The only reason this school appears to be successful is because of the parent population. After changing from a neighborhood school serving socioeconomically disadvantaged children to being the Mandarin "immersion" magnet school for the district, affluent families began sending their children here. The majority of students are either privately tutored to supplement the curriculum or attend academic programs after school. The administration deserves no credit for rising test scores. As for this being a language immersion program, it is not. Only in this school year is Mandarin supposedly taught for 50% of the school day. In previous years the percentage was significantly less. Prospective parents, don't believe any hype about College Park. Send you children elsewhere to learn Mandarin.
This is a Mandarin "immersion" school. What does that mean? The school still must meet state and federal guidelines/expectations with respect to language arts, social studies, science, and math in our country's native English. The addition of Mandarin is not simply an add-on separate and distinct language course unrelated to the overall curriculum as is typical in middle, high school, and college level courses. But rather it is integrated with the comparative English requirements. For example, the science of our solar system and elements/structures of life are taught in English and Mandarin. Thus, the Mandarin component learning reinforces the English curriculum while contemporaneously teaching its own elements of grammatical structure, writing skills (i.e. traditional character stroke order), and oratory pronunciation and annunciation. But wouldn t this limit the school-day allocation of English learning? Not necessarily. Some required learning such as Social Studies are taught exclusively in Mandarin. After all, topics such as this are more conceptual in nature. Not to say that the hard sciences are excluded. Far from it. Math is taught in both English & Mandarin.
Of the fifteen elementary schools in the San Mateo-Foster City School District, only one is pending award in 2014 as a "California Distinguished School"; that school is College Park Elementary and the award should be granted as early as late April. It is a credit to the Principal, Teachers, Parents, PTA, District Superintendent, and ancillary support from the local community, former and current state elected officials (who enthusiastically attended recent fund-raisers), and the Friends of Mandarin Scholars organization. The high API scores and its continuing upward trajectory (among all demographics) speak for themselves. This is not a neighborhood school but rather an "application only" school; i.e. you must desire to attend, follow a strict application process, and be accepted for matriculation into the school. This is a public school that presents itself as a private school with its closed gated campus, comprehensive remodeling, uniform-only student apparel, and small class sizes. Parent involvement (creativity, financial, and time) is highly prized -- how many schools have as many Kinder parent-student extracurricular private events? Likely few. A very unique school.
I agree that College Park is a very polarized school. That being said, the API improvement for socio-economically disadvantaged students was 46 points, 7 points higher than the school performance overall. That means the score increase came by working with kids who need help, rather than pressuring students to leave. The technology instructor, Gifford Canteens has worked with students identified by teachers as challenged readers. They receive additional computer instruction on auditory and language processing. If I were a parent looking into an elementary school based on purely the academic opportunities for my child, I would ignore the PTA pressures and consider College Park.
College Park is a fantastic success story and definitely a work in progress. I would like to address some of the older comments with an updated report. In 2013, CP improved its API score by 35 points and moved up to be the fifth best school in the district. With the already high scores of our Asian and white students remaining steady, it was our Hispanic, low income and ESL students who drove this improvement. The PTA is committed to being inclusive of all of our constituencies and continues to try to find new ways to reach out to our Spanish-speaking families. The quality of Mandarin instruction has also improved dramatically since the program started six years ago. During the program's first year, Kinders had only one hour of Mandarin instruction a day. Now most students split their time 50/50 between Mandarin and English. We could have sent our kids to our neighborhood school with better test scores, an establish curriculum and a well-oiled PTA machine. But we're glad we sent them to College Park. We're thankful our kids have this opportunity to learn Mandarin in school. We enjoy being a part of the CP community and this work in progress.
CP has a very polarized student body. The school is perfect for parents whose children have no special needs & who fund the programs and attend PTA meetings. If you do, you will receive attention, praise, & communication from the principal. Of course you will think the principal is approachable if you are on her good side & your child contributes to making the API score higher. Unfortunately, for the hundreds of other students who are not native Mandarin speakers, the school is a very different experience. Students who are, quite honestly, Asian or white, are responsible for the API being over 800, & the principal knows it. The students who speak Spanish are frequently ignored, fall farther behind academically, & receive the lowest scores on standardized tests. Rather than creating programs & support for these lower-achieving students, it's easier for CP to support & guide their high achieving students. Most of the Hispanic parents are not involved in the PTA, but that shouldn't mean that their children's academic needs should be ignored. The Mandarin immersion is a fantastic idea, but this school is hiding behind that to cover its severe problem of not making school equitable.
