Tomorrow night Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer and I will introduce “Expanding Access to Mandarin and Other World Languages,” a resolution asking the Superintendent to begin the Program Placement process to pilot Mandarin world language programs at elementary schools that feed into middle schools with a Mandarin language program.
The idea is to build a more robust pipeline of students who continue their study of Mandarin into middle school. Currently there are just two elementary schools offering Mandarin Immersion and a three offering Cantonese pathways with some study of Mandarin; Alice Fong Yu offers K-8 dual-language immersion in Cantonese with Mandarin starting in middle school. We’d like to expand language pathway options to more students — it has never seemed quite fair that if you don’t win a seat at a language pathway in Kindergarten, you’re likely not to be able to access second language instruction until high school (some middle schools offer world language as an elective but most don’t).
The Program Placement process consists of a rigorous review of the budget, facility and community impact of new program proposals, so it’s not clear what the outcome of the process will be if the resolution passes (it will have to undergo review in the Budget and Curriculum committees before returning to the Board for a final vote probably sometime in late February). However, given real challenges in recruiting teachers with both Mandarin language skills and content knowledge–essential for dual-language immersion programs– and the ongoing popularity of language pathways in general, it seems like the right time to look at new ways to expand second language access for more of our students.