unless the settlers built them and found a way to pay the teacher, who was then boarded at somebody's house.

I've noticed the MV snobbery thing, but admit I don't quite get it, given that the kids still get the Palo Alto HS stuff on their college applications and if the charter does well they'd have the prestige of that charter, no matter where it was. And, geez, MV has a full-fledged school site . . .


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:23 am

Jerry,

Glad we got a clear line going. Yes, my writing was emphatic and that was a choice because I feel there has been an attempt to invalidate and ignore the anger stirred up by this controversy.

You don't resolve conflict by telling people they should just look on the bright side of something they think is wrong. I didn't do it to the pro-MIers when MI was voted down. The whole MV charter suggestion came about (go check) when it looked like the PACE crowd had lost. A lot of people understood they were disappointed and the MV charter was suggested as a way they could achieve their goal. I do not share their goal, but I think they should go after it as long as they're not stepping on my toes.

However, now my toes are stepped on and you bet I'm going to object. I'd expect them to object if I pushed an English-language constructivist program onto their MI school.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:24 am

OhlonePar,

Parent,

No, sorry. Your point only makes sense if your define outcome narrowly, like a score on a standardized test. Parents put their kids in Ohlone or Hoover not just because they're thinking about scores but because they're concerned about the relationship of their children to school/knowledge/learning.

If you understand the constructivist viewpoint, and buy into it, then you put your kid into that kind of school because you expect your child to emerge with a particular approach to learning and the world. Sure the process is how this comes about, but that matters mainly because it leads (one hopes) to a particular approach to learning (and working with others). That approach, that worldview is an outcome.

In that sense, if you buy the philosophy, you certainly hope for different outcomes! Similarly, immersion offers a different outcome (and frankly, facility with a particular language is only a part of the difference).

You claim to be concerned about the unavailability of choice programs (and the attendant resentment), but that has to be balanced against the desires for neighborhood schools (the obvious remedy being expanding the choice programs). I suspect that the MI people share that concern, and that is why they are working to add choice capacity.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:42 am

Brendan, another parent,

I admired Faith's son for getting up there and speaking politely in front of 100 adults. He made a legitimate point that the program unfairly favored a few kids and there should be language opportunities for all.

Unlike Camille Townsend's husband and Grace Mah's siblings, he identified who he was and to whom he was connected. He could have stood up in favor of MI and I'd still admire his guts.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 12:49 am

Parent,

MI doesn't add choice capacity in that it's a very limited program that can't compensate for attrition. SI has this problem and engenders a lot of resentment as a result.

MI at Ohlone limits expansion of the most popular choice program in the district. There's no indication that MI will be more desired than Ohlone. Also, the smaller the program the more adverse the sibling preference effect.

Again, process not outcome. My child learns addition either way; the goals of the curriculum are the same. Yes, there's a philosophical difference, but in MI and SI there's an actual change in curriculum content--a language is a subject, not an approach. The approach is immersion. My child won't ever take an AP exam in constructivist learning; yours may well take one in Mandarin.

So, apples and cheese.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:25 am

It occurs to many that many people in this debate think nothing of the controversy now because they say we've heard it all with the SI program. They think this will all die down if MI gets this program. (I don't think that's going to happen.)

The trouble is that this way of doing things is what made MI so controversial this time, that was brought up when SI went through, that the next language would be harder. In a way, the MI effort is being hampered by being the same as the SI effort. If we put through this MI program this way, it will virtually lock out any future immersion attempts in other languages.

We should be considering other kinds of fluency instruction. I just looked it up, and that school in Mountain View that teaches fluency is Yew Cheung. From a posted article already on this forum: "Only 30% of Yew Chung's daily class time is conducted in Mandarin (about 1.5 hours per day) by a separate native Mandarin-speaking teacher who has been specifically trained in the Yew Chung methods."

Why not see if this method can be brought to Palo Alto schools? For example, if the program could be offered at Hoover, without changing the curriculum too much during the day but by adding on instruction of 1.5 hours at the end of the day for anyone who wants to learn Mandarin fluency, this would be an opportunity that could be offered to all Hoover students without needing a new separate campus. It would probably fit better with Hoover's direct instruction philosophy already. I could see this kind of program being more of a pilot for the possibility of having other similar fluency programs at any of the other PA campuses that want it -- in fact, if such a thing were put through, it should be with the promise that any other PA campus that wants it (in whatever language) could get the same thing. Since it would be kind of an elective that only the kids who want to take have to take, you wouldn't have quite the same problems with extending the school day issues that FLES has. This would also make summer immersion programs a natural extension. The problem I see is that this would make FLES more difficult, but that would be offset by the language fluency opportunity available on ALL campuses. The advantage is that this doesn't require a separate campus and languages can be added and changed as the district needs. It doesn't take away flexibility from our overenrolled district, it's more fair, it doesn't lock out future programs and changes, and it still provides a proven fluency program.

