- Most educators might not be happy to hear that they need to attend one more meeting, but at a Minneapolis high school, meetings helping to improve 9th-graders’ transition into high school, according to NPR.
- Developed by a school counselor at St. Louis Park High School, the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) program brings together the teachers who share the same group of students — as well a school social worker, counselor and other support staff — for weekly meetings. They review the data on students, such as attendance, grades and discipline, in addition to talking about what personal challenges students might be facing and developing a plan to address those issues, such as tutoring or calling parents.
- A second meeting each week, called Risk Review, is held to discuss students with the most difficulty, and in class, teachers focus on building stronger relationships with students. At St. Louis Park, the program has contributed to a 50% drop in the failure rate among freshmen, and it has now spread to 80 schools in 13 states and the District of Columbia, with researchers finding consistent evidence that BARR improves achievement, reduces absences and suspensions, and improves student engagement.
Most high schools hold a summer orientation program for incoming 9th-graders, and in some communities, high school counselors will visit students while they are still in 8th grade to answer questions and give them a familiar face when they reach high school. But for many students, these routine activities are not enough to help them to weather the social, emotional and academic challenges that come with making the transition into high school.
Multiple studies have documented that students are vulnerable during this transition and need additional support that extends beyond the first few days of the school year. Schools have tried a variety of approaches, such as 9th grade academies and other models that intend to increase students’ sense of belonging.
BARR is based on a fairly simple concept — that the educators and other professionals responsible for students regularly communicate so that they can have a more complete picture of each child. While administrators know that even minor adjustments to master schedules can be a major undertaking, building in time for these meetings could make a significant difference in helping students have a successful 9th-grade year.
An earlier report on promising 9th-grade strategies from the U.S. Department of Education suggested “that if schools are to ratchet up their efforts to properly support students as they enter high school, they must invest in strategies that are multi-pronged and that complement one another. Such efforts require backing at both the school and district level.”