Conflict at First English-Mandarin Public School

shuang-wenThe Shuang Wen Academy opened in New York in 1998, and was celebrated as the first-ever English-Mandarin dual-language public school. Although its students perform well on tests and earn high grades, the school is facing unhappy parents and nine city investigations.

A major concern is abuse in the admissions process, which should operate with a lottery system. Sixty-two percent of the district’s students are black and Hispanic and 20 percent are Asian, yet 80 percent of the students at Shuang Wen are Chinese. The city is investigating allegations that the school discourages black parents from enrolling their children.

Another area of concern is the after-school program. During the day, classes are taught in English, and the Mandarin-language part of the curriculum is part of an extra-curricular program. The after-school classes were once mandatory but free, however, a lack of funding caused the school to charge $600 for the extra instruction. The program is no longer mandatory, but many parents feel pressure to pay. The school also warned that it could no longer provide after-school supervision to students not enrolled in the program. “The safety of the child will be in jeopardy if you come late,” one letter to parents said.

The costs to parents this year rose to $1000, reports The New York Times. About 75 percent of the students attending the school are from low-income families and qualify for free school lunches. “There is always more to pay,” said one parent. “All the parents think the school is a black hole.”

Yet supporters of the school remain vocal. After NY1 News reported the investigations, many parents felt that the local news station was unfair in its claims. They collected hundreds of signatures supporting the after-school program.

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5 Responses to “Conflict at First English-Mandarin Public School”

  1. LESRules says:

    Some people just don’t get it (or just don’t want to get it). My friend has a child at the Chinese school in the NY1 story and she told me that parents at the school have been organized to attack the blogs with this sought of “Misinformation campaign”.

    The NYT article says the principal is charged with going “outside the lottery process” and taking in children – in spite of it. You can disagree, but that is what is being charged. Are you the principal or in the admiistration? If it was going on, would you know? Unless you are the principal or the DOE, you are not qualified to know.

    I say let the investigation finish and don’t jump to conclusions you know nothing about – any conclusions. I will continue to keep an open mind until then.

    P.S. I guess some postings here are saying that the New York Times “indulged in unbalanced reporting” as well. Sometimes the NYTs gets it wrong, but I repect that paper too much to jump to that conclusion.

  2. PLS says:

    OMG! How many ways can one try to clear up the admission policy? It has been based on a lottery system under the DoE according to their policies for over 5 years. If one were to take the sour comments from unsuccessful and disappointed parents, then all the over-subscribed successful public schools in all districts would be under suspicion of “going around the lottery”. As explained, a bi-lingual education does not appeal to everyone so it is up to the parents of the district to rank selections for their children for elementary school within district. OBVIOUSLY, Asian, Chinese-speaking families choose PS184M as the first option while other non-Asian families may not. Hence the heavily Asian population at the school. There are many other options out there for parents for whom the dual culture does not hold any appeal. The choices are available for them to make, especially if they are not from District 1.

    NY-1 indulged in unbalanced reporting, showing the biased “newsworthy” side of a couple of parents with personal agendas but largely ignoring the comments and views of the more than 30 other parents interviewed. So, no wonder no one can get it straight. These few individuals can get no support for their agendas so they get the news media with a few juicy lead-ins to buy into and pander to their views. So much for impartiality.

  3. MM says:

    The admission of the school is based on lottery in the District 1. This is controlled by DOE. Most of the students are Chinese because their parent wants the kids learn Chinese. That’s why they want go to this school. Other ethnic groups may not want to learn Chinese, so that, they are interested in applying for this school. That’s common sense. My neighbor doesn’t want their kids learn Chinese, so that, they applied other school like PS110 and PS20. Some people stil want the kids to come because the school’s rating is high in the City.

  4. BB says:

    The admission policy is not based on test scores at all. It is an elementary public school and it is based on a lottery, but the NYT article says the principal goes around the lottery and takes in Chinese students which is why the number is so high. That is just plain discrimination.

    Also, they are lying about the program not being mandatory. I saw the NY1 story and they said that classes during the day in Chinese (like Social Studies) require the Chinese only taught during the afternoon. So, if you don’t pay you can’t pass the class.

    This school is just crazy.

  5. PCB says:

    If this school’s admission policy is strictly based on test scores then I am not surprised that 80 percent of student body is Chinese. Asian students usually get huge at home support for academic work. Not surprising since the Chinese have a proverb that says “Education is more valuable than gold”. Nor would Dr. Shockley be surprised that the student body is 80 per cent Chinese based on his views of I.Q.


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