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“CRAM SCHOOLS” FIND NEW PARTICIPANTS IN URBAN AREAS: African-American, Hispanic, and Indian Students Fill Nontraditional Schools

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"Taking Lessons from Another Culture,"

In New York City, proactive parents are taking measures into their own hands in an effort to better prepare their children for life after high school. According to an October 20 article by Michael Luo in the New York Times, “Taking Lessons from Another Culture,” a growing number of non-Asian parents are enrolling their children in so-called cram schools largely created (and marketed toward) Asian children. In Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, competition for college entrance is remarkably more intense than in the United States. In an effort to gain a leg up on the competition, many parents place their children in cram schools. From third grade through high school, and meeting after school, on weekends, and during the summer, cram schools focus on rigid discipline and rote memorization, and typically prepare students for specific tests. In New York, those tests are the SAT and the entrance examinations to select area high schools.

Luo writes that about a quarter of students at Elite Academy, a Korean cram school in Flushing, New York, were neither Korean nor Chinese. Instead, students’ ethnic backgrounds ranged from Indian and Greek to Hispanic and African-American. Similar percentages were reported by Bayside Academy, a Korean cram school in Queens, and Mega Academy in Flushing. Cram schools are popular among non-Asian populations not only because of their cost-they offer much more classroom time than traditional SAT prep classes at the same price-but also because of their success in getting students into prestigious colleges. Elite, for example, has placed high school seniors at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, among others.

In an article for the St. Petersburg Times, Bill Maxwell writes that his cousin, Shirley Harrell, has been sending her sons to a Korean cram school for the past two years and appreciates the work ethic it offers. “A lot of people, even some of our kinfolks, told me I was pushing my kids too hard,” she says. “I told them to get lost. When people don’t understand what you’re doing, you have to shut them out and do what you know is right. My kids don’t complain. They love making good grades. They really want to study hard.” The effects of the cram school are seen in Ms. Harrell’s sons’ report card. Before enrolling in the school, they made C’s and the occasional B. Now they make all A’s and B’s.

“Black Families Open Up, Cram Education In”: http://www.sptimes.com/2003/10/22/Columns/Black_families_open_u.shtml

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