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Yu Ming Charter School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Yu Ming Charter School (Oakland, CA)



How is Yu Ming's new campus?

Feb 2013

I would love to hear from Yu Ming parents regarding the new location and mid-school year move. How has the adjustment been and how's the new campus? Additionally if you had children who attended a Bridge-K or K program at another school before attending K at Yu Ming, how has it been for your child (did they feel adequately challenged)? Anon


The new campus for Yu Ming is a huge improvement. We now have two fenced in playgrounds, as opposed to before when we had to walk kids to a local park. Classrooms are much bigger and brighter and we now have rooms for staff to work with small groups and also a library. A move is never easy but the parents came together and worked really hard to make the move happen. While there are a few minor jobs to get finished the site looks great and feels like we have been there for weeks as opposed to days. We moved during our winter break so no school days were lost. We miss the cultural element of being in Chinatown but all in all feels like a big improvement. m.
The short answer is that as a parent, I am so excited that we now have a home to call our own. The new site provides a good amount of indoor and outdoor space and my son absolutely loves it more than the old space we had in Oakland. While I miss the culture that being in Chinatown offered, having a secure site with a true school feel is great. I believe that principal Laura is tasked with an extremely hard job. As a charter school, Yu Ming is paving the road to a new way of educating the next generation. She is balancing expectations and requirements and, in my opinion, doing a great job of it. She seems to always have the well being of the children and the development of the school as her top priority. The children know her and love her and she has had an open door policy that allows parents to really be engaged in the school at a level I've not experienced at other schools. My child does not attend the after school program so I can not comment on that. We feel so lucky to have such an amazing school for our child. Happy Yu Ming Parent
We are absolutely thrilled to have our kindergartener at Yu Ming Charter School. We are very happy with the new building: classrooms are large and light-filled, there is a place for everything (English room, art room, lunch room, library), and we have two great playgrounds. The location seems central enough for everyone and I have not heard any complaints about the commute (many people carpool). Most importantly, the teachers are the most capable, organized and caring group that I have ever encountered. Class sizes are large (28 in my son's class), but this does not seem to be a problem for these professionals. I have volunteered in the classroom and to my delight all the kids are engaged and learning. We entered with no Mandarin and my son now holds conversations and can read/write 40+ characters. He has not fallen behind in English and can read age-appropriate ''I Can Read'' books. Today I peeked into his classoom after the start of class and he was literally grinning from ear to ear as the students read and sang along to a Chinese song. As far as any strong feelings we have, all parents must understand that this is a start-up public school with a tight budget and shoe-string staff. Everything is being done for the first or second time and much of it relies on parent volunteers. Because of that you may feel that things are not always done or communicated perfectly and you may need to volunteer your own time to help make things better. The great news is that all the families are so wonderful that volunteering is fun! The fact that we pulled off a last-minute mid-year move is a testament to the strength of this community and its volunteers. Regarding your question, we do have a school counselor who drives the social emotional component of the school and it is weaved throughout the curriculum. Overall we really love Yu Ming! Yu Ming Kindergarten Parent

How is Yu Ming for Active Boys?

April 2012

I would like to hear how this first school year has been from Yu Ming parents of very active boys in K or 1st grade. I'm considering Yu Ming for the 2013 school year for my son who be 6 by then and entering K. He is bright, likes music and is very social. He is also very physically active and needs variation throughout the day regarding movement. Obviously recess is a favorite time for him but I would like to know how much sitting these young kids are required to do during a typical day and if teachers have found effective ways to meet the needs of boys at this age in particular. I toured the school this past fall and indeed it seems like a very intentional community of parents and teachers who care deeply about creating something really special. How has your boy done this year? What were the high points, the low points? Many thanks. t.


I found the principal at Yu Ming to be extremely skillful in helping and understanding my active child and providing additional skills to my child in the moment. However, the teachers appear to need additional training around understanding how to handle these type of kids in the classroom. The class time appears to be primarily mat and table activities and does not involve much movement. Laura does a great job of coaching the teachers around different techniques; however, it disappointing that in the classroom the children are not rewarded for how far they have come behaviorally. Instead, recognition is for ''kids who are good'' (per my child). My child also stated ''I try really hard to get but I can't get it''. Additionally, the principal is going out on leave and the director has not been named. These issues are very concerning to our family. Anon
While my son, a 1st grader, was not originally characterized as an active boy, Yu Ming has actually given him the confidence to make friends, speak up in class and be a fully engaged part of this amazing learning community. He now has become more active and the teachers do a wonderful job with both ends of the spectrum. Now, the teachers challenge him with activities that make him think, make him want to sit still and work with other kids in a collaborative way. The administration has also been great in supporting my son and really getting to know him. While Laura, the current principal is going to be going out on leave for a few months, a fantastic interim principal with extremely impressive credentials and experience has been brought on board and has already started the transition process. He was introduced in the school's weekly newsletter just this past week and now I feel confident that the school won't miss a step while Laura is away though we'll miss her dearly. Happy Yu Ming Parent
Feb 2012

Re: Mandarin-immersion elementary schools
I have a 1st grade boy at Yu Ming and I am thrilled with every aspect of the school. While I speak Mandarin, I do not read or write it and my husband is not Chinese and does not even speak it. As a family, we decided not to speak Mandarin at home initially because I worked outside the home and wanted to be able to speak to everybody at one time. Basically, I got lazy. That said, we still saw the value in having our children learn Mandarin so tried some after school programs and Saturday programs but after a while, none of it seemed to be working. My kids were still just counting and recognizing a few colors.

