Despite the relentlessly grim narrative usually articulated around young men of color, a recent report by The Education Trust-West examines practices that boost their academic outcomes, including college graduation rates.
Hear My Voice: Strengthening the College Pipeline for Young Men of Color in California focuses on the needs of African American and Latino males, but also includes Native American, Pacific Islander, Hmong, and Laotian young men.
Although the report examines the academic landscape in the Golden State, it has implications nationally, says Education Trust President and CEO John King.
“Although we see these very large gaps in achievement with boys and young men of color, the problem is solvable,” King told me. “At every level in K-12 and higher ed you can identify institutions that are getting much better outcomes. The question for all of us is how can we scale what’s happening in those institutions.”
The Education Trust-West Executive Director Ryan Smith cited statistics: Although 76% of Latino boys and 67% of black boys in the state of California graduate from high school, only three out of 10 graduate from community college or state university within six years (that ratio includes Native American boys).
“We need to think about how we’re creating targeted supports for these young men,” Smith says. “We see bright spots up and down the state, but to scale this work we need more leadership at the state level as well as in our post-secondary and secondary institutions in order to see more progress.”
Hear My Voice is a call to action for district leaders, high schools, board members, and the California state legislature to think about how to address the unique needs of young men of color, Smith says.
Identifying What Works
As Ed Trust has reported before, some schools do a much better job at graduating students of color than others. Schools that succeed with young men of color often engage in certain practices that allow them to excel.
“What we’ve found is a much higher degree of support, a real commitment to success on the part of the institution, institutional vigilance about ensuring that boys and young men of color have equitable access to opportunity—for example, advanced coursework and capable staff,” King says, describing effective practices.
“You see real intentionality about addressing the full range of the needs of students—social-emotional needs, not just academics,” he continues. “There’s a commitment to diversity at every level—staff diversity and an inclusive environment for students and staff.”
According to the report, other best practices include a welcoming environment, the use of data to identify gaps and obstacles, and transitional support.
Smith notes the successful bridge-like Math Collaborative developed by the Long Beach Unified School District and Cal State University, Long Beach. The program, which works with black males starting in ninth grade to prepare them for college-level math, has allowed participants to successfully enroll at CSULB and other colleges.
Smith says, “In the report there’s a theme around how the students perceive themselves—they see themselves as scholars. Now it’s up to us to see them as scholars as well. That’s going to take us thinking differently about systems that benefit these students, that close opportunity and achievement gaps if we focus our efforts to do so.”
To read the full report, go here.