Twenty-one years ago, Angela Jerabek nearly quit her job as a ninth-grade counselor at St. Louis Park High School in suburban Minneapolis. She felt discouraged over the high number of ninth graders failing at least one course, and helpless to remedy the problem. Encouraged by her school’s principal, she channeled her frustration into developing an innovative program that builds connections between students and teachers to help both succeed. She called it Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR). BARR focuses on ninth graders because they face a make-or-break transitional year from middle school to high school. Research shows that students who succeed in the ninth grade tend to graduate. Many who struggle eventually drop out.

Today, BARR operates in over 100 high schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and Jerabek is CEO of a fast-growing organization. Over the next three years, the number of BARR schools is expected to more than double with financial support from the US Department of Education. BARR stands out as the sole project among 172 federal education innovation grants to progress through randomized controlled trials to win funding at three levels: innovation, development, and scaling up.

Its results are striking. The BARR model has been proven to create statistically significant impacts in 19 areas of academic performance and outcomes for students, teachers, and schools. And a Hechinger Report article says, “A little-known program has lifted ninth grade performance in virtually every type of school.” Fewer students ultimately drop out because they feel more engaged and challenged at school. The effects are particularly large for students of color, male students, and students from low-income families.

Read the full article about the BARR Center by Lija Farnham and Aviva Altmann at The Bridgespan Group.