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BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks)

South St. Paul Public Schools is proud to be the first BARR School District in the nation. BARR schools focus on building relationships with students to help better understand where they need support to succeed. As a BARR District, all schools in the SSPPS School District follow the BARR model.

The BARR model uses eight interlocking strategies to help build intentional relationships. Using commonalities, students feel more comfortable communicating with each other and their educators. The eight interlocking strategies are:

  • Focus on the whole student: SSPPS educators know that students don't leave their lives at the door. Building relationships helps the teacher work with each and every student's academic, emotional, social, and physical needs to make sure they are ready and able to learn.
  • Provide professional development for school staff: Educators are also life-long learners. Regular hands-on training and coaching ensures staff feel comfortable and supported with the BARR model.
  • Social emotional learning (I-Times and U-Times): SSPPS staff facilitate a weekly 30-minute social emotional learning lesson focused on helping students learn the life skills that help them foster meaningful relationships.
  • Create cohorts: Cohorts help educators foster staff-to-staff, staff-to-student, and student-to-student relationships. By breaking into smaller groups educators are more likely to cultivate connections that allow for more effective teaching and learning.
  • Cohort teacher team meetings: Teachers meet weekly to discuss students from a strength-based perspective. This allows staff to work together to identify struggling students and effective interventions; it also helps identify students who should be accelerated.
  • Risk review meetings: When a student is identified as struggling, they are moved to a structured risk review process that helps teachers develop an action plan to help the student succeed.
  • Engage families in student learning: As the saying goes "it takes a village." SSPPS educators improve communication with families to recognize them as active partners in the student's education. 
  • Engage administrators: Each BARR school is connected through a community that networks with one another for ideas on how to effectively lead their schools and engage their students.

After three years of implementing the BARR model, South St. Paul High School's graduation rate experienced a 6.4% increase.


The percentage of 9th graders with one or more F's also decreased by 22.5% over the past year.