Alice Fong Yu Alternative School /

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Alice Fong Yu Alternative School (尤方玉屏學校) is the Nation’s first Chinese immersion public school. Established in 1995, the school is nestled on a quiet hillside in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. We offer a rigorous Chinese language immersion instructional program from kindergarten through eighth grade. The school is named after San Francisco’s first Chinese American teacher, Ms. Alice Fong Yu[1]. The students at Alice Fong Yu have the unique opportunity to acquire Cantonese (K-8) and Mandarin (6-8) in a supportive and nurturing environment, with a strong focus on high academic achievement and student leadership. We also seek to prepare our students to be responsible stewards of the environment by making informed choices about their consumption of the earth’s valuable natural resources. Our mission is to prepare our students to become caring, responsible, and competent citizens with Chinese bilingual skills and global perspectives. In order to ensure the success of all students, we provide a comprehensive before and after school tutoring program as well as during the school day support programs. In a K-8 environment, personalization comes naturally. We have a strong and functional care team which meets every week to discuss the progress of all students. Keeping parents informed through a weekly Chinese bilingual parent bulletin is a priority for us. We believe joyful and authentic learning is when students are actively involved in the learning process. Our teachers achieve this through lessons that foster exploration and require the students to think critically, apply learned concepts and make connections. In addition to a strong academic program, our students are engaged in many enrichment activities such as gardening, ceramic and visual arts, perceptual motor skills, creative movements, and dance. Authentic application and presentation of the students’ knowledge and skills are uniquely presented through projects such as school wide assembly programs, Chinese poetry recital contest, the middle school Science Fair, and the Cultural Exchange Program in which all of our 8th graders have the opportunity to apply their language skills by traveling to China for a two-week study tour.

About Immersion Education at Alice Fong Yu

Immersion education is an exciting and innovative program in which children develop the ability to speak, read, and write in a second language. Knowledge of more than one language and culture is important for our children’s full participation in a culturally and linguistically diverse world. The educational leaders of San Francisco Unified School District believe that the opportunity to become fluent in a second language should be available to all children. At Alice Fong Yu , the school curriculum (math, science, social studies, etc.) is taught primarily in Chinese during grades K-3, with an increase in English instructional time during 4th and 5th grades. By 5th grade, children can communicate effectively in Chinese and English and have fulfilled all requirements for promotion to Middle School. Over thirty years of research conducted in immersion schools throughout Canada and the United States has shown that immersion students score above average in tests of their academic skills, while achieving a remarkable degree of fluency in the second language.

Educational Approach

Underlying the classroom practices and curriculum choices at Alice Fong Yu is the belief that children’s social and emotional growth is as important as their academic development. The broad educational goals of the program are:

  • To instill a love of learning
  • To nurture self-esteem
  • To foster respect of others
All of the classrooms emphasize small group, hands-on, cooperative learning activities. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through student-directed projects. Such projects also promote language acquisition as students use their Chinese to discuss choices and procedures.

Chinese and English Instructional Time

4 Periods
2 Periods
2 Periods
3 Periods
5 Periods
5 Periods
1st Grade
2nd Grade
3rd Grade
4th Grade
5th Grade
6th Grade
7th Grade
8th Grade

Common Questions

  • Q: Do the children in Chinese immersion come from Chinese speaking families?
  • A: No. The great majority of the children come from families where only English is spoken. In the 2003-2004 school year, approximately 20% of the children come from Chinese speaking families.
  • Q: How do I know how my child is doing if I don't know Chinese?
  • A: The immersion teachers are bilingual and make themselves available for classroom and telephone conferences as needed.
  • Q: If I don't know Chinese, how can I help my child with Chinese homework?
  • A: Parents can provide support and encouragement for homework, without direct teaching, by ensuring that their children have a quiet place to study, with the necessary tools. Children are encouraged to phone each other for help on Chinese homework, a practice that promotes their independence as well as their Chinese.
  • Q: How much is known about immersion education?
  • A: There is an extensive body of literature about immersion education, the result of over 30 years of research on programs throughout Canada and the United States.
The best answers to your questions will come when you visit the school and talk to staff and parents.

