Resources: Publications

How They Thrive: Lessons from New York City Alternative School Alumni

April 2022

“[My transfer school] was, I’m going to say humanizing… being seen, like, literally seen, and just appreciated, and understood, and valued, and all of these other amazing things…. You get to be a human. You get to be hungry, you get to be confused. You get to be upset, and not just judged based on the numbers you can prove on a test. And there’s a community there, too.”

–Transfer School Alum

How They Thrive is a mixed-methods study highlighting the student experience at New York City alternative (transfer) schools using interviews with transfer school alumni and analysis of quantitative data on students enrolled in NYC public high schools from 2018-19. The study was conducted by Eskolta’s research team, including a transfer school alumna.

The report details key findings demonstrating the effectiveness of NYC transfer schools to create humanizing experiences, build supportive relationships, track progress beyond traditional accountability measures, and connect students to opportunities and interests that persist beyond high school.

  1. There are systemic barriers that students face prior to entering transfer schools; some of these barriers persist after high school.
  2. Transfer schools are humanizing.
  3. Transfer school experiences connect to postsecondary interests and opportunities.
  4. Pathways to success are not necessarily linear or traditional.
  5. Underserved students are making progress at transfer schools in ways not captured by traditional accountability measures.

Video Series and Discussion Guide

The video below illustrates these findings, capturing the experiences of alumni first in the traditional schools that failed to meet their needs and later in the alternative schools they transferred to, where they express having felt seen, understood, and cared for. We also ask alumni what success means to them and note how the powerful stories of change happening in transfer schools are at odds with the narratives and accountability structures around them.

  • Visit the How They Thrive Alumni Voices playlist on our YouTube Channel to find this resource along with short versions on each of the research findings. 
  • Use this video discussion guide to facilitate one or more sessions with adult practitioners to explore the findings, share insights, and brainstorm action steps together.
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