The Shuang Wen Academy opened in New York in 1998, and was celebrated as the first-ever English-Mandarin dual-language public school. Although its students perform well on tests and earn high grades, the school is facing unhappy parents and nine city investigations.
A major concern is abuse in the admissions process, which should operate with a lottery system. Sixty-two percent of the district’s students are black and Hispanic and 20 percent are Asian, yet 80 percent of the students at Shuang Wen are Chinese. The city is investigating allegations that the school discourages black parents from enrolling their children.
Another area of concern is the after-school program. During the day, classes are taught in English, and the Mandarin-language part of the curriculum is part of an extra-curricular program. The after-school classes were once mandatory but free, however, a lack of funding caused the school to charge $600 for the extra instruction. The program is no longer mandatory, but many parents feel pressure to pay. The school also warned that it could no longer provide after-school supervision to students not enrolled in the program. “The safety of the child will be in jeopardy if you come late,” one letter to parents said.
The costs to parents this year rose to $1000, reports The New York Times. About 75 percent of the students attending the school are from low-income families and qualify for free school lunches. “There is always more to pay,” said one parent. “All the parents think the school is a black hole.”
Yet supporters of the school remain vocal. After NY1 News reported the investigations, many parents felt that the local news station was unfair in its claims. They collected hundreds of signatures supporting the after-school program.
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