Media Release: National Governors Association Selects Maine to Participate in Student and Educator Wellbeing Initiative

The National Governors Association (NGA) selected Maine as one of five states to participate in a new initiative launched to bolster the mental health and wellbeing of students and school staff. Through this initiative, the NGA will support the implementation of the BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) model at 71 schools across Maine. BARR is a research-backed model focused on strengthening relationships, reducing high-risk student behavior, and improving academic achievement.

Maine will receive technical support from the NGA and their national and state partners and engage in peer learning opportunities with the other states chosen for the initiative, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wyoming.

“We know that there’s still a lot of work to do to get over the tremendous impact the pandemic had on student and educator mental health and wellbeing, and we are thankful to the National Governors Association for their leadership on these issues and for including Maine in this critical initiative. Their selection of Maine is a testament to our commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of students across the state,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “The Maine Department of Education is doing everything we can to strengthen the wellbeing of all students and educators because it’s foundational to student and school success. That’s why we’ve invested in the BARR model because it’s so focused on relationships and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of our schools to help all students and educators thrive.”

“Maine has been a frontrunner with BARR implementation since 2010. I am thrilled to continue our partnership with Commissioner Makin and the Maine Department of Education to bring BARR services to thousands more students in the state. This exciting initiative by the National Governors Association will strengthen our joint efforts, and BARR Center is honored to be Maine’s choice in this endeavor,” said BARR Center Founder and Executive Director Angela Jerabek.

As the school year begins, 71 Maine schools from every region of the state begin their first year of implementation of the BARR model. They join 15 Maine schools that have previously implemented BARR. The BARR model strengthens relationships between educators and between students and educators and utilizes real-time data to support students based on their strengths and connections to school. BARR aligns with the Maine Department of Education’s whole student approach focused on ensuring all students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, challenged, and prepared. Federal emergency relief funding supported the expansion of the BARR model in Maine schools.

Studies show that the BARR model results in increased student engagement, reduced chronic absenteeism, a 40 percent reduction on average in failure rates after one year of implementation, increased student achievement rates, and a reduction in high-risk student behavior and substance use. BARR reports that the effects are strongest for male students, students of color, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities. Educators report increased job satisfaction and higher levels of collaboration after implementing BARR.

Noble High School first implemented BARR with half of its 9th grade class in 2014. By the end of the first semester, BARR students had missed roughly half as many days of school as non-BARR students and the school expanded BARR to include all students. Bucksport High School’s graduation rate increased by more than 15 percent after implementing BARR.

BARR is one of several initiatives offered by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) to support student and school staff health and wellbeing and can all be implemented to build off one another to build safe, supportive, and healthy learning environments. You can learn more on the Maine DOE website.

Read the NGA’s announcement.