Research Alliance Report on Expanded Success Initiative Finds Schools Are Engaging Students

A new report on New York City’s Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), which is designed to boost college and career readiness among Black and Latino male students, finds that the schools involved are changing the way they operate and offering students opportunities they would not otherwise have.

“There is strong evidence that these schools are doing something different as a result of ESI,” says the study’s lead author, Adriana Villavicencio, senior research associate at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. “We are seeing important shifts in the tone and culture of the schools. And, compared to students in other, similar high schools without ESI, students in these schools are more likely to report engaging in a range of positive activities, including college trips and one-on-one college advising, mentoring, and counseling.”

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools is conducting a four-year, independent evaluation of ESI, examining the initiative’s implementation in 40 New York City public high schools, as well as its impact on student outcomes, particularly for Black and Latino males. The evaluation will continue through 2017.

The new report, Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men, focuses on the second year of ESI, the 2013-2014 school year. Key findings include:

  • Strong implementation: As intended, schools have implemented robust programming aligned to the initiative’s four key areas: academics, youth development, a college-focused school culture, and culturally relevant education.
  • Improvements in school culture and student discipline: ESI schools are making changes that extend beyond distinct programs. For instance, educators reported that ESI has improved relationships within schools and led teachers to critically examine their own practices. They also described rethinking their approach to student discipline. And 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: The report also includes a preliminary assessment of ESI’s impact on several academic and non-academic outcomes. 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.

“The most important measures of success – college readiness and enrollment – will not be determined until students’ 12th grade year or later,” says Villavicencio. “At this stage, what we can say is that these schools have changed the way they serve their Black and Latino male students. Whether this will ultimately translate to measurable improvements in student outcomes is an open question.”

In 2011, the New York City Mayor’s Office, in partnership with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of the Open Society Foundations and Bloomberg Philanthropies, began the Young Men’s Initiative, a citywide effort to improve outcomes for Black and Latino young men in the areas of education, health, employment, and criminal justice. The Initiative’s core education component, ESI, is designed to meet two related goals: increase college and career readiness among Black and Latino male students in participating schools, and identify and disseminate effective strategies that might be replicated in other schools.

Click here to access Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men. This report follows three past reports related to ESI, which can be downloaded here.

(Photo:  (c) iStock/monkeybusinessimages).