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The MI process is now a farce

Original post made by Simon Firth, College Terrace, on Jan 6, 2007

The MI process is now a farce.

Late on Friday, after the schools were done for the weekend, parents lucky enough to be in the know learned of a major change in the MI proposal—a change which raises a whole host of new issues.

That’s just two working days before the public has its LAST scheduled opportunity to speak on the subject. And it’s before many, many of the other questions raised by the original version of the study have been answered. This is policy making and planning insanity.

Just look at the bemusement of many posters to this forum—what are we to make of the new possibility that Ohlone house MI and that it run the program under its progressive ‘connections’ philosophy?

Has anyone addressed the question of what it means to run an immersion program in a ‘progressive’ setting? Is it realistic? Absurd? Has it been done before? Where’s the research to support this decision? What happened to the concern that MI wouldn’t work as a single strand?

Has anyone asked the Ohlone parent community how they feel about this idea? Is it right that they get one chance to react just days after this being mooted for the first time?

Add these new questions to the many others that the original feasibility study failed to address and you have not new clarity but more murk. How can all the questions that need to be addressed even be raised to the BOE by Tuesday and how can they be answered by Jan 30th?

To paraphrase Pauline from another thread: WHAT’S THE RUSH?

In particular, why are we trying to rush through a major decision about the direction of our District at the end of the current Strategic Planning cycle and in the middle of a major transition of the district’s highest management team?

There is a new planning cycle about to start—surely, that’s the time to address the question of language provision, and do it comprehensively. Let’s talk about language provision for all across the district—provision in all its possible permutations of languages taught, ages addressed and styles of delivery.

To quote another thread: the superintendent seems to be saying “that we should implement MI now, then figure out in the next round how it fits in with the District's priorities.” Isn’t that just incredibly poor management? Once again, WHAT’S THE RUSH?

What’s more, there is a new superintendent coming in—she or he needs to be leading the search for these solutions, not clearing up a mess the current superintendent left on her way out. I can only imagine how enticing the chance to inherit an ill-thought out, rushed-through and bitterly opposed immersion program will be to the high-flying candidates the district is hoping to attract.

Given how things stand I can only see two realistic options:

1) We kill the whole idea of MI for now – my preferred option – and revisit it in the context under which it should have been considered in the first place: as part of a broad strategic review of the district’s need and demand for choice programs and its need and demand for languages across all schools and all ages.

2) We put off a decision on approval until the district has answered some of the many unanswered questions about the program, particularly about placing it in the sort of setting it will find at Ohlone—and until the public has had a chance to digest and respond to those answers in turn. I would say that means putting off the decision on MI for at least eight weeks. If that means it makes it too late to implement this year and if that means it really makes more sense to leave the whole thing until the new superindentent is in place and the reviews outlined in option 1) have taken place, so much the better.

If you agree, please write to the BOE and tell them. We need to change this farcical decision making process now.

Mandy Lowell
1423 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 323-2742
[email protected]
Term expires 2007

Gail Price
4082 Orme Street
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 856-6260
[email protected]
Term expires 2007

Camille Townsend
2450 W. Bayshore Road #10
Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 493-3410
[email protected]
Term expires 2007

Barb Mitchell
550 N. California Avenue
Palo Alto 94301
(650) 328-6027
[email protected]
Term expires 2009

Dana Tom
1419 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto 94301
(650) 321-4506
[email protected]
Term expires 2009

Comments (26)

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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 6, 2007 at 6:49 pm

But what I really want to know is why there are ONLY TEN recent discussion threads about MI!

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Posted by Redundant
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 6, 2007 at 7:22 pm


You missed this thread with your petition website.

Just because you didn't fill it in on this thread (yet), here's the PACE petition:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 6, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Nicely said Simon. Even it is a little self serving for me to say so, since you paraphrased me. I hope we meet one day.

Thanks for your efforts.

Like this comment
Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 6, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Forgot to say.. a rebuttal to the original Feasibility Study ( from 12-12-06 Board Meeting) is up on the Palo Altans for Equity in Education site.

Of course, this isn't the latest incarnation of the Feasibility Study,( anybody want to take that on?) but at least it shows most of the rebuttal points

Like this comment
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

In answer to SkepticAL, there are multiple threads on the MI question because there's a lot to say, and once a thread veers off the original topic, as it inevitably does, the only way to refocus the discussion is to start a new thread.

