Realizing that education is the road to a better life for immigrants from all countries, AALDEF provides legal assistance to parents and students asserting their rights to equal educational opportunities. We also conduct extensive community education and community organizing support across the country in places such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Our educational equity work is conducted in tandem with local community groups with whom we partner to build capacity and who help us keep abreast of local developments and movements for social change. The issues we focus on reflect the diversity of Asian American communities and the broad range of issues affecting these communities. Some of our priority areas include:
English Language Learner Programming
Despite research showing that bilingual education is most effective at promoting the academic success of English Language Learners (ELLs), school districts across the country are moving toward mainstreaming and English immersion programs. Such problems are exacerbated by a lack of linguistically and culturally proficient school staff who are able to serve diverse Asian American communities. AALDEF works with ELLs and their parents to protect their educational rights through direct representation and policy advocacy.
Exposure to diversity is one of the most important parts of education. From kindergarten on, we don't only take one subject or read one author or learn one perspective. Diversity is also necessary in breaking down the racial stereotypes that Asian Americans face throughout their educational and professional lives. Now that Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the United States, it's more important than ever that Asian American students are equipped to be leaders in a global workforce. AALDEF works to ensure that all Asian American students have access to a high quality public school education in a diverse, racially and economically integrated setting.
Across the country, ELLs and their limited English proficient parents experience difficulty accessing interpretation and translation to which they have a legal right. AALDEF works to enforce these rights through direct representation and policy advocacy.
Zero tolerance procedures are rapidly transforming inner city schools into little more than low security prisons. Much has been documented about the negative effect of such policies on African American and Latino students, but little has been said about their effect on Asian American students. Community reports, however, indicate that Southeast Asian youth are subjected to gang profiling while South Asian and Muslim students face post 9/11 terrorist profiling. AALDEF defends students facing racial profiling in disciplinary proceedings and conducts policy advocacy to end these abuses.
Racial harassment of Asian American students - in particular vulnerable recent immigrants - is a growing problem across the country. Stereotypes of Asians as smart, but quiet and unlikely to fight back, make students of all Asian backgrounds appear to be easy targets. Post 9/11 tensions have also sparked peer harassment of South Asian and Muslim students. AALDEF works with victims of anti-Asian harassment to protect their rights and advocate for systemic reforms.
The No Child Left Behind Act and other high stakes testing measures are pushing our public schools to focus unduly on the artificial accountability of test scores. Fearful of penalties for poor student performance, some schools encourage struggling students to drop out rather than invest extra time to help them succeed. Other schools simply fail to intervene with truant students, allowing them to fall so far behind that they eventually drop out. AALDEF works to document these problems and advocate on behalf of students targeted by these draconian measures.
The school to prison pipeline funnels "problem" students from school discipline and truancy proceedings into the juvenile justice system. As a result, there is an increased likelihood of criminal justice contact for out of school youth. This makes all too evident the need for effective public education advocacy to include an examination of juvenile justice policy. To this end, AALDEF advocates for more rehabilitative and less punitive juvenile justice policies.
National Asian American Advocates Network
The National Asian American Education Advocates Network (NAAEA Network) is a broad collaborative of direct service providers, youth and parent organizers, education lawyers, policy advocates, youth development workers, and community based organizations that work with and for the Asian American community across the country.
The NAAEA Network believes in the basic human right to education for all young people. All youth deserve an equal and just opportunity to learn and realize their greatest potential. In particular, we seek to ensure that this right is guaranteed and protected for Asian American youth, an extremely diverse community with specific challenges that often go unaddressed. The Asian American community encompasses a wide range of histories and struggles; many different ethnicities and languages; immigrants, refugees, and native-born people; and families of every economic and academic level of achievement. We aim to acknowledge this diversity in our targeted work, and address the often overlooked needs of our youth.
Download the AALDEF and NAAEA Platform on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)