Cupertino Language Immersion Program

Cupertino Language Immersion Program

Serves students Grades K–8
Cupertino Union School District, Santa Clara, California

Two videos featuring the school:
Introductory CLIP  Video
CLIPCO Welcome Video

Program Description

The Cupertino Language Immersion Program (CLIP) is a K–8, Mandarin Immersion program that started in the 1998–99. It began with one kindergarten class at John Muir Elementary School. It was the first public Chinese immersion program in California and the second in the United States. Today, the program serves nearly 600 children with a two-way immersion education in English and Mandarin. It has grown into an educational gem, with the strong support of teachers, educational leaders, and parents. The students are energetic and compassionate, and graduates are well prepared for an ever-shrinking world.

CLIP is a strand program operating within regular public schools. Grades K–5 are at Meyerholz Elementary School (R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School Website), and Grades 6–8 are at Miller Middle School (Joaquin Miller Middle School Website). Students enrolled in the program are part of the larger school community, using the same facilities as the other students and participating alongside them in district and PTA-funded activities such as art, music, field trips, and assemblies. In middle school, students are integrated back into the mainstream classes for their English language subjects. Families participate in the PTA, school site councils, and fundraising for the school as a whole.

Because the community is home to many Chinese heritage language students whose home language is Mandarin or a dialect of Chinese, CLIP uses a two-way immersion education model that recruits students from both Chinese and English (or even a third language) backgrounds. The goal is to ensure that all students will be fully bilingual and biliterate in English and Mandarin and able to think, speak, understand, read, and write in both languages. Students acquire both languages naturally in the classroom setting as they participate in hands-on learning experiences.

Mandarin is taught not only as a second language but is the language of instruction for other subjects. In Kindergarten, 70% of instruction every day is in Mandarin. By Grade 8, 30% of instruction is in Mandarin. (See instructional time percentages below.) CLIP graduates meet or exceed the Common Core State Standards for California, with test scores in all subjects well above the state average.  

CLIP Model


Students learn four different systems for writing Mandarin. In Kindergarten, they begin with a phonetic alphabet, called BoPoMoFo. As they grow comfortable with the individual sounds and tones, they transition to traditional Chinese characters. In Grade 4, they learn Han Yu Pin Yin (Mandarin written with the Latin alphabet), and in upper elementary and middle school, they learn simplified Chinese characters.  

The program has a strong emphasis on cultural enrichment, which is supported by the district’s belief that to truly learn a language, one must understand its culture. Part of this cultural enrichment happens through a program called CLIPArt. Every student, in every grade, does 10 different art projects a year. Each of these 90 lessons is designed, developed, and funded by parent volunteers and taught by paid instructors. There is also the After School Enrichment Program (ASEP), where students can take a wide variety of classes, including erhu (a Chinese two-stringed musical instrument held in the lap and played with a bow), flute, lion dance, and wushu (a form of contemporary Chinese martial arts that blends elements of performance and martial application). CLIP has had an entry in the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade for the past 14 years and has won many awards for its choreographed performances and elaborate costumes.

CLIP benefits tremendously from parental involvement. These efforts are primarily organized through two groups, the Cupertino Language Immersion Program Community Organization (CLIPCO) and the Curriculum Advisory Committee (CAC). These parent groups have overseen and raised funds for curriculum development; professional development for teachers; instructional aids in the classroom; Mandarin-specific classroom teaching materials (books, posters, workbooks, writing materials, and instructional assistants); and technology, including computers, laptops, and tablets.

The District supports CLIP by funding everything involved in the regular school, including administrators, teachers and staff, facilities, curriculum, and materials. The Mandarin portion of the curriculum has been financed by outside sources, mostly grants and direct donations from the parents and supporters of the program, but in recent years, CUSD has strengthened its support for the program even further and has started to provide funding for more of the Mandarin instruction and activities.

Program Highlights

The program employs the following curriculum components and instructional materials:

Curriculum Components

  • MeiZhou Chinese, Grades K–8
  • Teacher College Reading & Writing Program – Units of Study
  • Piloting a science curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards
  • Social Emotional Learning – Second Step
  • Physical Education

Instructional Materials

  • History & Social Science translated instructional materials from Scott Foresman, used in Grades K–5
  • Translated material from History Alive!, used in Grades 6–8
  • Level Chinese – Complimentary to the Common Core State Standards, and driven by specific leveled objectives and mastery-based assessments with detailed analytics. Level Chinese allows teachers to accurately assess the literary competency of each student. Along with access to properly leveled books, teachers can develop targeted lessons and promote students to success. Level Chinese is used in Grades 2–5.
  • iChinese Reader – An online Chinese leveled reading platform
  • Go Math – A comprehensive Grade K–6 mathematics program developed to support the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum Focal Points. The program emphasizes Essential Questions and Big Ideas, with depth of understanding as the goal. It is used in Grades K–5.

Program Contacts

Chia-ching Lin 林嘉靖
Assistant Principal of R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School & Program Administrator for CLIP Grades K–8

Alan Li
President of the Cupertino Language Immersion Program Community Organization (CLIPCO)

Rachel Turkal
President of the Meyerholz CLIP Advisory Committee (MCAC)

Derek Lee
President of the Miller CLIP Advisory Committee (MiCAC)