Given its exploratory nature, the reader should be cautious in attempting to generalize the
findings from this study to other schools or ethnic groups. This study sought to provide some
insight to the unique issues impacting the Cambodian American youth, whose experiences and
perceptions may be different from those of other students. The study took place in an urban high
school in Southern California with a high concentration of Cambodian students. A small
purposive sample was used to target stakeholders who would be the best informants, but may not
be representative of the entire school staff or student population. We also focused our sampling
to ninth graders.
The lead author (Tang) is a Cambodian American female, who as a young child, fled
Cambodia with her family and eventually settled in the U.S. in the 1980s. Her background and
experience may have introduced bias into the data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
However, we should note that her background and understanding of Cambodian culture also
helped the students to feel more comfortable during the interview. The second author (Kao), a
U.S.-born Taiwanese American male, was involved with the data analysis and interpretation; his
own experience growing up as an Asian American with immigrant parents should also be noted.
Key Findings and Discussion
The purpose of this study was to explore the roles that gender and ethnicity play in the academic
achievement of Cambodian American high school students, drawing information from the
students themselves, their teachers, and school administrators. This section highlights several key
themes that arose from the interviews: gender and ethnic congruence between staff and student
population, ethnicity in the classroom, ethnicity and peer relationships, parental involvement,
and familial expectations.
Gender and Ethnic Congruence Between Staff and Student Population
The gender distribution of the staff seemed to be representative of the student population. During
the 2007-08 school year, there were slightly more female students than male students enrolled at
the school; this was also the case across each grade level. According to the district’s Research,
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