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Asian Students Swell St. Paul Schools

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Asian students have become the largest minority group in the St. Paul Public Schools, exceeding the number of black students for the first time.

Officials of the Minnesota district report that Asian enrollment increased by 600 this year, bringing the number of Asian students in the district to 4,884 out of a total enrollment of 32,962.

The students are primarily Hmong, but they also represent Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, and the Pacific Islands.

In many cases, officials note, the newer Hmong arrivals lack any traditional written language and have had no formal schooling. But many of the immigrants tend to progress quickly, they say.

Last year, for example, 37 percent of the 49 Asian students who graduated from Como Park High School, which is in the heart of the Asian community, were in the top fifth of their class.

On the other hand, test scores districtwide show that only one-third of the Asian students in grades 2-11 score above national norms, school officials note.

Last year, fewer than half of the Asian high-school students passed the English and mathematics competency tests that will become a graduation requirement in 1990.--lj

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