Hard-working Asians ace admissions tests

Admission to New York City’s elite high schools is by test score only. Asian-Americans, who make up 14 percent of public school students, qualify for a majority of seats, reports the New York Times in Asians’ Success in High School Admissions Tests Seen as Issue by Some..

Civil rights groups complain low-income families can’t afford test prep. The city started free test prep programs for blacks and Hispanics, but was forced to open them to all students. Now 43 percent of participants come from Asian families.

Ting Shi, whose immigrant parents work long hours in a laundromat, used free test prep to qualify for Stuyvesant, the most elite high school. It’s 72 percent Asian, only 4 percent black and Hispanic.

In Asia, tests are “viewed not so much as measures of intelligence, but of industriousness,” students tell the Times.

Most of our parents don’t believe in ‘gifted,’ ” said Riyan Iqbal, 15, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, as he and his friends — of Bengali, Korean and Indian descent — meandered toward the subway from the Bronx High School of Science one recent afternoon. “It’s all about hard work.”

No student, they said, was off the hook. Riyan, the son of a taxi driver and a Duane Reade cashier, and his schoolmates said their parents routinely plied them with motivational tales about the trials they endured back home, walking to school barefoot, struggling with hunger, being set back by floods and political unrest. “You try to make up for their hardships,” Riyan said.

Story ends with Emmie Cheng, a Cambodian emigre, who runs a shoe importing company. She spent $2,000 this year on tutoring programs and prep classes for her daughter Kassidi.

Cheng’s “father and four brothers died of starvation during Cambodia’s civil war.” In the U.S., her mother worked in a garment factory.  “This is the easy part,” Cheng said.

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  1. Florida resident says:

    Dear Ms. Jacobs:
    Thank you for all your heroic work on assemblying all those links and comments.
    As for the NYT article in question, here is full citation about Ms. Cheng:

    “But a Bensonhurst resident, Emmie Cheng, who is of Chinese descent but emigrated here as a child from Cambodia, was not sure she agreed.

    This fall, her daughter Kassidi has spent every Tuesday afternoon and all of Saturday at the Horizon Program, a tutoring program near her house, reviewing work she has done over the past three years. Kassidi also takes a prep class on Sundays.

    Still, Ms. Cheng, a director at a shoe importing company, said guiding her daughter through this process — which cost her about $2,000 this year alone — paled in comparison to what she had experienced earlier in her life. Her father and four brothers died of starvation during Cambodia’s civil war. And once here, she said, she watched her mother struggle in a garment factory.

    “This is the easy part,” Ms. Cheng said. ”

    So, she is not just “a Cambodian emigre”,
    but is “of Chinese descent “. I think it tells a lot.
    Your truly, F.r.

  2. Crimson Wife says:

    I bet plenty of folks who complain about being “too broke” to afford test prep courses for their kids spend AT LEAST as much on alcohol, cigarettes, manicures, etc. in a year. If they valued education the way Asians do, a lot more of them could find the money needed to prepare their kids for the entrance exam. It’s all about priorities…

  3. “Florida Resident, I assumed Ms. Cheng was of Chinese descent because of the last name, but I didn’t attach any importance to it. Will you please spell out why that’s significant to you?”

    FR is correct. Chinese vs. Cambodian is a huge difference. Cambodians are outperformed by the Vietnamese, who are outperformed by the CHinese. It’s extremely important to mention whether the immigrant is CHinese; in Asia, Chinese communities are something like Jewish ones–they keep to themselves, don’t intermarry, and so on. Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodians, and Philipines all have substantial Chinese emigre populations.