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It all started when…

Dr. Punita Chhabra Rice was conducting research at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and she stumbled onto the issue of low teacher cultural proficiency related to South Asian American students. Since Dr. Rice’s background is the classroom, she was not too surprised by this; she knew that teachers believed something called the model minority myth.

While she knew, from her own experiences growing up as a South Asian American student, that teachers’ low cultural proficiency related to these students could result in some of their needs being overlooked (as a student, Rice did not fit the model minority stereotype), she knew there was no data to support how or why this was explicitly harmful to the students.

After all, on paper, many members of this population — herself included — seemed to perform fairly well academically and many had positive career outcomes. Thus, it seemed there was no obvious or measurable negative impact caused by teachers’ low cultural proficiency (and the lack of support students might receive as a result). However, the more she uncovered, the more widespread the low cultural proficiency appeared, and the more disconcerting its potential impact on students’ experiences seemed to be. Eventually, Rice’s research culminated in a full mixed methods survey of South Asian American adults, and delved into their feelings of being supported, their perceptions of teachers’ cultural proficiency, and their sense of connectedness to school, and revealed that South Asian American students do in fact, experience a measurable and negative impact from teachers’ low cultural proficiency.

Improving South Asian American students’ experiences became central to Dr. Rice’s research, and became the mission of what would eventually become the organization now known as ISAASE – Improving South Asian American Students’ Experiences.

The work of ISAASE began in earnest in 2014, as Dr. Rice’s findings first began to demonstrate consistent themes across findings reported by teachers, cultural proficiency advocates, and South Asian Americans themselves. ISAASE was formally established as an organization in Maryland in 2017,¬†after Dr. Rice’s dissertation work through Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education was approved.

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The Data

Read about the data behind the mission of ISAASE.

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