The Portland Public Schools Jefferson Cluster Enrollment Balancing Planning Team met this evening, 8/7/12, in the auditorium of Self Enhancement Inc. in north Portland. I was there for about half the meeting and, during the brief public input period, submitted the following, reading the first two paragraphs aloud.
by Dave Porter
The process of balancing enrollments in the Jefferson cluster should put the major alternatives before the community for discussion and comments prior to any Board action. North and Northeast Portland need additional foreign language immersion programs. Since new immersion programs would affect enrollments at a variety of schools, consideration of new immersion programs should be considered prior to or at the same time as enrollment balancing efforts. It makes no sense to balance enrollments and then consider new immersion programs. In effect, if done first, balancing enrollments could prevent additional immersion programs for some period of time. So I offer the following alternatives for consideration by this committee and hopefully in the subsequent full enrollment balancing process this fall.
The Jefferson cluster has an opportunity through the enrollment balancing process this fall, to bring more students into the cluster, to expand educational opportunities in the cluster, and to make the Jefferson cluster a leader in 21st century foreign language education. I urge this committee to support making consideration of the following as part of PPS’ enrollment balancing process this fall: (a) Creating a Mandarin immersion program at Humboldt Elementary School; (b) Adding an additional class (phased in at each grade) of Spanish immersion at Beach Elementary School; (c) Creating a Japanese immersion program at King Elementary School; and (d) Creating a high school study abroad program at Jefferson High School.
(1) Increasingly, a globally competitive high school graduate needs to be bilingual. A high school graduate who is not proficient in a second language has received a second-rate education. Just two years of high school foreign language study is not enough.
(2) The best way to learn a foreign language is to start as young as possible and to be immersed as much as possible.
(3) Students in foreign language immersion programs on average score as well or better on standardize English tests as students studying in an English only curriculum.
(4) Students that learn additional languages show greater cognitive flexibility, better problem solving and higher order thinking skills.
(5) One study found that children who were from socio-economically underprivileged backgrounds benefited from immersion instruction as much as their more affluent peers. They found that "Bilingual education helps to level the socio-economic playing field by giving students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to acquire and excel in another language ... in some cases (they) perform as well as students from more advantaged backgrounds."
(6) To give its state a competitive advantage in the global economy, Utah is aggressively expanding its immersion programs. It has a goal of 100 foreign language immersion programs with 30,000 students by 2015. As of May 2012, they have 80 programs: 42 Spanish, 25 Mandarin, 10 French, 2 Portuguese, and 1 German.
Why Mandarin, Japanese and Spanish
(7) PPS has existing immersion programs in Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin and Russian. PPS has existing expertise in these languages and knows how to set up and run immersion programs that begin in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten.
(8) Looking ahead, most global economic growth, 80-85%, is forecast to be outside the United States. Oregon’s best and biggest business opportunities are abroad. For Oregon to be more prosperous, and to reach its full economic potential, it will need to sell more goods and services abroad. This will require more workers who speak targeted foreign languages and have experiences in those targeted foreign markets.
(9) With 1.3 billion people, China has more than four times the population of the United States. It was as poor country. It has had thirty years of rapid economic growth. It still has many poor people, but it also has a rapidly growing middle class that increasingly wants goods and services Oregon could provide. China’s GDP will soon pass the US, making it the world’s largest economy. And probably, by 2050, when today’s kindergarteners are only 42 years old, its economy will be twice the size of the US economy. China’s economic growth is an enormous business opportunity for Oregon. And, like Oregon, China is a Pacific Rim country. Oregon needs more bilingual Mandarin-English workers to market Oregon products and services in China.
(11) Spanish is the primary language both of our large neighboring country to the south, Mexico, and of a large population of hispanics in the United States. It is also the primary language of many countries in Central and South America.
Current Demand for Mandarin, Japanese and Spanish Immersion Programs –
Note: Cited in what follows is data from the 2011-12 lottery cycle. That is what is now available online. PPS has another year’s data, for school year 2012-13, that it has not yet released.
(12) PPS has only one Mandarin immersion program. It is at Woodstock Elementary School in SE Portland with two classes at each grade. For school year 2011-12, it had 124 applications for 60 kindergarten slots. There were enough applications to fill two more classes. Similar demand has existed for a number of prior years.
