Request for Proposal on Networks for School Improvement (Spring 2019)

This RFP is now closed.

We have selected our Model Design & Initiation grantees.

We wanted to make you aware of a technical issue we’ve noticed where we are missing a key indicator of College Readiness in our Outcomes and indicators table. We omitted the indicator around 10th and 11th grade ELA proficiency, which we know is a strong driver of the College Readiness outcome. If you wish to propose an Impact or Validation NSI grant implementing College Readiness work around ELA proficiency, we are extending the deadline for this indicator only by one week to 12 p.m. PT on Friday, May 3, 2019. Note that applications for Model Design and Initiation grants are not affected by this change.

To be eligible for the extension, applicants must (a) submit an application for a College Readiness NSI (in response to question A2 of the Impact/Validation RFP), (b) describe past ELA proficiency work in 10th and 11th grade in their Stage 1 application and (c) propose an NSI with a focus on the ELA proficiency indicator as a key driver of the College Ready outcome if they move to Stage 2.  All other late applications will be declined.

Introduction: Request for Proposal on Networks for School Improvement (Spring 2019)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused on ensuring all students in the USA, especially Black, Latino, and low-income students, have access to a great education. Our strategy to achieve this includes funding Intermediary organizations to form Networks for School Improvement (NSI). An NSI is a network of secondary schools working in partnership with an Intermediary organization to use a continuous improvement process to significantly increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who earn a high school diploma, enroll in a postsecondary institution, and are on track in their first year to earn a credential with labor-market value.  School teams work collaboratively in partnership with a supporting Intermediary organization – which could be a school district, non-profit, for-profit, community-based entity or university – to use methods to identify, test, and refine solutions that target a problem. An NSI’s aim is to improve student outcomes that are predictive of high school graduation and postsecondary success.

Our strategy for NSIs is rooted in the lessons we’ve learned investing in educators for the past two decades. We’ve learned, for example, that the best solutions to support students don’t come from a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead from empowering local leaders and educators to identify and implement solutions that increase student outcomes within the context of the local community. That’s why we launched a nationwide search for Intermediaries last February, a search which led to 17 grants, representing over $92 million in funding, to support the first cohort of NSIs. That first cohort is focused primarily on the Middle School On-Track and 9th Grade On-Track student outcomes and not the full array of outcomes and indicators we had hoped to fund, all of which predict high school graduation and postsecondary success. Our second RFP, launched in Fall 2018, sought to identify more NSIs working on College Readiness, High School College Access and Postsecondary On-Track student outcomes. That RFP is nearly concluded and this spring we hope to fund up to five experienced Intermediary organizations to receive multi-year grants to address these specific outcomes.

We are excited to announce the opening of our third RFP, and we once again invite applicants to address student outcomes from our full list of predictive outcomes. Similar to our first round, we are making funding available for larger, longer Validation/Impact grants (similar in scope to Type 1 grants from our first two NSI RFPs) as well as smaller, shorter Model Design and Initiation grants, suitable for promising organizations seeking to build their capacity to lead an NSI.

Our work with the first NSI cohort showed us the importance of thinking about the activities in which an NSI engages along a continuum – so we are no longer using the Type 1 and Type 2 typology that we used in earlier RFPs. We are now funding:

  • Model Design and Initiation (Intermediary builds will, skill, and understanding about the distinct components of running an NSI);
  • Validation (Intermediary demonstrates the efficacy and transferability of its approach to running an NSI);
  • Impact (Intermediary continues successful implementation of their model for running an NSI).

We think that Validation/Impact more accurately describes the activities of what were formerly called Type 1 grants, although the funding levels remain essentially the same. We have reframed the scope of Type 2 grants to focus on Model Design and Initiation.

More information about Validation, Impact and Model Design and Initiation grants can be found here. We expect to make up to eight Model Design and Initiation grants and up to 12 Validation/Impact grants.

The following guidance is designed to help you assess whether or not your organization is eligible to respond to this RFP, and if so, to determine which type of grant (Validation/Impact or Model Design and Initiation) aligns to your experience, capacity, and aspiration. We are using this RFP to intake all applications, but we have designed a staged process that is different for Validation/Impact applicants and Model Design and Initiation applicants.

Click here to see if you have the experience we are looking for to run a Network for School Improvement as a Validation/Impact grantee. You can also learn more about what successful applicants for Validation/Impact look like in this memo, which details what we learned from our first RFP.

Click here to see if you are eligible for Model Design and Initiation.

If you have any questions, please email

About the Work

With support from the Intermediary organization, school leaders will identify specific barriers to high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, or postsecondary success – such as whether 12th-grade students have submitted postsecondary applications and are on track to enroll in a postsecondary institution. To focus their work, school teams will use continuous improvement methods to tackle the problem based on evidence and what they know about their students.

By closely following student outcomes and the indicators that best predict whether a student will graduate high school and be successful in college, principals and teachers will know if their efforts are having the impact that they desire. And as part of a network, they’ll also learn from each other about what’s working and why.

Learn More 

To learn more about the RFP and grantmaking process, review the application and the glossary.

If you have any questions, please email

Eligibility Quiz

Before you complete the first stage of our RFP for Validation/Impact, please take a few moments to check that you are eligible by taking this brief quiz. Remember, if you do not meet the eligibility requirements for a larger Validation/Impact (Type 1) grant and wish to improve your organization’s capacity and readiness to run an NSI, you may be eligible for a Model Design and Initiation opportunity, for which you can check your eligibility here. Please do not apply for funding if you do not meet the criteria for either type of grant.

If you have any questions, please email us at

Overview of the Selection Process

The application process is different for Validation/Impact grants (Type 1) and Model Design and Initiation grants. Please click here for a detailed overview of the selection process. The first stage of both application processes is a written form completed online, which closes at 12 p.m. PT on Apr 26, 2019.

Please do not apply if you are not eligible for these grants (see the eligibility quiz for Validation/Impact here and for Model Design and Initiation here). Please check the glossary and grantmaking guidelines and eligibility criteria before you begin the application process.

Download a word copy of Validation and Impact questions here and a word copy of Model Design and Initiation questions here. 

Validation/Impact Application

Model Design and Initiation Application

Additional RFP Resources

RFP Grantmaking Guidelines

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

RFP Measurement and Evaluation

Learn more about how we will measure progress against outcomes and indicators. 

RFP Glossary

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


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

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