Asian American Students Got a Boost

In her research, Dr. Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at Columbia University, found that “K-12 teachers and schools may actually give Asian Americans a boost based on assumptions about race.” She opines in The New York Times:

A Vietnamese American student I’ll call Ophelia (all names have been changed to protect participants’ privacy under ethical research guidelines) described herself as “not very intelligent” and recalled nearly being held back in second grade because of her poor academic performance. Ophelia had a C average throughout elementary and junior high school, and when she took an exam to be put in Advanced Placement classes for high school English and science, she failed. Ophelia’s teachers placed her, with her mother’s support, on the AP track anyway. Once there, she said that something “just clicked,” and she began to excel in her classes.

“I wanted to work hard and prove I was a good student,” Ophelia explained. “I think the competition kind of increases your want to do better.” She graduated from high school with a grade-point average of 4.2 (exceeding a perfect 4.0) and was admitted into a highly competitive pharmacy program. Ophelia’s performance was precisely what her teachers expected, so they did not have to confront the role they may have played in reproducing the stereotype of Asian American exceptionalism.

Rummana Hussain also has an interesting take on affirmative action.