Examining the Core: A Study of the Difference in the Achievement and Growth of Males of Color within Rhode Island Urban Core Communities

Examining the Core: A Study of the Dierence in the Achievementand Growth of Males of Color within Rhode Island Urban Core CommunitiesYoung men of color who live in the urban areas of Rhode Island face unique challenges. Parents, community members, policymakers, and the youth themselves have shared deep concerns about their status and the opportunities aorded to these young men. As director of YouthBuild Providence and the founder of the YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, I see the obstacles they face on a daily basis. Typically the young men who come to us have experienced serious educational gaps and often lack the skills necessary to meet their educational goals. In addition, their families are deeply challenged by a lack of economic security, which can manifest itself in such problems as family stress, homelessness, emotional and physical distress, limited access to high quality physical and mental care, as well as a cycle of underemployment in low wage jobs. This is consistent with a body of research regarding the experiences of young males of color across the U.S. showing that this group faces greater risk of poverty, stigmatization, racialization, criminal justice punishment, and educational discrimination.

But there is another story. Our work with young males of color also teaches us that they are a deeply diverse group with an incredible set of strengths that they contribute to community life each and every day. Even facing tremendous challenges, they come to our programs seeking a better life. They may arrive after years of educational neglect, having been told by society that they will amount to nothing, yet they still come and share their dreams and aspirations. They are well aware that they are often negatively categorized as being “at-risk.” At YouthBuild, we are committed to providing social, emotion-al, and human services designed to help young males of color to develop the skills necessary to thrive. We share with them our belief that providing a student-centered environment with a focus on academic success as well as social and emotional interventions will allow them to explore their latent skills and thrive in today’s society. At YBPA, we are committed to providing these services in a comprehensive educational setting. In sum, youth come to our program and others in the urban core of Rhode Island because they have not given up; they want the same things that most Rhode Islanders do: a good education, a good job, and a great family and community.

Motivated by deep concern as well as respect, and an appreciation for the lives for young males of color in Rhode Island, YouthBuild commissioned this report on educational outcomes and attainment by males of color because we wanted to better understand the disparities that such men face in Rhode Island’s urban core. We decided to analyze their educational outcomes and trajectories in order to guide the work of YouthBuild Preparatory Academy to address the needs of the youth we serve. By sharing these findings, we hope that they will help other organizations tackle important questions regarding educational equity.

This report offers several salient findings, summarized here and discussed in greater detail further in the report:

  • A statewide demographic shift, leading to higher proportions of males of color and an increased concentration of students of color and low-income students in the urban core.
  • Males of color in the urban core experience persistent and deep disparities on outcomes of standardized tests
  • Males of color in the urban core suer substantially higher chronic absenteeism and suspension rates than their white peers.
  • There are clear disparities in educational opportunities and academic rigor among males of color and their white peers across the state.
  • The consequences of such disparities are lower four-year graduation rates, lower college enrollments rates, and substantially lower college completion rates.

This report reinforces the reality that young males of color in Rhode Island are continuing to fall behind their white male peers in terms of academic engagement and associated academic outcomes. Yet we also see the demographics of both the urban core and the entire state are changing, with dramatic increases in black and Latino students. It is therefore imperative that the state and the districts that serve these students take a deeper look at the disparities and seek new solutions to this critical problem.

Despite improvements, males of color face a deep academic imbalance, as shown in numerous studies. Providing males of color with the resources required to succeed would alleviate some of the country’s biggest socioeconomic problems, which cannot be eliminated unless their root causes are identified. It is critical to examine the data which are representative of the barriers and systemic conditions that affect the progress of this group. By sharing these findings, we hope to change policies, practices, and efforts and improve the educational experiences and outcomes of this population.