Minnesota Chinese Immersion Programs

Minnesota Chinese Immersion Programs

Serve students in elementary school through high school

Program Descriptions

While language programs in Minnesota are locally determined and supported, the Minnesota Department of Education supports the study of world languages by providing technical assistance and visa sponsorship for visiting teachers for various programs across the state, including sponsorship for teachers through the Confucius Institutes and Hangzhou Foreign Language School.

During the 2015–2016 school year, Minnesota schools served 848,742 students. Of the 200,850 students enrolled in language or language and culture classes, 7% were enrolled in Chinese, most of them in immersion programs. Chinese language and immersion programs and teacher exchanges have a long history in Minnesota. They enjoy strong parent and local support and benefit from support provided by the Confucius Institutes at the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University, CARLA, and the Minnesota Department of Education

As programs have expanded beyond the elementary school grades, articulation with middle and high school and university Chinese classes allows students to continue building Chinese language skills through content-based Chinese and Chinese language arts courses. The Chinese Flagship at the University of Minnesota offers a College in the Schools program for high schools in the Twin Cities area. Involving partnership among the federal government, education entities, and businesses, the Flagship program offers students pursuing different majors across the university the opportunity to attain a professional level of Chinese.

Here we provide a brief description of each of the Chinese language/immersion programs that are available in five school districts in Minnesota.

Hopkins Public Schools, XinXing Chinese Immersion Program

Serves students in grades K–6

XinXing Academy, which opened at Eisenhower Elementary School in 2007, is an immersion magnet program attracting students from all parts of the Hopkins School District, as well as from other school districts in the Twin Cities area through open enrollment. XinXing, which means New Star in Mandarin, offers two Chinese immersion classrooms at each grade, K-6, totaling about 300 students. Twelve Chinese immersion classroom teachers, four teaching assistants, and three visiting teachers from China provide student learning support.

XinXing Academy follows the early total immersion program model; all core subject matter is taught in Mandarin Chinese for the full day in grades K–2, and students learn to read and write in Mandarin first. English language arts are introduced for the equivalent of one hour per day beginning in grade 3, and there is an even distribution of Mandarin and English by grades 5–6, with the goal of students being biliterate in Chinese and English. The rigorous curriculum is aligned with Hopkins and Minnesota State standards. Special curriculum areas (art, music, physical education) are taught in English, and Chinese language and culture are infused into the courses, thanks to a Confucius Classrooms grant. XinXing has received Confucius Classroom grants to support Chinese cultural experiences such as Chinese music, dance, art, and Gong Fu and the annual Lunar New Year performance.

Special Features of XinXing's Elementary School Program:

  • Partnership with Wuning Road Primary School in the Putuo District, Shanghai (2015–present). We have welcomed 4th and 5th grade students and teachers from Shanghai to our school and brought our 4th grade students, their parents, and some of our school staff to Wuning Road School in Shanghai in the spirit of educational exchange that enriches both districts.
  • STEM curriculum in Chinese, developed in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) and the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota (Foreign Language Assistance Program Grant, 2009–2012).
  • High levels of proficiency in Chinese, aligned with the ACTFL Language Proficiency Standards and measured by the YCT (Youth Chinese Test) in the early grades and by the AAPPL (ACTFL Assessment of Performance Toward Proficiency), starting in grade 4.
  • High levels of achievement on Minnesota State Comprehensive Assessments in English reading and math; XinXing students consistently achieve the highest scores in the district on these assessments.

Learn More about XinXing Academy

Program Contact
Paul Domer, Principal, XinXing Academy and Eisenhower Elementary

XinXing at Hopkins West Junior High

Serves students in grades 7–12

XinXing students continue to develop their language and culture skills through course offerings in grades 7–12 at Hopkins West Junior High and Hopkins High School. The goal is that students will reach the advanced level of proficiency in all skill areas by the end of grade 12. Features of the program and the school include the following:

  • Hopkins West Junior High is an IB World School, with an IB Middle Years Programme serving as the curricular framework (grades 7–9).
  • In grades 7–9, students have one-fourth of their coursework in Chinese, including a Chinese language course and a social studies course.
  • Students in grade 9 take Advanced Placement (AP) Chinese.

