To support AAPSU's list of demands to promote Asian American inclusivity in Montgomery County, please sign the following petition: change.org
Note: The following document explains what exactly AAPSU is hoping Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) can implement and change in their education system in order to better support Asian American student success. Besides reading the following post, you can alternatively read the demands list through this document link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16xpvdp-OCqDKiKS-7IrnSZ2_a9lsAsC1oD8bRAZuMwY/edit?usp=sharing
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Asian American Student Demands:
How MCPS can support Asian American student success
Montgomery County Council
Montgomery County Board of Education
Montgomery County Public Schools community
Montgomery County community
We, the members of the Montgomery County Asian American Progressive Student Union, have written a list alongside our Asian American peers of demands for inclusivity and equality in our educational experiences. We implore Montgomery County Public Schools to take these into account to make the school system a more inclusive and welcoming community. We acknowledge the actions taken thus far at school and administrative levels, but it is important to hear perspectives coming directly from Asian American students so we can improve on these existing solutions.
We request a response from the recipients of this list detailing the measures being taken to address our demands.
Asian American Studies/Curriculum Inclusion
Asian American students have continuously expressed that they feel “invisible” partly because of their invisibility in the school curriculum. Although the MCPS student population is 14.1% Asian American, many of our Asian American students do not see themselves reflected in the Social Studies or English curricula. Although we applaud MCPS for developing an Asian American Studies course, Asian American perspectives must be incorporated outside of an elective class and in the compulsory history and English curricula. We propose that the MCPS Curriculum Office form a task force including Asian American students and teachers that focuses on including Asian American perspectives from all backgrounds into K-12 curricula.
The students we consulted have read only two works by Asian American authors in their English classes. Beyond a diversified reading list, English teachers must actively utilize strategies to incorporate these texts in the classroom such as literature circles.
While we appreciate MCPS’ commitment to diversification in its core texts offered, there is a noticeable absence of literature written by Southeast Asian authors when there are large numbers of Filipino and Vietnamese students in the school system. To combat the model minority myth, MCPS must properly represent our Southeast Asian students and the unique issues that they face in English curricula by including novels such as those recommended by the University of Washington’s Southeast Asia Center.
Students have reported that there is little to no mention of Asian Americans in Social Studies curricula other than the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese American internment. At Wootton High School, a school with around 40% Asian-American students, no books by Asian American authors are taught in a majority of the English classes.
Furthermore, empowerment and intersectionality in civil rights must be emphasized in the common curriculum. Beyond the Vietnam War, Asian American civil rights movements are not taught in classrooms, and neither are the roles of different racial groups in the Civil Rights Movement.
For example, the Supreme Court case Tape v. Hurley seems to be missing from the curriculum, despite its groundbreaking ruling that allowed an Asian American child to attend a white school before the ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.
Rather than solely teaching Asian American students about their oppression, it is important that they feel empowered in learning aspects of their history. Students must learn about not only the challenges that their ancestors have faced, but also their successes in modern events such as the Civil Rights Movement. Teachers must strive to include racially and ethnically diverse Asian American perspectives and non-stereotypical portrayals in their lessons and receive the instructional resources to do so. This is not a quota but a strong suggestion to keep in mind for curriculum planning.
The discipline of Asian American Studies, which studies the experiences of those within the Asian diaspora within the United States, is an entirely different field from Asian/Ethnic Studies. Including lessons about the Asian continent is not an appropriate substitute for lessons about Asian Americans.
Asian Americans are often seen as a monolithic group, despite consisting of 48 different nationalities and even more ethnicities. AAPI immigrants in the United States “are composed of more than 50 different ethnic groups, speaking hundreds of different languages.” Different communities within the Asian American umbrella also face different problems, for instance educational disparities, that are often overlooked. For this reason, we urge MCPS to include Asian Americans from a variety of backgrounds, such as South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, West Asian, and Pacific Islanders, in each of their initiatives to benefit the Asian American population.
Asian American students report that they are oftentimes lumped into two groups–either being seen as “Chinese” if they are East or Southeast Asian or “Indian” if they are South Asian. This overlooks each ethnicity’s unique cultural and socioeconomic differences.
