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

Glossary of Terms

We offer this glossary to clarify terms that we may use differently in this RFP from how they are commonly used in the field. Please read this glossary before deciding whether to apply for funding.

Aim:

An aim is a specific and measurable goal that the network commits to accomplish by a specific date. An NSI’s aim is to improve the percentage of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against a specific outcome(s) that is predictive of high school graduation or postsecondary success. An NSI’s aim focuses the network’s improvement efforts and provides a specific and measurable goal for the network’s collective action.

Continuous Improvement:

Continuous improvement is a process for addressing a specific problem of practice by developing, testing, and refining promising solutions. Teams who engage in continuous improvement are made up of people with the time, expertise, and will to tackle a shared problem of practice. Teams use multiple and varied data to: (a) deeply understand a problem and the system that produces it; (b) set a clear and specific aim related to improving the percentage of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against an outcome(s) that is predictive of high school graduation or postsecondary success; (c) develop a theory (informed by research and practice) of the highest-leverage changes to make to reach their improvement aim; and (d) engage in inquiry cycles to test the effectiveness of multiple evidence-based solutions to address the problem and the system that produces it, and reach their aim.

Network intermediaries will determine which continuous improvement methodology their NSI will use to guide its work. All methodologies must meet the criteria outlined in this glossary.

Intermediary:

An intermediary is defined as a central, coordinating entity that brings together multiple school leadership teams to tackle common problems and work toward common aims. Intermediaries serve several functions, including: (a) supporting individual school teams to use continuous improvement to improve student outcomes; (b) networking school teams with one another to innovate, improve, and build capacity; (c) sharing and codifying lessons learned within and across the network; and (d) bringing together key stakeholders who can support and accelerate a network’s success, including external experts. Intermediaries may be, but are not limited to: non-profit school improvement organizations; regional education service agencies; school districts; charter management organizations (CMOs); higher education institutions; or for-profit professional services firms.

Intermediary Organization Type

We acknowledge that the definitions below are not mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive of all “types” of intermediaries. Your organization may fall into none, one, or multiple “types,” but please choose the one that most closely describes your organization.

Community partnerships may tackle education and/or other community concerns simultaneously and typically feature a “backbone organization” to help coordinate the work.

Charter Management Organizations may act as intermediaries facilitating networked school improvement among their own schools, and/or they may provide intermediary services, tools or TA to schools outside their own CMO for a fee.

For-Profit Professional Services Firms provide intermediary services to schools for a fee and are not certified non-profits.

Non-Profit Research and Technical Assistance Organizations emphasize their research and data capacities, and their core business typically includes evaluation and research services for schools and districts.

Non-Profit School Improvement Organizations provide services directly to schools to improve the systems within those schools, tailoring their service provision to demonstrated need.

Non-Profit Technical Assistance Providers provide assistance to schools and districts. They typically have deep in-house technical knowledge of their chosen content areas.

Non-Profit Organizational Hybrid/Other are non-profits that perform a mix of the non-profit intermediary functions described above.

University-Affiliated Centers provide research and technical assistance and are affiliated with universities.

The following Public/Governmental Entities are those that are funded by public budgets associated with taxpayer dollars:

  • Public/Governmental Entity: District
  • Public/Governmental Entity: County
  • Public/Governmental Entity: Educational Services District
  • Other Public/Governmental Entity (funded directly by taxpayers)

Curriculum and/or Assessment Providers primarily produce and distribute curriculum and/or assessments.

Affiliation Non-Profits (district, county, state, or national level) are typically role-alike membership networks.

Other organizations are those that do not see themselves in any of the above definitions.

Minority-Led Organization

The NSI strategy is investing in intermediary organizations that are positioned to provide schools with the resources to improve outcomes for Black, Latino 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 Latino.
#2. An executive leadership team (e.g., center directors, CFO) in which at least 40% of the members identify as Black and/or Latino.
#3. A Board of Directors in which at least 40% of the members identify as Black and/or Latino.
#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 Latino.

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.

Network for School Improvement:

A Network for School Improvement (NSI) is defined as a group of secondary schools (focused on grades 9-12 for the purposes of this specific RFP) working both collectively and individually in partnership with a high-quality intermediary to use a continuous improvement process to improve outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students. To support the acceleration of learning and improvement, NSIs set a network aim, tackle problems of practice that are common across the network schools and track their progress using indicators that are predictive of student learning, graduation, and postsecondary success.

NSIs are:

  • led by an intermediary skilled in: continuous improvement processes, data collection and data analysis from multiple sources, and developing school-level adult capacity to address the network problem and aim; and  
  • facilitated by said intermediary to drive school and network improvements, surface learning within and across schools, and uncover meaningful variance as schools work to reach a specific and measurable aim.

NSIs have the following characteristics:

  1. Network is focused on addressing a problem of practice and reaching a measurable, time-bound aim that is shared by all network schools. An NSI’s aim is related to improving one or more predictive outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students.  
  2. Network comprises an intermediary and multiple school teams from one or more districts and/or Charter Management Organizations (CMO).
  3. Network is structured to support school teams to reach their aim and build their capacity to use a continuous improvement process.
  4. School teams are guided by a working theory, informed by research and practice, of how to reach the aim (e.g.  logic model, network theory of action, or driver diagram).
  5. School teams engage in rapid inquiry cycles to develop, test, and refine interventions.  
  6. Network has the necessary data, research, measurement, and analytic skills to drive improvement, surface learning within and across sites, and uncover meaningful variance.
  7. Network is organized to spread and accelerate learning and improvement.