And since a question I posed on another MI thread doesn't seem to be getting any nibbles I'll pose it here as well: What are the costs associated with leasing or purchasing three modular classrooms, preparing the area where they are to be situated, and heating/air conditioning them for three years?

A followup question would be, "Have these expenses been factored into the startup costs for MI at Ohlone?"

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Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2007 at 9:18 pm

In terms of self-disclosure, I am opposed to MI.

I have just read the "updated" information on the sites that the staff visited to justify a MI recommendation.

I am disappointed that they failed to consider how these school districts DIFFER dramatically from PAUSD in terms of size.

SF Unified and Portland Unified are 5 times larger than PAUSD.

Portland, for example, serves 22,607 Elem students at 85 locations. Clearly it is a lot less disruptive on the balance between neighborhood schools vs. choice when you are talking about a district offering MI to 187 students within an overall population of 22,607.

SF Unified serves 21,712 Elem students.

Cupertino is about 1.6x larger having 20 Elementary schools. A key difference, however, in terms of student composition is found on their website which states "Our district serves a richly diverse student population — 60% Asian (includes Indian subcontinent), 33% White, 4% Hispanic, 1% Black, and 1% Filipino." Web Link

I have no doubt that all these districts run fine and successful MI programs. What concerns me, however, is there is ZERO analysis of what key differences may have allowed them to absorb these MI programs more easily.

The truth is a significant concern has been expressed about implementing MI here in Palo Alto. The concerns about "tipping point" are not adequately addressed in the revised study.

"In the last five years, elementary school enrollment has increased by 25% without a similar increase in the size of existing choice programs. Historical patterns suggest that choice programs could be expanded as the enrollment grows without threatening the viability of neighborhood schools."

Note the use of the phrase "without a similar increase" w/o providing the % that choice program enrollment has increased. The implication is that implementing MI is somehow "catching up" on the choice scale. Also note the use of the language "without threatening the viability of neighborhood schools."

The concern many of us have expressed relates to the value we place on having our kids get to know the very kids that live in our neighborhoods. This has allowed our neighborhood schools to develop strong cultures and makes it much easier for kids to know and connect with each other outside of school. A 51% "neighborhood" school with 49% of the students coming from homes outside the serving area would still be "viable" in the sense that it would not collapse -- but it's the impact on the sense of identity and community that is the essence of the concern that has been raised.

Please show me a district that has implemented an MI program that has anything close to the ratios of "choice to neighborhood" schools comparable to what PAUSD would have once MI reaches 240 students?

This is just one of several concerns I have with implementing MI here in Palo Alto.

I respect that those in favor of MI see the program as offering a host of benefits to the kids that would win the lottery. On this point I can 100% agree. I just happen to see greater costs for the entire student population of 4600 kids that outweighs the benefit that would be made available to 240 students.

I respect that others will look at the same inputs and see the benefit for the 240 as outweighing the costs I see for the rest of the students. I also respect that those in favor will argue that MI provides a benefit to all students b/c every student would have an equal chance to win the lottery. While I think the argument is 100%sincere, I am not persuaded.

I hope the Board agrees that the overall costs of MI outweigh its benefits.

Like this comment
Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2007 at 9:32 pm


PAUSD is facing increase of enrollment which already calls for adding modulars. Adding all of them on one school site is about as expensive, or even slightly less expensive, as distributing the additions across multiple school sites. In other words, adding modulars is not caused by MI. Concentrating the addition at one site is.

As I understand it, when MI moves away the classrooms will be used for regular Ohlone program, which wants to grow to 4 strands. I hope this helps.

Like this comment
Posted by So Wrong on So many levels
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2007 at 9:51 pm

Ohlone may very well 'want' to grow to four strands. However, we are facing a critical capacity issue. What was the AAAG's recommendation for whether to add a school or whether to serve student growth with portabable units at some school?

And if they recommended portables, did they recommend those get added to Ohlone? Or where? How does adding portables to Ohlone site resolve the immediate issue of overcrowding in the North?

I think this a disengenuous, and frankly transparent ploy - a convenient 'meeting of the minds' between staff and Ohlone principal.. If you accept the MI program for 3 short years, you will get your school expansion which the district would otherwise not be able to afford, and would not otherwise consider given the very significant cost and capacity issues they will face (at all all grade levels)

Nice try, but so transparent.