The school has a partnership with Cosco Experimental School in Shanghai:

  • Grade 8 students have the opportunity to participate in an educational exchange trip to Shanghai. They visit Cosco School for a week, and students from the Cosco School are invited to spend a week at West Junior High. Students attend school and experience a homestay during their visits.
  • Students in grades 7–9 communicate with students at Cosco Experimental School on curricular topics through technology.

Introduction to the Junior High


Program Contacts
Leanne Kampfe, Principal, Hopkins West Junior High
Molly Wieland, XinXing Chinese Immersion Coordinator

XinXing at Hopkins High School


  • XinXing students take a college-level Chinese course each year, which allows them to place in advanced-level Chinese courses in college or enter a Chinese Flagship Program at a participating university.
  • High school students have the opportunity to apply their Chinese skills in a real-world setting by participating in study abroad programs and internship opportunities during their junior and senior years.

Program Contact
Doug Bullinger, Principal, Hopkins High School

Lakes International Language Academy, Chinese Immersion Program

Serves students in grades pre-K–12

Established in 2004 by a group of parents, this public charter school has grown from an elementary school Spanish immersion program to include not only middle and high school immersion but also Chinese immersion. The goal of the founding parents was a school worthy of International Baccalaureate credentials.

  • The kindergarten preparation program offers a language-infused curriculum for children ages 3–4.
  • In the lower school immersion program (grades K–5), students choose full language immersion in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. In the upper school program (grades 6 and up), students choose immersion or fast-track Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, or French.

Chinese enrollment in the 2016–2017 school year:

  • Pre K: 81 double immersion students learning in both Spanish and Chinese, on alternate weeks
  • Grades K–5: 197 students in Chinese immersion
  • Grades 1–3:  281 Spanish immersion students taking Chinese FLES
  • Grades 9–12: 33 students in regular secondary foreign language classes
  • Middle school immersion will be added at the middle school in the 2017–2018 school year, increasing immersion totals by 25 students.

Camp Dragon, a day camp sponsored by the academy, is designed for American and students from China who have completed grade 5 grade and up. Students learn to speak each other’s language and gain an appreciation for each other’s culture. The program includes 12 days of friendship-building and memory-making activities and events. Assisted by academy teachers, staff, and volunteers, students pair up (one Chinese and U.S. student) to choose a topic and work on a group project, which they present on the last day.

Camp Dragon

Program Contacts
Cam Hedlund, Director
Shannon Petersons, Assistant Director

Minnetonka Chinese Immersion Program, District 276


Minnetonka has had a strong connection with China and Chinese education for over 25 years. The district has exchanged teachers with Hangzhou Foreign Language, taught Chinese language and culture since 1985, and established sister schools in Hangzhou and Beijing for the High School, Middle Schools and Elementary Schools as a cultural exchange. The district has exchanged students at every level to enrich understanding and pass cultural values between China and the United States. Immersion programs offered at Excelsior and Scenic Heights elementary schools are the largest immersion programs in the state. The district offers continuation immersion courses at both the middle and high school levels. Enrollment in the programs has enjoyed strong growth and support from the community. Enrollment in Chinese immersion 2016–2017 includes more than 600 elementary school students and 200 middle school students. The grade 9–10 continuation program, which will extend to grades 11 and 12 as students move into the grades, includes 80 high school students.

Program Leaders
Dennis Peterson, Superintendent
Eric Schneider, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction
Steve Urbanski, Director of Curriculum
Matt Rega, Director of Assessment

St. Cloud Area, District 742


Guang Ming Academy, Chinese Immersion Program

Guang Ming Academy is a 90/10 program, in which students in grades K-2 are taught a number of academic subjects in Mandarin, including math, social studies, science, health, and language arts. Beginning in grade 3, formal English instruction is added as a core content area. Guang Ming was the recipient of a Foreign Language Acquisition Program (FLAP) grant in 2009 and became a Confucius Classroom in May 2014, in partnership with The Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University. The school serves more than 200 students, and the Guang Ming community is excited to see the program grow.

Madison Elementary School, Grades K–5

  • Grades K–5: Students are taught math, science, social studies, language arts and health in Chinese, based on the Minnesota State Standards.
  • Grades 3–5: Students receive formal English instruction. Many students exceed non-immersion students in their English language arts skills by the end of 5th grade.
  • Research has consistently shown that immersion students do as well or better than comparable non-immersion students on measures of verbal proficiency. Immersion students at all grade levels in District 742 generally score higher on the reading and math Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) than students across the state.

