FAQ: Request for Proposal on Networks for School Improvement (Late 2018)

We are working on updating our FAQs with general themes and questions as they arise. If you do not see your question answered below, please email us at K-12SchoolNetworkRFP@gatesfoundation.org. Thank you!

 

The RFP Process, Requirements, Screening and Decisions

 

 

NSI Focus—Student Population, Schools, Geography

 

Eligibility and Experience

 

Identifying the Problem of Practice, Root Cause, Research, Aim

 

What If My Organization Isn’t Ready

 

Data and Evaluation

The RFP Process, requirements, screening and decisions

 

When does the RFP close?

There are two stages to the RFP. All applications for Stage 1 must be completed and submitted by noon PST on Oct 26, 2018. Applicants will receive an automatic notification upon submission of their application.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and you are strongly encouraged to submit your response as soon as possible. In all cases, Stage 1 applications must be received by noon PST on Oct 26, 2018, and we are unable to extend the deadline for any reason. Note that unpredictable volumes of traffic on our website close to the deadline may make it hard for applicants to save their application for up to 12 hours before the deadline. Please plan ahead and submit your completed application as early as possible; extensions will not be possible.

Stage 1 of the RFP is an assessment of applicants’ readiness to lead NSIs based on their previous work. Intermediaries that successfully pass Stage 1 will be invited by Nov 9 to complete Stage 2 of the written RFP.  Stage 2 is the first point at which we will ask applicants to present a proposal. Stage 2 applications must be submitted by noon PST on Dec 21, 2018.

Applicants who are invited to complete Stage 2 of the RFP may do so when Stage 2 opens on Nov 13. Stage 2 closes at noon PST on Dec 21.

You can download a word copy of Stage 1 and Stage 2 questions here

 

There are lots of supporting documents for this application. Why does this RFP require so much reading?

We learned from our RFI and our first RFP that words describing key concepts that are central to our strategy like “continuous improvement” and “networks” are interpreted in very different ways. Our strategy focuses on specific approaches to these concepts. We don’t want you to waste time and energy completing an application for work that is different from what you expected. Instead, we are providing as much detail as possible to guide your decision about whether to apply this year. This is also the reason why the written RFPis split over two stages, with almost no proposal information being requested through the first stage; we are asking only for what we need to assess successful applications at each stage of the process. This should reduce the overall burden for applicants.

Please read the supporting materials carefully, in particular the glossary.

We welcome your feedback on our application process. If you would like to share any reactions with us, please email us at k-12schoolnetworkrfp@gatesfoundation.org.

 

How and when will you screen the RFP applications?

Stage 1 of the RFP closes at noon PST on Oct 26, 2018. The K12 team will then screen RFP applications with support from a team of contractors. Initial screening will occur from Oct 29 – Nov 8. All applicants should hear from us by Nov 9.

We will use a set of screening criteria that align closely to the descriptions set out in the glossary and the supporting documents for the RFP. Therefore, you should read the entire glossary and RFP documents closely before you write your application.

 

What is involved in the NSI grant application process?

The grant application process involves moving successfully through multiple stages that begin with a written response to Stage 1 of this RFP and culminate with a set of Intermediary organizations being invited to complete a full grant proposal, detailed budget, and measurement plan in partnership with the foundation. Stages of review include an initial screening of  Stage 1 of the RFP application, followed by Stage 2 then a video interview and site visits. We will use the information applicants provide at each stage to determine which applicants advance to the next stage in the process.

No funding will be awarded solely on a written RFP response.

 

IIs this process available annually? Does the application remain the same annually so that we can plan to apply in the future if we can not meet the timeline for this year’s application?

We plan to issue another RFP in the spring of 2019 and most likely at least one more RFP after that. We expect to learn much about what makes a successful NSI and therefore we do not anticipate that the application will be entirely consistent from year to year. We also want to improve the applicant experience. For example, this RFP has fewer questions than the last one and each question is longer, based on feedback we received from applicants.

 

Is having an external evaluator a requirement of the grant?

No; we will work with a third party evaluator to understand the impact of NSIs on student outcomes as evidenced by the indicators outlined in the glossary.

 

Why are you not funding Type 2 (smaller grants) this time around?

