• Mandarin Dual-Language Immersion Program

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offers Mandarin Dual-Language Immersion from kindergarten through 5th grade, alongside the growing neighborhood English program. Dr. MLK, Jr. students continue Mandarin Immersion at Harriet Tubman Middle School. Mandarin Immersion is anticipated to continue at Jefferson High School, beginning in 2022.

    The Mandarin Immersion Program at Dr. MLK, Jr. aims to expand access to opportunities for underserved students and develop graduates who are bilingual, bi-literate and have the cultural competency to succeed in a global society.

    Proficient in Mandarin at high school graduation, students are eligible to earn the Oregon Seal of Biliteracy and college credits. Scholarships and further cross-cultural opportunities are available at University of Oregon Chinese Flagship Program for PPS graduates who want to continue their Mandarin studies. 

    Dr. MLK, Jr has a proud heritage in North East Portland, with second and third generation students attending today. The Mandarin program builds on this past through a strong alignment with the Albina Head Start program, which also offers Mandarin to its pre-K students. The Mandarin Program is also fully integrated with Dr. MLK, Jr.’s International Baccalaureate Program, adopting the IB approach to developing global citizens.

    Click the links below for videos describing the Mandarin program at Dr. MLK Jr. School.  

    Why Mandarin?

    With more than a billion speakers, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language globally. Representing a rich culture and a global economic power, developing cultural and language literacy in Mandarin equips students for future opportunities around the Pacific Rim.

    Research also shows people who are bilingual demonstrate cognitive flexibility, increased attention control, better memory, and excellent problem solving skills as well as enhanced understanding of their primary language (Lindholm-Leary 2001). Even though Dual Language Immersion (DLI) students spend half their academic day or more English they tend to excel on academic achievement tests in English (Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin 2000).

    Additionally, research specific to the PPS dual language program shows students consistently overcome the racial achievement gap in the PPS Dual Language Immersion programs, with outcomes among African American and Hispanic students matching those of their white peers. 


    Students spend half their day learning in English and the other half learning in Mandarin. Each grade is taught by a team of teachers, one native Mandarin speaker and one responsible for the English curriculum. All subjects are presented in both languages. Class sizes are small and teaching approaches are culturally appropriate for the diverse Dr. MLK, Jr. community.

    There are clear proficiency goals for each grade level. Students are encouraged to read, speak, listen and create in Mandarin and at grade level in English. A wide range of teaching methods are used, including song, dance, opportunities to use the language in context, games and plays. Families are provided with paper and technology-based supports to reinforce learning at home, including recordings, books and games.

    PPS has studied and steadily improved the Mandarin Immersion curriculum, adapting it to new school communities as it expands.

    Mandarin Immersion History at PPS

    PPS has offered Mandarin Immersion since 1998, first at Woodstock Elementary. As one of the first schools in the US to use simplified Mandarin characters, early curriculum was challenging to create. PPS is nationally recognized leader in Mandarin Immersion education after years of close partnership with University of Oregon to fully develop a successful learning model. Twenty years later, simplified Mandarin is much more commonly taught outside China and PPS students are offered a range of learning materials and technology-based learning aids.

    PPS has expanded access to the Mandarin dual language immersion program in order to close the opportunity gap for historically underserved students and support expanded achievement. Mandarin Immersion began at Dr. MLK, Jr. in 2014 as a way for Albina Head Start students to continue their Mandarin learning. You can learn more about the history of DLI at PPS below. 

  • School Visits for Families

    We welcome families interested in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and the Mandarin Immersion Program to visit our school. We have a thriving English program for neighborhood students as well and the two programs work together to ensure that we are all one community with shared values and success.  We welcome all families to come find out more about what Dr. MLK Jr. School has to offer in both our Mandarin Immersion and our English programs.

    How to Apply

    Enrollment in the Dr. MLK, Jr. Mandarin program is managed through the school choice lottery. You can learn details for this year’s lottery on the central Dual Language Immersion site. Seats in the program are reserved for students in the Albina Head Start Mandarin program. There are also seats available for in-neighborhood and out-of-neighborhood students and native Mandarin speakers. Students who do not speak English or Mandarin at home are welcome.