Since starting Yu Ming in August, my son can now converse with me in Mandarin. I've started speaking to him in Mandarin at home and initially, he understood none of it. Now not only does he understand what I'm saying and asking of him, he responds and asks his own questions all in Mandarin. He has a strong interest in trying to read Chinese books and newspapers and is more curious than ever about the culture. He can recognize, read and write more characters than I can and continues to come home with new words and now phrases to add to his vocabulary. This has absolutely amazed me.

What has amazed me almost as much, if not more, is the dedication his teacher has to differentiated learning in the math curriculum. The classroom is divided up into small groups for math time and each group is working on a similar theme, be it addition, subtraction or measurements, but each group is doing work at their level and working on advancing at their own pace. I've seen kids progress from adding on their fingers to now adding single digits in their head and starting double digit addition on paper. My child is now working on multiplication tables as he has already mastered addition with carrying numbers and subtraction with borrowing. The teacher has never stopped him from learning as much as he wants and at his pace so now, in the second half of 1st grade, he is doing exactly what his older brother is doing in math at a great Berkeley public school. Again, absolutely amazing.

Best of luck with your choice. I know it's hard but I feel like we found the perfect fit for our son and couldn't be happier about how things are going at Yu Ming. Kelly


I am a firm believer of immersion education and was delighted to have so many options in the East bay, but am especially happy to have my son be at Yu Ming this year. When I toured each of the various Mandarin immersion schools, I made sure that the one I chose is a true full immersion school where children will be exposed to the maximum amount of time in the target language, since they will have more than ample opportunity to speak and hear English in the all English environment after school. School culture is also important and although it's hard to tell what that is when you tour a place, I could tell that Yu Ming parents care a lot about making this school a success...from how they started it from the ground up to the many many hours they volunteer still to the number of parents who pack the room at meetings and school functions. My child has been very happy at this new school, likes all the teachers very much, has made new friends as well as kept friendships made from kindergarten at Shu Ren, and continues to speak Mandarin with me at home while speaking English to my spouse. Although the education is superb at both schools, I still supplement afterschool hours with team sports, additional music lessons (both schools have a music program), and by continuing reading English books at home which we also did during Kindergarten last year. With improved Mandarin this year, we will try to start reading some Chinese books as well. My child especially likes the many field trips they take at Yu Ming and all the ''fun'' learning activities they do, like marshmallow math that they did last week.

To me, the differentiated small group teaching at Yu Ming allows for my child's natural curiosity to bloom as well as provides room for each subject to be thoroughly taught at each child's level. In addition, I have truly enjoyed getting to know everyone at both schools. However, I am most happy to have my child attend a school that I help build, that allows me a lot of input in what is taught, lets me help shape the school culture, and where the administrators are truly friendly people that listen and respond to parent concerns in a timely and graceful manner. Both schools will require your help in the classrooms and beyond. So, think about what you want for your child's education and how the school you choose can help you achieve that goal. I hope this helps you find the right fit for both you and your child. Parent to a happy Yu Ming Student


Dear Curious Parent:

Our daughter was already somewhat conversant before starting Yu Ming, but not because we are native Mandarin speakers at home. She had attended a Mandarin-speaking daycare, and had gained fluency (for a 3-y old), which she then understandably seemed to lose while attending English-speaking preschool. During her Yu Ming language interview almost a year ago, my daughter had a shyness-attack and may have been confused by hearing the language spoken outside of daycare and by strangers, so she said disappointingly very little; the interviewers did note that she seemed to understand some of what they had said to her. So at the start of the school year, she was only quasi-conversant.

Now we are half way through our first year at Yu Ming, and just today, I was encouraging our now 5 y.o. daughter to show off her Mandarin to a bilingual Chinese friend. I asked a series of questions in English: how would you say this in Chinese to your teacher (who only speaks Mandarin to the kids). My daughter was able to instantly give the Mandarin equivalent. (In each case, our friend nodded and smiled at me to say, yes, she interpreted and spoke correctly.)

My daughter seems to have gained a lot of confidence in using her spoken Chinese in different settings since starting Yu Ming -- the wide exposure to other families who value learning Mandarin for whatever reason helps enormously, as well as having opportunities to mingle with other families who speak to her only in Mandarin, even in social settings away from school. Yu Ming has expanded the context for her in which it's okay to use Mandarin.

