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'Macon Miracle' Chinese Initiative Lands In National Spotlight | Education

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'Macon Miracle' Chinese Initiative Lands In National Spotlight

Sunday on the CBS Evening News, Mark Strassmann highlighted the Bibb County Schools initiative to teach Mandarin Chinese to every student in every grade by the year 2016.

It's part Superintendent Romain Dallemand's "Macon Miracle" strategic plan that raised some questions and concerns among members of the community.

Below is the script for Strassmann's story.

"At Sonny Carter Elementary school, these third-graders are learning the most widely spoken language on earth.
Mandarin Chinese.

Learning Mandarin's now mandatory in Macon, Georgia's public schools.

"What's the word for hello in Mandarin?"

"Hello is 'Nee-how.'"

Mark Fuller has Mandarin class three days a week -- taught by one of 25 Chinese teachers sent to Macon from China, their salaries partially subsidized by the Chinese government.

"I like learning new things. I like learning the words. It's just awesome."

"Within three years all 25,000 kids at all Bibb County Schools will be taking Mandarin. This is one of Georgia's lowest achieving school systems, where half the kids drop out."

Romain Dallemand's the new superintendent for Bibb County Schools, wants big change for this troubled system.

"This is about opening their world. This is about preparing these students to compete in a 21st Century multi-ethnic economy.

He's Haitian-born, and spoke only Creole until he came to America in the ninth-grade. And he made Mandarin mandatory over the objections of many Macon parents.

(Sandie Parker)
"Nothing I've read convinces me this is the way, this is the language, this is the avenue that schools need to take," said Sandie Parker.

Parker wants options for Chandler, her second-grader. Her choice for him would be Spanish, not Mandarin.

"Is Mandarin really the priority in a school system when so many students are struggling with English?"
"Absolutely," Dallemand responded," and Mandarin is one piece of the 'Macon Miracle.'"

The District is investing $2.76 million in Dallemand's Macon Miracle - that's what he is calling his plan for sweeping changes in the classroom, with an emphasis on math and reading.

"How many students should we lose as a community before we do something fundamental to improve student's performance," said Dallemand.

And while not everyone has an ear for the language of change, so far just two unhappy parents have pulled their kids out of Mark Fuller's Mandarin class of 20.

Mark Strassmann CBS News, Macon Georgia.


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