Expanded Success Initiative (ESI)
Nationwide, young men of color are the least likely to graduate high school, and of those that do, most are not prepared for college or a career. Yet, despite the odds, there are still plenty of young men of color who graduate on time and prepared for college and careers. So the question must be asked: What’s behind the success of those students, and can the mechanisms for that success be replicated to increase college and career readiness for all Black and Latino young men?
Despite reducing by half the racial achievement gap in NYC schools between 2005 and 2009, by the year 2010, the four-year graduation rates for Black and Hispanic males, at 53.7% and 52.4% respectively, were still well below the citywide average and a full 20 points lower than the graduation rate for their White male peers. And of those young men of color who were graduating, only 13% of them were deemed “college and career ready” as defined by CUNY and SUNY standards. Significantly, the gap in college and career readiness was known to accelerate after 8th grade. The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) was designed to address this achievement gap in order to change the career and life trajectories for young men of color.
The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), was designed as the educational component of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI), a citywide program aimed at improving life outcomes for Black and Latino men. Initiated in 2011 under Mayor Bloomberg, YMI sought to address four critical areas: education, criminal justice, employment and health. With private funding through The Fund for Public Schools, the DOE invested in evidence-based interventions to significantly increase the numbers of Black and Hispanic males who complete high school with the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to prepare them for college and to persist and succeed in college and their careers.
ESI included three components. The first was investing deeply in a targeted group of 40 schools that were having success in graduating young men of color, but were not necessarily outperforming other schools in preparing those students for postsecondary success. The initiative sought to build upon the schools’ strengths and test, refine, and codify those best practices that increased postsecondary readiness for graduating young men of color.
A second component was designing an ESI school model, which leverages the lessons learned from implementation in the control group of 40 schools. A school-design fellowship launched in 2013, comprising 10 national education experts who designed a new school model in line with the tenets of ESI.
The third component included launching schools under the new school model and expanding best practices to other non-ESI schools.
ESI’s theory of action encompassed three core tenets: Academic Rigor, which included high academic expectations and a robust academic model to ensure students are on track for college success; Youth Development, where positive youth development strategies enabled students to build resilience, social-emotional skills and restorative practices that support them in school and in life; and Positive School Culture, in which educators created a school environment that was positive and focused on getting students ready for college and careers, and personalizing learning so it connects to student interests, community-based opportunities and workplace learning.
From 2012 to 2016, the Central team worked closely with ESI schools to identify existing challenges for their young men of color, design solutions to these challenges, pinpoint professional learning needs for school teams to execute as planned, identify lessons from these experiences, and connect school teams with resources to support their efforts. More than 10,000 young men of color were served in each year of the program, and three public high schools and one charter school were opened under the new school model. Additionally, lessons learned from ESI have been widely shared beyond New York City, with its tenets and practices adopted by districts as well as organizations such as My Brother's Keeper.