Three girls smile in a high school classroom.

Barr Announces $4.5 million in New Grants for “Doing High School Differently”

10 organizations from across New England gain support to plan and implement new school models to advance greater success for all students.

Rooted in the belief that all young people can succeed in learning, work, and life, the Barr Foundation’s Engage New England: Doing High School Differently initiative is a $30-million, five-year investment to build innovative school models for students who are currently off track to graduate. Today it is our privilege to introduce the second of three cohorts of grantees under this initiative:

Each of these partners has been awarded $150,000 over one year to support planning for new, expanded, or improved schools. In addition, they will receive technical assistance and collective learning opportunities facilitated by Springpoint, our initiative partner. Springpoint will lead assessments of each organization's 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 2019.

These five 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 Rhode Island, they also represent both traditional district, regional, and charter public schools.

Additionally, we are pleased to announce that $3,750,000 was awarded to five organizations that received planning support last year, as part of the first cohort of Engage New England: Doing High School Differently grantees. These implementation awards will support the launch of new, expanded, or improved schools in the fall of 2018, including:

New England has done a good job for many students. Yet, 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 places students at the center; is connected to higher education, employment, and civic life; and builds on students' unique strengths, and those of their communities. Engage New England: Doing High School Differently invites partners to rethink 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, and to be successful in our rapidly-changing world.

While this initiative focuses on students who are most in need, we believe that what works for those who struggle most with our current, inflexible system will point the way to better opportunities for all secondary students.

To follow developments with this and other cohorts, and to learn more about future opportunities to partner with us (including a third request for proposals to be released later this year), visit the Engage New England: Doing High School Differently page on our website, sign up for e-mail updates via the button below, and follow the conversation via the hashtag #doingHSdifferently.

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Leah Hamilton

Former Director of Education