Chinese Immersion Charter School Opens in Massachusetts

On Tuesday, February 27, 2007, the Massachusetts Board of Education approved the application of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCI) and gave the school permission to open in September 2007 with an enrollment of students in grades K and 1. The school will add a grade each year until a full K-8 enrollment is achieved.  The school has enrolled students from twenty communities including Amherst, Hadley, Deerfield, South Hadley, Chicopee, and Springfield.

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School will prepare students for academic and personal success through rigorous study and instruction aligned with state and national frameworks and standards, augmented with Chinese language and culture. PVCI’s goals are to graduate students with excellent scholarship, high proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and English, plus knowledge about and appreciation of other cultures.

PVCI will use a “one-way” immersion model because most students will enter the school with no knowledge of Chinese. Chinese language acquisition will occur with students and teachers using Chinese as the language of instruction and communication during the major portion of the day. This approach produces high academic outcomes and bilingual/bicultural students.

As a Massachusetts public charter school, PVCI will offer curriculum aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. In addition to instruction in all elementary school content areas the students will study Chinese Language Arts and culture. PVCI will administer the required MCAS tests.

In grades K and 1, 75% of the daily instruction will be in Chinese and 25% in English. In grades 2-5, 50% of the daily instruction will be in Chinese and 50% in English. In grades 6-8, 25% of the daily instruction will be in Chinese and 75% in English. This language percentage model is used in immersion programs around the country. English Language Arts will be taught in English by a teacher with native English proficiency. Subjects taught in Chinese will be taught by a bilingual Chinese/English teacher with native or near-native proficiency in Chinese.

The application for the charter school was supported by parents, community leaders, and language educators who are very pleased with the positive response from the Board of Education.

Kathleen Wang, Principal, and the teaching staff are working during the summer months on curriculum development and modification, teaching strategies, and school policies and procedures. Several teachers attend the summer CARLA immersion institute in preparation for the school opening.

The Principal and teachers are working with the staff at the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum in Springfield to integrate the museum’s Chinese collection with the school curriculum. They will also work with the teachers and students in the Chinese program in the Springfield Public Schools to develop some cross grade projects for students.

There are nine members serving on the Board of Trustees of which two are Mrs. Chih-Wen Su, member of the Board of CLASS and retired Chinese teacher in the Amherst (MA) Public Schools and Dr. Kathleen M. Riordan, Past President of MaFLA and ACTFL and retired Director of Foreign Languages for the Springfield MA Public Schools.