Asian American High Schools in Top 25 List for SAT/ACT Scores

8a-testWhen Number One Son took an SAT prep course in Fremont last summer, I looked at the kids coming out of the class and saw nothing but Asian kids.  Curious, I asked him some questions:

“Do any white kids go there?
“Yes.  David.”
“Where do most of these kids go to school?”
“Mission San Jose.”

It turns out that Mission San Jose, a majority Asian high school in Fremont, California, made it on a list of the top 25 US high schools by SAT and ACT scores.    Nine high schools with large Asian American student populations, some of which we have talked about,  are in that top 25.

The number one high school for standardized tests is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, which has an Asian American plurality.  A number of these schools are in Silicon Valley, such as  the Harker School (#2), Lynbrook, (#7), Henry M. Gunn  (#12), Monta Vista (#15), Mission San Jose (#18), and Leland (#20).    Some of these like Monte Vista, Lynbrook, and Mission San Jose have Asian American majorities, while the others have very large Asian American student populations.  Stuyvesant (#4) in New York and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (#11) both have Asian American majorities.  8asians has talked about Mission San Jose and Cupertino (where Monta Vista is) schools on a number of occasions.

Does performance on standardized tests mean that those schools are doing a good job?

It’s been argued that these kind of tests correlate to family income more than anything.  Some of these schools, like Mission San Jose, Leland, Monta Vista, Lynbrook, and Gunn are in very wealthy areas where parents can afford test prep classes.  In some of those places, housing prices are affected by standardized test scores! There are a number of heavily Asian American schools with many low income students that do not make the list, which I think strengthens that point.

It has also been argued that these kind of standardized tests stunt intellectual growth.  As an alumni college admissions interviewer, I have talked to a number of Asian American students from a number of  these schools.  Almost all did not fit the stereotype of a one dimensional student focusing only on academics.  Then again, those students were from a self selected sample.

Why are so many heavily Asian American schools on the list?

I think it is from a number of factors.  Income correlation, a background of testing culture, and the desire for parents to improve whatever that they can control (can’t affect admissions policies so might as well focus on what you can affect) are driving test scores for many (but not all) Asian Americans.  Also, some of the high schools listed require standardized tests to get into them in the first place, so students have to be good at standardized tests to get there.  It remains to be seen how much of factor these standardized tests will actually be in college and even high school admissions, given the push toward holistic admissions.  Thomas Jefferson and Stuyvesant have each been sued for their test dependent admissions policies.


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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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