December 9, 2015
Hayward – Trustees of the Alameda County Board of Education voted unanimously to renew the charter for Yu Ming Charter School Tuesday night, drawing cheers from the roomful of parents, teachers and staff members in attendance.
The renewal decision comes five years after Yu Ming received unanimous approval from Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) for the school’s original charter submission, setting in motion the establishment of the first public Mandarin immersion K-8 school in the East Bay.
Representing Yu Ming at the Dec. 8 meeting were Rodrigo Prudencio, Yu Ming board chair; Gloria Lee, a Yu Ming founder and lead author of the school’s charter petition; Sue Park, head of school; and Jamila Dugan, assistant principal.
As is the usual practice, the charter approval is subject to finalizing a new Memorandum of Understanding between Yu Ming and Alameda County. One key focus will be to demonstrate progress on Yu Ming’s efforts to increase the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the students served. School representatives detailed past and current efforts in this area, including targeted outreach at Head Start preschools and weighted lottery preferences for residents living near Yu Ming.
In the audience were dozens of school supporters, many donning royal blue Yu Ming shirts, who showed up in force in anticipation of the critical vote. Even more people had attended the Nov. 10 public hearing in which the ACOE board members heard heartfelt – and sometimes emotional – testimonials from the Yu Ming community.
On Tuesday, representatives from the Parents of African American Students Studying Chinese (PAASSC) and the California Charter Schools Association joined several parents speaking in support of Yu Ming.
They highlighted Yu Ming’s enviable track record of success since the school first opened its doors in August 2011 to its inaugural class of 100 kindergarten and first-grade students. The school has been growing by one grade level since, now counting more than 300 students from throughout the Bay Area in grades K-5.
Family surveys regularly show a high level of satisfaction with the school. And when California released the results of its new Common Core-aligned tests in September, Yu Ming came out strong, surpassing both local and state results in English Language Arts and Literacy and in Mathematics.
The ACOE decision comes in the midst of explosive growth in Mandarin immersion programs throughout the country. According to data gathered by the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council, the number of Mandarin-immersion programs in the country has grown from 10 in the year 2000 to more than 200 today.
Those numbers are expected to jump even higher after President Barack Obama recently announced the “One Million Strong” initiative to bring the number of K-12 students studying Mandarin in the United States to 1 million by 2020. That goal represents an ambitious fivefold increase in the number of Mandarin-speaking students in five years.
The initiative’s launch, timed with a September state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, reflects a growing recognition that increasing Mandarin proficiency in this country is critically important in maintaining competitiveness in a global economy.