Each day she sings Chinese songs as we walk into Yu Ming, -- it's a sort of transition ritual. Many of the songs were learned at home (off the internet, and from CDs), but she has also learned many new songs at Yu Ming, too.

Since the start of Yu Ming she has also learned to write many Chinese characters, which comes from daily practice in class as well as outside school hours. The amount of homework required was really a shock, but I can see the many benefits of establishing such a disciplined approach to homework so early on; IMO really worth the effort it took to get her into the groove.

Since the beginning of the year, her math skills have progressed from merely counting (English & Mandarin) to getting basic math concepts of adding and subtracting. We have reinforced all of this at home through helping with homework, and playing counting games. Of course it's a work in progress, and we have not felt the need to seek any additional support.

Yu Ming's curriculum has expanded recently and now includes music, and PE (in the form of Kung Fu). I know the children often do art projects in class, and I personally would also like to see more exploratory/expressive use of art to help develop creativity, rather than only prescribed art projects/crafts. Where my daughter once used observation and line drawing to spontaneously draw portraits (which she did at 3 y.o.) her attitude has now changed to: ''I only know how to draw certain things,'' and I often wonder if this is related to an attitude that there is a ''right way'' to write Chinese characters, and perhaps by extension, to create arts & crafts.

My daughter's social skills are developing, thanks to extra support she was given early on at Yu Ming (she's on the young side in her class). These days she often talks fondly about her schoolmates, relating the funny things they said or did, giving me the impression that she is enjoying it enormously, and is feeling pride in being a member of her class.

There is a great deal of parent volunteer involvement required (reminiscent of a co-op preschool experience). I wonder if that aspect will change as the school grows and evolves, but I also see that it has added to the richness of our experience there.

So, although I cannot make comparisons to other Mandarin-immersion programs, I do know that overall our daughter's needs are being met at Yu Ming, and that she is thriving there. I also experience the administration and teaching staff to be very caring and responsive to my concerns, and I appreciate this immensely. Eileen


Our daughter started Kindergarten at Yu Ming this year, after spending 3 years at an excellent Montessori pre-school (Little Elephant Montessori). She only knew a handful of words in Mandarin from her grandparents, and started with excellent reading and math skills in English. We are incredibly impressed (as is her mandarin speaking grandfather) at how much she has learned in ~6 months of immersion. She knows how to read, write, understand and pronounce well over 30 characters, and can now carry on some basic conversation in Mandarin. Her English class and homework continue to be challenging, and they are doing math in Chinese that seems very appropriate for Kindergarten. (addition, counting by 5s, pattern recognition, etc.) Yu Ming has also ensured ongoing education about culture, science, and nature. While the 1st month was a difficult transition as expected, she now loves Yu Ming and has made some wonderful friends that she loves to spend time with outside of school. The only areas we have chosen to supplement include extracurriculars such as athletics (dance/gym/soccer/swim) and this summer we plan to start piano lessons which would have been supplemental to any other school she would have attended. We also continue to read at home as much as possible in English, both allowing her to actively read and our reading to her passively. We know that we will need to do more to reinforce her mandarin over time as it increases in difficulty with various resources that the school and other parents have shared. Hope this helps, and I know many of us are happy to talk to prospective parents as requested one -on- one, just contact the school to ask. Erica
We are very pleased with the education our youngest son receives at Yu Ming. Here's are 5 reasons why:

1. Our son is learning to be bi-lingual and bi-literate in Mandarin! We by-pass our Albany Public Schools for this opportunity.

2. The quality of education is stellar. I am a public high school language teacher and I have been very impressed with the pedagogy of my son's Kindergarten teacher. She is creative, skillful at classroom management, and wonderful at differentiating learning. She is constantly building on prior knowledge making her classroom an excellent learning atmosphere for both Mandarin and Non-Mandarin speakers. Our son's English reading and writing skills are on par with other Kindergarteners in all-day English programs. It's amazing what the English teacher does in an hour per day. Both teachers use a variety of audio, visual, musical, and kinesthetic methods that are helpful for all learners. My son gets a homework packet and a DVD of a Chinese movie cartoon each week. Some of his homework is interactive. We have to read to our son each night and we have a weekly family activity (such as measuring things around the house, collecting and counting pennies, etc.)

3. This is a public school. Our son briefly attended a private Montessori Mandarin-immersion school for pre-school. His experience was terrible. Some of the students were downright mean to him, treating him as an outsider. I felt that they were culturally incompetent, prioritizing European and Asian culture, and unabashedly promoting this on their website. Unfortunately, you cannot access their views on ''multi-cultural education'' unless you have already enrolled your child. He was the only Black boy there and as we built a network of other African-American friends who had their children in private Mandarin-immersion schools, we found that they too, shared the complaint of cultural incompetence. Public schools are not allowed to have such insulated ignorance. Yu Ming teachers have been certified in the United States, which makes a tremendous difference in how they perceive their diverse student population. Our son has teachers who genuinely care about him and they have studied race, class, and gender issues in a U.S. context.