Curriculum Enrichment

At Alice Fong Yu, multi-culturalism is an important part of the curriculum, and students learn the values, traditions and history of many cultures in our diverse community.

  • Art and music are integrated into all aspects of the curriculum.
  • Hands-on activities, solving real life problems, and field trips to community resources help students grasp math and science concepts.
  • Computers are used in all classrooms.
  • Whole language activities - writing poems, stories, and keeping journals to promote self-expression and creativity.
  • Cantonese language skills are enhanced through contact with members of the Cantonese-speaking community.

Cultural Exchange

The air was bad at the Temple of Heaven, 2010.

Beginning with the year 2000, each year (except 2003) the eighth grade class has made the journey to China to meet their pen pals at our sister-school in Beijing, and to shop in the bustle of Hong Kong. It's the opportunity of a lifetime for them to experience the culture firsthand and put their language skills to the ultimate test. In Beijing, the students stay in the home of a family from the sister school. This intimate experience of life in China is a fitting culmination of study of China, its language, and its culture.

In January of 2005, for the first time the promise of a true "exchange" was fulfilled as Alice Fong Yu hosted students and teachers from the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University. Seventeen students and two teachers from Beijing spent a week with their counterparts at Alice Fong Yu. They participated in English, art, and modern dance classes at school in the mornings. They toured UC Berkeley, City College, the Chinese Consulate and popular tourist destinations around the city in the afternoons. During their visit they stayed in the homes of Alice Fong Yu families practicing English, helping their American counterparts improve their Mandarin and forming new friendships.

Extracurricular Activities

Alice Fong Yu offers several extracurricular activities in addition to its regular curriculum. For programs that involve enrollment fees, grants are available through the Parents Association to students with financial need. Following is a list of some of the normally recurring programs.

  • Art Club - Exploring life through personal and group imaginative projects. This club provides a full adventure into the world of Art. The club is limited t o 25 students. For grades 6 through 8. Meets once per week.
  • Basketball Club - Students will be exposed to many aspects of basketball through various basketball activities and drills. For 6th through 8th graders. Limited to 15 students.
  • Ceramics - Students learn hands-on art creation through ceramics. For students in grades 3 through 5 and limited to 15 students.
  • Chinese Cultural Club - Experiencing culture through cooking, singing, and/or watching movies, etc. The club is limited to 15 students. Meets once per week.
  • Chinese Folk Dance - Students learn different traditional Chinese dances including fan, ribbon, and handkerchiefs. Classes are offered for Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced students from grades 3 through 8. Meets once a week. There is a fee for this activity.
  • Chinese Instrumental Music (Gu Zheng) - Students learn to play Chinese music with a traditional string instrument. Taught at three skill levels. For students in grades 4 through 8. There is a fee for this activity.
  • Chinese Instrumental Music (Percussion) - Students learn how to play Chinese music with different percussion instruments. Taught at four skill levels. A placement session is held to assess the students' abilities. For students in grades 4 through 8. Meets once a week. There is a fee for this activity.
  • Chinese Kung Fu - Traditional Kung Fu taught by the Gee Yung Dragon and Lion Dance Association. Meets once a week. For grades 4 through 8. There is a fee for this activity.
  • Lion Dancing - Students learn the techniques, strategies, and basics of lion dancing from the Gee Yung Dragon and Lion Dance Association. Meets once a week. For grades 4 through 8. There is a fee for this activity.
  • Movie Making - Experiencing the arts of film making and acting. For 7th and 8th graders. The club is limited to 10 students. Meets once per week.
  • Strength and Conditioning - Participants are exposed to a variety of methods to improve their athleticism and fitness for competitive sports. The club will focus on improving speed, strength, agility, and conditioning. Some conditioning opportunities will be scheduled for weekends. For grades 6 through 8. Meets twice a week.
  • Wrestling Club - Learning the physical demands of mind and body through wrestling. For grades 6 through 8. Club is limited to 25 students. Meets twice per week.
  • Yearbook Club - Help assemble the annual yearbook! For 8th graders. Meets once a week.

