Equity & Diversity

Asian Students’ Needs Overlooked In N.Y.C., Advocacy Group Says

By Catherine Gewertz — July 14, 2004 3 min read

The struggles of Asian and Asian-American students are being overlooked in the New York City public schools, in part because they are perceived as a high-achieving group with little need for help, an advocacy group contends.

“Hidden in Plain View: An Overview of the Needs of Asian American Students in the Public School System,” is available from the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families worked with a New York University researcher to analyze data to craft a portrait of how students of Asian descent are faring in the nation’s largest school district.

While they make up 12 percent of New York’s 1.1 million public school enrollment, and are the district’s fastest-growing population, students of Asian descent are the least understood, the nonprofit group said in a report issued in May.

The perception that Asian students are a “model minority” contributes to the understanding gap, the group said, as does the diversity of Asian languages and cultures. New York City’s Asian students trace their birth or ancestry to more than 20 countries, with Bangladesh, China, India, and Pakistan accounting for the largest portions.

The coalition urged district leaders to provide appropriate help to the many students of Asian heritage who are struggling academically, and to break down achievement data to identify subgroups of students who are having particular difficulty.

The group also called on district officials to address the harassment of Asians in school, redesign curricula to include prominent Asians, and find more effective ways to involve Asian parents in schools.

“The model-minority myth that says we are all doing well prevents those in a position to help students from seeing their needs,” said Myra O. Liwanag, the coalition’s interim executive director.

“Race relations in this country have evolved around black-white lines, [so] Asians and Asian-Americans are often left out of the picture when it comes to thinking about minority students and the kind of help they might need,” she added.

Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the city’s department of education, said that Asian students graduate at higher rates and drop out at lower rates than the citywide average. But the city school system is nonetheless committed to enhancing all students’ school success by raising standards, she said.

Hidden Difficulties

Students of Asian descent pass standardized tests and graduate at relatively high rates, which can mask the academic struggles of individuals or subgroups of students, and lead officials to focus help on groups with more worrisome statistics, said Vanessa S. Leung, the primary author of the report.

Asian students tend to outperform their black and Latino peers on standardized tests, but many who might perform poorly are not taking the tests because of special education or language exemptions, the report said. The portion of Asians taking the tests is actually smaller than for white, black, or Latino students, it said.

In New York City’s class of 2002, 67 percent of Asian students graduated in four years, compared with 70.5 percent of white students, 44 percent of black students, and 41 percent of Hispanics. The dropout rate for students of Asian descent increased from 7.5 percent in 1997 to 12.5 percent in 2002, the study found.

Asian students are underrepresented in special education programs, but those who are referred to them are twice as likely as students from other racial or ethnic groups to be directed to the most intensive programs, and are disproportionately designated autistic, mentally retarded, or speech-impaired, the report said.

Many Asian students come from homes with economic struggles. Their average household income is higher than the city median, but it is often produced by multiple wage earners, each of whom earns less than the city’s per-capita average, the study found. More than 80 percent of the city’s Asian elementary and middle school students qualify for subsidized school meals.

To better serve the Asian community, school officials must recognize its linguistic and cultural variations, the coalition argues.

Too often, the coalition said in its report, the school system views Asian parents as uninterested in being involved in their children’s schools, but long work hours, language barriers, and lack of familiarity with the American school system are the real barriers to greater parental involvement, it said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2004 edition of Education Week as Asian Students’ Needs Overlooked In N.Y.C., Advocacy Group Says


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Trans Youth Are Under Attack. Educators Must Step Up
What can schools do in the face of the extreme hostility trans and gender-nonconforming young people now face across the country?
Harper B. Keenan & Z Nicolazzo
4 min read
A butterfly lands on balanced stones in front of tranquil waters and a sunset
Pict Rider/iStock/Getty images<br/>
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Does Educational Equity Become Educationally Unethical?
Equity stumbles into a truly gruesome place when educators are directed to shortchange students based on how they look or where they live.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Why More Teachers Need to See the Beauty and Brilliance in Black Girls
Black girls are often accused of being loud or having an attitude. We need teachers to change that harmful perspective, because it matters.
Bola Delano-Oriaran
5 min read
Black Girls Misunderstood
Equity & Diversity Anti-Asian Violence: What Schools Should Start Doing About It
Asian-Americans are often erased from the curriculum and even from schools' social justice work. Five educators discuss how to change that.
The crowd at Hing Hay Park responds to speakers calls to "fight hate"and against the attacks, physical and verbal on Asian Americans during a rally to speak out against anti-Asian hate and violence on March 13, 2021 in Seattle.
A crowd at Hing Hay Park in Seattle protests physical and verbal attacks against Asian Americans during a rally earlier this month.
Alan Berner/The Seattle Times via AP