Has anyone explored this possibility? I would think it could be implemented by next fall, too. It could be implemented without impacting Hoover the way the proposed dual immersion program would impact Ohlone and without changing the size of the school. It also presents the possibility of allowing the kids in higher grades to begin getting the language instruction, rather than just kindergarteners to start. (I don't know if this is true for sure, it would depend on this teaching method, though I suppose you could just give all kids in the beginning the same opportunities as the kinders if that is the case.) And this is more likely to fit with Hoover's existing educational philosophy. Then also because all campuses would be promised the same opportunity, Ohlone students would still get their language opportunity, too, only they could pick Mandarin or even another language. And we would be giving a fluency opportunity to all PA kids. It occurs to me that this would even allow more than one language fluency program at a given campus. And it might not even be more expensive to do that if the teachers already speak those different languages. I have to admit, this would probably also be easier and cheaper than FLES, but again, it would at least be a fluency/language opportunity for all PA kids.

Also, this doesn't lock out other very different kinds of programs in the future, if everyone at a given campus wants to do something very different but modeled on this approach, they could do it. We also have an existing program, Yew Cheung, to go to for guidance. How does that sound? I think Nico pointed out in some forum that PACE hadn't really considered another type of instruction. Wouldn't this be the time for everyone to consider it in the interest of compromise?

Sorry for posting this multiple times, there are so many MI forums going on right now.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:42 am

RE: The Outcome point and Instructional Method.

No, Hoover and Ohlone parents send their kids to different instructional programs because they believe the APPROACH will result in the same outcome..their child learning the curriculum ( subjects: reading,writing, math,social studies, geography, science, English, art, etc) which is the same at both schools, but will accomplish the goal in the best way possible for THEIR kids and THEIR family style.

Ok, compare this to MI/SI/Any I/etc program where the "I" kids have a subject not given to others in the district. The different instructional methods to teach language range from contextual to drilling, from emphasis on spoken/music to emphasis on writing/reading, through play or through desk work. THAT is different instructional method, not the part that results in knowledge in a subject that nobody else has.

You are confusing different instructional methods with different instructional curricula.




Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:45 am

Fly,

You seem new to the discussion, so I suggest you have a look at the threads going back months as I have done. You will see that the MI people stopped posting here entirely because (I assume) the negative personal attacks made it unproductive. In any case they haven't posted in months. But they have made substantive arguments many times in the past and countered all these points. The discussion just goes in circles.

The racist comments have a way of popping up now and then, and it's disturbing to many people. You rightly point out that some Asians are racist (not news), but I'm not sure what bearing that has on this discussion. Are you saying that since some Asians are racist, then Chinese/Chinese-Americans should expect and put up with racism against them in PA?

You repeat the assertion that PACE had a knee-jerk anti-Mountain View stance and you claim that they react this way because the Chinese community in MV is larger and more diverse. These are all false assertions (fabricated by the anti-MI gang) used to tar PACE. They are just made up. PACE has never "denigrated" MV as you claim.

PACE has asked for an immersion program here in the community where they live.

The opposition, which has said many times that immersion is purely for Chinese speakers, has said to PACE: go to MV to educate your kids. Apart from the unworkable aspects to this suggestion, it's obvious why telling a group of people, whom you believe to be Chinese, to go elsewhere for education is seen as racism.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Andrea, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2007 at 9:11 am

Amy, I'm getting a different message than you regarding MV. What I'm hearing is that PAUSD has no available space for a charter school. Hard to dispute that. MV seems to have available elementary school space which can accomodate a charter school. The suggestion is not that you take your program far away to Gilroy even to San Jose. Some see available space in the next district over and are suggesting that it's a way for you to get what you want while helping to preserve the neighborhood school model which is currently threatened by overcrowding and which becomes severely constricted by adding a new choice or charter program to the mix. You and others are reading racism into attempts to find a solution to the problem.

Terry, you seem to want MI and want it to be convenient for you as well. No drives for you, even if it means bumping some PAUSD kids from their neighborhood schools to make space for MI kids. In your own words, space is sparce, but you ask others to sacrifice when you are not willing to do the same.


Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 10:07 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Andrea, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2007 at 10:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2007 at 10:53 am

It is like claiming people hate dogs if they don't want a dog park to take up playground space, and are asking the dog park go somewhere that won't take away playground space.

Easier to brush off the anger as "dog-haters" instead of listening to the concerns.

Re-read the post, and I want to state right out that this is NOT calling anyone dogs, it is an allegory.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 1:22 pm

But Amy,

I've pointed out to you more than once that not all PACErs are Chinese and not all Chinese-Americans are pro-PACE.

[Portion removed from Palo Alto Online staff.]

But over and over I've seen the PACE crowd avoid any acknowledgment that there are any legitimate concerns over introducing a choice program into an overcrowded district. A district whose enrollment is only going up. Grace attends meeting after meeting, but can't seem to acknowledge that this issue exists. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Again, Mountain View has room--they closed a school because of enrollment issues a couple of years ago. There's a school there and a district that financially benefits from increased enrollment, whereas Palo Alto does not. The PAUSD kids who go there get Paly schools for middle and high school. Because it's in the same county, they will get in-county preference.

So you don't like the proposal. Okay, what's the Palo Alto solution that does not involve pushing a school over its size limit and/or displacing neighborhood kids from their school.

In MV you could have an immersion school with 400 kids. In Palo Alto, you're going to get your one strand--and that's only by severely overcrowding the Ohlone campus.

So why is this suggestion inherently racist? Really, I'd like to know why suggesting that you get the best possible space within a 7 mile radius is this terrible racist thing?

