On weekday mornings, a stream of orange buses and private cars from 75 Minnesota postal codes wrap around Yinghua Academy, the first publicly funded Chinese-immersion charter school in the United States, in the middle-class neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. Most pupils, from kindergarten to eighth grade, dash to bright-colored classrooms for the 8:45 a.m. bell, eager to begin “morning meeting,” a freewheeling conversation in colloquial Mandarin.
Meanwhile, two grades form five perfect lines in the gym for calisthenics, Chinese style. Dressed neatly in the school’s blue uniforms, the students enthusiastically count each move — “liu, qi, ba, jiu, shi.”
By 9:15, a calm sense of order pervades the school as formal instruction begins for math, reading, social studies, history and science. Instructors teach in Mandarin, often asking questions that prompt a flurry of raised hands. No one seems to speak out of turn. “We bring together both East and West traditions,” explains the academic director, Luyi Lien, who tries to balance Eastern discipline with Western fun.
Madison has largely killed off any attempt at innovative charter schools. Ironically, the Minneapolis teachers union is authorized to approve for charter schools.