My Brother’s Keeper: a bold national challenge to overcome opportunity and achievement gaps for our boys and young men of color. These gaps are indeed challenging, perhaps even overwhelming.  For instance, here in Central Texas, there is an incredible 50 percentage point difference (93% versus 43%) in passing rates on the English II End of Course Exam for non-low income young women versus our low-income black and Hispanic boys. 200 communities across the country have taken on the challenge to close these gaps – but how?
In the Central Texas region, perhaps like many areas of the country, we took on the My Brother’s Keeper challenge with much enthusiasm but little direction. We have been working on such gaps for decades, with far too little progress. What do we do differently than what we have done in the past? After months of conversation but little progress, E3 Alliance partnered with the Greater Austin Area My Brother’s Keeper Initiatives (GAAMBK) to provide an objective, data driven approach to:
1: Provide Focus: use objective data analysis to identify those metrics that will make the biggest difference in closing gaps for young men of color
2: Support Action: Provide comparative data sets to help institutions and our community move the needle on these metrics
This process, applied in partnership with four committees of GAAMBK volunteers across the Central Texas educational pipeline, is now driving momentum and action with a purposeful direction. How does it work?  The first objective is to PROVIDE FOCUS.  Each committee was asked to identify six to ten outcome metrics of interest for our young men of color.  For instance, our High School Success committee chose:

  • % Chronically Absent
  • Disciplinary Referrals
  • % Retained in 9th grade
  • Passing rate in English II End of Course Exam
  • Highest level math course completed
  • Completion of CTE coursework
  • % of students taking at least 1 AP/IB/Dual Credit Course
  • Graduation rate (measured at 4, 5, and 6 years)
  • Higher education enrollment

For each of these metrics, E3 Alliance “sliced” the data by income, gender, and ethnicity to come up with 16 different categories of outcomes. Then we compared the “target population” – the weighted average of Black and Hispanic low income males – versus the “Comparison Population” of white, non-low income females. For instance, the disproportional differences in Chronic Absence for students in Central Texas look like this:

Chronic Absence Rates

Each committee was asked to use the objective data on differences for every metric together with practitioner knowledge about work already going on in the region, potential impact, leading versus lagging indicators, etc. to determine just two metrics to focus on at each level of the education pipeline. Importantly, these discussions included our target population; for instance, Hispanic and black high school boys helped to determine the two metrics we would focus on at high school.  Our High School Success Committee chose Chronic Absence and students passing at least four years of high school mathematics (Pre-Calculus). Both of these are strong predictors of later outcomes and are something that we can directly impact though changed practices and interventions.
Once our target metrics were chosen at each level of the education pipeline, we needed to drive action to move the needle on these metrics. In order to do so, E3 Alliance provided additional data sets, including:

  • What factor has the greatest influence on that outcome? For instance, if income is most highly associated with a given outcome you would take very different actions (e.g. providing out of school programs, boosting family resources) than you might if ethnicity was the driving factor (e.g. cultural diversity training, diversifying the teacher force)
  • How do schools in a given district compare on that particular outcome to other schools across the region? We are providing every school district a chart of all area schools with only their own schools labeled, so that they can take action to improve performance, but not in a way that publicizes the lowest performing school on that given metric.
  • What schools across the region are “bright spots” for exemplary outcomes for our target population – low income young men of color – on this metric? We can look to those bright spot schools to find potential replicable practices to improve outcomes across all of our schools.

Chronic Absence Bright Spots

For instance, in this chart that identified bright spot schools for Chronic Absences for our target populations, Del Valle High School significantly outperforms multiple other comprehensive high schools with similar populations – are there practices from Del Vale that we can share throughout the region?
Central Texas is making great strides in our GAAMBK effort. By using objective data to provide focus and drive action, we are working to move the needle for our most challenged populations – those who will in turn become our highly qualified workforce of the future.
Susan Dawson
President, E3 Alliance