North Junior High School, Grades 6–8

  • Grade 6: Students take Chinese Immersion Language Arts, Chinese Immersion Social Studies, and Chinese Immersion Science.
  • Grades 7–8: Students take Chinese Immersion Language Arts and Chinese Immersion Social Studies.
  • Grade 8: Students have the opportunity to participate in the Chinese Immersion Capstone Trip, a two-week trip to China in March that immerses them in the target language they have learned for nearly a decade. This trip is offered in partnership with the Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University and is partially funded by the Confucius Institute.

Apollo High School, Grades 9–12

The Chinese immersion program continues, with Chinese Immersion Language Arts.

  • Grade 9: Students have the opportunity to participate in the Chinese Immersion Capstone Trip, a two-week trip in March that immerses students in the target language they have learned for a decade. This trip is offered in partnership with the Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University and is partially funded by the Confucius Institute.
  • Students continue to work on their proficiency levels with the goal of passing the HSK (Chinese proficiency test) Level 5.
  • Students who gain a high level of Chinese proficiency have scholarship opportunities to study in China.
  • Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement Chinese Language and Culture. They continue to work on their language proficiency with the goal of passing the HSK Level 5.

District 742's Programs

Program Leaders
Willie Jett, Superintendent
Marsha Baisch, Assistant Superintendent
Lori Posch, Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Jean Clark, Principal, Madison Elementary
Ellen Stewart, Principal, North Junior High
Adam Holm, Principal, Apollo High School
Sue Linn-Hasbrouck, Coordinator, Immersion & World Languages
Jinyi Wu, Chinese Immersion Academic Coach

St. Paul Public Schools


St. Paul Public Schools has a rich history of commitment to Mandarin instruction. It was the first district in the state to offer Chinese classes, with the support of a Bigelow Foundation grant in 1986. The district offers Mandarin Chinese classes in three high schools, two middle schools, one elementary school (a FLES program), and one Mandarin Immersion Academy.

Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy

This program, which began in 2011, has grown every year and graduated its first class of 5th graders in the spring, 2017. The only Mandarin immersion school in St. Paul, Jie Ming attracts students from the entire St. Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area. The school’s increasing enrollment is due to its growing reputation for producing students who are proficient in reading, math, and English and are also proficient in Mandarin. The continual academic success of the program, close-knit staff, a community that supports the school, and a strong parent organization are the reasons for Jie Ming’s success.

In the past two years of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MC) testing in math, 100% of the 3rd and 4th grade students have scored Proficient. Even though they only start English reading instruction in grade 2 and only for 50 minutes per day, more than 80% have scored Proficient in English reading in 3rd and 4th grade, placing Jie Ming at the top of the list of Minnesota schools. The carefully constructed curriculum, which aligns instruction with state standards, is at the heart of this success.

Other Programs in the District:

  • Highland Park Elementary School – Chinese enrichment (part of PYP-IB program) – Serves 422 students, grades K–5
  • Highland Park Middle School – Chinese culture classes and Chinese 1 language classes – Serves 71 students
  • Highland Park High School – Chinese classes levels 1–5/College in the Schools (CIS)/International Baccalaureate (IB) and Chinese Immersion Grade 9 – Serves 150 students
  • Central High School – Chinese classes levels 1–5 – Serves 74 students
  • Washington Technology Middle and High School – Classes levels 1–3 and Chinese culture – Serves 121 students

The immersion program will add 2 grades every year for the next 3 years, as students move to the next secondary school grade.

  • 2017 – Grades 6 and Grades 10
  • 2018 – Grades 7 and Grades 11
  • 2019 – Grades 8 and Grades 12

St. Paul offers Chinese enrichment activities across the district. Recurring activities include:

  • Chinese Acrobats performance
  • Chinese New Year celebration
  • Trips to China: In the spring 2017, high school students traveled with teachers to China and visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Hangzhou, and Suzhou.
  • Field trips to the Minnesota Zoo on language day, where tours are offered in Chinese.
  • School-to-school virtual exchange: Jie Ming Mandarin Academy conducts monthly WeChats with students at an elementary school in Guizhou.
  • Fall Moon Festival celebration
  • Chinese Bridge Contest: Students competed with Mandarin Immersion students of Minnesota and earned one 1st place and two 2nd place awards.

