We recognize what an important decision it is to choose a school for your child.
Making this decision about a new school is even more significant. That’s why we have developed this FAQ to provide as many answers to your questions as possible. While we may not have all of the answers yet, we want to do everything we can to give you a sense of our goals for Yu Ming. We will try to keep this updated as new information develops.
What is the mission of Yu Ming Charter School?
Our goal at Yu Ming is to prepare our children to become lifelong learners in the 21st century. We aim to provide a challenging and comprehensive education for Kindergarten through 8th grade students. Our mission is to:
- Provide an academically rigorous college preparatory program
- Graduate students with bilingual and biliterate skills in Mandarin Chinese and English
- Nurture intellectual curiosity, international perspective, and diligence in attaining personal goals
- Develop young people with compassion, sound moral character, and a sense of responsibility for the community and the environment
What is a charter school?
A charter school is an independent, public primary or secondary school that is tuition free. Like a public school, a charter receives public money and may receive private donations but are not subject to the same rules and regulations as other public schools. However, charter schools are held to accountability measures as described in the school’s charter.
What rules are charter schools not subject to that public schools are?
The California Education Code includes several phone books’ worth of regulations. Charter schools are technically exempt from almost everything except health, safety, and discrimination related laws, although sometimes it makes sense for us to conform because it makes us eligible for certain funds. We can define our own curriculum independent of the local school board. We can have a different and longer day and school year. We can spend our funds in more flexible ways.
Why Mandarin Chinese?
The job market of the 21st century will grow only more global, and Yu Ming students will have a leg up. Fluent in two of the world’s most widely used languages (English and Chinese), socially and environmentally responsible, our children will be emerging leaders prepared for the global workforce.
How do you think the experience will be for the first K/1 class since they will be the pioneer class for each year?
The first year for the Kindergarteners and 1st graders will be an exciting one. Yes, they will be the pioneers for Yu Ming and will help create many of the traditions and practices for the years to come – celebrations, projects, class topics, field trips, etc. Along with our teachers, our first pioneer class students will be able to shape and create what Yu Ming will be for future classes. Fortunately, there is a very friendly community of Mandarin immersion schools across the country, and we have the benefit of what they have learned, so we are not starting completely from scratch.
LANGUAGE IMMERSION and CURRICULUM
What language immersion model will the school employ?
Yu Ming Charter School has a two-way dual immersion model. Two-way immersion enables students to maintain their first language while acquiring a second language. Students learn all of their traditional subjects – math, science, social studies, history – in both languages. This enables them to be fully functioning in each language. Our model succeeds by enrolling children with backgrounds in both languages, and giving them the opportunity to help each other learn. English speakers help other students learn English, while Mandarin speakers help non-Mandarin speaking students learn Mandarin.
Because English is prevalent in our society, all kids will have an easier time learning and maintaining English over time. So initially, we emphasize instruction in Mandarin. Over the course of elementary and middle school, the proportion of Mandarin to English instruction becomes more balanced.
Immersion learning has substantial differences from traditional foreign language learning.
|Traditional Language Learning||Immersion Language Learning|
|45 – 60 minutes per day||4 – 6+ hours per day|
|Starts in middle school or high school||Starts in Kindergarten or even pre-K|
|Narrow range of subjects taught||All subjects taught in language|
|Learning by studying and memorization||Learning|
My child doesn’t speak any Chinese and we don’t speak the language at home. Will my child be able to succeed?
The majority of Mandarin immersion programs in the US teach students whose families do not speak Chinese at home, and students everywhere are thriving. For students whose native language is neither English nor Mandarin, the instructional strategies used by immersion teachers are effective teaching techniques for making curriculum accessible for all students. The two-way immersion model supports both Mandarin and English language learners within academic classes and in supplemental settings.
Will the school teach traditional or simplified Chinese?
Initially, children will learn to read and write traditional chinese characters and by 2nd/3rd grade, will begin to learn simplified characters. By Grade 6, students will be given the choice to read either traditional or simplified characters. By teaching both traditional and simplified, children will be have greater comprehension across all printed Chinese materials and can function in all Chinese learning environments.
What language curriculum materials will the school use?
Yu Ming Charter School will use materials from Singapore-based Chinese Language for Primary Schools textbooks and will supplement with materials from BetterChinese.com and resources from other successful Mandarin immersion programs across the country. The school will also partner with China’s Ministry of Education and the Confucius Institute to access additional Mandarin Chinese Language Arts materials. These are our preliminary choices, however, the final determination will be made by our principal and teachers as they implement the best practices in Mandarin immersion
For parents that don’t speak Mandarin, how do you plan to help them understand the Mandarin curriculum?