4. Parents are welcomed and embraced as resources. If I have a concern, I feel that I can talk to the principal and the teachers to help brainstorm solutions. I feel that my culture has been honored as I was asked to make presentations to classes for Kwanzaa and Black History Month. We have an amazing group of parents who are a strong presence at the school. At the Montessori school previously mentioned, I felt like my son was participating in a controlled experiment. They did not want parents to be there unannounced. We had to peer through blinds in order to watch the children from a window...very strange. At Yu Ming, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to be involved with the school, whether you speak Mandarin or not. The parents have pulled off a highly successful fundraising gala, made submissions to the media, organized film-screenings, and put in countless hours to the school.

5. The location is almost perfect. Parking is terrible but on the flipside, Yu Ming is in the heart of Oakland's Chinatown. When I bring my son to school he recognizes characters on signs all the time. It is very exciting for me as a parent who does not speak Mandarin to witness him seeing the relevance of his language-learning. If you asked my son what he likes about his school, he would tell you one of the things he loves is the field trips. Because the school is so close to the museums, authentic Chinese restaurants, the library, the BART, etc. the students benefit from very rich cultural experiences literally in their backyard. DWF


Yu Ming School in Oakland-Is it a good choice?

Feb 2012

I do not see any reviews on Yu Ming toward the end of 2011, a more current review would be really helpful. Our son will be entering Kindergarten August/September 2012. How has Yu Ming been doing its first year thus far? Is the plan to add a grade a year? Will there be a high school down the road? Are the academics on par or above with some of the better school districts? What about the lack of a yard/play area on site is it safe for the kids to cross the street to go play? How is the after-school program? Your input would be most appreciated. Thank you. Anon


My son is in Yu Ming Kindergarten class. We are very happy with our choice of the school for him. Even though it is quite some distance from the neighborhood school, with carpooling shared with another two families, it is not bad for our working parents.

The teachers are wonderful and dedicated. Homework assignment is well thought out and caters to different student's level by adding Challenging work. The parent community is very involved. Any event called for volunteers will be timely implemented.

As a Chinese speaker, I don't need to worry about his Chinese Cultural awareness. For sure, there is no need to supplement his Chinese on the weekend

The school made an efforts to for kids to have fun while learning in a Chinese environment. Every month there is some kind of activity for the kids to enjoy such as September Moon Cak festival, October Pumpkin patch field trip, November Thanksgiving day celebration, December Christmas celebration, January Chinese New Year Celebration, February Black History month dancing show...

Compared with the situation that he stays in the neighborhood school, the difference would be noticeable in another few years. Being in an immersion program will undoubtedly give him some competitve advantage. I will be so happy to see him in the future - the beautiful final product of Yu Ming. LX


I have two children at Yu Ming. They started first grade with no Mandarin and I have been amazed at the progress they have made. Teaching is differentiated to the childrens different levels and the teachers do an amazing job. For a school that has only been open six months things are going very smoothly. The teachers are very dedicated and work well together and there is a very hardworking parent community who bring a wide variety of skills to the school. The wonderful thing about being a stand alone charter is that the school is not restricted by school district policies so if there are any issues or concerns they are quickly addressed and changes made if necessary. Academic standards are high and there is homework. With the immersion model (for the first 3 years 90% of the teaching is mandarin and 10% English) the kids English gets a bit behind for first years but by 3rd/4th grade it balances out and they end up ahead in both English and Mandarin. By 8th grade 30% of teaching is in Mandarin and 70% English).

As of now there are no plans for a high school but with the level of engagment of the parents I would not be surprized if this happens further down the line. For this first year there is K and 1st and one grade will be added each year so for Fall 2012 there will be K, 1st and 2nd. This will continue through 8th grade.

Not having outside playspace is not ideal but we have plenty of volunteers to escort the children to the park and they are not taken there until they have been thoroughly taught road safety. There is also a large gymnasium for inside play and PE. The school is currently looking for a new site (somewhere as close to current site as possible) and expects to move in 2013.


Hi there, My daughter is in kindergarten at Yu Ming. We were very nervous about enrolling her at first as we had no school to visit or teachers to meet. My daughter has zero experience with Mandarin and she is not Chinese heritage. Kindergarten seemed difficult enough without knowing what to expect and throwing my child into a situation where she couldn't understand 90% of what was happening. I have been very pleasantly surprised. The school has been amazing academically and socially. My daughter's teacher, the principal and the support staff have exceeded my expectations. On top of being able to pull together the fundamentals of the school, Yu Ming has been miraculously able to go above and beyond in this first year. My child has been on three awesome field trips (pumpkin patch, Velveteen Rabbit production in SF, the Peking Acrobats in Berkeley and they are going to see a jazz performance for black history month). The school has had very impressive Thanksgiving and holiday programs for the children. Parent volunteers pulled together an amazing gala celebration only months after school started. And imagine my delight and surprise when my mixed race African American daughter came home speaking in Chinese about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ma Ding Lu, for those of you who don't speak Mandarin!). Oh and they also just hired a Kung Fu expert as the PE teacher and my daughter, after only one class, was showing me some very impressive moves.

