Event Recap: Understanding Systemwide Approaches to Address Issues in Education for Black and Latino Young Men

On September 18th and 19th, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, with support from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), hosted a conference to explore systemic efforts to improve outcomes for Black and Latino young men. The two-day event brought together educators and researchers from seven school districts implementing such efforts.       

In 2012, NYC invested $24 million in the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), with the goal of increasing college readiness and other key outcomes for Black and Latino male students. ESI provided funding and professional development opportunities to 40 NYC high schools to help them create and expand a variety of supports for young men of color. (The Research Alliance is conducting a four-year, mixed-methods evaluation of ESI’s implementation and impact.)

Of course, the disproportionate percentage of Black and Latino young men experiencing negative educational outcomes isn’t limited to New York City. In recent years, other cities have introduced initiatives aimed at reducing these disparities. At the conference, representatives from Austin, Boston, Chicago, Guilford (North Carolina), Minneapolis, New York City, and Oakland shared information about opportunity gaps faced by their Black and Latino male students, and described strategies they are using to create safe, supportive spaces for young men of color in schools and classrooms. Researchers working with each district partner presented their approaches to studying these initiatives through a racial equity lens.

In their introductory remarks, Dr. Adriana Villavicencio, deputy director of the Research Alliance, and Dr. Rosann Tung, director of policy, research, and evaluation at Metro Center (and formerly of the Annenberg Institute), emphasized the importance of engaging both practitioners and researchers to advance knowledge about how to meet the socio-emotional and educational needs of Black and Latino young men.   

After Drs. Villavicencio and Tung set the stage, a panel of Black and Latino male students kicked off the events for day one. The panel was moderated by ESI Director Paul Forbes and included Francois Acosta of Syracuse University, Angel Diaz of Guttman Community College, and Leon Isaacs of the School for Human Rights. Their discussion highlighted factors that had impacted their educational experiences and trajectories, including the importance of developing positive relationships with their teachers, the “brotherhood” they had formed with small groups of boys in their schools, and the ways their schools processed racially charged events taking place across the nation.

Following the panel, conference participants delved deeper into various issues that are important to the outcomes of Black and Latino young men through a series of small-group sessions. Topics included culturally responsive education, teacher preparation, and restorative approaches to student discipline.   

On day two of the conference, James Earl Davis of Temple University, Kara Finnigan of the University of Rochester, Tyrone Howard of UCLA, and David Kirkland of NYU led a scholars panel, which explored strategies that school systems can use to dismantle racism, white supremacy, and systemic injustice. On both days, several conference attendees led small group sessions on themes related to increasing success for Black and Latino male students. These sessions covered topics such as best practices for research-practice partnerships, considering intersectionality in work and research, and teacher preparation for educating males of color. Audience members shared quotes and findings on their social media platforms, and their dialogue was the catalyst for a second day filled with impactful discussions on strategies and solutions for dissolving the barriers that Black and Latino young men face in school.  

The Research Alliance’s communications department live tweeted the event, and attendees were encouraged to use the #AERAblm17 hashtag throughout the conference to share interesting anecdotes, new findings, and unique strategies that they learned about at the conference.  

Many thanks to all who participated! The conversations at the conference will provide important insight and direction for future Research Alliance studies.