Raising the BARR

A comprehensive programme to reduce the risks of transition to secondary school has been successful in a scale-up study.

The year-long randomised controlled trial in California of the Building Assets–Reducing Risks (BARR) programme involved 555 ninth graders (Year 10) randomly assigned to BARR or non-BARR conditions. It showed that pupils who participated in the programme demonstrated improved academic achievement compared to peers who did not.

The programme uses eight strategies. These include dividing pupils into cohorts to allow teachers to know them better, regularly scheduled teacher-cohort meetings addressing pupil progress, risk-review meetings, classes for pupils addressing life skills and challenges, and increased family involvement.

At the end of the trial, pupils assigned to BARR achieved higher standardised test scores in reading and maths. Furthermore, the programme was rolled out to all ninth grade pupils for a second and third year. At the end of year three the course failure rate was 18.5%, a 42% decrease from the year before BARR was introduced. The failure rates for the Hispanic subgroup had decreased from 41% in the year-one non-BARR condition to 21%.

Source: Building Assets Reducing Risks – The Building Assets-Reducing Risks Program: Replication and Expansion of an Effective Strategy to Turn Around Low-Achieving Schools (2015), BARR Center.

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