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Joy Ee: Exposing Educational Inequities
Jackson Joyce for NBC News
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Since the 2016 presidential campaign, few issues have been as prominently featured in the U.S. media landscape as immigration enforcement policy and its impact on families and communities.
But Jongyeon (Joy) Ee, an SOE assistant professor, notes that far less attention has been paid to how harsher immigration enforcement is affecting the nation’s schools — despite ample evidence that stress and anxiety at home can significantly impede learning.
To address this question, Ee led a study, in conjunction with Patricia Gándara of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, which analyzed survey data completed by more than 3,600 educators across the country. The survey asked educators their impression of how immigration enforcement was affecting their students and students’ parents on issues ranging from academic performance and absenteeism to behavioral and emotional problems and overall classroom climate.
The conclusions of the study
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Approximately 85% of respondents reported observing students’ explicit expressions of fear of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement intervention in their lives, with more than 40% saying this fear was “extensive.” These concerns were strongest in urban schools with higher immigrant student populations. At the same time, Ee found that the higher the percentage of white students in a school, the more likely educators were to report their immigrant students were being exposed to a hostile, anti-immigrant environment.
“This harsh immigration enforcement is affecting the entire school community, not just students from immigrant families,” Ee says. “And in addition to students and their families, we found that educators are under more stress and are concerned about losing trust.”
Ee’s study notes that an estimated 88% of the children of immigrants were born in the U.S. and have U.S. citizenship. Moreover, the small percentage of foreign-born students are guaranteed the right to a free and equal public education through high school. But, she argues, current immigration policies have made many of these students feel unwelcome.
“We conclude that the current policy of immigration enforcement significantly dismantles an equitable education for all students and creates a critical threat to their futures,” the study authors stated.
Ee’s scholarship focuses on issues impacting educational equity. In May, she co-authored a report with researchers at the UCLA Civil Rights Project on school enrollment and segregation patterns as the nation marked the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision ruling that segregated schools are inherently unequal. The report details the transformation of the nation’s public-school enrollment from primarily a black and white population to one that is much more diverse, reshaped by a surging Latino population and the emergence of a significant population of Asian students. But despite the societal diversity, the study found increasing racial and economic segregation of schools over the last three decades.
“School segregation is not simply an educational issue that stands out in certain communities or regions, but an imminent social issue that seriously threatens the cohesiveness of our nation,” Ee said upon the report’s release.
Ee says she is driven to address educational equity by her SOE students, many of whom are Teach For America candidates. “They are teaching kids in some of the most challenging schools in Los Angeles — schools that are most affected by these issues,” Ee says. “It’s important to identify the problems that are driving these inequities so that we can address them in the most constructive way.”
School segregation is not simply an educational issue that stands out in certain communities or regions, but an imminent social issue that seriously threatens the cohesiveness of our nation.
Jong
yeon
Ee
SOE Assistant Professor
The results, published earlier this year in the American Educational Research Journal, paint a stark picture of the impact of the current environment on all students.
85%
of respondents reported observing students’ explicit expressions of fear of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement intervention in their lives, with more than
40%
saying this fear was “extensive.”
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