“In March 2016, the Barr Foundation announced a new Education Program strategy that seeks to increase the number of New England youth who connect to success, both in and beyond high school. One essential strand of this work is an explicit focus on high school students who are off track for success, one of New England’s most underserved student populations.
Most of our current schools are not meeting the needs of these students. They offer few options to students who have not experienced success in traditional settings, and do not provide the supports or the environments required to re-engage them in learning, identify and address their unique needs, or create for them a sense of belonging at school. New research suggests that all of these conditions are necessary for students who have fallen off track for success, if they are to experience real academic achievement and ready themselves for college and career. And a small, but growing cadre of schools and programs that create these conditions – and that are specifically and intentionally designed to address students’ academic, social, and developmental needs – are demonstrating that these young people can succeed and thrive.
What such schools have in common is an emphasis on Positive Youth Development as a central organizing principle. These schools fully recognize that young people’s ability to achieve academic success is inter-related with their success in achieving key developmental outcomes of social-emotional learning and identity formation. These schools have the structure, teaching strategies, and supports that all intentionally reinforce these goals. They harness young people’s interests and focus resources so that students perceive the school and the classroom as places where their concerns can effectively be addressed.
This Request for Proposals (RFP) is the next stage of a new Barr Initiative to spur innovation across the region toward the planning and implementation of targeted, public, whole-school educational models for meeting the needs of high school students who are off track for success. The Barr Foundation seeks to build a critical mass of high-quality schools and programs for New England’s students who are off track for high school graduation that will provide them with the necessary supports to succeed in secondary and post-secondary endeavors and to thrive as adults. We believe in the potential of these students and have high expectations for all of them.
We also feel an obligation to ensure that they have equitable access to high-quality schools and programs that are designed to help them reach that potential. We believe the success of these students in college, career, and life will have a positive societal and economic impact across the entire New England region.
The multi-year initiative will focus on improving secondary outcomes for New England youth who are off track for graduation by supporting, incubating, growing, and promoting promising public high school and program models that address the specific needs of students. We aim to support both existing and new models by providing significant funding, in-depth technical assistance to support planning and implementation, and a shared learning community to help develop, elevate, and improve high-quality secondary options for students off track to graduate in New England. Our goal is to create a cohort of schools across the region that can serve as inspirational exemplars for the design and implementation of responsive, flexible, and student centered schools, intentionally designed to support the needs of young people who are so often left behind by traditional schools. The success of these schools will provide critical insights into how best to meet the varied needs of all students, lessons that we believe will be applicable across the entire landscape of high school programming.
Through this initiative, Barr intends to invest in three cohorts of grantees to go through planning and, potentially, implementation. In addition, we intend to invest in considerable technical assistance to grantees, to foster a community of practice among like-minded professionals invested in our shared beliefs about the importance of these new models, and to make other aligned investments to carry our collective vision forward.
In the first cycle, we anticipate supporting a cohort of up to eight grantees, seeking to seed or grow pioneering whole-school models across New England that can effectively boost graduation rates and college readiness for students who have not found the support they need through traditional education models. This RFP is intended to support only wholly integrated, full-time models, not discrete programs or stand-alone interventions. We utilize the term program to signal our interest in supporting entities regardless of their governance structure; potential applicants that function like a school in all aspects yet are designated as programs are eligible to apply.
Each cycle of the initiative will roll-out in two phases. The first phase, which this RFP addresses, is the planning phase. Applicants are invited to submit proposals for up to $150,000 for one year of planning. Subsequently, Barr will invite a select group of planning awardees to apply for a two-year implementation grant of up to $750,000.
In developing this initiative, Barr has partnered with Springpoint, a national nonprofit organization that supports the design and launch of innovative public high schools. Springpoint will provide a variety of supports to all applicants during the proposal development phase, as well as to awardees during the planning year.
Please note the following (estimated) initiative timeline for the first cohort of grantees:
- November 14, 2016 RFP released
- December 12, 2016 Webinar for prospective applicants
- January 12, 2017 Office hours via conference call
- January 27, 2017 Office hours via conference call
- February 6, 2017 Office hours via conference call
- February 15, 2017 Planning phase proposals due
- July 2017 1-year planning phase awards announced
- January 2018 Implementation award invitations released
- July 2018 2-year implementation awards announced
- Fall 2018 Launch of new, expanded, or improved models”
Excerpted from the Barr Foundation’s RFP “A Vision for New England Schools and Programs for Students Off Track to Graduate from High School.”