Teachers will work with parents to help explain what their child is learning and support systems will be put in place for non-Mandarin speaking parents. (For example, some instructions for homework may be provided in Mandarin and English, email lists for classrooms will be created such that families can help one another, afterschool homework clubs can be set up for advanced grades when homework load may be higher. We also think that we can get creative with technology tools to provide parents with the support they need to help students with homework. (for example, youtube videos of lessons, mp3 recordings of songs, skype Q&A). Arrangements will be made with an online Mandarin learning center to provide access for students and families to learn Mandarin together. More info at www.miparentscouncil.org
As my child’s proficiency in Mandarin is increasing, the percent of curriculum taught in Mandarin is decreasing. So, how will my child have the chance to practice his/her Mandarin skills?
We want to balance English language learning along with Mandarin language learning. In the later years, 30% of the curriculum content will be taught in Mandarin. And although the percentage of time spent in Mandarin is decreasing, the expected level of sophistication (e.g. vocabulary) with the language will go up. We also hope that the children will become involved with community organizations where they will be able to apply in real-life their language skills.
In the early years, are all textbooks going to be in Mandarin?
The majority of textbooks in K/1 years will be in Mandarin based on our target 90% instruction in Mandarin. These texts will be age/grade-appropriate for K and 1 grade levels. We are forming a curriculum committee to begin looking at options, and our principal and teachers will make the final selection.
How do you plan to celebrate diversity at the school and not just focus on Mandarin culture?
We plan to encourage celebration of diversity across multiple cultures, backgrounds and holidays beyond Chinese. This is part of our mission to create global, international citizens of the 21st century, and part of the reason why we think Yu Ming is so important in the East Bay. However, being a Mandarin immersion school, this discussion/celebration would occur using the Mandarin language.
How will my child learn to write well in English if so much instruction is in Chinese?
Living in California, all children are exposed to large volume of written English in their daily lives. We have a graduated program where the percentage of instructional time in Mandarin decreases and the English instructional time increases such that by 7th grade, students are spending 70% of their time in English and 30% of their time in Mandarin to prepare them to enter English-based high schools, so that by the time they graduate, they are fully bilingual and biliterate. This model is consistent with successful Two Way Immersion models. This success rate is for students who stay with the program for the duration. A student who withdraws after grade 3 will obviously not have gotten as much instruction in English as students in an English-only program. In the initial years, English classes will be focused on key developmental concepts and English development will be supplemented by reading at home and interactions with the surrounding English-speaking community. Most immersion programs suggest 20 minutes of English reading each night.
Are the history textbooks going to be from American publishers written in Mandarin or Chinese textbooks about American history?
The textbooks will be chosen with the help of our founding principal/teachers, so the specific textbooks are not yet determined. Given the bias that might exist with different publishers, it’s likely that there will be some of both, and that the differences will present an excellent opportunity to teach our students to think critically about what they read!
Are the educational goals similar to public school?
The curriculum will probably not match exactly, since we plan to meet/exceed public school curriculum and have the proper measures in place to assess student progress and accountability with our model.
Although ‘academically rigorous’ is important so too is developing the ‘whole child’. Will the arts form a part of your curriculum and will the children get the opportunity to grow creatively?
In addition to strong academics, we believe that the arts will be an integral part of the curriculum and that we seek to develop and nurture children’s social skills (ethics and sense of community), communication skills and creative talents.
Will there be standardized testing?
Yes, charter schools are public schools, and therefore we are required by the state to administer the state tests each in the spring. We will also be testing Mandarin proficiency levels. The evaluation system will be chosen by our principal.
More important than the standardized testing will be the periodic informal class-based tests that our teachers will use to keep track of which students have mastered which standards, so they can adjust their instruction accordingly.
Where is the school located?
For our first two years, the school will be located at 321 10th Street in the Oakland Chinatown area. By locating our school in Chinatown, our students will have access to many public resources Oakland and Chinatown have to offer: Oakland Museum, public libraries, Asian Cultural Center. Also, by being in Chinatown, our children will be able to have hands-on cultural immersion and field studies to complement the academic language learning in the classroom.
Will Yu Ming have similar school hours and calendar similar to other public schools?
No. Yu Ming will have both longer school days and a longer school year to give the students the opportunity for enhanced learning. More instructional time enhances learning and results in higher performance and retention of knowledge learned. Yu Ming will provide approximately 190 days of instruction, ten more days than traditional public schools.
How are you going to finance a longer school day and longer school year with the same $/student public funding available to other public schools? Some public kindergartens are only half days, so you are essentially doubling your costs to have a full day.
We believe that a full-day kindergarten is essential for our students to get the benefits of a true Mandarin immersion experience. Our costs don’t double by having a full day versus half day since our rent is the same whether we use the classrooms for full or half day, and we have budgeted for full time teachers. However, as you all know, CA funding of public schools is abysmally low and therefore, like most public schools, we’re planning to do a lot of fundraising. There are also grants available to charter schools for the first few years of operation. We are applying for these grants.
Will Yu Ming have after school programs, tutoring and extracurricular activities to supplement the core curriculum?