Historical Perspective

SFUSD Chinese Immersion Programs - by Liana Szeto, Principal :   In 1984, a group of parents and educators met and discussed the possibility of implementing a Chinese immersion program in San Francisco. They began by researching immersion programs in Canada and the United States. After many hours of meetings, a core group of parents drafted a plan with the possible school sites, curriculum designs, and teacher qualifications, and presented it to the Superintendent at the time, Robert Alioto and the Board of Education. The proposal was accepted and passed by the Board. In September 1984, the first Chinese Immersion Program was implemented at West Portal School as an alternative program, with one kindergarten class of twenty-five students. The students came from different parts of the city to enroll in the program.

The program received much recognition during its first year and proved to the public that this "foreign" concept was a viable option for the San Francisco community. The program grew steadily with one additional class per year. As the Chinese Immersion Program grew, so did the population at West Portal School. The space issue was discussed each year and the program was always searching for a permanent site.

In the school year of 1988-89, under the direction of Superintendent Cortines, the Chinese Immersion Program was scheduled to move to Mark Twain School in the outer Sunset. In August 1988 before school began, the staff was notified that the program could not move due to problems with the Consent Decree. The program stayed at West Portal and bungalows were brought in to accommodate the increased number of students.

In 1992-93 a group of parents was very concerned about the Chinese immersion middle school program as well as the expansion of the program. The group met for more than six months to plan for the expansion of the Chinese Immersion Program and the implementation of a middle school component. In September 1993, the Chinese Immersion Program opened a second kindergarten class and a sixth grade at Herbert Hoover Middle School. Due to the implementation of a second strand, there was clearly not enough space at West Portal School to accommodate this growth. The discussion of a move to a permanent site continued throughout these years.

After countless hours of meetings with Superintendent Waldemar Rojas, parents, and community members, the nation's first Chinese Immersion Public School was finally a reality. The school opened in September 1995 with seven classes at the old Columbus site on 12th Avenue and Lawton as Chinese Immersion Alternative School (CIAS). At the same time, a strand of Chinese Immersion Program remained at West Portal School. In January 1996 CIAS was renamed after San Francisco's first Chinese American teacher, Ms. Alice Fong Yu.

The realization of Alice Fong Yu School (AFY) and the increased popularity of Chinese immersion education are products of many people's hard work and commitments. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students contributed to the genuine quality of the Chinese Immersion Programs in the San Francisco Unified School District.

Who is Alice Fong Yu?

In 1926, Alice Fong Yu became the first Chinese American teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District. The principal of Commodore Stockton Elementary School went before the school board and insisted Yu be hired as a teacher for the school's predominantly Chinese-speaking student body. The only bilingual teacher at Commodore Stockton, she suddenly found herself translator, social worker and all-purpose liaison.

Alice Fong Yu, a third-generation Chinese American, was born in California on March 2, 1905, in the small gold-mining town of Washington, along the banks of the Yuba River. Raised in a family of six girls and five boys, Yu attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse that still stands today. Her father ran a general merchandise store for the Chinese who were mining the legendary "Gold Mountain". In 1916, the family moved to Vallejo.

According to Alice Fong Yu's son, Alon, although his grandfather was from China, he was very progressive and wanted all his children, including the girls, to get an education. In those days, girls were not normally encouraged to get an education or enter a profession. Yu married Jon Yong Chang Yu, a Chinese newspaper editor, writer and businessman, who died in 1966.

A Forty-Four-Year Career

In 1922, Yu applied to San Francisco State, then known as San Francisco Normal Teachers' College, but then president Frederick Burke discouraged her from attending, advising her that discrimination would prevent her from finding a teaching job, said Alon Yu. But Alice Yu persisted, telling Burke she intended to go to China to teach English. "He reluctantly admitted her," Alon Yu said.

Upon graduation in 1926, Alice Fong Yu was hired at Commodore Stockton in Chinatown, where she taught 34 years. The last 10 years of her career, Yu traveled to various San Francisco schools helping students with speech disabilities. She retired in 1970.