I mean, it *does* come across as if PACE thinks that locating in MV is an insult instead of a practical solution where your kids aren't fighting for a slot in a portable. I mean, I realize that Palo Alto has a bit of a snob factor, but if you live in PA and can send your kids to the PA middle and high schools, I don't see the issue in crossing the city line to get a good space and the program you want. I'd do it--Americans have a history of doing this sort of thing. I mean, the Mormons convinced themselves that arid Utah was their promised land and they've done quite well with it. But it sure didn't look like fertile fields and flowers when they got there.

Look, do me a favor, pretend that you don't think the suggestion is inherently racist. Just for a minute. Now, tell me what's wrong with it.

Thank you.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2007 at 2:50 pm

OhlonePar

You said, "…The whole MV charter suggestion came about (go check) when it looked like the PACE crowd had lost." So I checked Town Square threads, not exhaustively, but back to where the next older set of threads didn't mention charter after there was one that did.

I wanted to see if the engaged public and decision makers could have been aware, before release of the feasibility study January 9 and final rejection of the "recommendation to approve" on Jan 30, that there was a serious possibility that MI proponents might pursue a charter if Choice MI didn't work out.

Here are some comments from the thread PAUSD Immersion Programs--'Choice' or 'luck' begun on Nov. 8 and closed on Nov. 30.

"Talk about holding the district hostage, let's talk about PACE threatening to open up a charter school unless the district agrees to MI choice program."

and

"Once upon a time, PACE threw around some idle warnings to the board (maybe still are) that if they don't get MI as a choice program, they'll start it up a charter school."

There were other comments, by opponents of the MI Choice program, encouraging PACE to consider the advantages of going for an MI Charter, preferably in Mountain View.

The posts make clear that there was an awareness in November that PACE might feel strongly enough about getting MI that it would consider an alternate form (charter school) available under the law if the preferred track failed.

The board voted as it did and the idle warnings became a statement that a charter proposal would soon be presented to the district, which would set in motion the series of steps prescribed by California law that PAUSD'S legal advisers explained to the BOE in February and to the community last week.

It's evident that there was a lack of understanding of the full consequences of the Jan 30 vote. Some voices were heard better than others through the din of controversy, and both sides feel aggrieved. One side or the other will see the board's decision as a loss, but I don't believe either side will feel it's won a victory. Nobody wanted it this way.


Posted by Amy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 3:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 3, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Amy (and others),

Would you please go back and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y re-read what the "offending" person(s) wrote. You'd do the entire discussion a favor by quoting them rather than putting words into their mouths.

Lest you think that I'm condoning racist comments and jumping to support a particular person's view, I say that this applies to a few pot-stirrers from both sides of the debate.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2007 at 5:38 pm

I find nobody defending racist comments.

I find people not reading posts carefully, and I find people defining racism differently.

Read the "dog park" post to get my meaning. Ask yourself if you think the people who are objecting just don't like dogs, or are defending what they have already.

Your answer will tell you your filter.

My filter is "defending what they have, and it doesn't matter if it is a horse park or a cat park or a dog park, the result on the initial park is the same". So, that is how I read posts.

If you answer that these people just have something against dogs, then you have a different filter.

And the two filters will never be able to understand each other.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 3, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but: if MI is "cost-neutral" and there is a waiting list for Ohlone, then why does Ohlone have space for a whole nother strand?

It seems fair for PAUSD to take a survey and see whether parents would like those classrooms used for another Ohlone strand or MI or HI (Hoover Immersion) or regular school for the neighborhood kids who would do better with that. I guess that first choice for the space should go to the neighborhood families. Susan Charles seems very amenable to making things work.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:09 pm

Jerry,

I didn't say the charter suggestion, I said the MV charter suggestion--i.e. that a charter in Mountain View could be something that worked for everyone. The idea of a charter goes way back. Grace Mah said that was her original idea in some of the stories.

Amy,

You're using PA mom as a means of not answering my question. I clarified what I thought she meant. I didn't actually address the description that offended you in one way or another, except to say in reference to Fly's comment that parental volunteerism can be viewed very differently depending upon where you're from and that parents volunteer at my school regardless of ethnicity.

In other words, I don't share PA mom's precise experience, but you seem to be faulting me for not attacking her.

So, again, pretend for a moment that the mere suggestion of putting an MI charter in MV isn't inherently racist. What's wrong with it? So far, all I've gotten is that people don't want to drive--even though any choice program is a commuter program. (Which is one of the things that scares me to death about expanding Ohlone. Pick-up is already pretty hairy. There's no parking and Amarillo's a fairly narrow residential street.)

Nancy,

Ohlone's *at* its alotted capacity. Any expansion is an override of what its maximum number is supposed to be. An additional strand means six portables though the AAAG has only approved two and says there's room for only three.

A full MI strand at Ohlone will bump the school to 620 students. There already is neighborhood preference for the Ohlone program--I think it's about 50 percent from the natural Ohlone draw area (the northern part of the Palo Verde draw area.) A bunch of us also come from the Green Gables triangle between Embarcadero and Oregon, where there's no elementary school that doesn't involve crossing a major thoroughfare. (This is where Garland is and one of the reasons it would be a good school to reopen. It's not safe for our kids to walk to school.)

But, basically, there's space available only if you override the district guidelines.


Posted by have you asked mountain view?, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:18 pm

OhlonePar, AJ, and others with the brilliant idea of putting the charter school in MV:

Have you talked to any MV people, the superintendent, the school board here?