You may recall from our first RFP that Type 2 grants are smaller grants that aim to develop the capacity of emerging intermediaries to lead NSIs.  Our first RFP led to significant investments in Type 2 NSIs and we are taking an opportunity to learn from those grants before we request new proposals from the field.

Through this RFP, we plan to fund  up to four grants and they will all be Type 1s. This is because we want to launch some new, larger networks to try to move three outcomes that were under-represented in our first cohort of NSIs.

 

What is a Type 1 NSI grant?

Through this RFP, we plan to fund  up to four grants and they will all be Type 1s. Type 1 grants are reserved for Intermediaries that have demonstrated capacity and experience in the following areas: continuous improvement methods; data collection and analysis; network facilitation; school-level leadership development; improving outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students; and knowledge management.

These Intermediaries

  • have successfully facilitated a network of schools or districts that used a continuous improvement process to improve one or more predictive student outcomes or indicators for Black, Latino, and low-income students, and
  • are (or will be with planning funds) ready to launch an NSI during School Year 2019-20 that aims to increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against a predictive student outcome or indicator with 10-50 schools.

Type 1 grants are multi-year awards (three to five years) for a small number of networks.

The size of Type 1 grant awards will be determined based on the number of schools in the network and will include additional capacity building for intermediaries.  For this RFP, we are seeking proposals that fall within the range of $50,000 to $100,000 per school / year with a maximum grant award value not to exceed $13M for a five-year grant.  This is purposefully a wide range to allow you as potential grantees to propose a model that fits your individual context, and to recognize that the problem of practice selected, the number of schools in a network and the location of the network can greatly impact a network’s cost per school.

If you progress through the RFP process, you will be asked for increasing levels of detail surrounding your proposed funding model. This table includes some average cost estimates that may help you plan a budget for your proposal.

Estimated Costs Per School / Year
# of Schools / Year Low Mid High
Small Network 10 – 20 $67,000 $80,000 $100,000
Medium Network 20 – 35 $58,000 $68,000 $84,000
Large Network 35+ $53,000 $63,000 $77,000

 

This financial information and average network size is preliminary and should be used as general guidance. Intermediaries will work collaboratively with a Gates Foundation Program Officer to determine the detailed budget and duration of NSI grants during the grant creation process.

The duration and funding amounts will depend on several factors, including:

  • the scope of a network’s improvement project;
  • the number of schools in a network;
  • the intermediary’s context;
  • the intermediary’s approach to network facilitation;
  • the specific network problem of practice; and
  • the level of planning required to launch the network.

Grants will be awarded directly to Intermediaries. Successful applicants we be notified of the status of their award by August 2018. Subsequent payment is contingent upon satisfactory grant progress. In the case of higher risk investments, grants may be terminated at agreed-upon inflection points if progress stalls.

The management of a Type 1 NSI is a significant administrative burden. For that reason, small organizations with (a) an annual income of less than $1.5M (b) fewer than five full-time employees and/or (c) insufficient finance infrastructure are not eligible to receive a Type 1 award. Take our eligibility quiz to learn more. Organizations that do not meet the eligibility criteria should not apply.

 

I am currently receiving funding from the Gates Foundation to lead an NSI. Can I apply for more funding or to lead a second NSI?

We have communicated to our first cohort of NSI grantees that we wish for them to focus on launching their first NSI this fall. We will open funding opportunities to current grantees in the spring of 2019 and beyond.

 

How many applications may I submit in response to this RFP?

Each Intermediary organization, regardless of its size, may submit no more than two applications in response to this RFP.

If you choose to submit two applications, you must be capable of simultaneously sustaining both NSIs, financially and with appropriate human capital, if both proposals are approved.

Please note that each application must contain a different email address in question B4 of Stage 1 because we use the email address as the unique identifier for the application.

 

What is the grantmaking timeline and process?

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and you are strongly encouraged to submit your response as soon as possible. In all cases, Stage 1 applications must be received by noon PST on Oct 26, 2018, and we are unable to extend the deadline for any reason. Note that unpredictable volumes of traffic on our website close to the deadline may make it hard for applicants to save their application for up to 12 hours before the deadline. Please plan ahead and submit your completed application as early as possible; extensions will not be possible.

