When walking into North Adams High School during the past few years, one may not notice anything different about the building. However, district administrators have mentioned how entering the building doesn’t feel the same at all. With the same students and same teachers, these leaders have asked what has been different these last two years to produce better results for students and improvements in their school’s culture. The answer is BARR.
BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) is the nation’s leading evidence-based school improvement model that brings education into the 21st century through intentionally deepened relationships and a data-driven, personalized and supportive approach. North Adams High School began implementing the K-12 model in 2019-20 for their seventh and ninth grade students. After implementing BARR for a year, the seventh and ninth grades teams saw a significant reduction in failure rates to below 7%, and also in behavior incidents, which dropped by 15.5% across the two teams. North Adams subsequently added BARR in their eighth and tenth grade during the 2020-21 school year.
Even amidst a pandemic, the new BARR teams also saw an improvement in the percentage of students passing all of their courses. Across the whole school, the number of discipline referrals continued to drop by 15.1%, including a decrease in the more significant behaviors of concern. All four BARR teams, grades seven through ten, were also able to keep their attendance rates above 92% during the pandemic.
The North Adams High School team has prioritized getting to know each and every student who walks through their doors by providing them support to help them succeed. BARR has provided educators a structure to be able to talk about students, focusing on building a relationship with them as both a person and a learner.
“It forces my colleagues and me to talk about every student. We look at different issues and work on interventions, while we celebrate positives and growths. Being involved in BARR has made me a better educator,” said Middle School Science Teacher of the Year and Eighth Grade North Adams High School Teacher Matt Young.
As a K-12 model, BARR is based on two pillars: relationships and data. Impacting more than 202,000 students across the country in 21 states and D.C., the relationships at the foundation of the model are staff-to-staff, staff-to-student, and student-to-student. While these relationships are critical to improving school culture, both quantitative and qualitative data are also key in empowering staff in understanding students socially, emotionally and academically.
“BARR has transformed the way we teach,” said BARR Coordinator Jennifer Napier.
The strength-based model has given the North Adams High School team the tools to prioritize lifting up students’ strengths and celebrating them for their assets. Throughout the years, educators have increased their positive communication with families by sending positive postcards home, calling families to talk about their students’ success, and spotlighting students for their great work on television monitors throughout the school. They have also implemented new strategies to support students by having a designated check-in person that students can touch base with every morning and a Lunch Bunch that students can work with teachers during to receive any additional help they need.
“BARR is not something we do; it is who we are: a school that puts students first,” said Napier. “Teachers are focusing on students’ strengths, on forming positive relationships, and systematically using data to recognize student success and support needed.”
BARR provides educators with a structure to be able to know their students better than ever by collecting real time data, meeting weekly and collaborating about how they can use this information to best support their students’ needs moving forward.
“Without the BARR meetings, I don’t know how I would get through the school year,” said Seventh Grade Teacher Madison Shoenleben. “BARR has provided me with ways to reach students that I never would have been able to before. We are the same people we would have been, but through the use of BARR my students and I are better connected which allows us to soar to new heights in education.”
Another way that the team has focused on collecting both quantitative and qualitative data is through I-Times, which are social-emotional lessons with a focus on building intentional relationships.
“The I-Time activities allow students to engage with teachers and peers in ways they would not be able to typically. One of my favorite things about I-Time activities is that I learn new information about my students and I get to engage with them in conversations about real life topics and issues,” said Ninth Grade Teacher Whitney Shupert. “These connections we are making with students during I-Time activities are long lasting and carry on into the teaching we do every day.”
This gives educators the chance to learn about their students and share more about themselves to strengthen these relationships in the classroom.
“These shared moments give students and teachers an opportunity to connect on a different level which leads to better relationships,” said Seventh Grade Teacher Kelly Boerger. “Those bonds really help both parties see each other as people rather than only as teacher/student.”
Principal Karl Boerger shares a similar experience of how he has been able to develop more meaningful relationships with each student through BARR. As a way to make sure no students fall through the cracks, Boerger appreciates how BARR gives educators space and a strategy to make sure 100% of students in the building are talked about, whether they are receiving additional support or getting recognized for their hard work.
“As the principal, BARR allows one to know every student quickly academically and have tremendous insight on environmental factors influencing those academics,” said Boerger. “Teachers systematically understand all students with one goal: student success. They rally around the student providing a support system like no other.”
By working together with BARR, North Adams High School has transformed their culture by creating an environment where each and every student feels cared for, supported and inspired to achieve their dreams.
Check out the press release on the PR Newswire!