We have our own set of problems, challenges, and opportunities. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Nope, I haven't asked anyone official because I'm not trying to start a charter, period. However, the MV parents I know like the idea. It would raise enrollment and cost less than trying to reopen Slater as a regular public school.

"Why don't they do it in Mountain View?" one of them said when the issue came up without knowing that a charter in MV had been suggested or my views on the matter.

Because you're a general revenue district you'll get full reimbursement for any student. (We don't.) And you've had dropping enrollment--enough so that a school was closed, but not enough to keep your open schools from being overcrowded. And whatever else you can say about them, the PACE crew is pretty gung-ho. I think you'd get a good program, a reduction of your overcrowding and a school with solid APIs. You also already handle your one immersion program in a better way than we handle ours--as in people can actually get in.

Grace Mah solicited for interest in an MI charter outside of Palo Alto and got some positive response from MV parents who were then dismayed that she dropped 'em when the BoE started its flip-flop.

But, anyway, other than the idea originating in snooty Shallow Alto, what are some of your other concerns with the program? For what it's worth, I don't see it happening unless you guys wanted it, or at least some of you did though I suppose PAUSD could try to rent Slater.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2007 at 9:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2007 at 9:18 pm

OhlonePar,

Thanks for the clarification. I had assumed there was general awareness that a charter was an option, but when I read and heard expressions of anger and dismay that this move would be taken, as if it were an unfair, completely out-of-the-blue violation of protocol (some even called it blackmailing the district), I began to question my own assumption.

So perhaps there was a misjudgment of the seriousness of intent of PACE leadership and the strength of its reluctance, after five years of working away at the issue, to set it down with no action taken right after a plan had been worked out with the district that had a reasonable prospect of working out.

It's the misjudgment that worries me a lot and I'm not sure where it comes from. Any thoughts?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2007 at 1:03 am

Jerry,

I realize PACE has worked on this a long time and that it got led down the garden path at Churchill.

However, the reasons for voting down the choice program are very real ones. Five years ago, this overcrowding wasn't predicted. The seriousness of the overcrowding problem wasn't really acknowledged until Spring 2006.

These very real reasons seem to have fallen on deaf ears as far as PACE is concerned. It's like it did not and does not register.

PACE may have been led astray by the clueless bureaucracy at Churchill, but what PACE is facing now are the bureaucrats with whom it's been dealing for five years but the public. If you notice, we're furious with the board.

PACE can be as serious as it wants, but forcing this program at this time hurts our schools. We need the space and the funds to handle the climbing enrollment. It's bad out there.

Did you know that you cannot get into Gunn? It's already 100 students over capacity for next year. Anyone buying in south Palo Alto to take advantage of Gunn isn't getting a spot there.

All of the north cluster schools are over-capacity. As one parent pointed out the no-hands policy at Duveneck is in part because the school's playgrounds are getting covered by portables. The south is getting full. The west will be when the housing projects are filled.

I realized recently that the PACE members I know of don't have kids in the PAUSD. I'm sure there are some somewhere, but the leadership hasn't had to face the possibility of having to send one's child five schools over with no bussing. They've had their agenda and I think they've been sheltered from the realities of what's been going on.

I mean, the best I can say about PACE is maybe that it's deeply out-of-touch with the on-the-ground issues at our schools. Otherwise, I have to go with "selfish." That isolation of which you spoke seems self-imposed because there has never been any attempt by PACE in its proposals to address the fact that there's actually no room for the program.

I mean why add a program at a school that's already at capacity and also has a large waitlist? The response from PACE types is pretty much, it doesn't matter. We want our program.

Which kind of defines selfish--when your wants matter more than anyone else's or the good of the community as a whole.

I don't, by the way, think the pursuit of an MI choice program was inherently selfish. I think it *is* selfish to insist on it within such narrow parameters in this situation. And Churchill should have gotten a little less dewy-eyed about the amazingness of the project and a lot more honest about what the issues were in the district. Another example of how out-of-touch Callan's regime has been. I could have told anyone five years ago that this proposal would be dicey. Two years ago, when the enrollments were skyrocketing, I could have told them it was political suicide.

In other words, PACE didn't start out in the bad guy position, they're another group of parents. They were misled by some unrealistic district bureaucrats who also weren't paying attention.

But their position became the wrong one for reasons not in anyone's control and when they got a no, they got aggressive and then seriously in the wrong because they're now in the position of damaging the district. And, yeah, they became the bad guys then, which I know upsets them because the original thing seemed so sensible and, hey, Susan Charles said Okay.

There is an element of bad timing and bad luck here and it's a situation that asks for a keeness of judgment on PACE's part that it just doesn't have--it's too personal, too wearying--every PACE member I've seen in action strikes me as naive--unaware of the full ramifications of their acts. Also no skill at reaching out and no awareness that finding a consensus would be truly the best thing. (I mean, now we're getting, my kids can't play with your kids--ugh.)

Meanwhile, I kept thinking Thursday how hollow our supposed voices of authority sounded--Callan, Charles--they seemed very out-of-touch.

In other words, I think you need to flip the question. I think PACE and the district misjudges the serious anger of the community on this. Much of the anger you see comes from people who weren't aware of what was going on for five years because they don't work for the district. When they became aware and realized it might get shoved down our collective throat, they got mad.