Stage 1 of the RFP is an assessment of applicants’ readiness to lead NSIs based on their previous work. Intermediaries that successfully pass Stage 1 will be invited by Nov 9 to complete Stage 2 of the written RFP.  Stage 2 is the first point at which we will ask applicants to present a proposal. You can download a word copy of Stage 1 and Stage 2 questions. Stage 2 applications must be submitted by noon PST on Dec 21, 2018.

Successful applicants will then be invited to a video interview with foundation program officers to take place between Feb 4 and Feb 11, 2019. For applicants who advance from the interview stage, foundation staff will conduct a site visit between Mar 20 and Mar 29, 2019. During this site visit, we will meet with the intermediary team and visit potential NSI schools if they have been identified. Following the site visit, by April 9, 2019, the foundation will select a subset of these applicants to develop a formal grant proposal. This proposal must adhere to our Data Stewardship Principles and include a detailed plan to conduct necessary data analysis and onboard schools to the network.

RFP selection timeline
RFP STAGE 1 open Mon Sept 24 – Oct 26, 2018
Invitations to RFP Stage 2 Fri, Nov 9, 2018
RFP STAGE 2 open Tue, Nov 13 – Fri, Dec 21, 2018
Interview scheduling begins Tue, Jan 22, 2019
Interviews Mon, Feb 4 – Mon, Feb 11, 2019
Site Visit scheduling begins Tue, Feb 19, 2019
Site Visits Wed March 20- Fri, Mar 29, 2019
Finalists are invited to complete proposal documents Mon, Apr 8, 2019
Proposal documents finalized May, 2019
Funding released June, 2019

Because the RFP is open to the public, it is difficult to predict how many applications we will receive. We therefore reserve the right to modify the review timeline slightly to ensure all applications receive appropriate consideration. If a timeline modification becomes necessary , we will notify all applicants by Nov 9, 2018 and provide details of the updated timeline by email.

 

If awarded grant money, can the first year be a planning year, or is there a certain timeline for which the funds must be use?

Ideally, we would like the work to begin in schools during School Year 19-20 but we understand that some NSIs may need a full 12 months for planning. Stage 2 of your proposal should list the milestones that make the most sense for your proposed network. Some of those milestones may have passed already while others may occur after the grant begins but before you start working with schools; most of the milestones will occur after you launch the work with schools. We’ll want to see a plan for how and when you will reach each milestone both in your Stage 2 RFP application and in subsequent interviews and conversations.

 

Are schools outside the USA eligible to participate in an NSI?

Our NSI strategy is focused on improving outcomes for Black, Latino and low-income students in public schools in the USA.  Schools participating in an NSI must therefore be public schools (including Charter schools) based in a US state or US territory. Schools outside of the USA will not be considered for funding.

 

Can I see a current grantee’s proposal to help strengthen my application?

Proposal documents are internal, but we are available to answer any questions you might have. You can email us at K-12SchoolNetworkRFP@gatesfoundation.org and our memo here shares more details about what we learned in the prior round.

 

Can you review my previous NSI application and offer feedback?

Due to the high volume of applications received, we cannot provide individual feedback on applications from our first RFP.

 

NSI Focus — Student Population, Schools, Geography

 

I have never worked with the Gates Foundation before. Am I at a disadvantage?:

No. As part of our commitment to equity and inclusion, we’re working hard to ensure that we bring fresh talent into our grantmaking circle, and in particular, we are eager to hear from minority-led organizations who reflect the student population we seek to serve.

We understand that it can be very difficult to get your work “noticed” by education funders. That’s why we were delighted that so many of the organizations that received funding through our first RFP have never worked with us before. That’s also why we are running an open RFP with no restrictions on who can apply. We are also not offering advice or feedback to any applicant while the RFP is open because we believe that such activities disproportionately benefit those who already have a seat at the funding table. Instead, all applicants, including current grantees, will have access to exactly the same supports which can all be accessed from our website; every applicant should review the RFP documents carefully and use the resources available from our website to inform their application.

 

Would you find it favorable/unfavorable to pitch an NSI that includes a program that has already secured Gates support?

