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New Funding Extends Transformation Efforts in Five High Schools

Beyond Engage New England is a $2.85 million investment in five schools committed to ensuring post-secondary success for all students.

I am excited to announce new Barr Foundation grants totaling $2.85 million over three years to New England schools and school districts committed to doing high school differently. These awards mark the launch of a new initiative, called Beyond Engage New England (Beyond ENE) that extends work that began in 2016 with Barr’s Engage New England initiative. Beyond ENE will continue to ensure that all young people in New England - but especially the students who have often been most failed by our system and for whom people often have the lowest expectations - thrive in high school and are on a trajectory for lives of choice and opportunity.

Engage New England provided financial support and technical assistance for teams of educators to develop high school models that champion success for all students. Schools and programs also participated in a learning collaborative to share lessons with each other and like-minded peers from across the country.

Now, with Beyond ENE, five schools that went through rigorous planning and implementation of their school models have committed to press further with ongoing iteration to reach excellence and to continue sharing their learning. The selected Beyond ENE schools share our belief that all students can and must be prepared for success in college, regardless of their race, personal characteristics, or academic background. We know that not every student will choose to pursue a college degree immediately after high school graduation. But, we are supporting our partners to ensure that all students are prepared for that opportunity, and graduate with an explicit plan for true post-secondary success.

Barr will continue to partner with the national school design organization, Springpoint to support Beyond ENE schools to deepen and enhance the most promising and impactful work from the Engage New England initiative, embed and sustain change with strong systems and plans for succession and sustainability, and expand impact by documenting and sharing what is possible for students who have fallen off-track to graduation so that other schools and systems can replicate effective practices. Springpoint supports will focus on five key areas, which are aligned with common areas of growth in the Indicators of School Quality framework:

  • Prioritized competencies that clearly articulate the most essential skills students will need to be successful in college, career, and life
  • Transformative learning experiences – robust project-based learning units – that can help students develop identity, pursue interests, find purpose, and build fundamental mastery of skills, especially those articulated in the prioritized competencies
  • A primary person model explicitly focused on ensuring every student is known well and has a relationship with an adult charged with supporting their success and pathway to graduation
  • External partnerships, including implementing a school-based coordinator role, so that student learning experiences and supports fully come to life for students
  • Post-secondary planning to build intentional structures for college and career planning to ensure that all students have informed, individualized, rigorous, and realistic post-secondary plans
[EDU] Beyond ENE Quote by Jenny Curtin

The five partners in this new initiative include three public school districts in Massachusetts, a regional education council in Connecticut, and one public charter school in Rhode Island:

New England’s schools have done a good job for many students. Yet, too many still leave high school early or graduate unprepared for what’s next. The current system is not working for them. This is why Barr supports a wide range of public schools across New England that believe in the potential of all students and are working hard to make deep and lasting change.

The five Beyond ENE partners have made impressive progress creating high schools where all young people can thrive and build lives of choice and opportunity. We are excited to support their continuing work and to share what they learn along the way.

To learn more about the lessons and findings from the Engage New England Initiative, please see the resources on our ENE webpage which includes publications from our initiative evaluation partner, SRI Education.

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