We adore College Park. Principal Hallock is amazing, smart, fair, and very approachable and involved. The 4th/5th grade GATE program for the school district is located here and is incredibly well done. Two of our children have attended the GATE program entering as previously underchallenged students and left the program as true scholars with a great love for learning. Once school started here for my kids, they both LOVED coming to school (especially for KRYPTO!) and never wanted to miss a day even when they were sick. Teachers Mrs. Tremain and Ms. Hiraga keep their children perfectly challenged and not stressed out. They are friendly and approachable but very professional. We hold the highest respect for these two amazing teachers. We are SO thankful to be in this program!
I am a fairly involved parent, albeit not the most involved of the gang of dedicated parents. Like any school, some teachers are better than others. My son is in 3rd grade now, and has had many excellent teachers and only 1 teacher that underwhelmed me. I wanted to address a few points that other parents have made. (1) While separating kids based on their Mandarin skills might be a good thing (I can see an argument for either way), parents should realize that this separation should NOT be done by how much Mandarin the child has had before. Kids have proficiencies, but most importantly, they have interests. A white or Latino kid who LOVES languages and loves learning Mandarin will start off worse than a Chinese kids whose parents speak Mandarin, but that non-Chinese kid will catch up. More importantly, he or she will have more interest. Please remember, these are little KIDS. They have their whole lives to get binned into skill sets. These are the years for them to FIGURE OUT what they are good at, and what they love. Finally, we get what we pay for. Until we kill Prop 13 & everyone pays fairly, schools simply won't have cash. Ms. Hallock does wonders with her budget.
A few notes on the school. Will my child be fluent in Mandarin? No. Will my child have a solid base in spoken Mandarin, reading and writing? Yes. Is my child getting a good education? Yes. Look at the STAR test score results for children who are not ESL. They are phenomenal. Children who score high on the STAR test are asked to take the GATE test. This includes many children who have come up through the Mandarin program since Kinder. Many have older siblings in the GATE program and the parents have high standards. It remains to be seen how the school will blend GATE with Mandarin, as this is extremely important to parents and the students who love the Mandarin classes. School safety is being addressed with a new fenced campus and tight rules on who can enter the school grounds.
I have a child in the GATE (Gifted and Talented) program at College Park and we are very happy with the teachers and the students in that class. The district sends out an invitation to those students from all 16 schools in the district who scored in the top 2% on their STAR tests (in the 3rd grade) and then they are invited to take a GATE test. From there, they select a total of 30 students to attend the GATE program starting in the 4th grade. The parents are asked to commit to 2 years at the school and give up their spot at their local school permanently. The students in the 4th and 5th grade GATE classes are extremely bright and well behaved. They inspire one another to learn and there isn't the competitiveness that you would think might emerge from a group of students who are all very motivated. The Mandarin Immersion program also has GATE trained teachers however, students in the Mandarin program are not given a GATE testing assessment and are not required to have top scores on their STAR tests. You do not need to speak Mandarin at home to apply but many students do. The only drawback to the school is that the Mandarin students rarely interact with the GATE students.
We have been at the school for four years now and we have seen the many changes to the school - both in the curriculum and the surroundings (still in progress). College Park is the only public school with a Mandarin language program in the north Peninsula (between SF and Palo Alto). Unlike say Cupertino program which I hear comprises over 50% heritage speakers, College Park's language program is geared to non-native speakers and so the curriculum and work is not too challenging for even kids with no prior exposure. There are parents who want more differentiation in the classroom and the school tries to satisfy the varying language abilities through the use of teaching assistants. The time spent on Mandarin is about 30-35% of the day, which is okay for now, but I would like to see much more to reinforce actual language usage (speaking, hearing). The language arts instruction is very good. I am concerned about the math program - it's an area that I feel gets brushed over by the administration and so parents like myself have to supplement at home.
My daughter spent two years in the Mandrin immerstion program at College Park. She likes to read Mandarin boooks, and enjoys listening to Mandarin stories, She is not shy to talk to people in Chinese. We feel that the immerstion program at College Park has helped her to learn Chinese language by providing a daily learning enviroment. Unlike other types of after schools and sunday schools, the immersion program seams to make kids like to learn this difficult language. For the past two years, we have seen many good things happening at College Park and the new campus is nearly complete. More and more grograms are now available at the school with the principle's support. Many parents organize the music program, art program, and many after school enrichment program on campus.
We've been here long enough to *not* believe everything that the principal has promised. We came here mainly for the mandarin immersion exposure (definitely not for the academics or the physical surroundings) and was promised that the kids with higher mandarin fluency would be on a different track than others with no mandarin exposure. Made sense to us. And it worked the first year too. Now the kids are no longer in differentiated classes and they come from different levels. My child is no longer challenged because there are kids in the class that do not have any mandarin background. As a result, I have had to spend money to hire a chinese tutor to teach after school. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of going to a "mandarin immersion" school. Yes the principal is nice and all, but I wish the administration would not over promise and under deliver. Parents need to know exactly what can and cannot be offered so that we don't have any false expectations.