Previous funding status has no bearing on the status of an application. Applications will be reviewed through a double-blind process. Readers will not know the identity of the applicant or any prior relationship with the foundation. Please communicate your previous projects clearly and do not assume that the reader will already know anything about the work.

 

Will the foundation be giving priority to projects located in states where it has made previous investments? (So: should Intermediaries focus on projects located in those states?)

We will give priority to NSIs that reach Black, Latino and low-income students, wherever those students are found, regardless of our prior funding commitment to a specific state, region or city.

 

Do the schools involved need to have all three target populations: African American, Latino and low-income students at 50% or above, or can they consist of only one or two of those groups?

Our commitment to equity means that we will consider supporting NSIs where the majority of students in the network – as a whole — are Black students, Latino students, or low-income students. It doesn’t have to be all three.

 

How many NSI grants does the foundation intend to make through this RFP?

This depends on the quality of applications and the budget that potential grantees need to do this work. We anticipate making up to four Type 1 grants through this RFP selection process. Promising applicants who are not selected to receive funding this time will have the opportunity to apply again in the spring of 2019.

 

What are the expectations about geography and the proximity of schools?

This is totally up to the Intermediary. We don’t have a preference at the foundation. You should work with schools that make the most sense for you. In RFP applications, we will be looking for an approach to school selection that is consistent with the Intermediary’s vision for how the NSI will operate.

 

Is there space for innovative research-based schools that are meeting with high student success (85% completing college within five years) and who are currently serving a majority white population, & who want to and have the capacity to share these innovative practices with underperforming schools?

An NSI should comprise a mix of schools that are aligned with the demographic guidelines offered in the RFP and that would benefit from sharing best practices to resolve a common Problem of Practice. Network schools should be willing, able, and eager to learn from each other about how peer schools have implemented solutions to the shared problem. Lower performing schools could really benefit from having high-performing schools in the network as long as the latter school’s leaders and staff are committed to the network and see genuine value in their participation. Also, it may help if lower-performing network schools share some of the characteristics and autonomy of the high-performing school, so that they are able to “see themselves” in the work done by the peer school and are empowered to re-create the best practices in their own building.

 

Do you have a view as to how many schools should an intermediary should be working with, roughly? Do we need to have a predefined set of schools to work with before applying?

All Intermediaries must find a minimum of 10 committed and engaged schools to participate by the end of the first year of their NSI work. That said, we want to reach as many students as possible and we welcome applications for NSIs comprising 40 or more schools.

Intermediaries do not have to have a specific list of schools in mind before applying but we do think you should have a large set of schools in mind and be able to explain how their data shows that the work of the NSI is necessary for the improvement of the student outcome you have chosen; by Stage 2 of the RFP we will want to see a plan for how you will select individual schools, consistent with your vision for the network.

 

Are we still eligible to apply if we do not have 10 schools yet, but have a plan to develop a network of over 10 schools?

Yes, you are eligible. We will want to see evidence that your plan to select schools is consistent with your vision for the network. All Intermediaries must find a minimum of 10 committed and engaged schools to participate by the end of the first year of their NSI work.

 

Why are you focusing on black, Latino, and low income students and not other groups?​

When we look at the evidence of not just where there are equity gaps in educational access and achievement but also where the concentrations of students are that we can reach through this work, the categories that emerged were Black, Latino, and low-income students in grades 6-12. In many locales, there are significant overlaps of these groups with other groups that need support. However in order to maximize learning across networks, we are choosing to focus on these historically underserved students to increase the likelihood that what we learn what can work across the field in the future.

Note that the focus of this specific RFP is on grades 9-12.

 

Why are you funding NSIs for secondary schools only?

The K-12 team landed on a secondary school focus (grades 6-12) for two reasons. First, our capacity and resources are limited so we are compelled to be targeted and strategic. Second, our experience from the early K-12 strategies was that they were partially a response to the belief that high schools were incapable of change. Our decision also reflects the fact that there are more philanthropy dollars flowing to the early grades than the advanced grades. Separate work on a national early learning strategy is being led by our Pacific Northwest team.

Note that the focus of this specific RFP is on grades 9-12.

