The position of our NAACP branch has long been that this program is an unaffordable luxury for our relatively small district, particularly in the face of an egregious lack of progress in successfully addressing major disparities in the education of Black and Brown and poor children. The major investment in administrative time and resources required to expand the program would significantly exacerbate rather than improve current inequities.
Some point to evidence that Dual Language programs are effective at improving academic success of all participating students. However, the very limited evidence of potential benefits to Black and Brown students of participating in an immersive Mandarin program is highly problematic, to say the least. Most of the benefits identified for the few non-Asian students of color who participated can be attributed to a self-selection issue--that is, only those who are already doing exceptionally well would consider participating in a Mandarin program. More to the point, we know that in Chapel Hill-Carrboro very few African-American students participate in either Spanish or Chinese dual language programs. It defies logic to suggest that the best way to improve the academic performance of students the district has not been able to successfully reach in traditional programs is to put them in a Mandarin Dual Language program, in which they will be able to get even less help than currently from parents and from the community.
Many in the Asian-American community desire this program because they feel unwanted and unwelcome in traditional classrooms--whether their families are Mandarin native speakers or not. The District should take this demand for an inclusive program by the Asian -American community as further evidence that much more needs to be done to remove all racial biases in the way our classrooms are managed. But those efforts need to be done in a way that prioritizes effort and impact to address the greatest needs. When less than 50% of our Black and Brown and poor students are on track to be college / career ready at graduation, based on test score results--which has a tremendous impact on the future not only of the students but on our entire community--it is hard to argue that the greatest priority is a Mandarin Dual Language expansion.
It has also been said that much of the costs of the Dual Language expansion would be offset by a current provision of state law that allows Dual Language programs to be exempt from class size caps that will be fully phased in by the 2021-22 school year. Because of this exemption, Dual Language programs theoretically can have higher class sizes and use fewer teachers. However, this is very misleading, given that: (a) it is not at all clear that the Mandarin Dual Language program would be able to maintain the larger allowed class sizes, especially in the latter grades, due to the high amount of attrition that typically occurs; (b) it is not clear we would want to maintain the highest possible class size in an expanded program, as that is likely to make it more difficult for the expanded set of children to be successful; (c) it is not prudent to base such a major district decision on what could easily prove to be a temporary differential in class size regulations; and (d) it is likely that as political winds shift either more flexibility with respect to class sizes will be returned or more funding to support smaller class sizes will be provided.
Given all these considerations, expansion of the Mandarin program cannot be considered an affordable, optimal strategy to address the district's priorities--especially when large segments of the student population are not on track academically, with no directional change in sight. The NAACP advocates for strategies that truly promote equity and success for all. Please show your support!