And different people realize what's going on at different times and then they get mad. And for a variety of reasons--that's why there are so many different objections.

It's not like SI where objections diminished over time because everyone got used to it. The overcrowding makes for direct conflict--in terms of space, it is my kid's program against yours--particularly when the three-year limit is up.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2007 at 8:00 am

Ohlone,

I appreciate your serious response. Certainly a large part of the tension over the MI choice program derives from the challenges of matching school facilities and students. Much of the rhetoric is maneuvering to try to shape the outcome down the line as the district makes inevitable adjustments to attendance area boundaries, adds portables, opens a school. Competing interests--not selfish, but often personal nonetheless--get organized in an ambitious, politically engaged and public relations aware community like Palo Alto.

Some of the arguments in this thread and others appear to blame PACE for challenges that will pit competing interests in the district against each other going forward whether Choice MI at Ohlone is approved or not. It comes too close to scapegoating when the rhetoric starts to fly. And that's harmful to us all.


Posted by AAAG rep, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 4, 2007 at 8:14 am

Jerry and OhlonePar,

I have to thank Jerry, for getting the big picture.

I would like to ask OhlonePar if you've talked to your AAAG rep or attended any of the AAAG meetings.

The big picture is that Ohlone is going to grow. The whole school district is growing. This is regardless of MI (which only adds 80 students to Ohlone over 3 years - hardly anything compared to the new housing developments which the AAAG and district have to contend with).

Ohlone has space. In the interest of placing portables where there's space, Ohlone is the spot.

If a 13th school is opened, OhlonePar won't have to worry about the 600+ students at Ohlone. If we stay at 12 schools, Ohlone will more likely grow, to accommodate the increased Ohlone population (whether they are taught Mandarin or not).

Thanks, Jerry, for recognizing the rhetoric, too!


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 4, 2007 at 11:32 am

AAAG Rep, thanks for joining the conversation. Here's how I read the situation. I'm open to being corrected if my interpretation is inaccurate.

Any classroom that is operating at less than capacity (20 students for the lower grades) is costing the district money. Vacated slots at Hoover & Ohlone can be filled with any student who applies: there is no proficiency exam. This is not true for language immersion programs. If MI, for example, experienced the attrition that Cupertino's MI program has, it might have difficulty filling slots beyond first grade. Those empty slots aggravate the overcrowding problem.

MI proponents argue that the program actually helps alleviate overcrowding by drawing students out of neighborhood schools, thereby freeing up spaces for others. Well, that's nice for 11 schools, but what about the displaced students at the 12th school where MI is located? They have to go elsewhere, taking up spaces at random schools wherever there's space. Against their will, I might add. It's an exchange of seats, not an increased capacity.

You can say, oh, well, Ohlone isn't a neighborhood school so no one is being displaced. But if you look at the enrollment numbers, there are about 120 Ohlone students who are within the Ohlone/Palo Verde border – this IS their neighborhood school. (See page 34 of Web Link.) They can't all go to Palo Verde – it's already close to capacity. (Page 66 of the same AAAG report.)

The argument that Ohlone has space to grow and accommodate the first 3 years of MI is an incomplete one, too. The full story is that it does displace the students who don't get into regular Ohlone as a result of the program being capped in size to accommodate MI's growth.

MI throws a monkey wrench into AAAG's plans. It's easier to find space for 80 students who are sprinkled across the district. With MI, these 80+ students must be treated as an inseparable unit. They either displace 80+ students at another school, create the need for a mega-complex, or get first dibs at Garland.

Incidentally, that's 80 students only if the program fails. If it succeeds (and it WILL succeed: can you spell "charter threat in 3 years"?) then we're talking about many more students: 240 for a 2-strand K-5 program.

I would like to understand the facts. Also, is there a published list anywhere of the number of students who applied to each of the 4 lottery schools over the past 5 years?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Jerry, actually the two board members who are considering changing their vote repeatedly have said publicly that they stand by their original vote AGAINST MI but for the threatening stance of the charter proponents. They have not changed their minds about the feasibility or desirability of the MI CHOICE program, but are unwilling to risk a charter analysis, if you have seen them speak in any of the public meetings you would know that they are NOT considering choice feasibiliyt in their decision. However, I completely sympathize with your searc in vain for reason and logical justification.

jerry, let me rephrase to clarify my intended meaning. This program is not designed to address an achivement gap that exists for ELL mandarin language speakers. Its a pure luxury program - not a necessity program for addressing a gap for ELL students. And I believe no MI proponents would try to argue that this is an achievement gap program.

I believe that if some people who are on the attack now feel isolated from the PAUSD community that is being attacked, they should probably look no further than the end of their own noses for the reasons for their isolation. To suggest that there is some instrinsic level of isolation of a particular ethnic group, or of a few individuals in Palo Alto is completely disingenuous - anyone who spends even ten minutes at a neighborhood school after school or during recess will know this contention to be utterly false. I'm sorry if some people on the pro-MI side have proposed and pushed and pushed (and pushed) something so distasteful to the greater public that they have created a isolation for themselves. I'm sure that would be quickly alleviated by showing some concern for the community by backing off their very narrow demands.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Jerry, I've spoken many many times at public board meetings. No one ever comes up to me. I'm not crying about being isolated, and frankly I don't think Grace is either. In fact, I think Grace, in her circles, is probably very well respected for her actions.

