Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men

A Report on New York City's Expanded Success Initiative (2015)

Adriana Villavicencio, Sarah Klevan, and David Kang

A growing number of initiatives around the country are attempting to tackle longstanding inequities, including higher rates of school dropout, incarceration, and unemployment among Black and Latino men. New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) has been at the forefront of these efforts since it was launched in 2011 to address disparities in education, employment, health, and criminal justice.

YMI’s educational component, the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), focuses on the issue of low college readiness among Black and Latino male students—a problem that has persisted in NYC even as high school graduation rates have risen. ESI is providing funding and professional development to 40 NYC high schools, aimed at helping them improve outcomes, particularly college and career readiness, among their Black and Latino male students.

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools is conducting a four-year evaluation of ESI’s implementation and impact. This report, Changing How Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men, presents our findings from Year 2 of ESI (the 2013-2014 school year), drawing on interviews and focus groups with staff at ESI schools and a set of matched comparison schools, a student survey, and an analysis of student achievement data. Among our key findings:

  • Strong implementation: ESI schools are expected to implement programming across three core domains—academics, youth development, and a college- and career-focused school culture—all undergirded by culturally relevant education. We found that ESI schools are indeed offering programming within these areas, aimed at ESI’s target population of Black and Latino young men. The schools’ early focus on college, including college trips, workshops and advising geared toward 9th and 10th graders, was particularly widespread and robust.
  • Improvements in school culture and student discipline: Educators in ESI schools reported making changes that extend beyond specific programs, including improved relationships (between staff and students and among students) and more reflective staff practices. In particular, educators described rethinking their approach to student discipline. Research Alliance analyses of school discipline data show that ESI schools have, in fact, reduced suspensions for “disruptive” infractions.
  • Little impact, to date, on key student outcomes: We assessed ESI’s early impact on a variety of attitudes, skills, and behaviors (measured by our survey), as well as academic outcomes, such as GPA, credit accumulation, and Regents exam scores. These results, which were mixed, highlight the fact that it is too early to determine whether ESI is yielding positive effects on indicators of college readiness and success. As the initiative matures, we will continue to track ESI’s impact in these areas. We have also added several new measures (e.g., of students’ relationships) designed to better evaluate ESI’s effects.

The report explores each of these findings in depth, and provides a look ahead at the next years of ESI and of our evaluation.