(13) PPS has only one Japanese immersion program. It is at Richmond School in SE Portland with four classes at most grades. For school year 2011-12, it had 203 applications for 113 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten slots. It had enough applications for three more classes. Similar demand has existed for a number of prior years.
(14) Beach PK-8 School in the Jefferson cluster has a Dual Spanish immersion program. For the 2011-12 school year, it had 99 applicants for 34 slots. Since the Beach program enrolls in categories, there is more specific data. There were 62 applications for 5 transfer English slots, 23 applications for 15 neighborhood English slots, 11 applications for 11 transfer Spanish slots, and 3 applications for 3 neighborhood Spanish slots. There were enough applicants – all English speaking – for at least one more class.
Create a Mandarin Immersion Program at Humboldt PK-8 School (start 9/13)
(15) Humboldt has 22 potential classrooms larger than 450 square feet. It is currently vacant. Creating a Mandarin immersion program with two classes at each grade level pre-kindergarten through eight grade would require 20 classrooms. Humboldt has the available space.
(16) Humboldt has a good location both as central to Jefferson cluster students and to attract students from out of the Jefferson cluster.
Add a Spanish immersion class at Beach (start 9/13)
(17) As of September 2011, Beach had 25.8 teachers and 34 potential classrooms larger than 450 square feet. Assuming each teacher had just one classroom, there were 8 available classrooms. Adding one Spanish immersion class at each grade would require 9 additional classrooms, so Beach may be one classroom shorts. However, the additional Spanish immersion classes would be phased-in, giving time to adjust.
Create a Japanese immersion program at King Elementary School (start 9/14)
(18) As of September 2011, King K-8 School had 20.1 teachers with 34 potential classrooms larger than 450 square feet. Assuming each teacher had just one classroom, there were 13 available classrooms. Creating a Japanese immersion program with two classes at each grade level pre-kindergarten through eight grade would require 20 classrooms. 13 classrooms would permit six years (PK to 4th or K to 5th) before additional arrangements would be needed.
(19) King K-8 has a good location both as central to Jefferson cluster students and to attract students from outside of the Jefferson cluster.
Priorities for admittance to Jefferson cluster immersion programs
(20) First priority for any additional immersion program are students who live in the neighborhood. Second priority, after all first priority students, are students who live in the Jefferson cluster. Then, as third priority, are students who live elsewhere in PPS. Finally, are student who live outside PPS.
High School Study Abroad program to Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese speaking countries.
(21) Create a high school study abroad programs for Jefferson High School students only. This unique program would attract student to the cluster.
(22) PPS would pay the study abroad organization fees (up to a fixed cost limit) for a high school year abroad. Only students who had completed one year at Jefferson High School would be eligible. Students could only go to countries that speak Mandarin, Spanish or Japanese (the languages with immersion programs in the cluster).
(23) PPS does not need additional funds to pay for high school study abroad. So long as it pays the same as it costs to have a student at Jefferson High School, no additional funds are needed. The funding just needs to shift to paying high school study abroad fees from paying for teachers and other expenses of an additional student at Jefferson High School.
(24) PPS does not have to create high school study abroad programs. Many already exist and there is an accrediting type organization, the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Among its listed study abroad organizations, one of the lower costs international study abroad organizations is ASSE (formerly “American Scandinavian Student Exchange” and originally founded by the Swedish National Ministry of Education). It currently offers the following high school year study abroad programs. Costs generally cover tuition, room and board, and international transportation. Students would need some spending money. ASSE programs: Mexico for $4,425, China and Taiwan for $7,575, Hong Kong for $7,260, Spain for $8,160, Argentina (leaves January) for $6,100 and Japan (leave March) for $8,543. For comparison, a recent Oregonian PolitiFact article concluded that PPS spends “anywhere from $13,200 (without contingency and ending fund balance) to $14,100 (if those categories are included) to $15,000 (if he is correctly adding education service district costs to the budget)” per student per year.
(25) Currently, some Portland students spend a high school year abroad. Their parents, usually middle class or rich, pay for it. There are a few private scholarships and the lower cost Rotary Exchange program, but few low-income or minority student participate. It is an equity issue. Funding should be available for students of all income levels.
(26) Students should be given a full year of high school credits for spending a high school year abroad. No high school graduation should be delayed because a student spends a high school year abroad.