The school grounds are not perfect. We are looking for a permanent home. This school is for people willing to take a bit of a leap of faith and to join in a strong parent community building from the ground up to help ensure success. We do walk over from Yu Ming to the Lincoln School play area and while this is not ideal you would be amazed at how well the kids have been able to learn to walk safely in straight lines. It takes multiple parent volunteers on a daily basis to make sure everyone is safe and there was a training for volunteers prior to taking on the task.

Currently the school does not have a plan for a high school but with this group of parents I imagine that as a possibility 8-9 years down the road. The school is k-8, currently only K-1 and we are adding another higher grade each year.

If you are interested in language immersion and the positive effect research shows it has on children AND if you are interested in joining a strong community of parents with a desire to create an incredible school, please consider Yu Ming. Perhaps the best endorsement I can offer is that my daughter is excited to go to school every day. She has made many friends and enjoys the after school program (the program was $1500 for the entire year and extends to 6:00 everyday). My daughter often complains when I pick her up too early. Happy Yu Ming Parent


My son is a 1st grader at Yu Ming this year and the school has turned out to be way more than we expected. I've worked for startups before and sort of looked at our joining this community as joining a startup. The enthusiasum from the kids is certainly there. The energy of the teachers is tremendous. And we have been embraced by the strongest parent community I have ever been a part of. My son is thriving academically, has made great friends and it is clear that the teachers all know him well and are able to engage him in ways that amaze me. He did not speak Mandarin when school started though I do and now he and I converse only in Mandarin at home.

The plan is to add a new group of kindergarteners each year. Our current 1st graders will be our first graduating class down the road. The school is slated to go through 8th grade. I have an older child in a fantastic public school and I can say that the academics at Yu Ming are extremeley strong. The differentiated learning approach is not just talk but a reality and I think all kids benefit from it greatly. The teachers are dedicated to focusing on each child's needs and allow them to really blossom in their areas of strength and nurture them and encourage them in areas where they might struggle.

If you ask the kids whether they notice that their school lacks a playground, their answer will definitely be no. This is one area where you have to take a step back and really look at the day through a child's eye. The playground across the street is a great space for them to run around and the walk there is very safe. Many parent volunteers on top of teachers escort the children to the park each day and watch them as they play. There are more adults supervising the outside time at the park than on a typical schoolyard for certain. The kids also get to take advantage of a large gym where they can run obstacle courses and jump rope and participate in activities, again supervised by many adults.

We jumped at the opportunity to attend Yu Ming because of the idea of Mandarin immersion but what we fould was a great school overall where my son is happy to go to school each day, he comes home excited to show me what he has learned and we in turn are proud of his accomplishments. It amazes me to see how much Yu Ming has accomplished this year and I know it's just going to keep getting better.

Feel free to contact me any time if you have any further questions. Kelly


Our daughter is in Kindergarten at Yu Ming this year, and so far we are thrilled with the community, her teacher, and this amazing public mandarin immersion opportunity. She only knew a few words of Mandarin before starting at Yu Ming, and now knows more than 30 characters, is singing chinese songs (and teaching them to her 3yo sister), and can say many phrases in Mandarin. The plan is to add one grade per year, and next year it will be K-2, with current goal of K-8. The current site is temporary, and we will likely move next year or the year after (I believe the decision for next year will be made by the end of February). The lack of playground onsite is unfortunate, but parent volunteers assist the teachers with walking the kids to the nearby playground every morning, and there is a large gymnasium for rainy days and shorter afternoon breaks. The principal does periodic ''Coffee talks'' where the curriculum and philosophies are discussed, and her English homework seems to be on par or higher than other Kindergartens. I admit I don't have any comparison, but she is asked to do english poem reading and answer ?s about the poem, as one example. She is also enrolled in the after-school program at Shoong (on site) 3 days/week which she seems to enjoy as well. They do various games, arts & crafts, and storytelling and reading. The program is having a Chinese New Year performance in a couple of weeks. Overall we are very happy with Yu Ming, the teachers, principal, and parent community are incredibly dedicated and dynamic, and we definitely feel like her education will be equal or more likely above our local Rockridge school. Erica
Our daughter is in 1st grade at Yu Ming Charter School, and so far, we've been very happy with the school.

