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

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

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 (NSIs). 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, 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 supporting 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 within the context of the local community that increase student outcomes. That’s why we launched a nationwide search for intermediaries last February, a search which led to 19 grants, representing $92M of funding, to support the first cohort of NSIs. The first cohort of NSIs chose mainly to focus on Middle School On-Track and 9th Grade On-Track student outcomes, but did not address the full array of outcomes and indicators we outlined.

This second RFP seeks to expand the outcomes and indicators that networks are working on to include outcome areas addressing College Readiness, High School College Access and Postsecondary On-Track. We hope to identify up to four experienced intermediary organizations to receive large “Type 1” grants, of 3-5 years’ duration, to address these specific problems.

We will open a third RFP next spring, one that will once again invite applicants to address student outcomes from our full list of target outcomes. Over the next few years, we expect to devote significant resources to this effort to help students around the country get the education they deserve.

Click here to see if you have the experience we are looking for to run a Type 1 NSI. You can also learn more about what successful applicants look like in this memo, which details what we learned from our first RFP.

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, schools 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 

Learn more about the RFP and grantmaking process including a link to the application, review the glossary, and check out the FAQ.

If you have any questions, please email

Eligibility Quiz

Before you complete the first stage of our RFP, 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 these large grants, there will be future opportunities for funding that may suit you better. Please do not apply for funding if you do not meet these criteria.

If you have any questions, please email us at

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Overview of the Selection Process

Please note that the written RFP application is completed in two stages. With the exception of current NSI grantees, who are not eligible to apply for new NSI funding until 2019, any organization that meets the eligibility criteria is invited to complete the first stage, which is open from Sept. 24 – Oct. 26, 2018. Applications will be screened on a rolling basis. Stage 1 assesses your previous experience with NSI-type work.

By or on Nov. 9, 2018, we will email applicants who demonstrate a strong fit for a Type 1 grant to invite them to complete the second stage of the written RFP. If you are invited to complete the second stage, these are the questions you will need to answer. The second stage will be open from Nov. 13 – Dec. 21 and may require significantly more time on your part than the first stage, because the second stage requests information about the proposed NSI.

We are trying to keep the written part of the screening process as short as possible for applicants. For that reason, there are several things that we are screening for that we will ask about during subsequent stages of the selection process (interviews and site visits) but are not asking you to write about in your RFP. Note that interviews will happen from Feb. 4 – Feb. 11, 2019 and site visits will be scheduled from March 20 – March 29, 2019.

Please do not apply if you are not eligible for this grant. Please check the glossary and grantmaking guidelines and eligibility criteria before you begin the application process.

Download a word copy of stage 1 questions here and a word copy of stage 2 questions here.

Additional RFP Resources

RFP Grantmaking Guidelines

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


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

RFP Glossary

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