 

How many students should be served by a network?​

We’ve gotten this question more times than we would have imagined.   Perhaps applicants are worried that they will propose a network that’s too small or too large.   Here’s our answer:  we do not have a specific target, maximum, or minimum number of students for an NSI.  We really don’t.   Promise.   The number of schools in the network and the size of those schools will dictate the number of students.  In the RFP, you’ll  see that we seek to support networks that range in size between 10-40 schools.  Our research, experience and observations lead us to hypothesize that networks working with 10-40 schools will be best positioned to test this model and approach to school improvement. One of the things we expect to learn about is whether or not this is an optimal size or range of schools for this kind of network work.

 

Eligibility and Experience

 

We are interested in this work but my organization doesn’t have all the skills to be an Intermediary yet. What should we do?

This RFP seeks to identify experienced Intermediaries and so this is not the right funding opportunity for you. We suggest you consider waiting until the next RFP when we will offer funding opportunities for grants aimed to help develop Intermediary capacity. Try to develop your skills on your own and come back and apply for our spring 2019 RFP.

Alternatively, you could form a collaborative with one or more other organizations that have the traits and/or competencies you lack and respond to the RFP together with a view to becoming an Intermediary team.

 

I haven’t worked on a project that enables me to answer all the questions in Stage 1 of the RFP.  What should I do?

We know from previous RFI and RFP responses that only a very small pool of Intermediaries have deep experience facilitating NSIs. The Stage 1 questions ask for very specific examples, and we understand that they might be intimidating if you do not have that exact experience. Remember that in future rounds of funding we will be looking to invest in Intermediaries who have great potential, not just those who have experience. Therefore, if you don’t have the exact experience that we are asking about, consider applying in the spring of 2019.

 

Can a school district, a State Education Agency or a Community College act as Intermediary?

Yes! Any organization that meets our definition of an Intermediary can apply for funding.

 

Is there a minimum size/capacity (e.g. #employees) for an Intermediary?

Yes. Because Type 1 grantees will have to manage very large and complex grants, while supporting a network of ten or more schools on the ground, we define the minimum capacity of a Type 1 as follows.

  • The lead (programmatic) applicant must have more than five Full Time Equivalent employees (FTEs)
  • The applicant must have staff members  who  have  experience  managing  large grants  and/or  projects  with complex reporting requirements.
  • Finally, this grant represents funding of $2-5M dollars per year, which should not eclipse the applicant’s existing annual income. The lead (programmatic) applicant organization’s annual income must therefore exceed $1.5M.

Finally,  you must ensure that your organization can perform the activities as described in the glossary.

 

I am an Intermediary with the experience you seem to be looking for. Do I need to have school partners ready and on board before I apply for funding?

No. Many applicants will not want or be able to find schools in the brief period of time available to write Stage 2 of the RFP. If you are in this position, your proposed NSI should allocate planning time and an appropriate budget for you to assemble a network of schools with strong leadership teams who have the desire and ambition to work together on a common problem. In some cases, this may take only a few weeks; in other cases, it may take up to a year. Think carefully about how you will find them and what diligence and analysis you will need to do to ensure you pick the right schools.

 

Can traditional public school districts or Charter Management Organizations form networks of schools? 

Both traditional and charter public schools are eligible to participate in an NSI. Privately-funded schools are not eligible. No private schools should be included in the NSI proposal.

 

Is the “improvement science” methodology a required research/evaluation approach for this grant opportunity?

NSIs must use a Continuous Improvement process. Check out the definition of Continuous Improvement in the glossary that accompanies the RFP on our web site.

 

I want to be a Technical Assistance or TA Provider for NSIs. Should I apply to the RFP?

RFP applicants must be willing to facilitate NSIs. If your organization is not in that position, you should not apply. If you want to be a TA provider, please sign up for our K12 Momentum newsletter on our website and keep an eye out for opportunities  publicized there.

 

In Stage 1, part B you ask us to identify if the lead applicant is a Minority-Led Organization. What is your definition of a Minority-Led Organization and where did it come from?

The NSI strategy is investing in intermediary organizations that are positioned to provide schools with the resources to improve outcomes for Black, Latinx and low-income students across the United States. To achieve the strategy’s goal of improving these outcomes, we are committed to increasing the presence of minority-led organizations (MLOs) in our investment portfolio. We believe that organizations that draw on diversity in their leadership and staffing structures are well-equipped to serve a US public school population that continues to become more ethnically and racially diverse.

