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We’re heartened that the New York City Department of Education has begun to track college readiness. Today’s global economy demands more expertise than ever, and young people’s horizons are expanding. While this expectation is new to our schools as a City-wide system, the fact is that over the last decade many foundations have already invested in this work—helping New York City public schools take on the challenge of preparing students not only to graduate from high school, but also to succeed in college. These efforts, from an inspiring mosaic of groups, have focused on what researchers have found to be three key aspects of college preparation:

  • “College knowledge”: how to find, apply, pay for, and get to college
  • Socio-emotional or “metacognitive” skills needed to persist and succeed in college
  • Advanced academic coursework and skills necessary to complete college-level coursework

The snapshots below provide glimpses of a few organizations whose programs and practices, aided by philanthropy, show great promise. They are building school cultures that promote learning and foster grit, resilience, and the skills and capacities necessary for success in the post-secondary world. In many cases, these organizations and the schools they work with are beating the odds facing high school students in New York.

But it is worth noting how long those odds are.  The most recent data from the New York City Department of Education show that fewer than two-thirds of ninth graders who began high school in the fall of 2007 graduated in four years.  The four-year graduation rate for black and Latino students continues to hover around 60 percent. The college readiness numbers are significantly lower: According to the Department of Education’s College Readiness Index, only 29 percent of the 2007 cohort were college-ready after four years of high school. For Black and Latino students, the numbers were lower still: City-wide, only 10 percent of black students and 11 percent of Latino students were ready to enroll in college classes.

These snapshots offer a look at programs that are working. We hold them up as models for the next administration’s consideration:

Uncommon Schools



Check back every week for our highlighted snapshot.

All snapshots by Amanda Millner Fairbanks