This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
College Park Elementary School4
Posted October 23, 2014
- a parent
We have had our children here from preschool onward. We have no Mandarin at home or in our family. Our kids enjoy school and are doing well with the language all on their own without outside help. I don't see any more afterschool tutors or help at our school than I do all of the local kids at English-only schools who have been going to Kumon since they were 4 years old. Parents will always shape their children's education and provide support. This is a positive factor! And parents definitely need to stay on top of the Mandarin and English workload. All CP students take the same standardized tests as the English-only schools, and you only need to look at the test scores to realize that the kids are doing just fine. But my 4th grader also wrote an essay on American Indians, in Mandarin. Pretty cool.
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.