Here, we define minority-led organizations as those that meet one or more of the following criteria:
#1. An organizational leader (i.e., Superintendent, Executive Director, President, or Chief Executive Officer) that identifies at Black and/or Latinx.
#2. An executive leadership team (e.g., center directors, CFO) in which at least 40% of the members identify as Black and/or Latinx.
#3. A Board of Directors in which at least 40% of the members identify as Black and/or Latinx.
#4. An organization with programmatic staff (i.e., full-time staff members that make programmatic design and implementation decisions) of which at least 40% identify as Black and/or Latinx.

If your organization is led by Indigenous people or another racial or ethnic group that reflects the student population you serve, please email us directly at K-12SchoolNetworkRFP@gatesfoundation.org to discuss MLO status.

 

Could the district office of a network of 10 schools be considered an Intermediary?

Yes. Such a district office would be considered an Intermediary if it planned and showed evidence that it had the capacity to conduct the work of an Intermediary as defined here.

 

Are schools and intermediaries in Puerto Rico eligible to e part of an NSI? 

Public schools and/or Intermediaries in all US states and US territories are eligible to apply for funding, provided they meet all other eligibility criteria. We welcome applications from Puerto Rico.

 

Can two programs from the same institution apply separately – one with another lead partner and one leading a different network?

You may submit no more than two RFP applications as the lead applicant. Applicants may provide light-touch support as partners on the applications of other named lead applicants. If you choose to submit two applications AND be a support partner, you must be capable of simultaneously sustaining all of that work, financially and with appropriate human capital, if all of the proposals are approved. In most cases, we would expect an average-sized organization to support no more than two applications in addition to its own proposal.

 

Can a private foundation (a university foundation, for example), acting as a fiscal agent, apply for an organization on campus – or should the intermediary itself submit the application?

Typically we prefer that the organization doing the work of an Intermediary be the one to submit the application, but feel free to ask about your specific situation at k-12schoolnetworkrfp@gatesfoundation.org.

 

Is the RFP open to intermediaries that already have long-term relationships with secondary schools? 

Yes the RFP is open to Intermediaries that already have relationships with schools so long as that relationship is anchored in a genuine desire to move the outcomes and/or indicators targeted by the proposed NSI. Note that all schools need to participate in the NSI as committed and engaged participants. We will check for this. Some Intermediaries do not have schools in mind yet and they will need to describe a strong plan to find committed and engaged schools to participate in the NSI.

 

Is the RFP open to foreign-based organizations and if so, what are the restrictions?

We are open to funding organizations headquartered anywhere in the world. But they must have a sufficient footprint in the USA to operate a Network for School Improvement here and they must meet all of our eligibility criteria. You can find those criteria on our webpage and it’s worth reading those in detail if you are a foreign-based intermediary and you are thinking of applying for funding. Basically: we are not going to fund a non-US-based intermediary to expand its work in the USA if it has not already shown that it can add value for Black, Latino and/or low-income students in networks of secondary schools. And because we are the US Education Program, we are not funding Networks for School Improvement that include schools that are outside of the USA. So if your schools are based in another country, I’m afraid this RFP is not for you.

 

Can private or parochial schools be part of an NSI?​

No, our K12 strategy and our Networks for School Improvement work are committed to working with public schools and public charter organizations.​ So if you want to work with network of private schools or parochial schools this RFP is not for you. We are open to networks that include both traditional public schools and public charters schools. Secondary schools, of course.

 

Identifying the Problem of Practice, Root Cause, Research,
Aim

 

The RFP indicates that the school system itself, not just the schools involved, would need to identify a common problem of practice. Is that so?

The school system is very important to the success of the NSI as an enabling conditions partner to support the network work, but the problem of practice only needs to be specific to the schools involved.

 

To what extent does the intermediary recruit schools who share an interest in a problem of practice, versus identifying schools for the network who then identify a problem of practice that they want to work on together?

We have no preference as to how the NSI is formed so long as the intermediary uses data to understand deeply the shared problems faced by schools. We expect to invest in both approaches to see what can be learned from each.

 

Does the root cause analysis need to be part of the grant project or could the research have already been done?

