Skyline High in Mesa using BARR program to grow strengths in students and teachers

Mesa, AZ | Submitted by Robbin Featherston

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The Skyline High School Coyotes in Mesa are working as a “P.A.C.K.” to develop perseverance, achievement, community and knowledge. This large, diverse student body was facing too many freshmen who weren’t on track to be successful and were detaching from their educational experience.

Building Assets Reducing RisksSchool leadership understood that many of these students had stressful experiences outside of the classroom, which was impacting their ability to learn. To help faculty and staff support the whole student, they adopted the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) program.

This strengths-based model is helping the school to create a holistic approach to education. Teachers are now helping students to meet academic, social and emotional needs. The two pillars of the program are: building positive intentional relationships with the students and using real-time data to impact their experience.

As part of the program, core academic teachers are organized into teams. These teams share a common cohort of students. To help keep these youth on track, teachers meet once per week. The discuss five students who are doing well, as well as five students who need intervention.

Based on student needs, educators engage in intervention, either in the classroom, with a parent or counselor, or with the school’s risk review team. The school’s BARR coordinator can help to coordinate these with a social worker, school psychologist, or assistant principal when needed. Reviewing weekly progress is critical so the team stays in close contact.

To help students propel their own growth, a weekly I-Time lesson helps to grow social, emotional understanding. These lessons are rotated between core classes and grow positive relationships between teachers and students. Even these lessons use data to help students understand everything from their own leadership style to their academic growth. In a state where fewer than 80 percent of high schoolers graduate in four years, initiatives like this one are helping move toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter goal of 90 percent graduation rate by 2030.

As one of the first schools in Arizona to implement the BARR program, Skyline has made it possible through a federal grant. Though it’s still the first year of implementation, the school is already seeing big changes. Youth are more engaged and excited about classes and are even more willing to share with teachers. Failure rates are declining, and the school has even been able to link parents with valuable community resources. Where youth might have fallen through cracks in the past, BARR is ensuring that doesn’t happen.

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