* As I'm sure you already know, this current year (2011-2012) is the first year of the school, and we started out with just kindergarten (2 classes) and 1st grade (2 classes). Each year we will add a grade, so this coming fall (2012) we will have kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. The goal is become a K-8 school (no plans for a high school, as far as I know, but who knows what might happen down the road?!).

* You asked about the level of education that the students receive, and I think the bar is set quite high. According to our charter, the goal is that our students cover 1.5 years of CA curriculum per academic year -- so our children are absorbing a modestly accelerated curriculum relative to their peers in the regular public school system. I can say that relative to my daughter's Berkeley public school last year (where she attended kindergarten), Yu Ming is more academically challenging.

* You also asked about safety as it relates to walking to the public park for recess: The school has taken great pains to ensure the children's daily safety in this regard. Every single day, a gaggle of parent volunteers (usually between 4-7) escort the students and their teachers from the school to Lincoln Park. (I happen to volunteer for this duty every week , so I'm intimately familiar with how it works!) The parents wear day-glow yellow vests, and we also carry large stop signs to assist in crossing the 2 streets between the school and the park. When we get to the park itself, we set up brightly colored cones to mark a perimeter around the children's play area. All very safe and organized.

Two things I love about Yu Ming:

1. Principal Laura is FABULOUS! Warm, loving, funny . . . and whip-smart. Excellent leader for our school.

2. The parent community is amazing. The level of parent involvement is stratospheric, and everyone is just relentlessly dedicated to making Yu Ming a successful school. Honestly, I feel lucky to be part of this very special community.... Happy Yu Ming Parent


Hi -- Our son is in kindergarten at Yu Ming and since day one, he has come home happy and excited about school. While we are not a Mandarin-speaking family, he had some basic knowledge from pre-school. He now not only speaks and understands Mandarin, he can write about 2 dozen characters from memory. It's amazing. He's also on track in English and math... at least on par with our daughter when she was in an English-only kindergarten. I think the school and the community are fantastic. There's something special about building a school together. With that said, if you are the kind of person who wants everything already laid out and planned out already, this will take some getting used to. I find where things really matter, such as in the classroom with the incredible teachers, the experience is top-notch. The ancillary stuff is getting worked out and parents have a tremendous amount of say (and much needed action) in the process. Good luck! I hope you seriously consider Yu Ming. It's a great school! Happy YM Parent
We have two children in Yu Ming and are very happy with the school. Because it is a new school there is quite a lot of excitement among the parents and staff, and there is a sense that we are working effectively at something important for our children and our collective future in California and the world (as trite as that may sound!). The academics are great and our kids are academically challenged as a first graders at YuMing. Children at various levels are differentiated at the school and all are challenged. The teachers are outstanding and I as a parent marvel at the young school's first class administration and recruitment of such fine teachers. There is a great involvement of many parents, only partly out of obligation but far more from a sense that we are involved in something special for our children. Mandarin development is amazing and our kids went from reluctantly participating at a Chinese after school program last year to being near fluent now halfway through the school year, and being able to read and write many characters. I wish I could join them. The current plan is that the school will add one grade each year up to 8th grade. Academics are easily on par with other schools and the prevailing opinion at YuMing is that California standards are too basic so there is an effort to accelerate. There is a lot of small group work and a rewards point system that seems quite effective and more structured in a good way from what we remember at the public schools our kids were in the past. The outdoor play area is basic and the walk across the street is not ideal but manageable (with parent volunteer assistance). The indoor gym is quite good and is a great venue for kids to let off steam. After-school program run by the Shoong center is fine, has defined structure and the kids love it and get some homework done. This semester they are starting music and structured PE classes at YuMing. We are very excited about the continued growth of the school. joe.wiemels@ucsf.edu
If being bilingual on Mandarin and English is important to you and your child, then Yu Ming is a very good choice if not the best.

We have two children attending Yu Ming and we are very happy with their progress in each and every subject. Our children comes to Yu Ming from Cornell school ( a very good public school in the area) and Shu Ren international school ( a private Chinese - English immersion school), Yu Ming's academics is beyond both Cornell and Shu Ren in my opinion after witnessing my kids' experience and progress at these schools.

A lack of a yard/play area on site is one limitation about the current location, it is not ideal but the school and parents work together to utilize the park across the street works fine. Students have opportunities to play out doors and indoors in a very nice gym.

The after school program offers homework assistance, Chinese calligraphy, art, singing, poem recitation, games, and free play. And you can't beat the price. Iris


Hi. My child is at Yu Ming this year, its inaugural year. Overall, we have been very happy with the program. I will give you my personal list of pros and cons which does not reflect the viewpoint of anyone but myself. The school is only intended to be only a K-8 and yes, a grade will be added every year. Next year it will be K-2, etc. I also don't know anything about the after school program but I have heard positive things from other parents. This is our first year with a child in school so I have nothing to compare it to.

PROS:

1. Impressive curriculum. For being a new school I really feel like they did their research and are teaching the kids what they need to learn in school.