We don’t have a preference. Stage 2 of your application should list out the milestones that make the most sense for your proposed network. Some of those milestones may already have passed; others may occur after the grant has begun. If that’s the case, we’ll want to see a plan for how and when you will reach each milestone in your RFP application and in subsequent interviews and conversations.

 

Does this project require that the promising solutions used to address the root cause of the problem of practice be developed by the schools in the network or can they also include practices and strategies that we, as an Intermediary, bring to the table?

Both scenarios are acceptable to some extent. Guided by their own data, schools must make the decision about which solutions they ultimately decide to test, but intermediaries can – and should- support and inform their research. Intermediaries should not “force” schools to adopt a practice or strategy.

 

In Part A of Stage 1 you ask me to speculate which of the outcomes or indicators I would choose for my NSI. How would I know this if I don’t yet know which schools I am working with and what their needs are?

If you are not planning to work on a problem that you have already defined with a set of schools, we expect that you have expertise that will help you decide which problems you’re best positioned to help schools tackle. You should suggest an outcome based on your experience navigating related problems in the past, and then if you are selected for funding, you will create a plan to find the schools that need your services. For example, if you have former guidance counselors in your organization or you work a lot with higher education institutions, you might gravitate towards College Access as a student outcome. In that case, you would look for school partners that are also interested in moving that outcome for their students. Many schools will share the same problem when it comes to College Access, but you will have to navigate the possibility that they are not physically all in the same location or that the problem may have different drivers in each school.

 

Where can I find the list of predictive outcomes?

You can find the list of predictive outcomes and indicators in the glossary.

 

Do the targets for improvement have to be one of the list of outcome indicators or can the NSI and school network have their own indicators also?

The outcomes are specified in the glossary but the associated measures have more flexibility. More information can be found here.

 

Does the Aim have to be the same across every school in the network?

Yes, it does. Please see definition of an Aim here.

 

Can the NSI focus on more than one outcome? 

We have gone back and forth a lot as a team on this question! We think there’s no right answer here. Instead, we think there are several questions an intermediary should answer when deciding the scope of its improvement project. For example:

• What is the school-level capacity to work on multiple outcomes or indicators simultaneously?

• Would it make more sense for the school to sequence the work so they focus on one outcome or indicator first before focusing on the next? In other words, is one content area a bigger barrier for Black, Latino and low-income students’ college or career readiness than the other?

• What is the capacity in the intermediary organization to manage both projects? Does your organization have the content expertise to support all of these outcomes or indicators? Ultimately, you’ll want to select a focus that will move outcomes for Black, Latino and low-income students and that is realistic for the schools and for your own organization to tackle.

 

Should the root cause analysis with schools happen prior to the RFP or is school interest enough of a start?

It is up to the intermediary to sequence the start-up of their network in line with their vision for the work. Stage 2 of the RFP application will ask applicants to list out the milestones that make the most sense for the proposed network. Some of those milestones may already have passed while others may occur after the grant has begun but before the intermediary starts working with schools; most of the milestones will occur after the work with schools launches and ALL must occur within two or five years, depending on the NSI type. We’ll want to see a plan for how and when an intermediary will reach each milestone both in their RFP application and in subsequent interviews and conversations. We are looking for strong plans that will get an NSI to student outcomes in 5 years. The plan needs to be consistent with the Intermediary’s vision for how the NSI will operate.

 

Do all schools have to measure the same indicators? In other words, might schools share an aim but have different indicators?

We would expect to see a single “Aim” across the entire NSI and a focus on the same indicators, but individual schools can – and should – have different targets. This is fine so long as they are using the same set of indicators to measure progress. The reason is that if schools are using different indicators, it becomes very difficult to learn from and accelerate each other’s progress..

 

Are the Outcomes & Indicators tight (i.e. Gates adheres to them strictly) or ONLY Outcomes, and Indicators are more flexible?

We are specifying a set of outcomes that are based on evidence and form the backbone of our NSI strategy. The outcomes are therefore “tight.” However, we are flexible on the indicators and on the measurement of those indicators. Note that indicators do need to be consistent – and used consistently – across schools in the NSI to ensure that schools can learn from and accelerate each other’s experience in meaningful ways..

