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The Vietnamese community has a strong presence in the majority white Denver Metro area. Persons of Asian descent make up 4% of the Metro population and of that a quarter are Vietnamese (US Census, 2017). The minority population of the United States is growing significantly (Frey, 2018), and as such it is even more important to understand the elements unique to minorities in schools in terms of school psychology and culturally and linguistically diverse assessments, and, for the purposes of this paper, the Vietnamese community specifically.
Cultural and linguistic diversity needs to be considered in term of assessment of Vietnamese students in schools. When assessing students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, it is important to administer a Linguistic Background and Acculturation Questionnaire before any other assessments to understand the impact that linguistic and cultural components may have on any future evaluation of the student (Kranzler & Floyd, 2013).
Additionally, in further attempts to avoid bias during assessments for culturally and linguistically diverse students, the results from the Acculturation Questionnaire would determine whether or not it is appropriate to administer only nonverbal assessment tests that are less likely to be swayed by cultural or linguistic factors (Kranzler & Floyd, 2013). The use of a translator may be necessary for certain assessments, but this calls into question the validity of the tests when administered with a translator, as not all English words have a direct translation to other languages and so it would not be standardized in the same way (Kranzler & Floyd, 2013). Considering the potential cultural and linguistic differences amongst the Vietnamese community compared to the norm groups for standard assessment tests, a varied approach using multiple methods of assessment may help to offset some of the cultural influences if they are found to be present (Kranzler & Floyd, 2013).
When working with students from other cultures there are important differences for school psychologists to keep in mind. Whereas many of the minority groups in the United States are plagued with overtly negative stereotypes, the most common stereotype associated with Asian-Americans is the “Model Minority Myth,” which is more subtly negative (Nguyen, 2014). Many Asian-Americans are grouped together under this umbrella with no regard for their individual ethnic differences, and held under the same high-achieving minority ideal of a student who does not require academic assistance and easily achieves success (Nguyen, 2014). While some minority students, such as African-American students, are punished more severely in schools than white students for comparable behavior because of negative stereotypes associated with African-Americans (Milner, 2013), Asian-American students are more likely to be overlooked when needing extra assistance or tutoring in schools since needing extra academic assistance goes against the Model Minority stereotype (Nguyen, 2014). While being overlooked in schools in terms of needing extra assistance is not an overtly negative stereotype, this myth has quieter negative effects on the Asian-American student population. Failure to live up to the Model Minority Myth can produce negative sentiments in afflicted students such as feelings of inferiority, embarrassment and shame, and can create obstacles for students needing academic support if they feel they will not be taken seriously or feel as though they should not need to ask for help (Nguyen, 2014).
Within this context, many students of Vietnamese ethnicity have added layers of obstacles to sift through. After the Vietnam War, the United States experienced a large influx of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s, resulting in today’s Vietnamese students mostly being second or third generation immigrants (Nguyen, 2014). As one of the largest ethnic groups within Asian-Americans, Vietnamese are also one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the entire United States (Han & Lee, 2011). It is common for the first-generation Vietnamese immigrants to have experienced significant trauma after the Vietnam War, and coming from a collectivist society that highly values family relations, this has the potential to impact today’s students as well (Han & Lee, 2011).
In terms of Asian ethnic groups, Southeast Asians rank the lowest on scales of educational attainment, are still affected by the Model Minority Myth, and may be experiencing trickle-down effects of war trauma from older generations (Nguyen, 2014). The stress from some of these effects can be mitigated by strong and sustained peer and parental relations, but Vietnamese students in the United States have higher rates of psychological issues in general when compared to other Asian ethnic groups (Han & Lee, 2011). This ties into the importance of family and community in collectivist cultures such as Vietnamese culture, and shows how crucial family-school partnerships are in particular for Vietnamese-American students who may be suffering from these factors.
Vietnamese students in the United States are in a unique position that does not always receive adequate attention. The majority of Vietnamese families in America are second or third generation immigrants whose older generation may still carry effects of trauma from the Vietnam War, and as a collectivist society family and community are of increased importance so it is possible that this trauma still affects current students (Han & Lee, 2011). Although Vietnamese students are among the Southeast Asians who are a minority in higher educational institutions, as Asians they still suffer from the Model Minority Myth stereotype in America that casts them as a high-achieving minority group of whom easy success is expected (Nguyen, 2014). Considering these factors in a school setting, it is important for school psychologists to reach out to Asian students, and in particular Vietnamese students, who may need additional academic support. It is also important to work with the cultural awareness that these students likely have a collectivist mentality, and so would benefit especially from the inclusion of their family and community when problem-solving academic issues, as well as approaching assessments through a culturally and linguistically diverse lens (Kranzler & Floyd, 2013).
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