I wonder if the Ohlone principal has any idea of the personal good will and political capital that she just burned with her agreement to make a deal with the devil.

She sold us down the river.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 7, 2007 at 9:44 am


Regarding the neighborhood schools matter…

I don't know what your other reasons are for not supporting MI, but I do think you deserve to get a point of view from someone who is advocating world language instruction for all elementary school students in PAUSD, with MI and SI being lanes of such a policy for the students in those programs.

Purely from a numbers standpoint, there are 1000 more students in the district today than there were a few years ago. If MI were introduced, around 240 of them would eventually not be part of their neighborhood school, and that count has to be spread over the entire student population, not just the increment. So, the vast majority of the incremental students will be placed in neighborhood schools, and only a relative few will not be part of a neighborhood school. That's just a statistic, and you can play all sorts of games with numbers, which I prefer not to do. But let's get into some qualitative issues, and I will use my own family to make the points.

I have lived in two different parts of Palo Alto in the last 16 years. In both locations, there were kids who did not attend the neighborhood schools. Some were at Ohlone, some went to private schools outside the PAUSD. When stuff goes on the neighborhood, these kids have participated with the other kids, when they were around. We had plenty of other neighbors with kids whom we got to know better than the families that were not in the neighborhood school, but any loss of "neighborliness" was on the margin. It would have been nice for those families with kids in non-neighborhood schools to be around more, but the general idea of neighborhood schools has not been emasculated because some of our neighbors have chosen a different school arrangement for their kids. That will not change, by the way, with the introduction of MI, it has been this way, and will continue to be that way, MI or not. Some families in your neighborhood will make such a choice for their children to attend a school other than the one that your children attend.

When Spanish Immersion was introduced in the mid-1990's, our daughter was about to start kindergarten, and we had to decide if she would attend the same neighborhood school as her older brother, or if we wanted to apply for her to attend Spanish Immersion. For a variety of reasons, we elected for her to attend the neighborhood school. But there are people for whom the neighborhood school benefits are outweighed by the opportunities they perceive their child getting from an immersion experience. It is a value set that each family has, and I personally think it is great that our District is in a position to provide people such a choice. You and I may place higher value on neighborhood schools than do others, but that does not mean a choice other people prefer should be withheld from them.

With one now in college and one at PALY, our experience has been that we end up being in several "neighborhoods" of sorts during the time our kids are at school age. For example, Little League baseball has been a "virtual" neighborhood experience for us, and we got to know quite well many families who did not attend our kid’s school. Children's Theater, church for some, the list can go on and on. My point is that not all of the experience that you describe and that I believe you and I both value is derived entirely or exclusively from the specific neighborhood school experience, even though a great deal of it indeed is.

There are some issues around the choice of Ohlone and of Garland around candidate locations for immersion programs. But since Ohlone is not now a neighborhood school, and Garland is not a PAUSD operation at present, the disruption that some (I honestly cannot tell how many) feel having SI at Escondido caused is significantly reduced as an issue. Your neighborhood school is the school your kid attends. I live just blocks away from Addison and Walter Hays, both about the same distance. There are people in University North with kids at Addison, and there are people who live near Oregon Expressway with kids at Walter Hays. Are they my neighbors? Not really, but I do know many more families from our Hays experience, even though I live very close to Addison, which my kids did not attend.

So, absolutely, neighborhood schools are a critical and large part of the fabric of PAUSD. My personal experience tells me that not all place the importance on it that perhaps you do, that you can still have a neighborhood school experience even if not all your neighbors also participate, your neighborhood school has more to do with where the kids go to school than if it truly is in your neighborhood, and for most of us, the experience of getting to know people in town also is derived in other ways in addition to the school experience—think of it as a “diversified portfolio.”

I hope this stimulates your thinking. You may have other reasons that affect your point of view about language instruction at the elementary school level for this District, but I have attempted to take some of the abstraction out of issues people raise and try to use our own specific experiences to illustrate how that actually have worked for this Palo Alto family.

Just a quick comment about some of the studies you question. My own experience in business is that with any market research or analysis that is conducted, there is “noise” that can call into question the validity of the information as it applies to a particular decision that is being made. In this case, there have been multiple sources of study and analysis, any one of which may have limitations, but taken as a whole, indicate to this reader that MI can be added to the PAUSD in a way that is feasible and consistent with the District’s policies and other priorities.