That I'm isolated also doesn't cause me to try to go get a Girls Softball Training Camp immersion program instituted in PAUSD.

You said above that implementation of MI would be a good way to reduce isolation? You think we should implement an entire choice program to make people feel better? About what exactly? (having their way I presume)

Jerry, I hope you are hearing this. This sounds alot like a small skit I just saw at my daughter's drama class performance. A spoiled kid begs for a pony, and then makes herself so sick from being 'hurt and disrespected' by being turned down that she (well she has a big dramatic ending). Then of course her parents have their big dramatic ending, They just feel awful, as well they should for being so unaccomodating!) It really feels like the board is just caving in to a pony for a few spoiled parents.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:33 pm

parent,

Your story reminds me of my association whenever I think of PACE's recent actions: Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "I want it, and I want it NOOOWWWW!"


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Ohlone Par

You seem to have had plenty of time to do research and comment a great deal on this topic. I was wondering if you had considered standing for BoE as you seem to be the type of person with the desire and time commitments that might be needed. Oh, and I like your way of thinking too.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Parent,

Referring to the board members, you said "...you would know that they are NOT considering choice feasibility in their decision" I have listened to both of them and know that they don't believe MI Choice is desirable, for various well-articulated reasons. I draw a distinction between desirable and feasible and believe they do as well. If it isn't feasible, if it just can't be done, they are duty-bound to vote against it.

You and I are probably both unhappy with easy recourse to the term "racism" as a way to explain what's happening. It closes people's minds and makes it difficult to think straight.

I'll take sole responsibility for describing what I noticed at the meeting as an illustration of isolation. For me it was a perfect visual representation of what I sense as a current in what's happening. Neither of you is crying about being isolated, but like most of us you probably enjoy socializing with folks after a long meeting.

You added, "You think we should implement an entire choice program to make people feel better? " Well, no. I can think of a lot of reasons to implement the program beyond making someone feel better.

I appreciate your analogy while disagreeing with its applicability to this situation. Your daughter's drama class is learning an important lesson.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2007 at 3:28 pm

AAAG rep,

I'm aware that Ohlone will grow. HOWEVER, if the Ohlone program expands as Ohlone then it's possible to add a half strand (80 students) without a problem three years down the road as to where to finish the strand.

The problem with MI Choice at Ohlone in terms of space is that a complete strand requires six, not three cubicles. Ohlone's own program can grow in three portable increments, minimizing the overcrowding on the campus. MI Choice must have more portables if it is to be a full program.

As others have pointed out, immersion programs don't use space efficiently--you can't compensate for attrition past Grade 1. If you lose 10 percent a year--I think the program in Cupertino's is a bit higher than that--you have a half-empty class by grade Five and no way to fill it.

Also, frankly, the last thing you want to do when you're overcrowded is attract more kids into the system. PACE contains an element of parents looking for a private-school tuition break. Without MI, they'd stay private. Which is what the district should want at this point, frankly. I don't expect this point to persuade PACE one whit (it wouldn't persuade me in their position), however, it is not in the district's best interest to open programs that would attract *more* students to the district at this time.

Jerry,

I don't buy the scapegoating argument. PACE didn't create the overcrowding problem, but it's done plenty on its own at this point. Not the least is that it won't consider any solutions that take the overcrowding issue into account--i.e. charter elsewhere, afterschool with summer immersion, A.G.'s latest which is daily afterschool Mandarin with summer immersion.

It's not just about words, it's about actions.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Parent,

Thank you for the compliment. I don't actually have the time at this point. I found the Thursday meeting very frustrating because I made it there and the facilitator only called on about half the people.

I think it is, however, time to change the rules. It strikes me as absurd that we can even talk about opening choice programs at schools at or about to be at capacity. It seems to me we could put together a petition and put it up to vote. You could include an override if the majority of the school's parents and administrators agree to it.

Susan Charles claims to have the support of the Ohlone community--thus, she could presumably get MI at Ohlone. I strongly doubt it myself, but it's absurd we're getting pushed around this way, and this way a choice program wouldn't push out people.

At the same time, we could start pushing our legislators for a law the prevents charters from being placed at at-capacity schools without the consent of the school admins and parents. A couple of legislators have tried to reform the charter law and Arnie's vetoed them, but this is a pretty minor tweak and might get through. Capacity's pretty easy to show.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2007 at 7:55 pm

OhlonePar,

I haven't seen persuasive evidence that attrition is a problem Palo Alto would need to be concerned with. It's strange to hear MI opponents say both that the program will be so popular it will draw people into the district and that we need to worry there'll be empty seats as attrition bites into enrollment. Gives us mental whiplash trying to follow the line of argument.

We heard PAUSD officials say attrition had not been a significant problem with SI and they didn't anticipate any problem with MI. "A half empty class by fifth grade and no way to fill it" is a fantasy. Kids can transfer in after the early grades if they are proficient in the target language (Mandarin in this case). There may be other conditions, but that's the general idea. You fill the seats.

I'm glad you raised the student numbers issue when you said, "Also, frankly, the last thing you want to do when you're overcrowded is attract more kids into the system (by having MI)." Well, more kids are going to come into the system in any case because of more housing, but let's address concerns—should there be any—about the ethnic breakdown of the new students.

