FAQ: Request for Information on Networks for School Improvement

Why is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issuing a Request for Information (RFI) before releasing a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

We’re issuing this RFI because we want to learn from organizations that have facilitated secondary Networks for School Improvement (focused on students in grades 6-12) or believe they have the skills to do so in the future. A Network for School Improvement is defined as a group of secondary schools working both collectively and individually with an intermediary to use a continuous improvement process to improve student outcomes through tackling problems that are common across the network.

Through our RFI, the foundation aims to learn how intermediaries and secondary school teams have successfully used continuous improvement methods to improve postsecondary outcomes for Black, Latino and/or low-income students, as well as how to build the capacity of organizations to do this work in the future. We are most interested in learning from organizations that have used research-based indicators that correlate with high school graduation and postsecondary success to impact student outcomes at the secondary level.

Your responses to this RFI are not part of a screening or application process; instead,we will use this information gathered to inform the scope of work in an open Request for Proposal (RFP) to be released in January 2018 for intermediary organizations interested in facilitating a secondary Network for School Improvement.

We plan to fund intermediary organizations to launch networks of secondary schools in the summer of 2018. Those Networks for School Improvement will use continuous improvement processes to improve postsecondary outcomes for students. We know there are organizations with strong perspectives about what it takes to do that work. This RFI is an opportunity for practitioners and field leaders to inform and shape the foundation’s thinking about what a successful secondary Network for School Improvement looks like. Your responses to the RFI will help us understand the various forms and functions of networks, the conditions that enable their success, and the amount of time and money it takes to lead a network that improves student outcomes through a continuous improvement process. We want to hear and learn from you before we design our RFP. We hope many of you will respond to the RFI and, if appropriate, to the RFP.


How does the RFI work?

We will be accepting responses to this RFI until 5pm PST, November 22, 2017.

The RFI is not an application for funding. The RFI and RFP processes are separate. RFI responses will be used to shape our RFP. The RFP process, which will launch in January 2018, will be open and does not require you to have responded to this RFI.

As mentioned above, the foundation plans to invest in intermediaries that have experience leading a secondary Network for School Improvement that uses continuous improvement methods similar to those described above, and we plan to invest in developing the capacity of intermediaries that aspire to lead a secondary Network for School Improvement in the future.Therefore we are seeking input from two groups. We would like experienced intermediaries to describe their experiences forming and leading a network of schools to use continuous improvement methods to improve student outcomes. Additionally, we would like aspiring intermediaries to describe the types of support that will enable them to effectively lead a Network for School Improvement in the future.


What specifically is the Gates Foundation trying to learn through this RFI process?

We hope to hear from practitioners, particularly those we have never worked with before, who can help us better understand how secondary Networks for School Improvement work in practice. We want to hear about where great networks come from, how they operate, and under what circumstances they have been successful.We want to get a sense of what the work costs and why. We also want to begin to understand, in very general terms, how we might invest in organizations that aspire to develop their capacity to facilitate Networks for School Improvement.

All of this information will shape the development of our January 2018 Request for Proposals (RFP).


Is this RFI an application for funding?

The RFI is not an application for funding or an offer to contract or award grant funds. The foundation assumes no responsibility for your cost to respond to this RFI. Individual responses to the RFI will be acknowledged but will not receive feedback from the foundation and are not part of a grantmaking application. Participation in the RFI is voluntary and will not result in funding from the foundation.

Responses to the RFI will be confidential. Aggregated learnings from the RFI will be anonymized and shared with respondents and the field in the form of a brief written summary on our K-12 website.

A separate RFP will be issued in January 2018. The RFP process is open and does not require you to have responded to this RFI.


What’s the foundation’s policy regarding confidentiality and publication of materials submitted through this RFI?

We take information security very seriously. Accordingly, we are NOT seeking or soliciting personally identifiable information about individual students. Responders may choose to share anonymized information about student outcomes, but they must NOT provide information that contains names, birth dates, or other personally identifiable student information that may be subject to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (“FERPA”) and its implementing regulations. Any such information provided to us is unsolicited and will be destroyed. It will also be taken as evidence that the responder is not proficient in handling student information. Should you have questions about what data can be shared, please email K-12SchoolNetworkRFI@gatesfoundation.org.

We also urge you not to submit confidential or proprietary materials. As mentioned above, we plan to share aggregated and anonymized learnings from the RFI with the field. Unless you mark information or materials as confidential, the foundation is under no obligation to treat information and materials as such. All responses generated by this RFI become the property of the foundation.


Who is the foundation hoping to hear from?

We believe that the diversity of the student population should be mirrored in the composition – and particularly the leadership – of organizations that work with schools. We therefore seek a diverse range of organizations to work in secondary schools with high numbers of Black, Latino and/or low-income students.Such organizations may already be acting as intermediaries facilitating secondary school improvement, perhaps even in networks. We encourage those applicants to contact us via the RFI process and – if their interests align with our funding priorities once we publish our RFP – we want them to apply for funding via our 2018 RFP.


Who can help answer a question about the RFI?

Check our FAQs and if you do not find an answer to your question, please email K-12SchoolNetworkRFI@gatesfoundation.org.


Can I upload additional documents as part of my RFI response?

If it is convenient for you to supplement your RFI responses with a specific document, you can either provide a link to a webpage (preferred) or upload a PDF. You will be asked if you want to upload a PDF when you get to the end of the RFI.


How much time will it take complete the RFI?

We estimate it should take no longer than four hours to respond to the RFI.


How can I apply to the Gates Foundation for funding to lead a secondary Network for School Improvement?

You can apply to our first Request for Proposals (RFP) in January 2018. That application process will identify a handful of experienced intermediaries that we will fund to launch our first Networks for School Improvement during School Year 18-19.  Through the same RFP, we will also begin to form partnerships with “aspiring” intermediaries and over a number of years we will invest in those organizations to help them prepare to lead future secondary Networks for School Improvement.

The RFP will be open to the public in the same way as this RFI. You do not have to respond to the RFI to apply for funding in January.

If you respond to this RFI, we will add you to our mailing list and you will automatically be notified when the RFP opens. If you do not respond to this RFI, please sign up for our newsletter or check our website in January for more information about the RFP.


Will there be an RFP to fund any Networks for School Improvement during the current School Year?

We are not running any RFPs to provide any funding for Networks for School Improvement during SY17-18.

Additional RFI Resources

More Info on the RFI

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