Like this comment
Posted by Betsy Allyn
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm

The comments posted on MI have been facinating to read. P A
surely has an intelligent constituency. I would like to add three
comments pf my own.
Comparisons between school districts are odious.

"Choice" schools should not have waiting lists. Programs must
be available to all.

I believe parents of K - 2 or 3 students should be made aware of the inconsistencies between the English and Chinese languages when their children are beginning to learn to read.
These are, among others, the sound/symbol relationships
(A/ahh for example). These are the essentials for learning to
read (or should be) in English. Chinese s/s are different, and could lead to confusion. Also, in spelling and comprehension &
thus, in long and short term memory. Children who have as yet
undiagnosed reading difficulties could be seriously affected.
Something to think about.

Like this comment
Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2007 at 6:16 pm


Thanks for your post.

My other major concern with MI relates to equity. I just don't see it fair that 5% of students would end up with a language advantage.

btw, I am a big supporter of SI given that I see dramatic differences in terms of the advantages; connecting those with privilege with those with less privilege. I am O.K with offering something that provides an advantage to native Spanish speaking kids given documented lower levels of achievement and economic status in the Latino community. I said this before (in another post) and was basically called a racist.

So I am O.K with a public school system helping students master the dominant (by far) second language of California. I respect all other languages and can totally see value in learning everything from Mandarin to Arabic to Russian (etc.)

My concern is how a public school system "chooses" which second language to offer. Who is to say that Arabic is not more important than Mandarin, for example.

Parents that feel passionately about immersion actually have choices available to them today in the form of private schools. Those so inclined could also move (either North or South by less than an hour)to public school districts that have implemented the immersion program they care about. These choices put the responsibility on the parents where I feel it belongs.

Back to the concern I have about the erosion of "neighborhood" schools. First, I want to go on record as saying I have good neighbors whose children attend each of the 3 current lottery programs. While I like these parents and respect the choices they have made for their kids, I have no doubt that their not being connected to our neighborhood school is a loss for our neighborhood school.

Be forewarned, I am about to make a gross generalization...but my hunch tells me that parents that are savvy enough to research lottery programs and willing to deal with the resulting commute are, as a group, some of the more "active" parents. It is therefore a net loss to the neighborhood school in terms of parents willing/able to volunteer for fieldtrip driving to stuffing Friday Folders to serving on PTA.

I can justify this loss given for the current 3 lottery programs given distinct differences I see (2 dealing with instructional method and the other for reasons I indicated earlier). I can not, however, justify this loss when it comes to MI (or AI, HI, or any other I).

So I think are just going to need to disagree. In sum, I don't like to idea of creating a new program that offers a benefit to some (5%) while having a negative impact on those not "choosing" to partake.

I wish there was a way to give MI supporters what they want without, what I see, as the negative impacts. I am therefore opposed to MI no matter where it was placed.

I think it a loss for our public school system to remove another batch of students from the general population. This new "choice" would create administrative challenges, inequities, and erode (though certainly not collapse) the strength of our neighborhood schools.

Thanks for listening.

Like this comment
Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 8, 2007 at 8:30 pm


"btw, I am a big supporter of SI given that I see dramatic differences in terms of the advantages; connecting those with privilege with those with less privilege. I am O.K with offering something that provides an advantage to native Spanish speaking kids given documented lower levels of achievement and economic status in the Latino community. I said this before (in another post) and was basically called a racist."

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Had you argued for a "disadvantaged" status, in *addition* to being of native Spanish speaking, before giving them access to SI, you would have been "classist" at worst. Since you indicate that native Spanish speakers should get priority due to their presumed race, independent of how privileged or unprivileged their background is, that is the definition of racism: treating one differently due to one's race rather that due to one's individual character and circumstance. MLK certainly thought so, and it would be nice for all to remember that, given that his memorial day is coming up next week.

And while I have your attention, please note how heavy and personal many of the MI opponent posts are dumping on Grace. You may consider extending your please for civility to your own side.

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Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2007 at 9:44 pm


I am not going to resort to name calling.

If, based on my willingness to support an advantage for a traditionally disadvantaged group, you want to beleive me to be racist, who I am to argue?

I am presently getting my Masters of Education at Stanford and based on everything I have observed and read, limited English proficiency (LEP) is the single greatest barrier to student success. The group most affected by LEP issues are Spanish speaking.