Program Leader
Bobbie Johnson, Principal

Yinghua Academy Immersion Charter School


Yinghua Academy, in Minneapolis, was founded in 2006, as the first Chinese immersion public charter school in the United States and the first Chinese immersion school of any type in the Midwest. Yinghua serves students in grades K–4 with a full immersion curriculum. Older students have the opportunity to travel on a 15-day trip to China, which includes home stays in Inner Mongolia. Yinghua's unique program and consistent academic success have enabled the school to enjoy robust growth, with 742 students and 53 teachers in 2016. A significant building addition in 2014 doubled the school's square footage.

Program Leaders
Susan M. Berg, Executive Director/CEO
Luyi Lien, Ph.D., Academic Director

Collaborators and Special Components of the Minnesota Chinese Immersion Programs

(listed alphabetically)

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

CARLA, one of the U.S. Department of Education's Title VI National Language Resource Centers, offers professional development and resources for Chinese teachers and programs. Summer immersion institutes are designed for one-way (foreign language) and two-way immersion educators and administrators. CARLA has designed and carried out research on Chinese immersion education and offered professional development and resources for Chinese immersion teachers and programs. Current research focuses on the strategic reading and biliteracy development of more- and less-skilled Grade 4 Chinese immersion students as they engage with text in Mandarin and English.

With funding from the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant and in collaboration with four Minnesota Chinese immersion programs and the University of Minnesota’s Confucius Institute, CARLA’s immersion director, Dr. Tara Fortune, led the development of the online Engineering is Elementary® Model Membranes Unit for Mandarin immersion classrooms as part of the multi-year Global Literacy Through Mandarin Immersion and STEM Project.

Program Contacts
Kate Paesani, Director
Karin Larson, Executive Assistant Director
Tara Fortune, Immersion Program Director

Confucius Institutes

Two Confucius Institutes, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education, facilitate the hiring of Hanban teachers for Minnesota’s five Chinese immersion and language programs.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota offers annual professional development opportunities and resources for all teachers of Chinese, students, and professionals. Confucius at U of M provides annual orientation for visiting Hanban teachers. For each of the last four years, the Confucius Institute has held an annual awards ceremony to award world language proficiency certificates to students who have met criteria on the HSK and other standardized assessments. Last year, students earned more than 400 certificates and 140 progress awards.

Program Contact
Dr. Joan Brzezinski, Executive Director China Center, Confucius Institute

The Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University has supported multiple student and administrator trips abroad and collaborated on a book project, “Tell Me about Your Greatness,” by Sarah How, a school psychologist from the West Fargo Confucius Classroom. The book seeks to promote positive relationships and the greatness of all children. The Confucius institute has also provided professional development to teachers at Guang Ming.

Program Contact
Dr. Kathy Johnson, Director

Minnesota Bilingual Seals

Minnesota’s bilingual and multilingual seals and world language proficiency certificates grant graduating high school students of all languages free semesters of college credit upon enrollment at any Minnesota State institution. Students who, on accepted assessments, meet Advanced-Low, Intermediate-High, and Intermediate-Low on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency levels earn four, three, or two free semesters of credit. Students in Chinese immersion programs are well positioned to earn four semesters of free college credit at the Advanced-Low ACTFL proficiency level.

Teacher Exchange

The Minnesota China Teacher Exchange with the Hangzhou Foreign Language School began in 1985, and classes in Chinese language were offered in Minneapolis and St. Paul prior to the start of Chinese immersion in Minnesota.

Other Featured Program Profiles

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The Cupertino Language Immersion Program (CLIP) is a Grades K–8 program in the Cupertino Union School District of Santa Clara County, California, and provides two-way immersion education in English and Mandarin for nearly 600 students.
The International School of Denver is a private, multicultural, multilingual school, which serves 700 students from age 3 to grade 8 in an inclusive, globally minded community.
Denver Language School is the only K–8 public early total immersion charter school in Colorado that offers Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. The school opened in 2010 and has more than 830 students.
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All Program Profiles

Profiles of specific early language and immersion programs.