In Milwaukee, the School of Languages added Chinese as a partial immersion program this school year. The Marshall Montessori International Baccalaureate High School is starting to build a Mandarin program. When the Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Languages opens in the fall, students as young as 4 will have at least a half-hour of Chinese-language instruction daily.
The trend is as strong in urban public schools as it is in wealthier suburban and private ones, according to experts. The University School of Milwaukee in River Hills, one of the most elite and expensive private schools in the area, will offer Chinese next school year as part of a new global studies program at the school. Ten University School teachers will travel to China in summer in preparation. “I think we see China as the next emerging power, and there’s an intense interest both among our students and our parents,” said Roseann Lyons, the head of the upper school.
This year, the College Board unveiled its first Advanced Placement exam in Mandarin; AP exams are often considered in college admissions, and good scores can provide students with college credit. The College Board surveyed schools about their interest in the exam before its release, and the Chinese exam caught the interest of 10 times more schools than a new topic normally would, said Michael Levine, a vice president of the Asia Society, a non-profit organization that works to educate Americans about Asian cultures.