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Looking beyond the model minority achievement gaps among asian-american students

In February of this year, closing arguments were heard in the federal case of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, a lawsuit filed against Harvard’s Affirmative Action policy, which SFFA says discriminates against Asian American candidates by holding them to a higher standard. Regardless of how the judge rules, the case has highlighted the Asian American community and the inherent problem of considering the group as monolithic. It also calls attention to the “model minority” stereotype that portrays Asian Americans as economically successful, smart, hard-working and modest.

The term “model minority” was first used in 1966 by sociologist William Petersen in an article about Japanese American assimilation, and continues to persist based partly upon wide-ranging data showing that Asian Americans tend to hold higher degrees and earn larger incomes than the general population. For instance, a 2017 report released by the U.S. Census Bureau said that more than 55 percent of Asian Americans currently hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just over 33 percent of the general population.

In reality, Asian Americans represent incredibly diverse communities with different ethnic, socioeconomic, historic and migratory characteristics. When taken as a whole, struggling groups within the population are rendered invisible. Take the example above, where it is cited that over 55 percent of Asian Americans currently hold a bachelor’s degree. Digging a little deeper produces a very different picture: only 14 percent of Laotian, 17 percent of Hmong and Cambodian, and 27 percent of Vietnamese Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher. While 86 percent of Asian Americans have completed their high school education — slightly above the national average of 85 percent — Southeast Asian Americans have significantly lower rates. For example, 61 percent of Hmong Americans have completed a high school education.

These two examples highlight why it is imperative for local educational agencies to disaggregate data sets for Asian Americans to target supports to high-need student groups. And districts such as Fresno Unified and Oakland Unified are leading the way with exemplary programs and supports that are reversing this dismal data.Asian Americans in the U.S.Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S., with a population growth of 72 percent between 2000 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center — and projections suggest Asians will be the largest immigrant group in the country by 2055. As home to the highest concentrations of Asian Americans in the U.S., California and its public schools have a particular responsibility to recognize the diversity of this population and provide targeted supports to help students succeed in academic and civic life.

Large portions of the Southeast Asian populations in California — particularly those from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam — arrived in the U.S. as refugees, bringing with them very different needs than more established Asian groups that have been in the country for several generations. These refugees face many challenges to attaining success in the U.S., including language and socioeconomic barriers.

Follow the story at: https://publications.csba.org/issue/summer-2019/looking-beyond-the-model-minority-achievement-gaps-among-asian-american-students

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