Asian American middle school students are developmentally caught in the middle as neither elementary nor high school students, between the black and white racial discourse (Ancheta, 1998; Ng, Lee, & Pak, 2007), and contradictory perceptions. Little attention is paid to second-or-more-generation of Asian middle school students in non-urban areas who make up the current middle school population. Therefore, the research question was: What are the perceptions of Asian American middle school students about their academic, social, and emotional viewpoints as compared: a) with their middle school peers and teachers? b) with their Caucasian peers by gender, by generation, and by grade level?
This mixed methods approach followed a concurrent triangulation design, which was a one-phase design in which surveys and focus group interviews were collected concurrently, analyzed separately, and then merged. In a suburban Midwest 6-8 middle school, 685 students and 42 teachers were surveyed about their self and group perceptions of Asian Americans during the 2010-11 school year. Seven focus groups consisting of one teacher and six student groups were interviewed to explore the academic, social, and emotional perceptions. Data obtained from the surveys were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, and interviews were coded, analyzed, and compared to formulate salient themes.
Findings revealed that Asian Americans, mostly Hmong students, had a lower academic, social, and emotional self perception than the mainly Caucasian students. The Caucasian peers and teachers perceived Asian Americans as possessing good grades overall and having a close-knit ethnic/racial group. In contrast, Asian Americans were also perceived academically lower than their Caucasian peers, isolated and treated unfairly, and possessed the lowest self-esteem. When the Asian students, especially females, reached the seventh and eighth grades, they indicated more incidences of teasing, pressure, and loneliness.
The study highlighted the academic, social, and emotional challenges of Hmong students and contributed to the growing de-mystification literature on Asians as a high-achieving, emotionally unsupported, scorned race. Implications were related to public school districts, especially middle schools, governmental agencies, families, leadership, learning, and service in bridging better understandings about educational processes and services to support Asian American middle school students.