I only bring SI up to diffuse the "pro" MI argument that uses SI as an example of "look, it's already working for SI, there's a precedent here..MI is just like SI."

I concede that some reasonble people will see them as essentially the same. I, however, see SI and MI as quite different.

Thanks for bringing MLK into the discussion. I wonder what he would say about offering a language advantage to 5% of students while others get nothing?

I will reflect on that while working on my degree to teach in the California public school system and keep it in mind as I work on a Civil Rights unit I am presently developing.

Frankly, the ability to post anonymously has contributed greatly to a very uncivil dialogue. It's hard to imagine those trying to make up their mind on MI being swayed by posts that attack people personally.

I would encourage everyone to try to stay focused on making their best arguments w/o critizing people individually. Even saying "anyone that opposes MI is a jerk" is vastly better than saying "Person X is a jerk."

Calling me a racist, for example, is about the nastiest thing I can think of. Even so, I am hard pressed to see how doing so advances any argument in favor of MI.

To be clear, there are legitimate reasons to support MI -- just as there are legitimate reasons to oppose it. People will make up their minds by assigning relative weights to the costs and the benefits they see.

Even if you can not, I feel comfortable there are many (even many in favor of MI) that will allow me to see the costs outweighing the benefits w/o ascribing my conclusion to racism.

Thanks for listening

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Since when did "native Spanish speaker" become a race? Bryan's point has nothing to do with "race" (a muddled term at best). You are the one who assumes that "native Spanish speakers" are of a particular race, which comes closer to the definition of "racism".

Perhaps it's your own preconceptions that need examination? Or at least your knowledge of Spaiin, the Carribean, the Philippines and South and Central America.

And what do comments made about Grace Mah have to do with any of it? It reads to me like you're implying something that is, perhaps, not warranted.

Like this comment
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:16 pm


[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I appreciate the tone of your comments and the contribution you are making to this discussion.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by teacher wannabe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Hey Brian.

I like reading your posts - they are carefully thought out and well-written. Unfortunately, taking the high road is not always practiced on the MI threads. My hope is that those comments are passion-driven and not race related. I, for one, appreciate your politeness in the face of overwhelming nastiness. I think letting Wolf vent and moving on w/out reply is the best course of action. Good luck with the credential.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:27 pm


The nieghborhood schools versus choice educational programs in PAUSD is probably the key area where people seem to come down very hard on one side or the other. My own family opted for a neighborhood school over a "choice" program (SI) for our daughter, but that was our CHOICE.

To my way of thinking it is not a good use of our time or the time of people who may read this to consider whether the District should become a nieghborhood schools only model. Even if some people feel that it should, I think as a practical matter, that is a settled question overall. So, while you describe it being inequitable that only 5% of kids may get into any particular choice program that the District may offer, I think that is how it will be, and some people will be disappointed every single year. It's been that way for some time, and while it does have that unfortunate consequence, it appears that overall the benefits have outweighed the drawbacks, although any given family that is directly affected may feel otherwise.

Hard to take issue with your contention that families that have kids in non-nieghborhood schools are an "opportunity cost" to the nieghborhood school that they would have been part of. But, I think it is harsh to suggest that it is a negative impact on a neighborhood school for such people to not be part of it. Are neighborhood schools suffering from lack of parental support or participation due to the choice programs? I would need to see some evidence to buttress that contention before I could subscribe to such a point of view.

You appear to agree with the "tipping point" argument that does not need to be rehashed here, which simply stated is that we really cannot have any additional choice programs in this district above and beyond the ones we have, as it would significantly alter the character of the district as we know it. I have not really expressed my own opinion about that particular aspect of things as I have weighed in on some of these threads. But I will make the observation that it is one of the other points of view that people who do not favor going forward with another immersion program that I think has some cogent reasoning behind it.

How many choice programs is the right number, how they are sized and what they should be is a huge question. I would again suspect that SI, and the learning models found at Ohlone and Hoover are here to stay--sort of like the houses in your neighborhood, unless someone goes to great expense to remodel or replace. Are we sizing these existing choice programs "correctly?" I honestly don't know, that is a very complex question, and I doubt anyone could make an informed judgment of it today.

