Asian American high school students more likely to feel alienated and invisible, report reveals


A recent study on the experiences of Asian American high school students in Boston has found that they are more likely to feel overlooked and marginalized than other students.

The researchers compared survey results from six Boston Public School (BPS) high schools where at least 10% of students were Asian American and found that although Asian American students generally performed well academically, many felt isolated and disconnected socially.

The report, “Truth from Youth: The Asian American Experience in BPS High Schools,” was commissioned by the Massachusetts Asian American Educators Association and led by former BPS teacher Go Sasaki and retired education researcher Rosann Tung.

In order to compare the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups, Sasaki and Tung used results from the school district’s 2018-2019 school climate survey, which is an annual assessment of student engagement, relationships with peers and teachers, safety and academic stress.

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“The dominant narrative out there in Boston Public Schools, as well as many other places, is that Asian students are doing fine. Based on our experiences and anecdotes, we know that is not the case,” Sasaki revealed.

On Saturday, Asian American BPS students spoke out about their experiences of feeling disconnected from their school at a public event where the researchers also revealed their findings.

Many of the students shared feeling isolated from their schools because they perceived the curriculum as not relevant to their cultural background, which made it difficult to connect with other students. Additionally, they expressed concerns about the lack of Asian American teachers in their schools.

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During the event, Linda Chen, a senior deputy superintendent of academics at BPS, pointed out that the situation has not changed much since her high school experience decades ago and emphasized that hiring more Asian American teachers is of “critical importance.”

“We don’t just need more Asian teachers,” Tung voiced. “We need all educators to understand and care about the Asian experience.”

The report also details cases where the identities of Asian American students have been disrespected.

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It highlights instances such as teachers asking students to pick “normal” names, female students being exoticized and teachers assuming that Asian students do not need academic help.

In addition to presenting first-hand accounts of such behaviors and underscoring the negative impact they have on the school experiences of students, Sasaki and Tung offer recommendations for educators in their report. With these suggestions, the researchers aim to create a more inclusive environment in hopes that Asian American students will feel more supported in the future.

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