2. Learning mandarin. I think this is a very useful language that will help them far into the future.

3. Very involved parent group. Really amazing group of people.

4. Location (see also cons): being in the middle of chinatown gives a very interesting perspective, with stores, restaurants, etc. nearby that most kids would not experience.

5. Good field trips. I feel like the kids have been on some very interesting school field trips this year (Velveteen Rabbit, Peking Acrobats, pumpkin patch, dim sum) and that the school works hard to plan fun trips.

6. The school is working very hard to provide a wide variety of experiences to the children. But being new (see also cons) they don't have a lot of funding. The recent fundraiser generated enough money to hire a p/t PE and music teacher, but I didn't even realize these things were missing until they were added.

7. INCREDIBLE staff. Really, really wonderful teachers, principal and office staff at this school. I do feel the best work of the founding families went into hiring the staff at this school.

8. School year. It is a much longer school year than public schools but I like the extra vacations that most public schools don't have (a week in October, a week in February and Chinese New Year!)

CONS:

1. No playground. While they do go every day to the playground across the street, weather permitting, they are restricted on the use of the large play structures. The school has overseen many safety rules to make sure the kids get back and forth safely every day. At some point the plan is for them to move to an abandoned school site.

2. Homework. I think the homework load at this school is ridiculous, but there are parents who think it's not enough.

3. Current location. The pick up and drop off in the middle of chinatown can be nightmarish.

4. Budget issues. Being a new school there is only PE, music, etc. when we raise funding for it.

5. Actual building site: while the classrooms are great, there is not much beyond that other than a gym which serves multi-purposes. There is no library, computer lab, etc. at this time. I would expect all that to be added when a permanent site is chosen.

6. Less creativity due to mandarin program? I'm unsure how I feel about this one. I only recently learned from a friend what her child is doing in school and it seemed so much more fun and creative and less academic than my child's experience. At her school the child visits a new country every year, they fly on a plane and the teacher gives them popcorn and they spend a month studying a new country and culture. To me that sounds like fun! However, I think the teachers do a great job of trying to teach the kids about new experiences, such as different holidays in December, Black history month, etc. which they can do because they are a charter school. And they had a near solid week of events for the Chinese new year.

7. Future location of the school. There is a big geographical issue among the families that attend the school, with kids attending from El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, Orinda all the way south to Oakland, Hayward, Alameda and San Leandro. The school needs to make a wise choice in future selection or it is going to lose prospective and possibly current students. The future location of the school is pending, with many current parents in a bit of angst over the decision, which should come out by the end of this month.

8. Long school day. And short recesses. It took my child a very long time to adjust to the full-day program. And I do have concerns that the recess/snack time and lunch time are a tad too short for eating when all kids want to do is play!

I hope this helps. Like I said, despite what seems like a long list of cons, overall we have been extremely happy with our decision to attend Yu Ming and hope you will take a parent tour and meet other current families. Good luck in your decision! anon


Our son is in kindergarten at Yu Ming. It has been a wonderful experience for both our son and ourselves. We are more than happy with the school. Our son had never had any exposure to Mandarin before going to Yu Ming, but he's adjusted much better than I had expected. The principal and teachers all seem very knowledgeable on immersion learning, as well as very caring. The plan for the school is to add one grade every year up to 8th grade. The lack of play ground is one downfall. However, I volunteer to walk the kids to and from recess, and it seems to work out just fine. It is very safe because there are usually at least 2 parents and 2 teachers walking with each class. They do plan to move the school to a permanent location either next year or the year after, so we won't have to do that forever. I don't know about the after school program because my son does not attend. Hope this helps. Signed: tonia
We're one of the last families admitted to Yu Ming's inaugural year, being selected from the waiting list, and we feel like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our daughter. We crapped out in the OUSD lottery and our top 6 schools, along with another charter- and re-enrolled at the private school our daughter attended for kindergarten. When this opportunity came up a month into the semester, we barely hesitated to accept the offer. As an African American family with no previous Chinese language exposure, we feel like the school is doing a great job in motivating all the children to learn and embrace the immersion environment, when it's such an adjustment to so many of them.

It's difficult to compare the academics with an English-language school because of the difference in trajectory, but if the accepted research on language immersion stands true, and the stated school principles and current level of parent involvement continue, I'm confident that we'll outpace the performance that we would have achieved at any of our options. It's a major leap, committing to a school for 8-9 years, but we're going to do everything we can to make a success of it.

The family volunteering committment is 30 hours per year, which is not difficult once you get in the swing and some of the projects are take home projects.

