News

Report says Mandarin charter school not 'likely to succeed'

A report prepared to help the Menlo Park City School District board decide if it should allow a Mandarin immersion charter school in the district concludes the petition is flawed and the school is not "likely to succeed." The board is scheduled to vote on the petition on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

State law limits the grounds on which the board can deny the petition. The 56-page report, prepared by a team of district administrators and consultants, goes through each of the areas in which the board has some leeway when making its decision.

The report did conclude the petition had gathered enough signatures. The law requires signatures from the parents of at least 50 percent of the 100 students the petition says the school will serve the first year; the parents must be "meaningfully interested" in enrolling their children in the charter school.

The district contacted each signer. While many did not have appropriately aged children or said they no longer wanted their names on the petition, the district found that 44 in-district and 14 out-of-district parents with children who would be in kindergarten or first grade next year had signed -- eight more than the required minimum.

However, the report finds flaws in other areas. The petition does not give a reasonable description of how the school would, as required by state law, "reach a racial and ethnic balance in its student population" that reflects the district's current racial and ethnic makeup, according to the report. Asian students constitute a little more than 7 percent of the district, and the report said other Mandarin immersion programs have much higher percentages. The report gives an example of a problematic imbalance with a Mandarin immersion school in New York City that has nearly 75 percent Asian students where the district-wide population is less than 16 percent.

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The charter school may also have problems reaching its projected eventual enrollment of 450 students, especially with students who live within the district, according to the report, which says the school will have trouble replacing students who drop out with students who are proficient in Mandarin. The petition states that any child who enters the school after first grade must first pass a Mandarin proficiency test.

The district's current survey of home languages shows only 36 students speak Mandarin at home, the report says. It also concludes that the target of 450 students is unrealistic because that includes 15.5 percent of all students in the district, a much larger percentage than any Mandarin immersion program in nearby school districts.

The report says the school's budget is also unrealistic; the amount of money budgeted is less per child than the district spends on items such as textbooks, technology, professional development and site maintenance. Also, the school may have trouble finding and keeping teachers because the proposed salaries are below local market rate and Mandarin-speaking instructors are in short supply.

The charter school may also be short on administrators, since it will be governed by the Bay Area Language Immersion Schools, a brand-new nonprofit which is also trying to open a school in San Jose next year. During the first year, according to the report, the executive director of the nonprofit will also serve as principal of both the San Jose and Menlo Park schools.

"It would be nearly impossible for a single individual to serve as the CEO of the nonprofit corporation while serving as a principal starting up not one, but two, charter schools, in two different locations," the report states. Furthermore, the board of the nonprofit lacks members with school administration experience, according to the report.

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Carol Cunningham, spokesperson for the Mandarin immersion charter school, was not immediately available for comment.

The Nov. 12 meeting will be held at the Encinal School Multi-Use Room at 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

If the school board denies the charter petition, backers may appeal to the county school board. If that board also denies the petition, the appeal can go to the state board of education.

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Report says Mandarin charter school not 'likely to succeed'

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 10:46 am

A report prepared to help the Menlo Park City School District board decide if it should allow a Mandarin immersion charter school in the district concludes the petition is flawed and the school is not "likely to succeed." The board is scheduled to vote on the petition on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

State law limits the grounds on which the board can deny the petition. The 56-page report, prepared by a team of district administrators and consultants, goes through each of the areas in which the board has some leeway when making its decision.

The report did conclude the petition had gathered enough signatures. The law requires signatures from the parents of at least 50 percent of the 100 students the petition says the school will serve the first year; the parents must be "meaningfully interested" in enrolling their children in the charter school.

The district contacted each signer. While many did not have appropriately aged children or said they no longer wanted their names on the petition, the district found that 44 in-district and 14 out-of-district parents with children who would be in kindergarten or first grade next year had signed -- eight more than the required minimum.

However, the report finds flaws in other areas. The petition does not give a reasonable description of how the school would, as required by state law, "reach a racial and ethnic balance in its student population" that reflects the district's current racial and ethnic makeup, according to the report. Asian students constitute a little more than 7 percent of the district, and the report said other Mandarin immersion programs have much higher percentages. The report gives an example of a problematic imbalance with a Mandarin immersion school in New York City that has nearly 75 percent Asian students where the district-wide population is less than 16 percent.

The charter school may also have problems reaching its projected eventual enrollment of 450 students, especially with students who live within the district, according to the report, which says the school will have trouble replacing students who drop out with students who are proficient in Mandarin. The petition states that any child who enters the school after first grade must first pass a Mandarin proficiency test.

