Students work at a table in high school.

Barr Announces RFP for Cohort Three of the Engage New England Initiative

Seeking proposals for $150,000, one-year planning grants from teams ready to do high school differently.

We are excited to announce a request for proposals (RFP) to identify the third and final cohort of teams that will join the Engage New England: Doing High School Differently initiative. The Barr Foundation seeks proposals from partners interested in developing quality, innovative public high schools and programs across New England designed to support students toward a path to post-secondary success. School models will be rooted in positive youth development theory that engages students through their interests and empowers them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college, career, and community. Selected teams will embark upon a deep planning and design phase to develop a school model that deliberatively and comprehensively supports students who are not on track to graduate.

In 2016 Barr announced the multi-year Engage New England initiative, which is part of the Education Program’s strategy to catalyze new high school models across the region. Through Engage New England, our goal is to marshal critical resources, awareness, and opportunities to support one of New England’s most marginalized high school populations: students who are off track to graduate from high school—and therefore have limited opportunities to connect to post-secondary success.

Our goal is to support the development of exemplary schools and programs across the region that can powerfully demonstrate the impact of intentionally addressing both academic and developmental needs with student-centered, rigorous, and supportive approaches. We believe that all students can meet high expectations when they have a choice to learn in a school that meets their interests, empowers their potential in a caring and creative environment, and fully prepares them for success in life.

The teams selected through this RFP will join the first and second cohorts of the Engage New England initiative, which were announced in June 2017 and June 2018, respectively. Engage New England participants connect within and across cohorts, and are partners in an innovation collaborative—learning from each other and like-minded innovators across the nation, while receiving robust technical assistance from design and planning through implementation. Together they will build a diverse set of school models that transform high school learning experiences for young people whose prior experiences have failed to engage them and empower their success.

Together teams will build a diverse set of school models that transform high school learning experiences for young people and empower their success.

This RFP addresses the first phase of potential funding for Cohort 3 teams, which is for planning. Starting today, applicants can begin preparing their proposals for one-year planning phase grants of up to $150,000 each to support the development of their school or program. A webinar for prospective applicants will be held on November 29th, and additional opportunities to learn about the initiative and ask questions will be available during “office hours” via conference calls on November 30, December 13 and 17, and January 11 and 14. Barr will accept proposals via an online form until February 1, 2019.

We expect to announce the new cohort of up to eight planning teams in July 2019. In addition to financial support, each awardee will receive technical assistance and collective learning opportunities facilitated by our nonprofit partner Springpoint. Springpoint is a national nonprofit organization that supports the design and launch of innovative public high schools, and they have curated a set of school design resources to support applicants of the Engage New England initiative.

Planning grant awardees that are successful in their planning and design efforts will be invited to apply for grants of up to $750,000 for up to three years of implementation. We anticipate that successful applicants in the implementation phase will then launch their models in the fall of 2020.

We believe that all students have the right and the ability to connect to secondary and post-secondary success. In order to fully realize their potential, all students—even those who are not currently on track to graduate—can and must be supported to achieve at high levels. Doing so requires targeted investments in new models that embrace a student-centered approach. We are excited to offer this funding opportunity and look forward to partnering with a third cohort of leaders in this work.

Download the full RFP

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Leah Hamilton

Former Director of Education