Is MI the right choice for another choice program if we add one? I happen to think so, and there is ample justification for it that can be drawn entirely from information and studies from outside of this District to support such a contention. But I will grant you that there is wiggle room in that discussion, if the community wants to go through that process. My hunch is that MI would come out on top, but lots of people could just as easily argue otherwise, and neither they nor I could completely prove or disprove our points.

Time for cookies, milk and bed. Good night.

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Posted by PA resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:30 pm

LOL - anonymous you are too funny. Who is parent? I would love to meet her at the meeting. Maybe she could wear a name tag that says parent, and I'll wear one that says PA resident. We could have a good laugh!

Enough - see you all tomorrow night....

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

You mean me? Sorry, I just got here today after Ohlone sprung its e-mail surprise on us. Being a native Californian, though, I've always had a keen ear for the latest variation on identity politics. Wolf's accusation of racism combined with his/her own unexamined assumptions--well, it just tempted me to wade right in.

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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 8, 2007 at 11:31 pm


Thank you for not engaging in name calling. I did not use "racist" as an epithet, but rather as a normative descriptor. I even provided an operative definition to avoid confusion.

I also did not ascribe your opposition to MI to such racism. I am sorry if you perceived so from my message.

I did ascribe your support of SI *as opposed* to MI to such racism. I did it based on your own words, which seemed to indicate that it is OK to have SI since it helps "the Latino community." I also clearly indicated that had you added *individual* disadvantage, rather than group disadvantage, to the mix, that would not be racist, as per the definition of that term. I am sorry if I misunderstood you, or if you misread me.

I am sure that you are aware of prop. 209 and know that group advantages or disadvantages based on race should not be used in decisions about public programs in California.

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Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2007 at 11:53 pm


Thanks for the reply. I 100% agree "...that SI, and the learning models found at Ohlone and Hoover are here to stay" and am not aware of anyone who in opposing MI camp who has advocated reversing any of the existing programs.

We all know that programs, once implemented, have inertia and become entrenched. Contentious programs, once implements, have even greater inertia b/c those that bear responsibility for the implementation decision have a stronger vested interest in the program's success.

Should the Board decide to move forward with MI, it seems reasonable to assume that it will be here forever.

Should it falter during its "trial," I can see lots of energy being expended to support it. The Board, acting rationally, would do everything in its power to maintain the program.

Like you I have no idea what the "right" mixture is for lottery vs. neighborhood slots but I am truly concerned about a "tipping point."

My rough estimate is that about 24% of students currently attend one of the 3 lottery programs (1000+/4,500). This seems like a lot of choice to me. Choices are available for two different instructional models and one for language immersion.

I do not think that neighborhood schools would collapse but implementing MI, bumps up the % to something like 27% and I can envision some later attention on getting MI placed at the
Middle School level.

I don't generally like slippery slope arguments but I can't see it fair to say "no" to other interest groups that may propose other immersion languages.

Just as I don't think it fair to provide this program for only 5% of students, I don't think it's fair to all other languages to single out Mandarin as the only language to merit special consideration.

I asked (in another post) for data from any comparable district to ours that reveals anything close to 25% "lottery" based programs.

We are not Portland Unified or SF Unified with 22,000+ Elementary students. These districts are shown as examples where MI has been implemented but they have no where near 25% lottery programs in place.

I have argued in favor of neighborhood schools as shining examples where equity and diversity can and does exist. That said, I would support increasing enrollments in the current choice programs (which have waiting lists) before supporting MI.

Each of the 3 programs meets a specific need and affords parents a chance (if chosen) to send their kids to a setting for which there is no alternative.

I find it ironic that there actually exists plenty of "choice" for MI in close proximity to Palo Alto. Parents who feel strongly about Mandarin Immersion ALREADY have a choice.

The International School of the Peninsula operates a very successful MI program and states that “every effort possible [is made] to make our educational experience available to all students regardless of financial circumstances. See: Web Link

Obviously there is something of particular interest to supporters of MI. If it were just the cognitive benefits related to processing two languages, for example, then they would apply for SI.

If it is, however, the economic benefits connected to speaking the native language of an economic superpower, then IMHO these parents should be willing to spend their money on private education. If they do not have the means, they should apply for financial aid. As a last resort, these parents even have the "choice" of moving to one of several districts that offer MI without even needing to leave the Bay Area.

