This is a product of the Civic Engagement Committee of the National Agenda
It was seventh grade and my class was getting our math tests back. I had been sick the whole week before the test and missed the whole unit, but had stayed up really late the night before to make sure I was caught up. When the teacher handed back the tests, I learned I had only gotten 1 question wrong. This resulted in me getting the highest score on the test. The teacher announced this to the class while handing the test back to me and patted me on the back. Everyone at my table asked me how on earth I could have pulled that off knowing that I had missed the whole unit that week. Before I had a chance to answer, someone said, “It’s because he’s Asian.”
That person attributed my high test score to my ethnicity rather than my hard work. One of the stems of this mindset was the cover article of TIME Magazine’s August 31st, 1987 issue titled “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids.” The cover article paints a picture of the model minority citing statistics of high academic achievement and high university acceptance rates.
The Pew Social & Demographic Trends Research Center published on June 19, 2012 “The Rise of Asian Americans” and paints yet another picture of Asian-American success.
“Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success”
As wonderful as these statistics may seem, they can also act as a double-edged sword for disadvantaged subgroups in the community. There are still systematic barriers that are being camouflaged by these overrepresented statistics and preconceptions. Later on in the same article they discuss the differences between such communities mentioning briefly that “Americans with Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and “other U.S. Asian”6 origins have a higher poverty rate than does the U.S. general public, while those with Indian, Japanese and Filipino origins have lower rates.”
Some numbers from the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center’s Statistics on Southeast Asians (adapted from the American Community Survey) provide a less cheerful version of Asian-American success. Although the overall U.S rate of poverty is currently 15.3% and Asian-Americans overall is 12.4%, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese-Americans are sitting respectively at 21.6%, 27.3%, 16.4% and 15.2%. These rates for Southeast Asians are all higher than their East Asian and South Asian counterparts. On top of that, while the US overall rate of high school graduates or higher is 85.6% and the Asian-American overall rate is 85.9%, the Vietnamese-American overall rate for high school graduates or higher is currently at 69.8%. Without breaking down these numbers, the hidden narratives would remain unidentified and unaddressed,
On May 4, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a Request for Information (RFI), announcing that it is seeking to gather and share information about practices and policies regarding existing education data systems that disaggregate data on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student populations.
Why disaggregate the data? How will this help the Vietnamese/Southeast Asian American community?
As community advocates, we know how the needs of Vietnamese/Southeast Asian-American students have been masked due to the lumping of all students as “Asian.” For example, according to the US Census 2010, 37 percent of Cambodian-Americans, 38 percent of Hmong-Americans, 33 percent of Laotian-Americans, and 29 percent of Vietnamese-Americans over 25 years of age had less than a high school education. However, most schools in the U.S. do not provide disaggregated data on Asian American students making it difficult to identify the needs of Vietnamese/Southeast Asian students at the K-12 level. With disaggregated data, schools would better recognize the needs of our students, and could better direct resources to Asian-American students who need it most.
To show our support for data disaggregation, UNAVSA is joining the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and other AAPI organizations in signing a letter expressing our support.
What You Can Do
1. Go to www.regulations.gov
2. Enter ED-2012-OESE-0009 in the search bar.
3. Click the blue “comment now” button on the right side of the first entry listed to access the comment submission form.
4. You can submit a comment on the importance of data disaggregation or
5. Cut and paste your responses from the template for Community Member Comment found here and submit.
How will these comments help the data disaggregation?
The Department of Education needs to receive a critical mass of comments to take this issue seriously. To make sure that ED follow-through with their commitment to support data disaggregation, we need to submit comments to highlight our demand for data disaggregation, and our recommendations on data practices that need to happen to better serve our students!
For more information, please contact Quyen Dinh at email@example.com or Eric Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the first in a series of blogs and materials that will be delivered by the Civic Engagement Committee of the National Agenda and will eventually be fully integrated into VSAcademy (launching July 1). UNAVSA hopes this information and accompanying materials will better assist your organization in presenting relevant civic engagement topics to your local organizations. This series aims to provide pertinent information on how North American Vietnamese communities are affected by democratic structures and other organizing in their surrounding environment. The information should prompt not only a better understanding of these systems, but also to be actively engaged in them.