Thursday, March 1, 2012
What about the Asians??
A Bangladeshi girl who spends her out-of-school time translating court documents for her parents’ immigration hearings. A group of Chinese high school boys in Flushing, Queens, whose teachers can’t figure out why they’re so disengaged in class. A Vietnamese boy who speaks almost no English and is the only Asian student at his low-performing school. And a Korean-American girl at the top of her class at the prestigious Bronx High School for Science. Those are among New York City’s Asian students, and their needs and backgrounds are profoundly diverse, according to a new report from the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.
Released today by the New York City-based advocacy group, the report highlights the discrepancy between the public perception of Asian-heritage students as universally high-achieving and the reality: In New York City, 95 percent of Asian-American and Pacific-American students, referred to in the report as APA students, do not attend the city’s most-selective schools and face the same challenges as many other low-income, immigrant, and minority students around the city. The report calls for the New York City school district to improve its data reporting and the support and resources it offers those students, their families, and the educators who work with them.
“The challenges around poverty and access issues are not things people think about when they think about Asian-American students,” said Vanessa Leung, the coalition’s deputy director. “There’s a sense that, ‘Oh, well, they’ll find a way to be successful.’ ”
“It’s been very hard to be part of the dialogue on school reform because the image is so pervasive. Even with our allies in education and amongst education advocacy, Asian-American students often become an afterthought,” she added. Through this report, Ms. Leung said, “We’re making sure that we are part of that dialogue as well.”
The report pairs data from the New York City education department, including data reported to the state education department in the 2007-08 school year, with findings from focus groups of Asian-Pacific American students and parents who described their experiences with the school system. The data show students in a wide range of educational contexts. Asian-Pacific Americans make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, the report notes. Many of them are clustered in the city’s most overenrolled schools; another quarter of students from this population group are dispersed among 1,200 schools, including one group of 256 schools where the ratio of Latino and African-American students to Asian students is as high as 56:1. Students in high-minority schools, high-poverty schools, and schools with low numbers of Asian-heritage students encountered issues like lower test scores for both students overall and those who are Asian, lack of guidance, few resources for English-language learners, high suspension rates, and low graduation rates.
“We wanted to demonstrate that Asian-Pacific American students are in a wide range of educational situations and contexts and they have a range of results,” said John Beam, the principal analyst at Pumphouse Projects, a New York City-based research and policy-consulting firm that worked on the report with the coalition.
The report’s authors call for more resources for all students in those low-performing schools. “Asian-Pacific American students share that reality with other disadvantaged students,” said Mr. Beam.
But the performance of Asian students in those schools is also difficult to gauge. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other data-reporting requirements, schools with small numbers of certain racial groups don’t report that ethnic group’s scores, for reasons of student privacy. “Once you start disaggregating and you use smaller segments of a population, it becomes much easier to reidentify who the individual children are from a large data set,” said Joel R. Reidenberg, a law professor and the founding academic director of Fordham University’s Center on Law and Information Policy, in New York.
In New York, the report finds, those isolated groups tend to be Asian students. The phenomenon is so prevalent that in 2007-08, 302 elementary schools did not report Asian students’ scores, while only 232 did. The authors “conservatively estimate that outcome measures are not available for almost 7,000 Asian students in grades 3 through 8 for our main data year.”
“All those little groups of four kids add up to a lot of students,” Mr. Beam said. The report calls for the district to find a way to improve reporting on the performance of those students.
The report’s authors also call for increased cultural competence in the city’s school workers. School officials need to learn “concrete ways in how to work with students and their parents,” said the coalition’s Ms.Leung.
The report’s findings were echoed in interviews with other New York City groups and educators who work with Asian-American students and their families.
“There’s a huge discrepancy between this idea of the model minority and what the vast majority of Asian youth are living with day to day,” said Monami Maulik, the executive director of Desis Rising Up & Moving, or DRUM, a New York City-based advocacy group for South Asian immigrants.
Claire Sylvan, the executive director of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a group of public schools in California and New York City that educate recent immigrants, noted that the report “shines a spotlight on this community of students.”
“It will allow people to look at the data and explore these questions in a way that will move forward, hopefully, the education system as a whole,” she said.
New York City school officials, who did not get a copy of the report until today, say they have not yet had a chance to comment on the findings.