Research Alliance Pinpoints “Leaky Pipeline” Factors to Boost Black & Latino Male College/Career Readiness

Among New York City students scheduled to graduate in 2010, only 9 percent of Black males and 11 percent of Latino males graduated “college ready.” While graduation rates have been improving across the city, college and career readiness rates remain low, particularly for young men of color.

In its latest report, “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in New York City,” the Research Alliance for New York City Schools identifies critical points where Black and Latino males fall off the path to college.

The report also offers recommendations for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Expanded Success Initiative(ESI) —a central component of his Young Men’s Initiative, a program dedicated to addressing disparities between young black and Latino men and their peers, related to education, health, employment, and the criminal justice system.

“ESI addresses several areas that our analyses suggest are important,” said Adriana Villavicencio, research associate and the report’s lead author. “In addition to examining the academic trajectories of black and Latino male students, we used New York City data, national data, and relevant literature to examine underlying ‘opportunity gaps’—a concept that challenges us to think about the inequalities some students face before they even enter the school building. These factors are critical to consider as we work to improve college and career readiness.”

The report identifies important areas of focus for ESI schools as they work to improve postsecondary outcomes for young men of color. These include:

  • Focusing explicitly on college readiness: Enhance “college knowledge” and other aspects of readiness, including navigating the application and financial aid processes, as well as cultural norms on college campuses.
  • Investing resources in the ninth grade: Identify and support students who are off-track for graduation early in their high school career—an important strategy considering that students off-track by the end of ninth grade are 56 percent less likely to graduate, much less enroll in college.
  • Increasing access to rigorous courseworkand providing needed academic support: Enroll students in higher-level courses to prepare them for college admission and postsecondary work. Build in ramp-up courses or provide academic support in foundational skills to students who will be taking these more advanced classes, particularly in math and science, as part of ESI.
  • Enhancing socio-emotional supports: Cultivate positive relationships and student leadership by building peer and adult mentoring structures, advisory periods, and freshman seminars. Create a school environment in which male students of color can find support and have a voice.
  • Train school staff in culturally responsive education: Help principals and teachers have explicit conversations about race and gender and infuse school programming with culturally relevant or responsive practices, which value the experiences and perspectives of students often labeled as disadvantaged.

The Research Alliance was commissioned to evaluate the success of the ESI program beginning in September of 2012 and will conclude its evaluation in the spring of 2016.

September of 2012 marked the official launch of ESI, which is investing $250,000 in each of 40 high schools, over two and a half years. The schools are implementing or expanding strategies related to academics, youth development, and school culture, all designed to increase college and career readiness among Black and Latino males. Findings from the evaluation will be published independently by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools beginning later this year.