College Park Elementary School

College Park Elementary School

A grade K–5 school with a Mandarin immersion program as part of the Talented and Gifted Magnet program

Program Description

College Park Elementary School is a year-round, grade K–5 public school, one of 20 schools in the San Mateo-Foster City School District in San Mateo, California. In the past, the school had a history of poor academic student outcomes. This was likely due to many factors, including a high percentage of students learning English (ELL students); a high percentage of students with emotional disturbances (SED students); and high staff turnover, including multiple principals.

In 2007, because Mandarin language classes were attracting the greatest number of new, successful students to the school, the existing Talented and Gifted Magnet program was blended with Mandarin Immersion. As a result of this change, the student population gradually increased from 240 in 2006 to 451 in 2017. The racial isolation of students and families decreased, and the percentage of socioeconomically advantaged students increased, while the school continued to attract many neighborhood students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and Spanish-speaking students learning English. This change brought many more parents to support and encourage all students and to breathe vitality into the parent community.

The number of Mandarin teachers at College Park doubled, which brought a dramatic change to the faculty. The faculty and administration adopted a “can-do” attitude, with new training provided to promote remediation of challenges and acceleration of learning. With the changing populations of students, families, and teachers, differentiation was clearly needed. Differentiation of learning became the first signature practice of the school. 

The new emphasis on Mandarin and on diverse and changing populations also resulted in a collection of mini communities of languages, cultures, and backgrounds that were loosely related in the context of school. Connecting those separate communities into a single cohesive school identity has been a challenge and a joy. While school staff continue to seek and celebrate diversity, the connections between groups are equally exciting. Particularly rewarding is watching a student speak one language with his/her parent(s); in the next breath, use a different language with his/her teacher; and then dash out the door, using a third language with his/her peer group. Finding common ground and common goals through multiple connections is the school’s second signature practice.

In April 2018, College Park Elementary School was named a 2018 California Distinguished School for its high academic performance. The California Distinguished Schools Program recognizes elementary schools that have made exceptional gains in implementing academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education. The schools represent examples of excellent teaching, learning, and collaborating, and successful school climate efforts. 

Program Features

A significant feature of the school is the differentiated learning environment. College Park Elementary School is part of the San Mateo-Foster City School District, which includes 16 elementary schools. Unlike most Mandarin programs, which are just a portion of the school population and require fluency in either English or Mandarin, our parent choice Mandarin program is open to students from every neighborhood, socioeconomic background, ethnic group, linguistic group, and cultural background. Every student in our school is in the Mandarin partial immersion program, regardless of home language. We have created an inclusive population with exciting diversity that we seek and celebrate.

The student population is 59% Asian, 17% two or more races, 11% White, 10% Hispanic, 2% Filipino, 1% Black, 1% American Indian, and 1% Pacific Islander. These percentages highlight our need to address a diverse population with a wide range of Mandarin and English learners who have tremendous differences in exposure and access to early literacy, technology, academic vocabulary, and background knowledge. These differences create the multicultural, multilingual learning environment that makes College Park unique. Teachers have challenges as they seek to provide stimulating and appropriate lessons for every child that will result in reducing the achievement gap.

We identified the need for our signature practice through various ways. Every student was assessed by their English teacher with Fountas and Pinnell reading levels that identified their reading level relative to the national average. Teachers also looked at summative and formative data and took into account students’ California English Language Development Test (CELDT) score. Based on the data collected, teachers created fluid student groups to better reach all levels.

Because of the wide spectrum of students in our school, the signature practice of differentiation aims to reach students at every level. We scaffold learning for students who need more support and extend learning for students who are ready for a bigger challenge. Our faculty and staff have developed a differentiated learning environment that is supported by differing practices, including instructional style, size of peer groups, fluid groupings, time of day, method of instruction, length of intervention intervals, and a variety of instructional leaders or teachers. The students do not have to adjust to the standard programs provided; we provide the programs that meet the needs of the students at all points along the learning continuum in English Language Arts, Mandarin Language Arts, and Mathematics.

Summer at College Park

College Park has held two STARTALK Chinese immersion camps, in the summer of 2017 and 2018. The theme of the program primarily on DNA and Genetics. Students learn Mandarin through numerous hands-on science experiments.

Program Contact

Steven Chuang
College Park Elementary School
715A Indian Avenue San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 312-7691
聖馬刁佛斯特市學區 學園小學校長

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