Understanding Asian American Student Achievement

Added August 3, 2018

The purpose of this study was to examine how the networks and empowerment of Asian immigrant parents were related to their children’s academic performance using a large national dataset (i.e., the PFI-NHES: 2007). This study used a parent empowerment framework (Kim, 2012; Kim & Bryan, 2017), which conceptualized parent empowerment as having six components, that is, parents’ sense of meaning, consciousness, competence, self-determination, community belonging, and community participation. We found that the competence and parent networks of Asian immigrant parents was positively related to academic achievement, meaning that when parents feel competent in helping their children with their education their children perform better academically. Further, the current study suggests that parents’ competence reinforces and supports parents’ network building and that both parents’ competence and networks work together for children’s academic success; that is, when Asian immigrant parents feel competent, they seek out other parents (i.e., networks) to help their children succeed. Interestingly, when Asian immigrant parents were in contact with the school counselor, their children had poorer academic outcomes, which indicates Asian parents seek out the school counselor when their children are struggling. The results also suggest that parent empowerment may benefit Asian immigrant parents who do not have the parent networks that give more connected Asian parents access to resources and information that affect their children’s academic achievement. Indeed, parent empowerment may reverse the negative consequences of not having such parent networks for Asian immigrant parents.

Overall, the findings suggest that parent empowerment may be an important counseling and education approach to helping Asian immigrant parents who seek help from the school. School counselors can play a pivotal role in helping Asian American children who are performing poorly so that their parents are not left to solely seek help from other parent and community networks. Indeed, taken together, this study’s findings guide school counselors to think about culturally responsive interventions and strategies to work with Asian immigrant families whose children may need academic support, especially those Asian immigrant parents who do not benefit from selective immigration policies, such as those who have refugee or asylum status. One crucial step school counselors can take is to facilitate welcoming school climates as a perquisite for parent empowerment so that Asian American students and their families feel that they can rely on the counselors’ help if they need it. School counselors’ efforts to work with Asian parents should focus on promoting parents’ competence to support their children in schools. Further, school counselors can implement empowerment focused interventions; for example, parent empowerment helps parents recognize and increase their own competence to help their children before moving forward to network building. Coupled with enhancing parents’ competence, school counselors can facilitate parent networks that translate their competence into feasible and tangible ways of enhancing their children’s positive academic outcomes. School counselors can encourage Asian parents to build parent networks (by hosting parent support groups and parent empowerment workshops) that facilitate the exchange of valuable education-related resources, regardless of socio-economic status backgrounds or community type (i.e., rural or urban), particularly between resource-rich parents and those who are under-resourced.

Some Asian immigrant parents or parents who feel disempowered in their children’s educational process may find it difficult to connect with other parents, decreasing their chances of benefiting from parent networks. School counselors can serve as institutional agents to isolated or low-income Asian immigrant parents who need support and basic information to help their children succeed in schools. For instance, school counselors can build relationships and partner with existing Asian co-ethnic networks (e.g., church and other faith-based leaders, community leaders, tutors of supplementary education programs), especially in low-income or neighborhoods, to connect parents to networks with tangible resources and social support conducive to their children’s academic success.



Jungnam Kim, PhD, Julia Bryan, PhD, Younyoung Choi, PhD, Ji Hyun Kim, PhD