Glossary: Request for Proposal on Networks for School Improvement

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) or indicator(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 that engage in continuous improvement 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) or indicator(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 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 the 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.

Network for School Improvement:

A Network for School Improvement (NSI) is defined as a group of secondary schools (grades 6-12) 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 or indicators 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.

Outcome Indicator Example Measure
Middle School On-Track 8th Grade On-Track (% of 8th graders meeting composite measures) % of 8th graders with a GPA of 2.5 or better
% of 8th graders with attendance 96% or better
% of 8th graders with no Ds or Fs in ELA or Math
% of 8th graders never suspended
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 9th Grade On-Track (% of 9th graders meeting composite measures) % of freshman students who accumulated at least five course credits (or regional equivalent)
% of freshman students who failed no more than one semester course in a core subject (English, math, social science, or science) during their freshman school year
% of freshman students with attendance 96% or better
% of freshman students with an GPA of 3.0 or better
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
College Ready On-Track (% of 11th and 12th grade students meeting composite measures) % of 11th and 12th grade students completing at least one AP, IB, or dual credit class
% of 11th and 12th grade students with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better
High School College Access Financial Access % of 12th grade students demonstrating knowledge of, experience with, and/or completion of requirements to access financial support for college
College Entrance Exam % of graduates who have completed a college entrance exam (e.g., SAT, ACT) and met state thresholds for proficiency
Postsecondary Application % of graduates applying to credentialing postsecondary institution
On-Time High School Graduation On-Time High School Graduation % of students graduating high school on time (Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate)
Postsecondary Enrollment Postsecondary Enrollment % of graduates enrolled in a credentialing postsecondary program
Postsecondary On-Track Postsecondary Match % of college-enrolled graduates who enroll in an institution whose average attendee is at or above the academic profile of the enrolled graduate.
Postsecondary On-Track (% of post-secondary students meeting composite measures) % of high school graduates who, upon entrance to a postsecondary institution,
complete mathematics and English gateway courses after the first two years
% of high school graduates who, upon entrance to a postsecondary institution, have a GPA of 3.0 after the first two years
% of high school graduates who, upon entrance to a postsecondary institution, meet all these criteria

Note that the recommended 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.

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 undercover 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

Start a Response to the RFP on Networks for School Improvement

We want to hear from Intermediaries of secondary school networks that have successfully engaged in continuous improvement.

RFP Grantmaking Guidelines

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

More Info on the RFP

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

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