The district's current survey of home languages shows only 36 students speak Mandarin at home, the report says. It also concludes that the target of 450 students is unrealistic because that includes 15.5 percent of all students in the district, a much larger percentage than any Mandarin immersion program in nearby school districts.

The report says the school's budget is also unrealistic; the amount of money budgeted is less per child than the district spends on items such as textbooks, technology, professional development and site maintenance. Also, the school may have trouble finding and keeping teachers because the proposed salaries are below local market rate and Mandarin-speaking instructors are in short supply.

The charter school may also be short on administrators, since it will be governed by the Bay Area Language Immersion Schools, a brand-new nonprofit which is also trying to open a school in San Jose next year. During the first year, according to the report, the executive director of the nonprofit will also serve as principal of both the San Jose and Menlo Park schools.

"It would be nearly impossible for a single individual to serve as the CEO of the nonprofit corporation while serving as a principal starting up not one, but two, charter schools, in two different locations," the report states. Furthermore, the board of the nonprofit lacks members with school administration experience, according to the report.

Carol Cunningham, spokesperson for the Mandarin immersion charter school, was not immediately available for comment.

The Nov. 12 meeting will be held at the Encinal School Multi-Use Room at 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

If the school board denies the charter petition, backers may appeal to the county school board. If that board also denies the petition, the appeal can go to the state board of education.

Comments

pearl
Registered user
another community
on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:50 pm
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Do we have the names of the backers of the proposed Mandarin immersion school? I would be interested to know who they are.


Caryn Wasserstein
Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm
Caryn Wasserstein, Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I strongly encourage community members to take the time to educate themselves from every side of this petition, if you have not already, here is how: www.mpcsd.org, www.menlomandarin.org, and Web Link

The meeting on November 12 at 6:30pm in the Encinal Multi is open to the public. The first portion of the meeting will be open to Public Comment. Come, hear what people in the community are saying, comment if you wish. Then the MPCSD School Board will publicly discuss and decide whether to confirm or deny the MMICS petition. This is an open process, be a part of it – maybe even bring your children as a civics lesson, but be there. This impacts all of the homeowners in MPCSD, whether your kids are in private school, public school, coming somewhere down the line, have already gone off to college or you don’t have any now and never will.


Barbara Wood
Registered user
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm
Barbara Wood, Almanac staff writer
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm

You can see the entire petition and other documents on the school district's website. The petition contains the names of the founders and board of the proposed school and the non-profit that would run it.

Web Link


peninsula resident
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm
peninsula resident, Menlo-Atherton High School
on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Regarding the petition doc: thanks for the link, Caryn Wasserstein.

If the surnames are indicative of the makeup of the founders and interested families, then this petition for a charter should fail due to its "... racial and ethnic balance in its student population", since it clearly does not reflect "...the district's current racial and ethnic makeup".

Personally, I think adding more options for language instruction to the MPCSD curriculum is a good idea, but think MI is a bad fit for MPCSD for all the reasons cited in the report, and because there just isn't room in the overcrowded buildings. And as mentioned in the report, there are other programs nearby which are not yet even tested as to the interest level for Mandarin (in particular, the new Redwood City program). In my opinion, Mandarin Immersion should be revisited after seeing actual attendance records in Redwood City; if it fills up as quickly and gets into lottery territory, that would strengthen the claims by the MI folks that there's interest.

I hope the MPCSD board does the right thing and deny the petition. Though I do hope they make an effort to add more language options to the the district in the near future.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I am all for adding language programs. As a person that did not learn a second language in school but had to do it much later in life I value the ability to speak more than English. However, I feel a seperate Charter School for Mandarin is not the way to go. I think the school district should evaluate the effectiveness of the Spanish Immersion program that they currently have and if it is successful they should look to expanding it to another language, maybe that is Mandarin or Russian, or some other language based on the level of support from the parents and the community.


palo alto parent
another community
on Nov 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm
palo alto parent, another community
on Nov 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Brian - this has nothing to do with what is right or beneficial for the majority of the students in Menlo Park. It has everything to do with a small group people who want a Mandarin (not language, specifically Mandarin) program in Menlo Park that is publicly funded. This group doesn't care that there are other local MI programs available because they are private and cost $$. They don't care that the program would negatively affect the other Menlo Park School District students because as a Basic Aide District MP could be forced to pay to educate students from other Districts. They just want what they want and they want it now, most likely because they have children who will be in Kindergarten or 1st grade next year.


menlo park parent
Menlo Park: other
on Nov 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm
menlo park parent, Menlo Park: other
on Nov 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

palo alto parent, these are our neighbors you are talking about. Do you know them?


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