MCPS must specifically examine the needs of underrepresented Asian American populations; Southeast Asians, Central Asians, West Asians, and Pacific Islanders must be reflected in educational inclusion, data collection/disaggregation, and funding support.
The 2015 American Community Survey’s estimates of the educational attainment of Asian-Americans’ over the age of 25 in Montgomery County, MD have approximated that while 28% of Chinese-Americans and 42% of Korean-Americans have not received a bachelor’s degree or higher, 62% of Vietnamese-Americans, 66% of Cambodian-Americans, and 78% of Burmese-Americans have not received a bachelor’s degree or higher. It is clear that our Southeast Asian students have been overlooked in the school district despite there being significant disparities between them and their East Asian counterparts.
The exclusion of underrepresented Asian-Americans from the achievement gap has worsened the impacts of the model minority myth. By grouping together Asian-American students of different backgrounds, MCPS is at risk of distorting the academic performance of underrepresented students and overlooking significant disparities during benchmark reviews.
MCPS must also examine their use of the term “AAPI” and ensure that material geared towards AAPI students is inclusive of the diversity within Asia as well as cognizant of the unique lived experiences of Pacific Islanders.
Professional development and teacher education
Given the rise in anti-Asian American hate, administration and teachers need to be proactive to prevent, stop, and address anti-Asian American hate in schools.
Students report that, despite facing microaggressions and racial bias from other students, their teachers have largely ignored the problem and failed to address the perpetrators.
Teachers and mental health workers should be placed in cultural competency training for a minimum of three months. Culture is broad and encompasses thousands of ethnicities, and time must be put in to ensure that everyone is able to understand that as well as make themselves safe spaces for students to express their sentiments.
We look forward to footage from our listening session being incorporated into professional development about the Asian American student experience. However, we need a better system of professional development and training about Asian American students so that all teachers are able to access this information. These initiatives must be funded and sustainable and include Asian American students and teachers at every step of the process.
This includes continued and comprehensive trainings/workshops about diversity and approaching conversations about race/identity, and creating facilitator guides for teachers and administrators to refer to.
A comprehensive review of the results of the Anti-Racist System Audit must be completed, and actionable steps must be considered in conjunction with student input.
Asian American issues are often “invisible” in the classroom and in the greater school community, and are excluded from conversations around racial equity. Given the current wave of anti-Asian American violence, this “invisibility” is more harmful than ever since students need a space to talk to one another and process these events. Asian American students require their teachers to create space for discussion in the classroom about Asian American issues. Students note that this is far more effective than initiating peer to peer conversations.
Following the shooting in Atlanta in March 2021, in which six Asian American women were killed, Asian American students rarely heard any mention of what had happened in their classrooms, even though teachers discussed other events, particularly the Capitol insurrection in the past.
The shooting in Fedex in Indianapolis was linked to white supremacy, and four out of eight victims were Sikh Indians. This shooting received less media coverage, and even less discussion in classrooms.
Schools must build and encourage connections with Asian American school clubs and leadership groups. These clubs should be consulted when developing programming around Asian American issues, for example, organizing heritage month celebrations, hosting town halls, or having speakers visit during Homeroom periods.
The current environment around anti-Asian American racial violence has taken a negative toll on Asian American students’ mental health, which is exacerbated by the lack of support around the issue. In addition to discussion and processing space, schools must maintain long-term culturally competent mental health resources for all students, especially Asian American students. Expanding counseling and psychological services is extremely important and lists should be provided of diverse extracurricular mental health workers.
Cultural competency includes versing workers in tolerance of alternate cultures, recognition of varying ethnicities and struggles, acknowledgement of privilege, and the importance of remaining open to all belief systems. It includes a prioritization of creating safe spaces for students if shared experiences aren’t present, and also a prioritization of humility and recognizing faults.
The national suggestion is 250 students for every one counselor and at most 700 students for every school psychologist. However, the national average is 424:1 for school counselors and 1211:1 for school psychologists.
In Maryland, the ratio between student to school counselor is 356:1 for school counselors and 1147:1for school psychologists. For Montgomery County, it is a 1790:1 school psychologist ratio.
