1. What is a charter school?

Charter schools are independent public schools, opened and attended by choice, providing an alternative to other public schools. They are subject to the rules established by the State in which they operate. For more on California charter schools, consult the California Charter School Association website.
Charter schools typically offer rigorous curriculum programs and unique educational approaches. In exchange for operational freedom and flexibility, charter schools are subject to higher levels of accountability than traditional public schools. Tuition-free and open to all students, they offer quality and choice in the public education system.
The “charter” establishing such school is a contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. In California, charters are granted for five years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter (“authorizer”) may renew the school’s contract.

2. Why French?

French is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. The International Organization of Francophonie has 56 member states and governments; of these, 29 countries have French as an official language. French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents. Learning French is gaining access to this vast world.
French, along with English, is the working language of the United Nations, NATO, and the International Red Cross, just to name a few.
Today, employers and universities look for students who have risen above the rest, and learning French gives students that opportunity. With French, students become familiar with the various francophone cultures that significantly influence our own.
As far as global languages go, French is one of the two highest ranking ones. The United States’ first trade partner is Canada, and every commercial, political, legal industrial and industrial transaction made with Canada is conducted in English as well as French. France is also a leading country in the fields of Science, Technology, Medicine, Politics, Aerospace, as well as Art, Fashion, Cinema and Cooking.
Students who are bilingual are among the highest achieving in practically every academic field, and later on, in the global professional world. There is a huge demand for a Francophone education in the Bay Area, as proven by the continued growing success of various French after-school programs, and private French schools. This is not only due to the fact that the Bay Area houses one of the largest francophone communities in the English-speaking world, but also because many people understand the merits of learning French as a foreign language.

3. Where is the Francophone Charter School located?

Since August 2015, the charter school has been located in the district facility of Barack Obama Academy, at 9736 Lawlor Street, in the Toler Heights neighborhood of Oakland. This campus provides a great environment for our students, with the exclusive use of 6 spacious classrooms, a cafeteria, and a large playground with a play structure and a basketball court. The site can accommodate the school for up to two years based on its projected enrollment growth. Each fall, we apply for a district facility under Proposition 39, to hopefully get a facility that can accommodate the school for a few years at a time. Proposition 39 preliminary offers are typically due on February 1 of each year. We will also research private facility options. The goal of the school is ultimately to be more central to allow easy access by public transit. If you are interested in enrolling next year,please submit an “interested student form” which will help strengthen our Proposition 39 application. If you’d like to help with our facilities search, please contact our Board Facilities Committee at board@francophoneschool.org


4. How will learning everything in a second language affect my child’s English language and literacy development?

Research shows that English-proficient immersion students who achieve relatively high levels of second-language proficiency also acquire higher levels of English language skills and metalinguistic awareness—that is, the ability to think about how various parts of a language function. Metalinguistic skills positively impact reading abilities, because they facilitate the development of critical literacy sub-skills such as phonological awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences for word decoding. To learn more about this, read What Research Tells Us About Immersion.


5. How will my child perform on standardized tests if he’s learning in another language?

The research response to this question is longstanding and consistent: English-proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math. This finding applies to students from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as diverse cognitive and linguistic abilities. To learn more about this, read What Research Tells Us About Immersion.


6. If we speak French at home, how will an immersion program in French benefit my child?

An immersion program for children speaking French at home serves as a great transition if they just moved to the United States and don’t speak English. The children will learn English outside the classroom and in English classes while being comfortable in their classes taught in French. An immersion school is also a tremendous support to teach French-speaking children how to read and write in French, expand their vocabulary, and multiply their future educational options.


7. How can parents stay involved and help our child with homework, etc. if we don’t speak French?

Immersion teachers are aware that most parents don’t understand the target language. In fact, immersion programs were designed specifically for children of unilingual parents. You can help make your child’s second-language experience positive and lasting by being supportive and enthusiastic. Research shows that students whose parents have positive attitudes towards the target language do better in immersion programs. Remember that most skills learned in the first language are transferred to the second. Read to your children in English, encourage English writing, and introduce English-language word games like crossword puzzles, word searches, Scrabble and Password. Provide opportunities to use the target language outside of the classroom: borrow or buy books and videos, watch second-language TV with your child, and expose your child to second-language events and activities like plays, interest courses, and sport activities.
FCSO teachers understand that children who may not get a lot of help at home with homework may need more assistance or more time to complete it. We also plan to offer an after-school tutoring program, and are currently exploring other options to assist second-language learners (teacher assistants, etc.).


