Voices of Urban Education

The Boys Aren’t Broken, The Systems Are: Changing the Narrative about Young Men of Color

A magazine cover depicting the VUE banner above the issue title, article titles, and an artist painted image of three young men of color wearing kings' crowns standing in a grassy field with a buildings in the distant background

2018, NO.48

Scholars and practitioners in school districts around the country are collaborating to build an asset-based counter-narrative about young men of color and develop evidence-based strategies to better serve them. However, these change agents do not always have a chance to work with their peers in other districts to collectively challenge structural racism.

This issue of Voices in Urban Education builds on a 2017 conference, sponsored by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and organized by NYU and AISR, that aimed to address this need. Researchers and practitioners from seven sites gathered in New York City to share system-level strategies that challenged deficit mindsets and implicit bias, nurtured healthy and respectful relationships, and developed culturally sustaining practices. In this VUE issue, you will read some of their stories. Download the full issue.


About This Issue

VUE 48 was planned and produced by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University in collaboration with the Research Alliance for New York City Schools and the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, both at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. It is based on the conference “Studying Systemic Efforts to Improve Outcomes for Black and Latino Males,” focused on Black and Latino Male initiatives in seven districts, held on September 18–19, 2017, in New York City.

This research conference was supported by a grant from the Education Research Conferences Program of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Each article in this issue was written by one of the research-practice teams attending the conference. These pieces highlight the unique contexts, approaches and experiences of the seven participating districts.


Rosann Tung and Adriana Villavicencio

Scholars and practitioners around the country are collaborating to build an asset-based counter-narrative about young men of color and develop concrete, evidence-based strategies to better serve them in schools and classrooms.


Christopher P. Chatmon and Vajra M. Watson

A deep district-wide commitment to racial equity for African American male students, based on the framework of targeted universalism, has laid the foundation for expanding the focus to include African American girls, Latino/a students, and Asian and Pacific Islander students.


A thumbnail of an artist-painted image of three young men's heads with crowns atop like kingsA District-wide Approach to Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Practices in the Boston Public Schools 
Colin Rose and Mwalimu Donkor Issa

The district’s system-wide professional development on culturally sustaining practices creates consistent expectations for educators to address their biases, build relationships with students and parents, and improve instruction – and gives them the tools to do so.


Barry Brinkley, Eric Hines, Akisha Jones, Effie G. McMillian, Brooksie Sturdivant, and Monica Walker

In Guilford County (NC), the district aimed to change adults’ beliefs and practices, rather than “fix” boys of color, by improving relationships between teachers and students and addressing implicit bias among educators, working in two areas: early literacy and discipline policies.


Michael Walker, Corey Yeager, and Jennie Zumbusch

After getting input from parents and families, community members, educators, and young Black males themselves, the district launched a program to recruit Black men from the community as content experts, “cultural translators,” and adult role models to teach a class for Black boys.


A painted thumbnail of four Black boys on the steps leading up to a closed doorway of what appears to be an apartment buildingMy Brother’s Keeper: Nurturing In-School Relationships for Young Men of Color in New York City
Paul Forbes and Sarah Klevan

A program centered around the concept of Umoja (“unity”) highlights the importance of positive in-school relationships for young men of color and describes how those relationships help them to succeed in school and deal with trauma in their lives.


Lesli C. Myers and Kara S. Finnigan

The superintendent and an education researcher in Rochester (NY) present a framework for grounding difficult conversations on race and implicit bias in system-level data, to avoid blaming and shaming and to break through defensiveness to arrive at solutions.


Wendy Fine, Jiffy Lansing, and Marshaun Bacon

A quantitative evaluation of a school-based group counseling and mentoring program for young men of color showed positive results, but did not explain why the program worked; qualitative research revealed mechanisms leading to the program’s success.


A painted thumbnail of a Black boy sitting inside a ring that has a break in front of him, while behind are buildings resembling a city, some of which have windows arranged in the image of frightening ghosts or faces in shockChanging Deficit Narratives about Young Latino Men in Texas through a Research-Based Mentorship Program
Emmet E. Campos, Rebekah Van Ryn, and Ty J. Davidson

Strong institutional partnerships led to the development of a research agenda and mentoring program for young Latino men that has yielded local results in Austin (TX) and scaled up to state and national networks.