Can Innovative School Models Improve Outcomes for Youth Who Are Currently Off Track to Graduate?


Despite rising high school graduation rates, 4.9 million young adults between the ages of 16 and 24—or 12.3 percent of U.S. youth—were neither working nor in school in 2015. There is a clear and pressing need to support students before they drop out of high school, and to reengage those who are no longer enrolled. Moreover, the problem extends beyond making sure students graduate—they must also be prepared for the rigors of college and career.

To address this issue, the Barr Foundation is funding Engage New England: Doing High School Differently, a multi-year initiative aimed at improving the secondary and post-secondary outcomes of students who are off track to graduate from high school. With technical assistance from school-design consultants at Springpoint, grantees will engage in an intensive planning and implementation process to launch schools designed around the needs of the most at-risk students. By putting students at the center of school design, the goal is to develop innovative school models that use strategies such as personalized learning, mastery-based educational approaches, and rigorous and relevant instruction to keep students in school—and provide them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college or a career after high school.

Given the potential impact of this initiative on students who are off track to graduate, the Barr Foundation has engaged SRI Education, a division of SRI International, to evaluate and assess the implementation and sustainability of Engage New England. Over the course of the initiative, SRI researchers will capture the feedback and perceptions of students and staff at these new or redesigned schools, and ultimately assess whether these innovative strategies are helping students graduate and develop the competencies they need to succeed in a changing workforce.

With deep expertise in college and career readiness initiatives aimed at disadvantaged youth, including evaluating the Linked Learning approach to college and career pathways, the SRI research team is excited – and uniquely qualified – to serve as evaluation partner for this initiative. We’re looking forward to providing formative feedback to the foundation and grantees to support ongoing program improvement, as well as distilling learnings for the broader education field to better serve the needs of all students.

SRI’s evaluation of the Engage New England Initiative is supported by a grant from The Barr Foundation.

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