Yu Ming aspires to provide an after-school program on a sliding fee basis to provide homework help, additional academic tutoring and cultural activities such as art, music, movement.
Is kindergarten half day or full day?
How many hours of homework per day will there be for kindergarteners?
Homework is an important part of the learning process for students, an opportunity to practice and reinforce what was learned during the school day. There is a rule of thumb that says 10 minutes per night for each grade. But ultimately, this will be a decision made by our principal and teachers.
How will Non-Mandarin speaking parents be able to volunteer in the classroom if the classes are 90% Mandarin?
All families/parents are invited to volunteer in and outside of the classroom. Yu Ming will provide a variety of opportunities to match with family members’ different skills and interests such as helping in classrooms, leading extra-curricular activities, assisting with art projects, event planning, attending field trips, participating in parent association meetings, serving on parent committees, fundraising and many other activities.
How much money do you need to fundraise per student?
As you are probably aware, state funding for public schools in California is abysmally low. So, like all public school districts in the state, Yu Ming is planning to raise additional funds from corporate, individual and foundations to supplement the state and federal grants that we will receive. Additional funds raised will be used to enhance the curriculum and model at Yu Ming – whether it core curriculum, language, culture, music, arts, PE, etc. On average, we plan to raise approximately $750 in additional funding per pupil. NOTE: there is NO fund raising requirement of any student/family for admission to Yu Ming.
Will students wear uniforms?
Students will wear uniforms to establish a clear focus on academics, increase safety and security on the school campus, decrease differences based on socioeconomics, improve student behavior, and increase school pride.
Does the school have a principal and teachers hired? Who governs the school?
Yu Ming has selected Laura Johnson-Ross to become our Principal, and has hired an outstanding staff of Mandarin teachers, 1 English teacher, teachers assistants and office staff. Yu Ming is committed to attracting, selecting, developing and rewarding the best educators and education professionals to serve our students. The school currently has a diverse Advisory Board and Board of Directors comprised of experts in education program design, non-profit governance, school administration, legal and risk management, finance, business operations and community relationships to help provide guidance to the school. The Board of Directors governs the school. The school will add qualified individuals to its governance as the school is established.
How many instructors will be Mandarin speaking versus English speaking?
In the first year of operation with K/1, all Mandarin teachers will have fluency in both Mandarin and English. 10% of the curriculum will be taught in English, so the kids will rotate to English class much as they do to art/PE class in a traditional (non-immersion) school.
Will there be teacher aides?
Yes. We believe teacher aides are important to assist teachers and students in the classroom and help create a pipeline of future teachers for the school.
How do you plan to have diversity in teachers, staff, administrators, board of directors?
We are seeking the most highly qualified staff members, regardless of background. Having ethnic diversity amongst the teachers will be the most difficult due to the requirement that they speak Mandarin fluently. As the school grows, and the percentage of instruction in English increases, it will be easier to fill teaching positions with native English candidates.
What qualities are you looking for in a Principal?
We were looking for someone who had a proven track record as a highly successful teacher and leader in school communities and who had achieved academic results. We wanted a candidate who demonstrated a commitment to fostering a dynamic and academically rigorous education program. Because the principal will be leading a brand new school, we were also looking for someone who had entrepreneurial passion — an individual we knew would thrive in the excitement of starting up a much-anticipated school. And naturally, as a Mandarin immersion school, we wanted someone who was capable of speaking enough Mandarin to develop a vibrant, collaborative school community in Mandarin.
Tell me more about Laura Johnson-Ross, who you’ve identified to become Principal.
Laura Johnson-Ross is a strong candidate for Principal because she has the qualities needed to lead and build Yu Ming. She is someone who will be able to both build a strong community within the school as well as reach outside the borders of the school to involve the diverse surrounding community. Laura also values the work of teachers and has a proven track record of being able to work collaboratively with individuals from a variety of backgrounds. She is extremely knowledgeable and well-versed in instructional leadership and will no doubt attract great talent to the staff of educators and administrative support at Yu Ming. Laura has teaching, administrative and entrepreneurial experiences in her career, all experiences that will benefit Yu Ming.
What qualities are you looking for in teachers?
Our Chinese teachers are Mandarin speakers representing different Mandarin-speaking countries who have experience in teaching Mandarin immersion or Mandarin as a foreign language. We have sought experienced, dynamic teachers whose teaching philosophy is in line with that of Yu Ming. Our teachers have the ability to create nurturing, yet challenging learning environments inclusive of all students and maintain high expectations of our students. All teachers are qualified to work in the US and certified to teach in California public schools. We have also looked for teachers who work well in an entrepreneurial, collaborative environment.
Who can enroll at Yu Ming Charter School?
Yu Ming is open to all students within the State of California.
Is there a fee or tuition to attend Yu Ming?
No, as a public charter school, there are no fees to apply and no tuition for attending Yu Ming Charter School.