For many Asian-American students, failure is not an option.
Having given up their lives in their home countries, many Asian parents have moved to the US in pursuit of better opportunities for their children. But, with this comes high expectations for academic success in order to make the move worth it.
This has led to the emergence of the “test-prep centres” in the US. These centres charge a weighty fee for specialised tutoring geared towards guaranteeing that top score on standardized tests.
Founder of New York based test-prep centre, Lawrence Yan, GPS Academy, explained to The New York Times: “That’s what parents are looking for: the results.”
According to Yan, this emphasis on academic success is a cultural quirk: “It’s more like a culture thing, you know? They would rather not get expensive sneakers, but they will try to put their kids in a very expensive prep school,” he said.
In some immigrant towns, upward mobility begins w/ intense test prep— sometimes as early as middle school. My story:https://t.co/T8P4Ccripb
— Alice Yin (@byaliceyin) October 25, 2017
The top priority of parents who invest in test-prep courses is getting their children into a top high school – the first rung on the ladder to an Ivy League education.
The New York Times reported that one sociologist, Jennifer Lee, thinks that this mentality is motivated by “parental bragging rights”. She notes that when people move from Asia to the US, they often face a drop in status, in legal, social and professional terms. Some parents then rely on their children to regain their status through their academic achievements.
Regardless of the motivation behind academic success, the test-centers seem to be fulfilling their duty. As a result, the specialized schools in New York City are unjustly over-represented by families who can afford better quality education, according to DNA Info.
Three of the top specialized schools in New York City are now densely populated with Asian students. Stuyvesant High School is three-quarters Asian, and in Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School’s they make up over 60 percent of the student cohort. This is creating a race divide between generally wealthier white and Asian students, and less privileged black and Latino groups, says David Kirkland, executive director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools.
Kirkland claimed that in order to overcome the racial divide in New York schools, the Specialized High Schools Admission Test for the specialized schools needs to be eradicated. Testing creates a culture where the wealthier the parents are, the more educational support the child can receive, which then dictates which school they get into, reported DNA Info.
However, if specialized schools were to remove testing there would be nothing to separate them with public schools in the city. Instead, perhaps more needs to be done to tackle what DNA Info refers to as the culture of specialized schools being “opportunity monopolies” that provide “excessive privileges” for certain groups.