Again, I am not in favor of pushing families away. In fact, I have argued against MI b/c I want to see these "active" parents involved in our neighborhood schools. But it strikes me as odd that PASUD would provide this new language program based on a "choice" argument when choice actually exists (just not for free or as convenient).

I further find it odd we would elevate Mandarin when there are waiting lists for the current lottery offerings.

The arguments advanced by those in favor of "a" MI education are certainly valid. Kids that develop proficiency in Mandarin will have distinct advantages over others. I just don’t see it as PAUSD’s job to provide those benefits. I’d rather see parents’ taking on this responsibility via means available to them outside our public school system.

Thanks for listening…

Like this comment
Posted by another parent supporting MI
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 9, 2007 at 12:44 am


Make sure to ask Dana Tom about the tipping point and number of students in choice programs compared to neighborhood schools in other districts. He mentioned some percentages in one of the earlier board meetings. Something like, right now ~23% of the district are in choice programs, and if MI goes thru, it would increase to ~26%. He had accurate calculations.

As for MI opponents reversing current choice programs, the PAWeekly tear-off listed 6 anti-choice program options:

o I oppose any more erosion of our neighborhood schools.

o We want programs that ALL qualifying children can attend, not more “limited access, private-type” lottery schools with public dollars. Even if this, or any new, program is cost-neutral, it would still not be available to all who want it, only to lottery winners.

o Creating more commuters conflicts with our desire to become a “greener” District.

o I don’t want more Lottery Choice programs unless our District clearly establishes that we, the taxpayers, support this path.

o I don’t want new Lottery Choice programs until our District establishes clear policies for deciding which programs are priority.

o I don’t want new Choice programs until there is a plan that doesn’t deny children access to their neighborhood schools.

Although they
1. don't say specifically that existing choice programs are ok and
2. say specifically that "new Choice programs" are not OK,

there are other postings from multitudes of opponents (or multitude postings from a few opponents) saying that closing choice programs would be the right thing to do, but "it's too late". A few agree with you that it's an unfair drain from neighborhood schools of more active parents and families, and wish the choice programs away.

I disagree with your comment that implemented programs "have inertia and become entrenched". Look at the failed FLES programs. Look at the ski week experiment. Look at the fuzzy math that the district used to teach.

We are pretty good at self-regulation, evaluation, and process improvement. Remember that we're a top tier school district. Not a fumbling stagnant quagmire of educational dinosaurs. We can adapt. We HAVE adapted, and we're still in the upper crust.

Life's not fair, and the board will use its judgment (you can vote in people who you think have better judgment) to approve or reject more alternative programs. Not that I see a long line of applicants anywhere in the vicinity.



The board put a moratorium on all new programs (of which only MI was interested at that time) which some may regard as unfair. But that was the board's judgment and we all had to live with it.

The board can put a moratorium on all subsequent alternative programs, if it approves MI, pending the development of some tipping point criteria. But you know, with such low sincere interest from another choice program advocacy group (silence), it's probably not worth it.

It is also a very arrogant opinion to presume that anyone who wants Mandarin should go out and pay for it.

And those of you who use the analogy of math (or Olympic athletic) academies to "no math" and "no PE" don't make sense since all the children in the district have math and PE, both of which are required.

All the children have the opportunity to learn foreign language in middle school and high school. Many of th elementary schools have after school language programs. Foreign language is not required, so you're not denying the elementary school kids anything that is core standards.

And for those of you opponents who think that "foreign language is so important that all students should get some", please talk to your fellow opponents who think "foreign language is not important, and more math and science and English are paramount".

It'd be nice to have people stop talking from both sides of their mouths.

Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2007 at 1:57 am

to another parent...

Do you happen to know the date of the board meeting where they lifted the moratorium?


Like this comment
Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2007 at 10:25 am

You sound like you know what you're talking about and you raise so many valid questions concerning MI, additional choice programs, etc. - thanks for going for your Master's of Education degree - we need more people like you in Education!

Like this comment
Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Another parent supporting MI, I oppose MI because I don't support any foreign language in elementary schools at this time. I cannot see where the foreign language instruction can fit into the current school day without omitting other inportant instruction in the basics or before reinstating some of the programs promised with passage of Measure A. I guess we could make longer school days, but I suspect the Teacher's Union won't support that.
Bottom line, MI has opponition on many levels and for many different reasons. What a concept! It doesn't make the opposition any less valid.

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