Do Asians tend to be smarter than any other race or is it just a misconception?  It would be extremely hard to prove that theory that some races are genetically smarter than the others in the State of Minnesota where only 3.8% of the population in Minnesota is Asian, 4.7% is Black, and 4.3% is Hispanic; where else Caucasians is at a whopping 84.8%.  According to study, Minnesota Asian students are way below the national average in NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) score.  The high percentage of Hmong refugees living in poverty might contribute to the low NAEP score.  About 27% of Asians living in Minnesota is Hmong, 12% is Vietnamese, 7% is Laotian, 4% is Cambodian, 11% is Chinese from Mainland China, 12% is Asian India, 9% is Korean, and 6% is Filipino.  The percentage of Taiwanese living in Minnesota is too insignificant to be documented.    


Why such a low percentage of Asians living in Minnesota?  I thought that the weather is a huge contributing factor.  However, my husband thought that the low NAEP score might be the reason.  So, I did a research to find out how low our NAEP score stands among the nation.  Judging from the results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Minnesota eighth graders ranked second in the nation, trailing first-place Massachusetts by 5 points, 294 to 299, and fourth graders came in third, trailing Massachusetts and New Hampshire by 2 points and 1 point, respectively.  As for reading, eighth grade reading scores stayed at 270, eight points above the national average of 262, trailing behind three states; while fourth grade scores stayed at 223, three points above the national average of 220, trailing behind six states.  I thought that these are quite impressive results.  I argued with my husband on his statement.  It turns out that my husband meant the ranking of Minnesota high schools in the Nation.  Oh well, they aren’t among the top 100 best high schools.  According to US News & World Report, Minnesota ranked 31st out of 47 States and only 13 Minnesota high schools received a silver medalist, ranking among the top 2 percent of high schools in the nation.  I was extremely surprised to learn that our high school in one of the best school districts isn’t one of them.  I always question the criteria of those rankings.  Out of the 13 Minnesota high schools, only 2 are from the best school districts in Minnesota and the other 11 high schools are in school districts which we have never heard of.  That is quite odd.  Anyway, if you are interested in the data, these are the links.


So where are the smart Asians?  Maybe this is an egg and chicken theory.  Asians, especially the affluent Asians, prefer living in big cities and in places with warmer climates.  There is without a doubt that about 50 out of the 100 best high schools are located in the West and the South regions, with 20 in CA, 10 in FL and 11 in TX, and about 30 in the East region, with 23 in NY and 5 in NJ.  Maybe it is time to move to California.  Nay!  I still love living in this winter wonderland.  My son would be extremely sad to move to a place where he can hardly find snow and ski. 


We may be among the odd Asians who prefer living in Minnesota, a land of extremes.  Is living in Minnesota going to sacrifice the future of our kids? I wouldn’t believe so.  I still believe that our school district is one of the best school districts in Minnesota and as long as my kids are provided with quality education, they should be able to excel.      


Our school is one of the two elementary schools which provides a program within the High Potential programs for the entire school district targeting exceptionally gifted students ages 7-11 who have an I.Q. at or above 145.  The makeup of these students in our school is mostly Caucasians with one being half Chinese, one being half Arabian and one being half African.  You can’t find much diversity in our neighborhood and in our school district.  Right now, there are 19 students in this program.  To enter this program, a student must score in the 97th percentile and above on NWEAs over the last three testing sessions and grasps basic mathematics skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  The program indicated that the processing speed of these students is four times that of the average student.     


Anyway, my son is not one of them based on his NWEA scores.  He is just an average little boy.  I do think that he has an exceptional math concept though not considered to be gifted.  Why did I spend the time to find out the program?  I am just being nosy since I am acquainted with a mom whose child was admitted to this program.  The mom is a Chinese who used to invite us over to her house for dinners.  I can tell that she is very proud of her son for the Kumon’s Advanced Student Honor Roll awards that she displays in the chest.  By the way, there is an interesting story about Kumon and my son.  I was trying to scare my son into working on his homework willingly as requested by the teacher and to stop from stalling.  I told him that I was going to enroll him in Kumon and at that time he would have to spend 2 hours working on homework instead of a mere 15 minutes.  I was extremely surprised that he asked to be enrolled in Kumon.  His rationale was that he would then be smarter than other kids for the case that he saw in that boy who works ahead of his school grade level in Kumon’s Advanced Student Honor Roll.  Every once in a while, he would ask me when he could go there and start working on the 2-hour homework.  Now, I am in a dilemma.  My husband told me to just ignore him.  Oh, well, we will see how persistent he is.  Maybe he will forget about it as time goes by.  If not, I will have to find an excuse.  I didn’t realize that this would backfire.  I have to find a better threat next time.              


Back to that boy in the exceptionally gifted program, the mom told me the reason she transferred her kids to our school was that her school district spent too much time on problem kids and sacrificed the progress of other kids.  Based on her comment, I jumped to the conclusion that her school district was a bad one even though I had my doubt.  Now, I think that it might just be that her kid is exceptionally gifted to be challenged by his school district’s traditional public school education.  I still wonder why she didn’t enroll her son in their own school district’s gifted program.  Maybe her school district is indeed not a top teaching facility to be able to detect that her kid is exceptionally gifted.  For her younger son, she started even earlier.  She enrolled him as an early entrance student.  An early entrance student is one whose birthday falls between September 2nd and October 31st.  Academically, he has no problem following the school work.  He might even be an exceptionally gifted child.  However, socially, he lacks fall behind.  I have seen him on several occasions poking people with pins and drew blood.  I was somewhat terrified when he tried to poke my daughter with the pins. 

I always wonder how important it is to stay a few grade levels ahead of others and to start earlier than other.  My husband told me his own experience.  He was very good at math and was exposed to grade 7th’s math while he was still a third grader.  However, when he reached high school, he was not that much different from other kids.  Yes, you might be 2 or 4 grade level ahead of others now and you might gain the knowledge 2 or 4 years earlier than others, but in the end, will you still outperform the others?  Are you really smarter than others just because you are exposed to the concept earlier than others?  So, are Asians truly smarter than any other race just because they learn more advanced math earlier?  What is the difference in 2 or 4 years when you get to 30 or 40 years old?  Wouldn’t it then become more and more insignificant as you grow older?                


Written by Elisa English

On 1/12/2011 in Minneapolis


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