8. How is the charter school funded?

Like traditional public schools, charters receive state funding based on a formula for each child enrolled in the school. Many charters also do additional fundraising to obtain grants and donations to pay for programs that are not fully funded by state or school district formulas.


9. Will there be enrichment programs at FCSO?

Depending on our budget, we do hope to offer enrichment programs including arts, physical education, outdoor education, and other languages.


10. Do children need a background in French to enroll?

No. The program is designed for French and non-French speakers. In 2015-16, the Francophone Charter School has the goal of enrolling similar numbers of Francophone to non-Francophone students in all grade levels. In subsequent years, students enrolling in grades 1 and up for the first time will be expected to have a level of French language proficiency comparable to other students in the grade level in which they plan to enroll.
To ensure understanding in the classroom, teachers will use specialized language acquisition techniques such as gestures and facial expressions, visual aids, speaking more slowly, repetition of key words and phrases, and Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE). All of these techniques coupled with the data-driven monitoring of student performance related to curriculum goals and modification to instruction based on student performance improve student learning.
While the students may begin by speaking in English in the classroom, encouragement from the teacher, classroom aides, and Francophone students helps to build vocabulary and confidence for students who begin the program without prior exposure to the French language.


11. How long will it take my child to become bilingual?

Research shows that young children have the greatest capacity to learn another language fully if they start learning that language before age 8-9. On average, it takes children 1-3 years to learn another language at a conversational level and 3-5 years to learn a language at an academic level. The younger children are when they begin their immersion education, the more likely they will fall on the shorter end of this range. The Francophone Charter School expects that most students entering the program in grades 1-3 in 2015-16 without prior knowledge of the French language will be functionally bilingual by the time they graduate from the Francophone School in 8th grade.


12. Does the school offer full-day kindergarten?

Yes! All-day kindergarten increases student exposure to the French language and helps their language skills develop more quickly.


13. Will you teach English language skills?

Specific instruction in English about the English language begins in kindergarten and gradually increases throughout a student’s time in the program. While students’ reading in English may be below grade level in the beginning of the year, the skills they have been acquiring in French transfer to English. Other immersion programs show that most of their students are reading at grade level by the end of the year and are reading well above grade level by the end of fifth grade.


14. Will my child fall behind in English?

Research shows that learning in a second language actually enhances the child’s first language ability. At the start of an immersion program, students may lag behind their peers on standardized tests given in English, but this is natural, since all classroom instruction is in French. By the end of fifth grade, immersion students’ English test scores typically increase and equal or surpass test scores of their non-immersion peers.


15. My child has never been exposed to French before. How should I expect my child to react to French immersion education?

Teachers use many strategies to make the content understandable, including gestures, props, facial expressions, physical movements and many other instructional techniques. The teachers also repeat vocabulary and concepts and always check for understanding. Teachers do not expect your child to speak French right away. They will translate what your child says into French and restate it in order to reinforce connections between French and English vocabulary.

Do not feel discouraged if your child is initially confused and frustrated by trying to learn in French. Learning a new language is cognitively demanding. Your child will need time to adjust and will likely be tired at the end of the day. These reactions are very normal for first-time immersion learners and can last from two weeks to two months depending on the child’s age and basic language ability. Children are generally very resilient and will soon feel comfortable and thrive in French.

During this initial phase, parental support and encouragement are particularly powerful in helping a child feel like their participation in the immersion program is important. Here are some examples of how parents can help support their child’s learning, success and comfort in the program:

  • Tell your child you are proud of him/her for learning French
  • Share why you value learning another language
  • Provide books, music, videos and other materials in French
  • Encourage your child’s interest in the French language and in other cultures
  • Attend cultural events that feature music, dance or food from the Francophone world
  • Read to (or with) your child in any language
  • Share stories of your own heritage
  • Get involved in the school community

If you have more questions, please email us at contact@francophoneschool.org.