 

Outcomes are fixed to those listed in the RFP. Is there flexibility to use other research/evidence based indicators no listed in the RFP that applies to the outcome? 

Yes, there is flexibility with the indicators, so long as the same indicators are being used consistently and across all schools in the NSI. We will expect the focus of the NSI’s work to be on the one or more indicators that will move the outcome. So we expect measurement to focus on that outcome.

 

We are planning ahead for Stage 2 but we’ve gotten stuck on just how narrow to go with our proposal. Would we be going too broad if we focused on the “College Ready On-Track” outcome – in both ELA and math? Or do you think we would be better off honing in on college readiness in math only for the purposes of this proposal?

There’s no right answer to this question. Instead, we think there are several questions an intermediary should answer when deciding the scope of its improvement project. For example: · What is the school-level capacity to work on to work on both math and ELA simultaneously? · Would it make more sense for the school to sequence the work so they focus, for example, on math first before focusing on ELA? In other words, is one content area a bigger barrier for college readiness than the other? · What is the capacity in the intermediary organization to manage both projects? Does your organization have the content expertise to support both math and ELA? Ultimately, you’ll want to select a focus that will move outcomes for students and that is realistic for the schools and for your own organization to tackle..

 

Some of the indicators you talked about as being predictive – grades, attendance, and behavior – can be gamed easily. Is everyone going to lower their standards to show success? ​

Almost everything can be gamed. We’re hoping, though, that schools that are interested in being part of a network are ones that are interested because this is an opportunity to really focus on improving outcomes for students through concerted efforts to improve the systems and practices that will prepare kids for future success — and not by lowering standards or other ways of making the data look better than it is. We also think that’s where you, as intermediary organizations, come in. We trust you to be able to determine a school’s readiness and interest in being part of this project. At the same time, we’ve been in the accountability space for long enough to recognize that this question is a really good and valid question and one we’ve had long conversations about at the foundation and with our partners. One of the biggest concerns about using improving grades, attendance, and behavior is that it will result in lowering standards or minimizing efforts to improve students’ content knowledge. But what we’ve learned from the data is that grades, attendance, and behavior are really strong predictors of future success. Even though grading practices vary from school to school or classroom to classroom, the data show that getting Bs or better, for example, really does predict for future success..

 

What If My Organization Isn’t Ready

 

I might be an Intermediary one day but I am not ready to apply for funding yet; ideally, I’d just like to stay abreast of your work. What are my options?

Please sign up for our K12 Momentum newsletter to receive updates on our work and future funding opportunities. Do not apply to this RFP if you are not eligible and ready to launch an NSI immediately.

 

What happens if I don’t get a grant?

We want to build a strong bench of Intermediaries who can facilitate NSIs. If you do not receive a grant through this RFP, you might spend the next 6 months seeking out ways to grow your own intermediary capacity so you can submit a stronger application in the spring. 

 

Data and Evaluation

 

Is it required to have prior data agreements with schools to address the student outcome collection? Or would you be willing to provide support in developing such agreements?

You don’t have to have a pre-existing data sharing agreement. In your application, you may wish to describe how you will undergo the process to reach a data sharing agreement that will cover each school and each school system that is part of your network. We will be providing the support of a data sourcing partner to help successful applicants with this.

 

How and when are you selecting your data support partner?

We hope to announce our data sourcing partner shortly. As the portfolio of NSIs grows and matures, we will monitor the demand among our partner intermediaries for other types of technical assistance in regards to data.

 

Who is the formative evaluator partner?

As part of our commitment to technical assistance around data for grantees, we have designed a flexible action-research partnership with a formative evaluator where researchers collaborate with NSIs to develop qualitative and quantitative measures that give both NSIs and the foundation a wealth of information about factors contributing to NSIs’ individual, comparative, and collective success, while simultaneously providing NSIs with ongoing self-evaluation and improvement methods and tools. We have selected the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University as the formative evaluator.

Additional RFP Resources

More Info on the RFP

Learn more about the Request for Proposal on Networks for School Improvement.

RFP Glossary

A glossary to clarify terms that we may use differently in this RFP from how they are commonly used in the field.

RFP Grantmaking Guidelines

A set of guidelines to inform responses to the RFP on Networks for School Improvement.