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Minnesota has had several successful long-lived K-12 Chinese language programs—some in place for more than twenty years. In November 2005, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty led a very large mission to China. During this mission, he became convinced Minnesota needed to teach its children Chinese. He urged legislators to develop and provide school districts with a common curriculum, materials, and classroom assessments for Mandarin Chinese in public schools. Minnesota house representative Erik Paulsen sponsored a bill that provided $250,000 to the state’s Department of Education to explore bringing Chinese language instruction to more public schools. This effort culminated with the Chinese Language Curriculum Development Project.
In 2007, the Minnesota legislature approved $500,000 for a world language grants program. MDE awarded two of these grants to Chinese language programs: one to Yinghua Academy and the other to the Fridley School District. The grants provide $50,000 for both 2008 ad 2009 years. MDE is also working to develop a visiting teachers’ program with the Chinese government to help address the shortage of Chinese language teachers.
The Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Languages and Cultures
The department of Curriculum and Instruction, Languages and Cultures is responsible for the education of world languages teachers. The enrollment for Chinese language teachers jumped from five to 27 from 2006 to fall of 2008. The department received a $75,000 grant from the College Board and the Chinese Council on Language International (Hanban) for 10 scholarships for student teachers.
The China Center has taken on a role of communicating between the different parties and the Hanban or other schools in China. The China Center has organized three delegations to China for educators, education administrators, and government officials to examine the Chinese education system, licensing issues, Chinese language instruction, and to attend the Hanban Chinese Bridge conference in China.
The newly established Confucius Institute will develop professional development for Chinese language teachers, K-12 culture programming, and a resource library.
The Center for Applied Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
CARLA conducts professional development seminars and training for world language teachers. They have worked with Chinese teachers to provide them with opportunities to address curriculum, resources, technology, and professional development. CARLA experts also work closely with the state to look at possible grants and funding opportunities. CARLA and MDE collaborate to provide a listserv dedicated to promoting and supporting Chinese K-12 language education in Minnesota. The purpose of this listserv is to provide a forum to exchange ideas and information on Chinese language education in Minnesota for Chinese teachers currently teaching, individuals/groups interested in setting up a Chinese language program in their area, and anyone who is interested in Chinese K-12 language programs
Enrollment in Chinese language classes in several districts have nearly tripled. Wayzata High School went from 50 students to 157 this year. Several other districts have begun brand-new Chinese programs. Principals from rural communities accounted for 50% of the principals on the third China Center delegation to China—all of whom are looking at ways to begin to start programs.
Five Chinese immersion programs are available:
XinXing Academy, Hopkins School District
Excelsior Elementary, Minnetonka Public Schools
Scenic Heights Elementary, Minnetonka Public Schools
Madison Elementary, St. Cloud Area School District
Yinghua Academy, Minneapolis, Charter School