Stanford Impact Lab | Lifting the Bar: Supporting children after juvenile detention

“It was invaluable and inspiring to have the time and structure to step back and think strategically about where this kind of work can go, the real-world impact it could have, and to begin to test models for how we could achieve that. It provides a roadmap.” Greg Walton, Professor Department of Psychology, Stanford 


Every year, tens of thousands of children in the US are incarcerated in juvenile-detention facilities. The vast majority are Black, Latino, and indigenous boys. 

The Stanford Lifting the Bar Project aims to help young people achieve their goals when they return to school following the complex journey of being incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities.

They work with country and district leaders to strengthen student-educator relationships for students in key transitional moments – including the reentry from detention centers to mainstream schooling. Their intervention – developed in close collaboration with educators in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, Oakland Unified School District, and youth in community and after-school organizations –  builds positive and supportive relationships between students and educators.


The Lifting the Bar team had rigorous evidence of the intervention’s impact, including greater student sense of belonging, as well as lower recidivism and dropout rates. 

The team knew their intervention could impact more students across the country, but needed to tackle key questions as they looked to scale, including:

  • What are the best channels to scale Lifting the Bar to more school districts?
  • Which components of Lifting the Bar are the most essential for impact, and need to be replicated in new school districts? 
  • Is it possible to subsidize or recover costs at scale, so that we can impact more students?


Spring Impact supported Lifting the Bar and Stanford Impact Lab to develop and test pathways for scale. Our teams worked together to:

  • Align on an ambitious but realistic goal for impact at scale, narrowed to specific target constituents, i.e those they are specifically aiming to impact 
  • Develop a viable scale pathway, including Open-Source tools ,educator Training, and District-Level partnerships
  • Identify key risks and unknowns related to the scale strategy and explore them through lean testing, gaining real-world data to guide further investment. 

Outcomes and Impact: 

Through lean testing the Lifting the Bar team quickly honed in on their multi-prong scale strategy combining educator tools and strategic delivery partners. They also devised a marketing strategy, refined their pricing for cost recovery at scale, and built a promising relationship with a viable delivery partner. 

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