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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Low-SES Asians are top students: Can 'excellence gap' be closed?

A middle school in a working-class, mostly Hispanic neighborhood in San Jose started teaching algebra after a wave of Vietnamese refugee families arrived, the principal told me. "We didn't know our kids could do this," he said. The school was about to add a third class. Most students in seventh-grade pre-algebra and eighth-grade algebra were Vietnamese, he said, but Mexican-American kids, Filipinos and others were in there too. Of course this was many years ago, before "equity" meant No Student Gets Ahead.


I visited the area a generation later and saw new townhouses next to a new shopping center. It was all very middle class or even upper-middle class. Who could afford those homes? People who'd taken eighth-grade algebra, I thought.


Thirteen percent of Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) eighth graders from very low socioeconomic families (mom didn't finish high school) scored "advanced" in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), concludes Fordham's new report on "excellence gaps." That's more than any other group except for very high SES (mom completed college) whites, note Meredith Coffey and Adam Tyner. Reading is not quite as dramatic, but AAPI students again are very high achievers at all SES levels.



Coffey and Tyner analyzed data from 2003 to 2022. Asian students started as high achievers and improved significantly -- especially those from less advantaged families.


This is why elite colleges can't get the "diversity" they want by giving an admissions advantage to high achievers from disadvantaged backgrounds: Too many Asians.


Fordham has been pushing for greater access to advanced learning opportunities at high-poverty, high-minority schools, "universal screening" for gifted programs, stronger data reporting and "culturally relevant programs and curricula. But more may be needed, write Coffey and Tyner. They suggest stronger efforts to "expand and invest in teacher career pathways that educators of color are most likely to pursue, including Grow Your Own teacher-prep programs and alternative teacher career pathways."

In addition, they write, "leaders should invest in better understanding the remarkable success of even the lowest-SES AAPI students in reaching the highest levels of achievement." What are these students doing than other students could do?


My guess is that Asian kids excel because they're more likely than others to come from stable two-parent families imbued with Confucian culture: Mom and Dad expect good grades and value hard work. There's also an immigrant effect: They are the children of parents or grandparents with the drive and brains to make it to America, the land of opportunity. That culture is hard to duplicate.

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12 Kommentare


Gast
25. Sept. 2023

First you speak about Vietnamese refugees, and then about aapi. Most aapi immigrants are doing better financially than blacks and Hispanics whether their mom had college or not, because of social and historical reasons. Attributing to culture is just a dog whistle.

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Gast
31. Aug. 2023

"A middle school in a working-class, mostly Hispanic neighborhood in San Jose started teaching algebra after a wave of Vietnamese refugee families arrived, the principal told me. "


This is complete garbage. California required algebra in 8th grade for 15 years and before that it was pretty standard for decades. So unless he's talking about 70 years ago, he's lying.

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Gast
01. Sept. 2023
Antwort an

You are rather quick to use the word "lying". Better to recall when the great flood of Vietnamese came, after the war, say 1975-1985.

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Gast
31. Aug. 2023

I had to lookup SES. I'm guessing it stands for "socio-economic status"

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
31. Aug. 2023

The culture of Confucian homes is hard to duplicate, but a possibility with some promise is that of the elementary school next to my home, which typically devotes back-to-school nights to discussions of what families can do at home to support their pupils: such a venue provides an opportunity to share best practices, so that innovations -- at least for families whose prosperity has not depended upon scholastic excellence for the last two thousand years, as it has for the Han Chinese -- may diffuse into other homes.

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Gast
30. Aug. 2023

AKA - The soft bigotry of low expectations...


My Earth Science (and later on in 11th grade, taught Anatomy and Physiology) had a favorite saying

back in the late 70's:


The Cream will Rise to the Top

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