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Model Minority? In St. Paul, Asian-American Test Scores Lag

Public school officials in St. Paul, Minnesota are learning first hand that the “Model Minority” image of Asian Americans indeed is a myth.

According to school records, Asian Americans, the largest racial group in the St. Paul schools have impeccable attendance records and the fewest suspensions. But in the important benchmark of standardized testing, those same students are falling far short compared to the district average.

City data showed Asian American kids are less proficient in math -- 38 percent pass the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) vs. 59 percent of Asian American kids statewide, and similarly lag in reading -- 29 percent pass MCAs vs. 51 percent of Asian Americans statewide.

The city's Asian-American ACT scores are the lowest compared to other racial groups in the district. Asian Americans comprise more than 30 percent of the district, and nearly two-thirds are from the Hmong and the Karen refugee communities.

School board member Chue Vue believes they have been hurt by educators’ presumption of the “Model Minority” stereotype.

“I think it definitely plays a role,” Vue told NBC News. “If you talk to teachers, staff, and administrators, people tend to think, ‘Oh my god, Hmong kids are doing great,’ …yet if you dig deeper…when you look at standardized testing, they’re not doing great.”

Vue, who is a Hmong American, asked for the data to be compiled after sensing teachers were overlooking some students' needs.

“If you look at the reading scores for Hmong, 26 percent read at grade level," he said, "but that means 74 percent are not.”

"Our Asian kids are the majority, the largest population," Vue continued, "but we’ve been talking about African American, Latino and American Indians before we talk about Hmong kids and other Asian kids."