Choice MI would probably grow to 2 strands or 240 students. Parents couldn't be sure of getting their child in because of the lottery, so housing decisions would be made based on other factors than Choice MI availability.

A charter could get much bigger, and if a lottery isn't required a family could plan around access to an MI program . It may be more attractive than Ohlone/MI would have been because of the freedom of the charter board to implement whatever style of instruction it choose.

There is a lot of new home construction, as you've frequently said. I think the motivation for potential MI candidates to accept the smaller size and larger price of a new Palo Alto home will be greater with a charter school than with Choice MI in place.

This is all speculation, of course. But it differs so radically from your vision that I'm confident there are major pieces to the puzzle that I haven't considered. I am worried about misjudgments that bring big surprises. What am I missing here?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Jerry, have you actually seen any statistics that tell us how the non-mandarin speakers do in these classes?

The simpler than pie attrition answer you outline above seems a very convenient solution to ensure a self fulfilling prophecy of success in teaching Mandarin: Slough off the non-Mandarin speakers (because of difficulty with Mandarin language, other natural attrition pressures) and repopulate the program with tested Mandarin proficient speakers. And voila - you have a ready made "proficient" population that is guaranteeing the program is "successfully" graduating Mandarin/English students at grade level. When what its actually doing is providing PAUSD educatoin in Mandarin language, to Mandarin speakers.

The way to refute this would be with statistics on how native english speakers do in these programs. Do you have any? If so, can you provide them so the rest of us can see why you feel so assured this program works?

If not, how are you able to be so smug, and how are you able to assure parents in English speaking families that their child will succeed. By the way, don't bother with SI stats, Its a well known fact (provided by Grace in the PAUSD MI FLAP Grant Application) that Mandarin is 3-4 times more difficult to become ~conversationally~ proficient than Spanish. Keep in mind that we're not asking kids to gain conversational proficiency in this program - we're claiming they'll be fully bilingual and biliterate. Do you have stats from Mandarin programs that show how english speaking kids reach this goal? What are THEIR attrition rates?

Please don't tell me to go hunt these down. I've spent a year asking and searching for them. As far as I can tell, they don't exist -OR- these fabulous model programs are not willing to publish this.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2007 at 10:48 pm

Jerry,

ALL school programs have attrition. People move, particularly around here. The problem with Mandarin is that filling the spots is a challenge. The filling you're talking about is inefficient at best. They have this problem as Escondido. Ohlone loses students as they move, but unlike Mandarin, they don't have to screen for a proficiency to allow a particular kid in.

You're essentially embracing a discriminatory policy here. That is NOT the role of a public school. Think about what this would sound like if the language was, say, Swedish. Something spoken almost exclusively by one ethnic group. Your essentially saying only Swedes to come into the program late.

This is aside from the intrinsic challenges of Mandarin itself, which are valid concerns. It's not an ideal language for a no-homework policy In fact, I'm inclined to think that China's top-down tradition of education probably has a great deal to do with the challenge of learning to read and write the language in China. You don't sound out pictographs--you memorize them.

In terms of what you want are programs that can take nearly any child, not just ones with a specific proficiency. No matter how you slice it, it's an inefficient use of district resources.

We DON'T have room for 240 students in a specialty choice program unless we squeeze out neighborhood kids, reduce current and successful choice programs or open a new school--at which point, we push out kids in *that* neighborhood--you know, the ones in the case of Garland who could finally walk safely to school.

So whose kids are you willing to kick out for your pet program? Ohlone's? The Green Gable's neighborhood? Juana Briones? And why should anyone support you?

As for attracting more kids--PACE kids are in private schools. So their parents want them to come into the public system. That's aside from whoever moves here. My point is magnet programs are supposed to be magnets. I wouldn't open another choice program at this time of any sort--though I think it's reasonable to look at IB if Cubberly's reopened.

And people already make housing decisions on schools that don't turn out to have room for them--such as Gunn, Duveneck and Hoover. They're disappointed when they have no room. (Many, many families by the way rent to be here. I think this is something that gets continually underestimated.)

Yes, a charter could grow, but since it has to be equally open to all kids in the county, it doesn't necessarily attract growth to Palo Alto. If it got too large, Palo Alto could do the sensible thing and rent Slater in Mountain View if Mountain View's willing. However, from what charter parents were saying, charters are not entitled to endless growth. Such things are negotiated with the district. Bullis can't take anywhere near all its applicants.

Of course, the irony of all of this is that it's almost guaranteed that the next board will be less MI friendly and there will be a mess in three years when the MI program wants to expand to a full strand.

That's the political price that will get paid for not getting a wider base of support.

At which point, charter talk will arise, but there will no longer be space at Ohlone and you can't convert a public school into a charter. However, another more farsighted group will probably have had the sense to make a charter out of Slater.

And PACE will have been too pigheaded (too snobbish?) to go after a good campus when it was available. That you guys have a propensity for insulting Mountain View doesn't help.

But there it will be, the thin little Ohlone MI program with the MI parents afraid to have their kids play with kids whose parents oppose MI's presence.

Yep, just one big dysfunctional family.




Posted by San Franciscan, a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Hi,

The two public school Cantonese immersion programs in SF have plenty of native English speakers who do fine in Cantonese by the end of their elementary school education. They test at or above the San Francisco Unified School District average scores in math and English, too.

