War on Asian Success

For American public education, 2015 was a dismal year, at least by the numbers. But don’t blame the kids. Parents are missing in action.


Except most Asian-American parents. They tend to oversee their children’s homework, hold them accountable for grades, and demand hard work as the ticket to a better life. And it pays off. Their children are soaring academically.

The outrage is that instead of taking an example from these Asian families, school authorities and non-Asian parents want to rig the system to hold these strivers back. It’s happening across the nation.

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As a group, other Americans need to take a page from the Asian parents’ playbook. American teens rank a dismal 28th in math and science knowledge, compared with teens in other countries, even poor countries. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are at the top.

We’ve slumped. For the first time in 25 years U.S. scores on the main test for elementary and middle school education (NAEP test) fell. And SAT scores for college-bound students dropped significantly.

Could changes in these tests be to blame for the alarming drops? That convenient excuse was blown out of the water by the stellar performances of Asian-American students. Even though many come from poor, or immigrant families, they outscore all other students by large margins on both tests, and their lead keeps widening.

In New York City, where Asian-Americans make up 13 percent of overall students, they win more than 50 percent of the coveted places each year at the city’s selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.

What’s at work here? It’s not a difference in IQ. It’s parenting. That’s confirmed by sociologists from Queens College in New York and the University of Michigan. Their study showed that parental oversight enabled Asian-American students to far outperform the others.

No wonder many successful charter schools require parents to sign a contract that they will supervise their children’s homework and inculcate a work ethic.

That formula is under fire at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in suburban New Jersey, where Asian-American immigrant families moved in recent years to secure the best education for their children. The school district, which is 65 percent Asian, routinely produces seniors with perfect SAT scores, admissions to M.I.T, and top prizes in international science competitions.

But many non-Asian parents are up in arms, claiming there is too much pressure and their kids can’t compete. In response, this fall the school superintendent David Aderhold apologized that school had become a “perpetual achievement machine.” God forbid!

Aderhold canceled accelerated and enriched math courses for fourth and fifth grades, which were 90 percent Asian, and eliminated midterms and finals in high school.

Using a word that already strikes terror in the hearts of Asian parents, he said schools had to take a “holistic” approach. That’s the same euphemism Harvard uses to limit the number of Asians accepted and favor non-Asians.

Aderhold even lowered standards for playing in school music programs. Students have a “right to squeak,” he insisted. Never mind whether they practice.

Neither Aderhold nor parents in charge of sports are offering nonathletic kids a “right to fumble” and join an overwhelmingly non-Asian varsity football team.

Meanwhile in New York City, Mayor De Blasio and the NAACP want to eliminate the competitive exam for the city’s eight selective high schools and rig admissions with a “holistic” approach. That means robbing poor, largely immigrant and first-generation kids — nearly half the students get subsidized school lunches — of the chance to study hard and compete for a world-class education.

As Dennis Saffran explains in “The Plot Against Merit,” some Asian-American eighth-graders practice for two years for the test, while their parents work in laundromats and restaurants to pay for exam prep classes.

What’s stopping white, Hispanic and black parents from doing the same thing?

Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of “Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution.”

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