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What's the Asian Secret?


Q. Among all racial groups, it seems as though Asians are making the most impressive gains in academic achievement. What's their secret?


You may be right. According to the College Board, over the last 10 years Asian students have made the most improvement on the SAT college admissions tests, compared to other races. While all groups gained at least a few points from 1995 to 2005, the gap between Asians and all other groups grew: Asians improved 44 points over the decade, whites 22, African-Americans 10, and Mexican-Americans 5.


This trend has been ongoing for decades. Observers point to the success of immigrants from southeast Asia who came here after the Vietnam War. Although they were mostly impoverished and the parents were non-English speaking, the students excelled in the urban schools, and strikingly so.


What's the secret? According to observations, and bona fide research, these factors are more common among Asian families than among others, especially African-American and Latino families:


1. High expectations by parents of good grades earned by their children.


2. The students associate with peers who value high grades in school.


3. The student attributes high grades to hard work rather than to aptitude.


4. The family is convinced that doing poorly in school will harm the student's chances in life.


5. Family dinners are held almost every evening at which daily events are discussed, and family cohesiveness is strengthened.


6. Siblings helping siblings with school work.


7. It's an intact family with an employed father who is involved with the children's lives, respects their mother, and participates regularly in doing domestic chores.


What's truly exciting about these factors is that any family can adopt them, regardless of race or income level. No child ever should be "left behind" - as long as the family runs itself right. Public policy ought to be pointed toward helping families do just that.


More than just "the Asian way," you could call these factors "the all-American way."



By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 36 2008


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