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How one guidance counselor channeled her frustrations into a proven school improvement model.

In 1998 Angie Jerabek was working as a high school guidance counselor near Minneapolis. She was in her fifth year and working directly with 9th graders, but she was discouraged. She felt like she was trying all the “best practices” but year after year half of her students were failing a course.

Jerabek was so frustrated she was ready to call it quits. She went to her principal to tenure her resignation, but he pushed back.

“In a very helpful way he provided a much broader context, and he said this wasn’t an issue with just our school this was a national issue,” said Jerebak.

The principal challenged Jerabek to come up with a new approach. The result was the Building Assets, Reducing Risks program, also known as BARR.

Raising the Bar

The BARR model has evolved since 1998, and it’s experienced real results. On average, BARR schools see a 34.5% reduction in failure rate after one year of implementation.

The BARR model consists of professional development and training, and that’s paired with a lot of structure.

“We are wanting to make sure that every student in the grade has multiple adults that are knowing who they are. We provide structures to make sure everyone is being seen and that they’re in relationships,” said Jerabek. “And then we’re sharing that information between adults.”

Part of the BARR training focuses on equipping educators with the tools to make sure they’re picking up on changes amongst students.  BARR looks at “noticing” as a skill.

In California, a school using the BARR program credits the “noticing” technique with recognizing that a small group of girls were victims of sex trafficking.

A group of teachers meeting and discussing unusual patterns amongst the girls led a BARR coordinator to investigate and ultimately shine a light on the situation.

Across the board

Since 2010, Jerabek has been putting BARR to the test in school districts all over the country. BARR is currently practiced in rural, urban and suburban schools. In fact, they’re in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

“At this point, every school that has taken the model on has seen changes within the year,” says Jerabek.

To learn more about the impacts of the BARR program, listen to Episode 77 of Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

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