Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) Validation Study
Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) is a comprehensive, strength-based approach to improving secondary school experiences and outcomes. It uses eight interlocking strategies to build intentional staff-to-staff, staff-to-student, and student-to-student relationships in middle and high schools. BARR is currently being implemented in more than 100 schools throughout the United States, ranging from large urban high schools to small rural middle and high schools.
AIR conducted a large-scale independent evaluation of the BARR model in ninth grade in eleven high schools in Maine, California, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Texas. This sample of schools included large and small schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas, serving students from a wide range of demographic and socio-economic backgrounds.
Funded with a validation grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program, this evaluation used random assignment of ninth-grade students to BARR and control conditions to estimate the impacts of the BARR model after one year. The evaluation also assessed the fidelity of implementation of BARR in the eleven study schools and identified barriers to and facilitators of successful implementation.
The evaluation focused on several teacher- and student-level outcomes. The teacher outcomes included measures of teacher collaboration and use of data, among others. The academic outcomes included course failure, students’ grade point average (GPA), and performance on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized reading and mathematics assessments. Study outcomes also included student-reported measures of supportive relationships, perceptions of teachers’ expectations of them, student engagement, and others. In addition to these outcomes, the report includes impact estimates for attendance, suspensions, and persistence into 10th grade.
The evaluation found that the BARR model was implemented with fidelity and that the experiences and practices of BARR teachers differed from those in the control group in meaningful ways. Compared with their counterparts in the control group, BARR teachers reported more positive views of their colleagues, that they were more satisfied with the supports available to them in their school, that they were more likely to use data to inform their instruction, higher levels of self-efficacy, and more positive views about their students.
The evaluation found that BARR reduced course failure and increased students’ GPA at the end of ninth grade. BARR also improved student experiences in school, including student reports of supportive relationships, expectations and rigor, and engagement. BARR did not have statistically significant impacts on NWEA math and reading scores, attendance, suspensions, or persistence into 10th grade.
The positive effects of BARR were strongest among students predicted to do worse academically: those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, minority students, boys, and students scoring in the bottom quadrant on an NWEA baseline test. As a result, BARR significantly reduced gaps in ninth grade academic achievement between different groups of students within and across the eleven study schools.