We feel fortunate to have a Mandarin Immersion school nearby that's led by a principal with strong leadership. It's great to see a growing community, more parent involvement and better academic performance. I do agree that the school needs to increase its Mandarin instruction to make it a real immersion experience. It will be great to have more teachers who specialize in Mandarin, and not try to make Mandarin teachers teach English. I also believe differentiation in Mandarin is beneficial for all students. In a class with mixed Mandarin levels, if teachers teach to the highest level, the novice Mandarin students would get lost. If the teachers teach to the novice level, kids that are fluent could get bored quickly. Unfortunately, the distribution of Mandarin proficiency is not a bell curve. Having said that, I could see that the principal was put on a tough spot with Mandarin differentiation which was misconstrued as school assigning students by their last names (see earlier comment by one prospective parent), which obviously was not true. Overall, we love the school, and would love to see it getting better.
I totally agree with the previous emails regarding issues relating Mandarin program. One of the teachers pronounced xiao yu as in light rain instead of little fish. Not only that, they can't write Chinese characters correctly. I wish that the school can hire teachers with proficient in Mandarin speaking and writing so that our kids can learn to speak and write correctly. I am thinking of transfering my kid to our neighbor school and hire a Chinese tutor to teach my kid Chinese at home. Definitely, there are good Mandarin teachers at the school but those are for lucky ones.
We attend CP for the Mandarin program. We have had some great teachers but also a not so good one so far. I also think the school really needs to focus on making a great Mandarin program, by increasing Mandarin teaching hours and hiring high quality new Mandarin teachers. As the enrollment increases this will become more and more important. Students mix matter a lot too. In the past they used to put students of different Mandarin fluency in different tracks. I believe that works better than the current mixed model. What I really like about the school is parent involvement and teacher/principle approachability. It's especially encouraging to see many Dads super active in the PTA, creating enrichment programs, etc. The principle and teachers are super accessible and are willing to answer questions big and small, all the time. Lastly, I believe the test scores will keep the upward trajectory. I predict it'll be rated 8 by great schools next year, then 9 the year after. :)
This school needs to focus on its priority being a bilingual school. It needs to stop touting that some of the children are trilingual: test results show otherwise. Many children are fluent in Spanish, conversational in English, and have rudimentary Mandarin. There are not enough hours in the public school day for most children to learn 2 second languages to proficiency. This needs to be made clear to families before they enroll. CP is also doing a disservice to those who are committed to being bilingual in Mandarin/English. Many kids at CP enter 1st grade already having had 3 or 4 years of Mandarin, or speak at home. When the teacher is instructing these children in 1st and 2nd grade on their colors and numbers because other students have zero Mandarin, it is a slap in the face to families who have worked hard to give their children Mandarin through preschool, after school, library visits, and tutors. College Park cannot be all things to all children it needs to focus on high quality bilingual education and honor the commitment it has made to parents to offer English and Mandarin, or it will experience a brain drain and fall into mediocrity.
We send our child to College Park for the Mandarin language program. It's a traditional-pedagogy school that has added a second language to it's curriculum. Mandarin instruction is 105 minutes out of the day - about a third, which I don't think is enough to qualify as being truly "immersion." I give the principal kudos for building this ambitious program that welcomes all types of children from around the northern Peninsula; but it really needs to increase it's Mandarin teaching time. Other immersion public immersion schools on the Peninsula (either Spanish or Mandarin) offer the second language at least 50% (and even up to 80%) of the day - I hope College Park is able to offer a similar immersive environment in the near future.
In response to the Aug. 10 review, I would like to state for the record that Principal Hallock does not speak or understand more than three words of Mandarin, so what you described is impossible. "One thing that really bothers me" is an untruthful review, because if your facts are wrong, the credibility of the whole review is in question.
I just finished writing the last review but for some reason i was cut off. One thing that really bothers me in general is hypocrisy. One time my child told me that the kids get in trouble for speaking spanish in class. Btw neither my child nor i speak spanish so we arent taking this personal. The only reason for that in a setting that is said to promote diversity in language would be that it is rude to do so in front of others. ok so if that was the case i am wondering why the teachers and principal don't take there own advice? i recently had a conference with one of the teachers and the principal and at the end of our session when i admitted my child picked up a certain bad habit from home the teacher kinda chuckled and leaned over to Mrs. Hallock, who had just sat down again after walking out of the room for a moment, and said something to her in mandarin after which they both had a laugh. How rude is that? Like i said i HATE HYPOCRISY! The school program itself is great, the parents are really great, its just unfortunate certain faculty members, and i mean members because i have had more than just the one bad experience i mentioned here, have to make the school look bad.
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