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Barr Announces First Cohort of Partners in $30-Million “Engage New England: Doing High School Differently” Initiative

Nine organizations from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine receive planning grants to advance greater success for all students.

With the goal of bringing greater success to all students, last September, Barr’s Education Program launched a first major initiative focused on investing in new school models intentionally designed for those who were off track to graduate. Today it is our privilege to introduce the first of three cohorts of grantees under this initiative—newly-named, Engage New England: Doing high school differently:

Each partner will receive planning grants of $150,000 over one year, in addition to technical assistance in school model development and collective learning opportunities facilitated by Springpoint, our initiative partner. Over the next nine months, Springpoint will lead the nine organizations through assessments of their assets and needs and support them in articulating a vision and plan for the experiences they aspire to create for their students. Depending upon the quality of the resulting plans, participants may also be invited to apply for implementation grants of up to $750,000 over two years, to be awarded in 2018.

The nine grantees represent a variety of approaches to advancing greater success for all students.

The number and diversity of applicants to the RFP last November exceeded our expectations, with 49 proposals for a new school development or high school redesign, including at least one from each of the six New England states. The nine grantees represent a variety of approaches to advancing greater success for all students. They include concepts for both new schools and school redesigns. Hailing from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine, they also represent both urban and rural schools, as well as a combination of district and charter public schools.

New England has done a good job for many students, but we believe we can do a great job for all by intentionally designing schools that align with the evidence of what works for all students: learning that is deeply personalized; a clear focus on student engagement and agency; and strong linkages to post-secondary and career opportunities. Engage New England: Doing high school differently adds to the progress of New England’s schools by rethinking high school education, aligning it with positive youth development theory and creating a variety of whole school models that are as rigorous as they are flexible in developing content knowledge, successful habits, creative know-how, and navigation abilities—the integrated knowledge and skills that students need to access their full potential, connect to opportunities in college, career, and community, and to be successful in our rapidly-changing world.

Engage New England: Doing high school differently aligns with Barr’s mission to focus on the knowledge and skills all students need for post-graduate success and to rethink secondary education to provide greater success for all. While this first initiative focuses on students who are most in need, we believe that what works for those who are struggling most with our current, inflexible system can inform, augment and enhance opportunities for all secondary students.

We firmly believe that all students can meet high expectations when they have access to schools that are responsive to their interests and empower their potential in caring, creative, and flexible environments.

We firmly believe that all students can meet high expectations when they have access to schools that are responsive to their interests and empower their potential in caring, creative, and flexible environments. Engage New England: Doing high school differently is a first effort of many to provide all New England students with more diverse education opportunities that connect them to greater success in high school and beyond.

This is the first of three cohorts and the second RFP will be released in fall 2017. To follow developments with this first cohort, and to learn more about future opportunities to partner with us, please visit the Engage New England: Doing high school differently page on our website and sign up for e-mail updates.