This collection includes publications and resources from our partners and in our program areas, both current and legacy. These resources are completely free to access and download. Most of these works were funded by the Barr Foundation. We may occasionally feature items relevant to our program areas which were not funded by Barr. Please be aware that views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barr Foundation. We encourage you to search our collection and suggest potential content to include (use "content recommendations"). For questions or assistance, please contact
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Indicators of School Quality

June 1, 2021

This document provides a framework, including a set of definitions for each of the components of the seven indicators of school quality in practice. The framework, which is a living document, is intended to help guide educators who are designing and operating school models that will achieve a community's shared vision of student success. Positive youth development and educational equity—which should underpin all systems,structures, and practices in a school—are named across all seven indicators because these must exist holistically in order to create learning environments where all students thrive.

Education - New Models

Transforming High Schools to Serve Students Who Are Off track to Graduate: Lessons Learned from the Engage New England Initiative

December 1, 2022

The Barr Foundation's Engage New England (ENE) initiative was an effort to catalyze high school innovation by developing exemplary schools that support the success of students who are off track to graduate. Grounded in the tenets of positive youth development, the ENE initiative provided grants and technical assistance to support new or redesigned schools in creating rigorous and purposeful educational programs for students who have not experienced success in traditional high schools. Through ENE, the foundation sought to demonstrate how student-centered schools can meet the varied needs of students, especially historically underserved students, and ensure their postsecondary success.This brief presents lessons learned about school transformation from the foundation's experience supporting three cohorts of grantees. The insights gained from the ENE initiative can inform reform efforts in all high schools.

Education - New Models

Study of the Engage New England Initiative Cross-Site Learning Brief 3: Improving Instructional Systems

December 1, 2020

SRI Education, the research partner for the Barr Engage New England (ENE) initiative, captured the ENE school and program grantees' learnings about improving instructional systems through interviews of school leaders, school staff members, and external partners; student focus groups; and staff surveys during the 2019-20 school year. This brief describes common facilitators and challenges experienced by grantees as they worked to further their instructional systems. It also provides some promising practices that grantees used to support these efforts or to address challenges.

Education - New Models

A View from the Canopy: Building collective knowledge on school innovation

September 1, 2019

Databases and lists that offer information about innovative schools unintentionally contribute to the problem, as a lack of standard terminology and data structures forces them into siloes. As a result, knowledge of how schools are reimagining the learning experience for students remains deeply fragmented and woefully insufficient, creating real consequences—not only for funders, researchers, and school support organizations, but ultimately for the evolution and spread of promising practices.Recognizing this challenge, the Christensen Institute has worked with a range of partners to launch a project we're calling the Canopy: an effort to build better collective knowledge about the diverse range of schools offering learning experiences designed with students at the center. More than just another list, the Canopy reimagines both where information comes from as well as how it is structured to address some of the fractures in the current system. By casting a wide net through a crowdsourcing approach, Canopy surfaced 235 schools making strides towards student-centered learning—72% of which do not appear on other commonly referenced lists of innovative schools. Nominators and schools also used a consistent set of "tags" or common keywords to describe each school's model, meaning the dataset can be filtered, analyzed, and built out over time.This initial stage of the Canopy demonstrates how a process designed to advance collective knowledge has the potential to unveil a more diverse, complete picture of K-12 school innovation. We hope this leads to additional research efforts, and ultimately supports the development and scale of promising innovative approaches across the country.

Education - New Models

On the Road to Sustainable School Change: Stories from the Ground

July 1, 2019

It's one thing to paint a big picture vision for school transformation, but it's another thing to translate that vision into day-to-day strategies and actions at the school and classroom level. To understand common barriers and approaches in teacher and leader behavior change, The Learning Agenda reviewed reports and case studies from multiple education initiatives, and drew from learning community conversations about shifting instructional practice. Some key themes emerged, including four common barriers to sustainable school and classroom change:Attitude and Emotional Factors, such as lack of buy-in and trustProcess Factors, such as lack of coordination, planning and communicationsEnvironmental Factors, such as lack of time and resources, competing demands, policy barriersSkill and Knowledge Gaps, such as lack of experience in the change areaThe Learning Agenda then took the most common barriers and questions from the learning community and asked nine Wider Learning Ecosystem community members and redesign experts to respond with their own stories of struggle and success related to their school change efforts. This guide shares those stories to offer concrete examples and strategies that any school can use to strengthen their change effort.

Education - New Models

Perspectives on High School Education in New England

June 3, 2019

This survey of 2,500+ New England parents, students, teachers, and principals reflects their perspectives on high school education: the purpose of high school, what skills and knowledge high school graduates need to have, and what high school might need to look like to meet those needs.

