Re-Engaging Youth for High School Success

Metis researchers help a Brooklyn-based nonprofit contribute to the knowledge base about what works in alternative pathways to high school graduation.

Good Shepherd Services is a multi-service organization established in Brooklyn, New York in 1947. Good Shepherd Services programming is dedicated to meeting the needs of New Yorkers who live in neighborhoods where inequitable education and scarce resources are pervasive. It provides neighborhood-based youth development, educational, vocational, and family support services.

The Good Shepherd Services Transfer School Model

Good Shepherd Services has a long history of partnering with the New York City Department of Education to provide alternative pathways to graduation. Good Shepherd Services Transfer Schools serve 16-21-year-old students who have previously dropped out or are significantly off-track for graduation.

First developed at South Brooklyn Community High School, this nationally replicated model aims to provide a safe, supportive learning environment. The setting is designed to help students overcome obstacles to their success, explore post-secondary opportunities, and graduate from high school. The model is grounded in developmental theory positing that social and emotional factors are essential to academic learning and achievement. While much had been written about best practices for serving youth who are not on track to graduate from high school, the evidence from rigorous studies was limited.

Contributing to the Knowledge Base about Alternative Pathways to Graduation

To assess the organization’s strategies for re-engaging youth in school and improving their academic outcomes, Good Shepherd Services engaged Metis. We conducted a rigorous evaluation of the model as implemented at South Brooklyn Community High School and West Brooklyn Community High School. The study examined the implementation of the model and the impact of the model over three years.

Through interviews, focus groups, and surveys, the implementation study found that core components of the model were in place:

  • An appropriate target population—students were notably over-age and under-credited, with a significant history of truancy and low prior-year school attendance
  • A personalized, small school environment with strong relationships between the Good Shepherd Services and Department of Education staff
  • Consistent support to students from advocate counselors
  • Appropriate youth development and leadership opportunities

The impact study compared Good Shepherd transfer school students with a rigorously-matched comparison group of students at other (non-Good Shepherd) transfer schools. The study found that Good Shepherd students had a significantly higher chance of academic success:

  • They were more likely to graduate, outperforming comparison students by 12 percentage points.
  • They earned significantly more credits (4.3) after enrollment, equivalent to nearly a full semester.
  • They had a significantly higher average rate of school attendance, outperforming comparison students by 5.4 percentage points, equivalent to nearly 10 days per year.

In partnership with the NYC Department of Education, Good Shepherd Services has continued their transfer school model at South Brooklyn and West Brooklyn Community High Schools, and expanded it to two new schools: Research & Service High School and Brooklyn Frontiers High School.