We're also pleased that, as a small start-up, they've been able to offer enrichment activities.The teachers integrate arts into the curriculum, the kids do kung fu every week and the school has a dedicated music and PE teacher. Randolph


Feb 2011

Re: Mandarin Immersion Elementary Schools?
You might also consider a new Mandarin Immersion charter school which will be opening Fall 2011, Yu Ming Charter School. I can't speak to facilities, principal, or teachers since the school has not opened yet, but what I like best about the school is the extremely committed and motivated community of parents who are volunteering to launch the school. I also like the fact that the school will be a public charter school and therefore tuition free. More information about the school here: http://www.yumingschool.org J C


I applied to Yu Ming Charter School, a public dual English and Mandarin immersion school, for our son, who will enter K in the fall. I really like the longer school day, and longer school year that Yu Ming is planning on having. I think it's especially important for kids learning a language other than English. Also, there's no other public Mandarin immersion school near Berkeley. I also like that Yu Ming will teach the kids traditional Chinese characters to start, then introduce simplified Chinese characters later, so the kids will learn both. I highly recommend Yu Ming to any parent looking for a Mandarin immersion school! An enthusiastic Yu Ming parent
We're looking at the new Yu Ming Charter School in the East Bay for our son who is currently in kindergarten. What we like about it is the two-way dual immersion program which targets the class being 50% Mandarin-speaking and 50% non-Mandarin speaking. From the research that we've seen, this seems to be the best educational environment for kids to learn another language through immersion. Plus, we think it helps from a cultural perspective too.

Additionally, the thing that is drawing us to Yu Ming Charter School is that it is a public charter school, so there is no tuition. We think that this will help bring in a more diverse group of students and families compared to the private options out there. I admit that it'll be tough being a pioneer with a brand new school, but it seems like a great opportunity to take advantage of something special. Berkeley parent hoping to get into Yu Ming


Our daughter is not yet elementary school age, but we've set our sights on applying to Yu Ming Charter School (www.yumingschool.org). Although they've just started enrolling the inaugural K and 1st grade classes for Fall 2011, we'll be applying for several reasons: 1) it's a charter school, which is almost like getting private school education but w/o the price, 2) it's a two-way dual immersion model, which means that my daughter will be interacting with other native Mandarin-speaking children, which hopefully means that she'll be speaking Mandarin during recess, and not just in the classroom, 3) she'll be interacting with children from all socioeconomic and ethnic background, and not just w/ children who can afford private education, and finally, 4) Yu Ming is founded by an extraordinary group of dedicated parents who want for their own children what I want for mine; from getting the charter approval to mobilizing volunteers, all efforts to-date had been nothing but perfection. With Yu Ming, we're confident that we are in good hands to provide the best Mandarin and academic education for our daughter. - BT
My daughter attended a short pre-school program at ShuRen School in Berkeley, a Mandarin Immersion program. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the location or the way in which the school was run, but my daughter seemed to be having a good time for the majority of her time there, and she did learn a lot of Chinese.

I'm particularly excited about a brand new public (= free) charter Mandarin immersion school, Yu Ming, that is going to open for K and 1st grade in August 2011 and that is planned to be a K-8 school. (http://www.yumingschool.org) Yu Ming is presently accepting applications with a deadline of Feb 10. Applications are welcome from all interested families, including students with and without Mandarin Chinese language skills. The school is actively recruiting in non-Asian, non-Caucasian communities. Yu Ming aims for bilingual and cultural fluency in both Chinese and English, and also intends to make their school a year-round academic learning environment, with longer days and a longer school year. Year-round learning has been noted as advantageous for a number of reasons (see, http://childparenting.about.com/od/schoollearning/a/year-round-school-pros-cons.htm). I've heard that the school location is going to be somewhere in or near Oakland Chinatown or on Alameda Island, but a location has not yet been made public. Good luck! a Berkeley parent


I am one of the founding family members of Yu Ming Charter School, California's first Mandarin immersion public charter school, and wanted to offer information about our school.

Yu Ming will be a K-8 school and open in August 2011 with two Kindergarten and two 1st grade classes. We are now accepting applications and the deadline for submitting is February 10th.

The school will be located in Alameda County and is open to all California residents. Yu Ming helps to fill a huge unmet need and interest for public Chinese language instruction in the East Bay. The school aims to provide a rigorous, comprehensive education for students of all backgrounds and teach students from kindergarten to 8th grade to be fully bilingual in Mandarin Chinese and English. Because it is a public charter school, there are no tuition fees. The Alameda County Board of Education unanimously approved Yu Ming's charter in November 2010, a show of unprecedented support for our school concept. We are excited to be a part of the growing community of schools and parents interested in Mandarin immersion.

Please visit our website at http://www.yumingschool.org for more information or to download an enrollment application. Chrissy Schwinn, Yu Ming Founding Family Member


We're looking at Yu Ming b/c we wanted the mix of English and Mandarin. Yu Ming is aiming for 50/50, which means that kids can learn as much from each other as the teachers. I'd love to be hear the recess conversations of bilingual 6 year olds! The other thing is that the school is going to be in downtown oakland nr. chinatown. It will give us options for public or private transportation to get our daughter to school. Everett
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