Education - New Models

Study of the Engage New England initiative, cross-site learning brief 1: Learnings from the cohort 1 planning process.

October 29, 2018

In 2017, the Barr Foundation launched Engage New England (ENE), a signature initiative that provides a unique opportunity for local education agencies and nonprofits to plan for and develop innovative schools designed to serve students off track to high school graduation. School design partner Springpoint is leading three cohorts of grantees through a three-phase planning year: Understand, Design, and Build. During the Understand phase, grantees conduct research to understand the needs of their student populations. In the Design phase, the grantees design a school model to meet those needs; planning to launch that model begins in the Build phase. The first cohort of grantees received planning year grants for the 2017–18 school year and included a combination of new schools and school redesigns. During the planning year, these grantees assembled teams to lead the design work, collected and analyzed data to learn about their current or potential students and community needs and capacities, articulated design priorities, and began to plan for the launch of the new or refined school model. SRI Education, the research partner for the ENE initiative, captured the learnings from the planning process through interviews, classroom observations, and student focus groups conducted during March and April 2018. The findings in this brief are based on the reflections of the school and design leaders and staff members involved in the design process as well as Springpoint staff members who supported the design process. This brief is designed to benefit all three cohorts of ENE grantees as they plan and build their schools and to highlight key elements of planning for innovative school models.

Education - New Models

Learning with Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and Equity

October 5, 2018

Study OverviewPersonalized learning is often equated with individual learning using technology. Yet for many students, learning on their own may not effectively meet their needs. The aim of this study was to explore racial differences in experiences and benefits associated with collaboration. We collected data from a variety of sources for students, teachers, and classrooms within four racially diverse high schools that emphasized both personalization and collaboration. Our sample included 892 students, 138 teachers, and 30 classrooms. Our qualitative analyses identified emergent themes from focus groups and interviews, and our quantitative analyses examined associations among opportunities for collaboration, classroom experiences, and outcomes, testing whether these associations differed forBlack students versus White students. We found that, for all students, reports of high-quality collaboration were strongly associated with positive classroom experiences and mind-set/ dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy. Moreover, high-quality collaboration was strongly associated with students' perceptions of personalization—and personalization, in turn, was strongly associated with outcomes. At the same time, focus group discussions revealed that Black students perceived less relevance in collaborative activities, more frequent experiences of exclusion and marginalization, and lower support from teachers during collaborative group work than did non-Black peers. Findings from this study suggest that collaborative experiences could be among the factors that contribute to positive changes in the academic trajectories of Black students, particularly when these opportunities reflect high-quality features. Thus, schools and educators aiming to address equity through personalization should consider increasing opportunities for high-quality collaboration.

Education - New Models

"In Theory It's a Good Idea": Understanding Implementation of Proficiency-based Education in Maine

October 1, 2018

Education Development Center (EDC) partnered with 10 districts in rural Maine that were in the process of implementing the state's requirement that students graduate with a proficiency-based diploma, to study students' exposure to student-centered, proficiency-based education and the relationship between exposure and student academic performance and engagement. Using Latent Profile Analysis, a statistical technique used to uncover hidden subgroups (i.e., latent profiles) based on the similarity with which a group of individuals responds to a set of survey questions, we found that three distinct proficiency-based education (PBE) exposure profiles existed, in similar proportions across all the participating schools and within every school. Analyses of district level administrative data showed that having an IEP was associated with higher exposure to PBE practices but that other student characteristics, including free and reduced-price lunch status and gender were not associated with more exposure to PBE practices. We also observed a positive relationship between exposure to PBE practices and increased levels of student engagement, and a negative association between exposure to PBE practices and SAT scores. Finally, qualitative analyses revealed that implementation to date has largely focused on identifying graduation standards and implementing new proficiency-based grading practices, with traditional classroom practices still fairly commonplace.

Education - New Models

Breaking Down Silos to Put Students on the Path to Success: The Promise of Early College in Massachusetts

December 1, 2016

This report assesses the potential impact that early college high schools could have on student outcomes in Massachusetts. This report follows a call from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education (the Boards) at a joint session in January 2016. The two Boards share a priority of seeking strategies to help advance an important, fundamental goal in our state: more students, especially low-income students and those who are potential first-generation college-goers, completing a postsecondary credential and being prepared to succeed in careers and in life.This final report both summarizes the findings of the research in the Commonwealth and across the country, and proposes a framework for a Massachusetts Early College Initiative that could extend our state's leadership in public education.

Education - New Models

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