GSE News

How do young Black and Latino males succeed in urban schools?

September 30, 2013 – To answer this question, a new report is being issued today from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. The Center’s research team, led by Dr. Shaun Harper, “Succeeding in the City: A Report from the New York City Black and Latino Male High School Achievement Study.” 

Following an analysis of interviews with 325 high school juniors and seniors currently enrolled in  New York City Public Schools, the research team attributed levels of success to several factors including:

  • Consistently high expectations from parents and families
  • Reputations that exempted them from gang recruitment
  • A desire to transcend poverty
  • Meaningful relationships with caring teachers and other adults in their schools who foster innovative college-going cultures and respectful educational environments

“I knew more could be learned about the success of young men of color in urban high schools,” said Harper. “I wanted to learn from young men who had been confronted with the same cultural and socioeconomic factors as their lower performing peers, yet managed to succeed in school. Specifically, I wanted to know how they developed college aspirations, became college-ready, and navigated their ways to higher education.”

Participants included Black and Latino male juniors and seniors who maintained a 3.0 (or ‘B’) average, were engaged in multiple school activities, planned to enroll in college, and had taken a sequence of course work that would qualify them for pursuit of a college education.

The study also included 90 Black and Latino male undergraduate students who were enrolled at 44 colleges and universities. In the data collected from the college participants, Harper found:

  • Approximately 75 percent applied exclusively to public colleges in New York because these were the only schools to which they were introduced
  • Students felt intellectually prepared for college
  • An alarming number of students, however, felt they were not adequately prepared to navigate the college academic environment, including meeting professors’ expectations, multitasking and meeting deadlines, or effectively studying. Despite that, 45.6% of undergraduates in this study managed to earn cumulative college GPAs above 3.0 
  • Few students established substantive relationships with professors (a key factor in high school success)

The report also features recommendations for student success aimed at various stakeholders – parents and families, urban high school teachers, high school guidance counselors, principals and other high school leaders, and postsecondary professionals and leaders.

Funded by the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Harper will present his findings this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem.

To read the full report, click here. To read a summary, visit www.gse.upenn.edu/equity/nycReport