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Bringing Together Mentoring, Technology, and Whole-School Reform: A First Look at the iMentor College Ready Program

July 1, 2015

The iMentor College Ready Program is a unique model that combines elements of school-based mentoring, whole school reform, and technology in an effort to help students develop the knowledge, behaviors, and skills needed to reach and succeed in college. It is an intensive, four-year intervention offered in schools that serve low-income students. Students are paired with volunteer, college-educated mentors and enrolled in an iMentor class led by a school-based iMentor employee.The program has four central elements: A whole school model, which aims to match all incoming 9thgraders with a mentor, and keep them engaged for their full high school careers;A college-readiness curriculum developed by iMentor, taught by iMentor staff in weekly classes, and reinforced during monthly events for mentees and mentors;A "blended" approach to developing relationships between students and their mentor. Students communicate with their mentor primarily through email, but also meet in person at the iMentor events; andA pair support strategy based on a case-management model for tracking mentee-mentor relationship development.The Research Alliance for New York City Schools is conducting an in-depth evaluation of the iMentor College Ready Program in eight New York City high schools. With support from the Social Innovation Fund, the Research Alliance is examining iMentor's roll-out and implementation in these schools, as well as its impact on a range of outcomes related to students' preparation for college. This report is the first in a series from our evaluation. It focuses on iMentor's first year of implementation, which targeted 9th graders in all eight schools. The report provides a detailed description of the four key components of the iMentor College Ready Program and assesses the implementation of these program elements against specific benchmarks established by iMentor. The report also presents a first look at iMentor's effects on 9th graders' outcomes, including their perception of adult support, their aspirations for the future, a set of important college-related "non-cognitive" skills, and several markers of academic achievement.

Promising Opportunities for Black and Latino Young Men: Findings from the Early Implementation of the Expanded Success Initiative

April 10, 2014

The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) is working to boost college and career readiness and other key outcomes among Black and Latino male students in 40 NYC high schools. This report presents a rich picture of ESI's roll out and early implementation, drawing on more than 100 interviews and focus groups with educators in ESI schools and with members of the NYC Department of Education's ESI team. The report examines challenges schools experienced during Year 1 of the initiative, as well as changes in school practice that hold promise for reaching ESI's goals. Among the report's key findings:The NYC DOE provided a wide array of resources, including funding, workshops and professional development sessions, planning meetings, and information about potential partners, to help ESI schools develop and expand programs for their Black and Latino male students.ESI's theory of action called on schools to increase supports in three specific domains -- academics, youth development and school culture. Educators reported that, in fact, schools did enhance programming in these three areas. Specifically, they described:Raising academic standards and benchmarks and increasing opportunities for students to take more rigorous coursework;Improved relationships between students and their peers, as well as between students and teachers, as a result of a variety of youth development programs; andAn expansion of college supports, not only in terms of adding programs, but also by shifting the school culture to be more explicitly college focused, beginning in the 9th grade.Culturally relevant education emerged as a central focus and organizing principle for individual ESI schools and the initiative as a whole. Staff in more than half of ESI schools reported that exposure to CRE had changed teachers' mindsets and beliefs, as well as school-wide practices, particularly around student discipline.Educators also identified cohesion between ESI programs -- and with the larger school culture -- as important for successful implementation. The level of cohesion varied across schools. While some schools largely operated as if ESI were an add-on program, others made great efforts to weave ESI into existing school norms, programs, and structures.The report explores each of these findings in depth, and considers their implications for policy and practice. The authors offer a number of recommendations for schools and the district about strategies that might be used to strengthen and enrich ESI as it evolves over the next two years.

Preparing Black and Latino Young Men for College and Careers: A Description of the Schools and Strategies in NYC's Expanded Success Initiative

November 14, 2013

The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) provides funding and technical support to 40 relatively successful New York City high schools to help them improve college and career readiness among black and Latino male students. This preliminary report describes key components and strategies of ESI and begins to look at factors that might influence the potential to apply ESI more broadly.