The statistics were shocking for a culture that prizes education. The California Standardized Test scores for San Francisco public school students showed that Filipinos in 6th, 7th and 8th grades have “the highest percentage of students below ‘Basic’ among other Asian groups and whites in both English-language Arts and Math, ranging from 19% to 37%.” It doesn’t get any better. “In the 9th-11th grades, 42% of Filipino students fall in the ‘Basic’ and ‘Below Basic’ levels on the Star Math Test.”
The report, obtained from an analysis of the test scores of 3,559 Filipino students in the San Francisco Unified School District, noted that “Filipino students also have one of the highest dropout rates for all ethnic groups in the School District.”
The report on San Francisco Filipino students, part of a study of Filipino students in 10 urban communities throughout the U.S., was presented at an education workshop at the national conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) held September 25-28, at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, Wash.
A study of the Seattle School District found that “73% of Filipino students failed the science component and 55% failed the math component of the 10th grade WASL test that will be required for graduation.”
In urban communities without hard statistical data, the group interviewed Filipino parents, teachers and administrators to get information about Filipino students. The interviews, in the case of Jersey City, New Jersey, showed that “89% of them perceived Filipino students’ academic performance to be very satisfactory.” Whether parental perceptions match the reality of the students in the trenches will never be known for sure.
The National Filipino Student Study Group, convened by NaFFAA and funded by Wells Fargo, was headed by Dr. Anthony Barretto Ogilvie, executive dean of the Seattle Central Community College. Over a 10 month period, the group studied the academic records of the Filipino students in urban communities and expressed concerns about the following areas:
- 1. Filipino youth unable to participate in higher level jobs with higher incomes.
- 2. Insufficient academic preparation for Filipinos in the workplace “diminishing their preparation for the national and global economies.”
- 3. Structural and systemic deficiencies in the education system (lack of Filipino teachers, non-inclusion of Filipino content in the curriculum, absence of support for Filipino ESL students).
- 4. Minimum involvement of Filipino parents and community members in their local school systems.
- 5. Low numbers of Filipino students going on to higher education and graduating especially in the teacher education field.
- 6. The “colonial mentality” that still persists among Filipino adults and youth.
Among the recommendations of the NaFFAA study group to school administrators were:
- 1. Separate data by sub-ethnic groups.
- 2. Hire more Filipino administrators, teachers and counselors.
- 3. Add Filipino content to the curriculum.
- 4. Introduce educators to Filipino culture, history, practices and skills to work more effectively with their Filipino students.
- 5. Involve Filipino community members in their local school operations and programs.
- 6. Place Filipino teachers in leadership positions.
The NaFFAA study group urged Filipino parents to:
- 1. Learn how the American school system works and critically assess what their locals schools are doing or not doing for their children.
- 2. Increase their involvement in their local school’s activities and programs.
- 3. Know where their kids are in terms of location and Internet use.
- 4. Encourage high academic performance in their kids and support them in times of difficulty and success outside of school.
- 5. Work with other ethnic parents to ensure that their school systems meet the needs of all students.
The study group identified 502,689 Filipino students enrolled in K-12 public schools nationally, while the number of Filipino students enrolled in private schools is unknown. Only California, Hawai‘i and Washington “disaggregate” the ethnic-group population data and do so because of the immigration histories and high percentage of diverse Asian American populations.
The group shared the common perspective that “if Filipino communities are to ensure that their members do well in general, they must work together with their schools to provide an education system in which all Filipinos achieve academically.”
This study is a wake-up call for our community to understand that many of our Filipino students, especially in urban communities, are failing. Let’s wake up and do something about it.
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