Understanding the Education Trajectories of Young Black Men in New York City: Elementary and Middle-School Years

by Afshin Zilanawala; Edward Fergus; Margary Martin; Pedro Noguera; Ronald Mincy

Jul 1, 2010

Making targeted decisions about how, when, and where to intervene to improve educational outcomes for black males requires understanding the complex pathways that shape these outcomes. This study, undertaken for the Black Male Donor Collaborative, uses longitudinal data on a cohort of black males from New York City Schools to gain insights about the different possible student paths, with specific focuses on middle school and math scale scores.
  • Among the group of black male New York City public school students studied, math proficiency declined over time.
  • How their classmates scored was the only variable potentially amenable to policy manipulation that had a significant association with increased scores for black male students. This suggests that challenging learning environments may be the best way to increase math proficiency over time.
  • Six distinct performance trajectories emerged. Four remained relatively flat with slight declines over time. Two trajectories, accounting for 25 percent of students, included a steep increase or decrease during middle school years.
  • Recommendations include: 1) Provide intensive academic support to 2nd and 5th graders performing below grade level; 2) Increase access to high-quality, diverse schools; 3) Enable schools to use and interpret the ARIS data system to carefully monitor progress.