I3 BARR Validation Study Impact Findings: Cohorts 1 and 2

Brenna C. O'Brien
Feng Liu

The Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) model is a comprehensive, strength-based approach to education that aims to improve achievement for all students by improving a school’s effectiveness at building relationships, leveraging real-time student data, and capitalizing on the strengths of each student.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program provided the BARR program developers with a validation grant, and AIR is conducting a program evaluation as part of this grant. The Image of teacher and students in BARR classroomBARR model divides the incoming ninth grade into distinct groups of students (blocks) who share the same teachers for at least three of their core subjects (English language arts, mathematics, science, and/or social studies). The teachers of these different subjects work together as a team to promote their students’ success. In doing so, they build on the assets that students bring to school and address the academic and nonacademic risks they face as they progress through ninth grade.

The impact evaluation of the BARR model is a within-school randomized control trial. Individual ninth-grade students in 11 high schools in Maine, California, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Texas were randomly assigned either to implement BARR and receive BARR supports during their ninth-grade year or to not implement the program and receive these supports. When completed, the validation study will follow three cohorts of high schools participating in the program in three sequential school years (2014–17).

This interim report provides findings from the first two years of the evaluation, including a total of six schools implementing the BARR model with support from the i3 validation grant: three schools in 2014–15 (Cohort 1) and three schools in 2015–16 (Cohort 2). For these two cohorts, we found that assignment to BARR improved students’ academic outcomes at the end of ninth grade and their school experiences during ninth grade.

Key Findings from the Interim Report

  • BARR had a positive and statistically significant impact on students’ reading and math skills as measured with the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress assessment. This impact manifested itself both in students’ average achievement scores and in the percentage of students who met or exceeded their projected growth on the NWEA assessment during ninth grade.
  • BARR also had a positive and statistically significant impact on the percentage of total core credits that students earned in ninth grade and the percentage of students passing all of their core courses with no failures. 
  • BARR also had statistically significant and positive impacts on student-reported measures of supportive relationships in school, student engagement, and teacher expectations. BARR students also reported receiving more challenging assignments than control students.

In addition to these student-level impact estimates, the study found that BARR teachers had more favorable perceptions of their students’ behavior in the classroom than teachers in the control condition had of their students’ behavior. BARR teachers also were more willing to collaborate with their colleagues, were more likely to report using data to inform their instruction, and reported greater self-efficacy. However, these teacher-level differences cannot be conclusively attributed to the BARR model because teachers were not randomly assigned to BARR or the control group.

Trisha Borman
Managing Director
photo of Hans Bos
Senior Vice President and Institute Fellow