MCPS must create a better system for students to report racism/hate incidents in schools. It must be made more accessible overall and should be clearer to students for where they need to report incidents. Teachers must be active in reporting incidents and the burden should not be on the students. Once hate incidents are reported, schools must take a transformative approach that does not rely on law enforcement or exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. We encourage intervention from Asian American student organizations, counseling departments, Asian American teachers and staff, and administrators. The student body, parents, staff, etc. all deserve to know about said incidents and be able to provide input regarding accountability measures.
According to numbers from the 2020-2021 school year, 16.3% of all MCPS students are enrolled in ESOL programs. ESOL students must be given the proper support to fully participate in school activities. These include translation services and expansion on the meaning of each activity.
Schools must ensure the consistent availability of language translator and interpreter services in documents and parent-faculty meetings.
School-wide programs and initiatives for developing and fostering climates of cultural competency and sensitivity are critical for every single MCPS school. It is essential to remember that anti-Asian racism is not an issue with individual classrooms but with schoolwide cultures.
Staffing and hiring
There needs to be an increase in the number of AAPI teachers working in Montgomery County. Underrepresentation is prevalent beyond just invisibility in the media, and students deserve teachers who they have shared experiences with. Recruitment should target cities and locations with high AAPI populations and AANAPISIs: Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.
Especially in Social Studies and English classes, AAPI students should feel comfortable reflecting on their own identities. They need to have AAPI teachers they can turn to during these difficult processes.
More counselors and administrators of color need to be employed in MCPS because they serve as a direct link between students and the quality of their education at the school level. It is of utmost importance that students of color feel comfortable reaching out to counseling and administration, especially when faced with racially charged issues that may warrant disciplinary measures beyond the classroom. The best way to ensure their comfort is to ensure that someone with similar experiences and racial identity is able to understand their struggles and trauma.
Beyond just an increase in hiring, currently employed AAPI teachers must receive more support. They hold the burden of being many AAPI students’ main source of community and cultural understanding in schools, and should be competently supported in this role.
A lack of diversity in staff has contributed to unwelcoming atmospheres for students of color who lack trusted adults they know will understand their experiences. Consequently, many of these students have to turn to the same few teachers of color.
MCPS must support teachers of color by creating safe and welcoming school environments. While rightful emphasis is placed on this for students, teachers of color are also able to feel alienated by white coworkers.
Additionally, all educators should aim to foster cross racial dialogues and spaces among teachers and students. It is important to establish a mutual understanding or alliance surrounding race in these environments, especially when dealing with children and teens who are struggling with their identities surrounding race and allyship.
Funding and support for student and community organizations
There is a lack of AAPI student organizations in MCPS. There must be county-wide support for increased involvement in educational opportunities for AAPI students so that all students have access to safe forums filled with peers with shared experiences and communities.
Advocacy opportunities such as town halls and hearings focused on hearing AAPI issues should be held in order to give AAPI students in MCPS a place to speak about their experiences in a comfortable setting. Additionally, Students should be given resources in schools about organizations they can get involved in, including translated materials for ESOL students.
AAPI community members must be included in all county workgroups and initiatives. Asian American organizations should not have to insert themselves into county initiatives aiming for representation. Room for Asian American organizations should be allocated from the beginning, hence why we recommend MCPS to strengthen connections with the following Asian American community organizations:
Asian American LEAD
Asian American Progressive Student Union
IMPACT Silver Spring
We encourage the development of a Pacific Islander community and/or student organization so that the needs of the entire AAPI community can be fully and accurately addressed.
We are glad that MCPS is taking steps to elevate the voices of Asian American students. However, there is far more that the county needs to do to engage Asian American students in initiatives, policies, and programming that relates to our communities. Student inclusion must last far longer than Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in order for change to happen, and for MCPS to demonstrate that they truly value the diversity in our community. It must begin earlier in education as well, rather than just in high school. Foundational understandings of cultural competency and awareness are essential for building a diverse, welcoming, and comfortable community.
Asian American Progressive Student Union (AAPSU)
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