Alice Fong Yu does not have a language proficiency requirement (two lotteries the way your SI program does) in class composition. As I mentioned, we mostly have native English speakers. Check out our SARC to see our scores beating the district average.

Web Link

CAIS (Chinese American International School) has mostly English-only students and they do fine in Mandarin.

Web Link

Over 25 years of experience in our Chinese immersion programs demonstrates that students can be successful. Why are you so skeptical? Did you ask CAIS and Alice Fong Yu in your research?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Hi San Franciscan,

Thank you for the links. The straightforwardness of CAIS' FAQ was refreshing. However, I didn't see the stat Parent was looking for. I didn't see it in the Alice Fong Yu either, though the latter clearly shows some attrition around 4th, 5th grades. The school also has a high percentage of Asian students, so I'm not sure it's easy to guess at the statistic parent wants. It's not clear how many of the English speakers have a parent who speaks Cantonese at home, which kind of skews things.

But thanks again for the links, I found them interesting.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Parent,

"The simpler than pie attrition answer you outline above seems a very convenient solution to ensure a self fulfilling prophecy of success in teaching Mandarin."

I hadn't thought of that. As a thought experiment it sounds reasonable. Don't know how it plays out in the real world though. I was addressing a claim that seats would be empty (an outrage for a space-pinched district) by saying how the seats would be filled. Take away enough little worries and maybe the whole project won't seem so scarey.

"If not, how are you able to be so smug, and how are you able to assure parents in English speaking families that their child will succeed."

I would never advise a parent with serious doubts about any program to sign his/her child up. This would be a pilot program, results would be evaluated from the start and the program would be retained as is, revised or dumped. With great neighborhood schools, why act as if you have to get your child into one of the options with a sign-up list. Makes no sense at all.

The post by "San Franciscan" above suggests that the two public Cantonese immersion programs may have data relevant to your concern. I don't think the challenges would be significantly different with Mandarin in place of Cantonese.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2007 at 12:07 am

OhlonePar,

"That you guys have a propensity for insulting Mountain View doesn't help."

Please remember tone. You have no idea what my connections to and feelings about Mountain View are. I'm the guy who's saying Ohlone MI is better for Palo Alto than a charter for various reasons, not someone who is trying to figure out the best placement for a regional MI charter school.

About Swedish immersion: why is that any different? If an English-speaking parent desperately wants his 4th grader to enter the Swedish-English immersion class, he/she will have to get the child up to grade level in Swedish in order to take a seat in the class because otherwise the child will not be successful.


Posted by another voice, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:51 am

San Franciscan -

I have no doubt the a PAUSD with its wonderful teachers and dedicated parents can make a MI program successful for its students. One of the things we value in our schools is diversity - both economic and ethnic. It adds a richness to our children's education.

The two schools you mentioned are 67.9% and 76% Asian, which may more closely reflect the mix of the SF school district, but does not reflect ours.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 5, 2007 at 9:21 am

"I think the motivation for potential MI candidates to accept the smaller size and larger price of a new Palo Alto home will be greater with a charter school than with Choice MI in place."

Jerry,
I view it the other way around. With a charter, people can rent or buy anywhere within the county. In fact, they wouldn't even have to move if they're okay with the commute. It's the lottery program that requires a Palo Alto address.

Say, whatever happened to the effort to track families who live outside the school district boundaries and are trying to get their students into PAUSD illegally? Weren't we going to hire someone to reduce the fraud? Here's another example of how we're following in the footsteps of Cupertino.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 11:04 am

Neither one of the links that San Franciscan has provided give the information that we would need to see to determine how non-mandarin speakers succeed in this program.

(By non-mandarin speakers - that means they don't speak mandarin when the enter the program in Kindergarten, They are not speaking mandarin at home, their parents aren't tutoring them in Mandarin after school, etc.)

Because the CLAIM of the program is VAST. We can take all children, regardless of their language background, and teach them Mandarin, whithout a LICK of homework, without ANY assistance from caretakers at home, and graduate them at 5th grade as fully bilingual, biliterate at or above PAUSD standards academically.

Where is the proof that this is possible. Has this EVER happened? Does anyone know of EVEN ONE child who fits this description?

By the way, those links show us probably about 17% of the students enrolled at any one time MAY fit that description - so HOW WELL ARE THEY DOING? DID THEY START IN THE PROGRAM? or Did They too come in late as already mandarin proficient?

Does this program do what it says it can do????

Where is the evidence?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 5, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Jerry,

You ended up in the "you guys" as an MI Ohlone promoter online. I haven't heard you say, hey, a charter in MV that could take in lots of students would be a good thing. I have yet to see anyone supportive of PACE's post-Jan. 30 actions say a MV charter would be a good thing. So, if you got grouped in there maybe it's because you haven't distinguished yourself from the pack.

Well, how about it then?

Why is Swedish immersion any different? Very simple--the fact that you're favoring one already privileged ethnic group in a public school system would be obvious. It's funny, I was talking about this to a first-gen Asian buddy of mine who pointed out that part of the reason PACE got led so far down the past on MI is that no one at PAUSD wanted to look anti-Asian.

In other words, we wouldn't see the race card played every time it's pointed out that an overenrolled district shouldn't have to stick in a choice program at overenrolled school to make 10 people happy.


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