Predictive Outcomes and Indicators:

The foundation is focusing on a set of student outcomes and indicators that, when increasing or achieved, are predictive of students successfully earning a high school diploma, enrolling in a postsecondary institution, and being on track in their first year to earn a credential with labor-market value. The table below encompasses these outcomes and indicators associated with secondary schools, and includes example measures per indicator. Note that the example measures were derived from research on a limited set of districts, and we expect each intermediary to work with schools and districts to derive optimal measures according to their context.

To balance between creating standardization across networks and allowing for schools to capitalize on existing measurement, the foundation will allow intermediaries to develop their own approach to measuring these outcomes if they are already in use by schools in the network and meet the alignment criteria specified by BMGF at the time of measurement plan development. Note: all schools in the network must use the same measurement of these outcomes, regardless of whether it is the foundation’s preferred method or a different method.

These outcomes have been updated since our first RFP. Notably, we broke down composite indicators (i.e., indicators that combined two or more measures) into individual indicators.  As we worked with partners to develop proposals, we realized that presenting composite indicators was creating preventable confusion.

One or more outcomes must be included in Type 1 NSI’s Primary Outcomes.
For this RFP, only outcomes 3-5 are eligible for funding.
Outcome – Shown by research to predict college enrollment and persistence Indicator – Components of the outcome shown to be important in the research to predict college enrollment and persistence Example Measure – Example way to measure each component of the outcome
     
8th Grade On-Track
[NOT CURRENTLY ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING]
8th Grade GPA % of 8th grade students with a GPA of 2.5 or better
8th Grade Attendance % of 8th grade students with attendance 96% or better
8th Grade Course Failures % of 8th grade students with no Ds or Fs in ELA or Math
8th Grade Suspensions % of 8th grade students never suspended (in- and out-of-school)
8th Grade Math Proficiency % of students demonstrating 8th grade student ability in Math on benchmarked assessment aligned with a high quality curriculum
8th Grade ELA Proficiency % of students demonstrating 8th grade student ability in ELA on benchmarked assessment aligned with a high quality curriculum
 
9th Grade On-Track
[NOT CURRENTLY ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING]
9th Grade Course Credits % of 9th grade students who accumulated at least five course credits (or regional equivalent)
9th Grade Course Failures % of 9th grade students who failed no more than one semester course in a core subject (English, math, social science, or science) during their freshman school year
9th Grade Attendance % of 9th grade students with attendance 96% or better
9th Grade GPA % of 9th grade students with an GPA of 3.0 or better
9th Grade Suspensions % of 9th grade students never suspended (in- and out-of-school)
College Ready On-Track HS Math Proficiency % of 10th or 11th grade students demonstrating grade-level ability in Math on benchmarked assessment aligned with a high quality curriculum
HS ELA Proficiency % of 10th or 11th grade students demonstrating grade-level ability in ELA on benchmarked assessment aligned with a high quality curriculum
HS Advanced Coursetaking % of 11th or 12th grade students completing at least one AP, IB, or dual credit class
HS GPA % of 11th or 12th grade students with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better
On-Time HS Graduation % of students graduating high school on time
High School College Access Financial Access % of 12th grade students who have completed FAFSA/state financial aid applications
College Entrance Exam % of 12th grade students who have completed a college entrance exam (e.g., SAT, ACT)
Postsecondary Application % of 12th grade students who have submitted applications to a credentialing postsecondary institution
On-Time HS Graduation % of students graduating high school on time
Postsecondary Enrollment % of graduates enrolled in a credentialing postsecondary program including 4-year schools, 2-year schools, and technical schools
Postsecondary On-Track Postsecondary Match % of graduates who enroll in an institution whose average attendee is at or above the academic profile of the enrolled graduate
College Course Completion % of graduates who complete a college-level mathematics and English course within the first two years
PS GPA % of graduates who have a GPA of at least 2.5 after the first two years

 

Problem of Practice:

An NSI’s problem of practice is the specific student-focused problem or issue the network schools are brought together to address. Addressing this problem will make significant progress toward the network’s aim for Black, Latino, and low-income students. The problem of practice that guides an NSI’s efforts should be within a school’s sphere of control.

Root Cause:

A root cause is the underlying or essential source of an NSI’s problem of practice. When teams engage in a root causes analysis, they use multiple and varied data to drill down into a problem to uncover what is truly causing the negative effect. Determining a problem’s root cause helps teams ensure their work is addressing a problem’s exact causes and not its symptoms.

School Team:

School teams include school leaders, leadership team members, relevant administrative personnel, and/or teachers who have the time, expertise, ambition, and trust to solve the problem at hand. School teams work interdependently, sharing leadership, decision making, and accountability. Depending on the network’s problem and aim, school teams might also include district staff.

Additional RFP Resources

More Info on the RFP

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

RFP FAQs

Questions? Please read the Frequently Asked Questions page for more information on the RFP process.

RFP Grantmaking Guidelines

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