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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: The “To and Through” Advising Challenge

Deadline: May 31, 2018

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation envisions a future in which all students in the United States have access to educational opportunities, from Pre-K to postsecondary, that enable them to develop the knowledge, skills, and agency needed to thrive as adults and contribute to their communities. To reach this vision, it supports initiatives towards a goal that more students are on track, from Pre-K to postsecondary, to obtain a postsecondary credential with labor market value, such that race/ethnicity and income are no longer predictors of outcomes.

The “To and Through” Advising Challenge is based on a few critical leverage points where there is compelling evidence that high schools – and those who support high school students – can meaningfully impact students’ transition to and through postsecondary institutions. High schools have differential impacts on college-going, even when controlling for students’ prior academic achievement and readiness. Likewise, support during various stages of the postsecondary application process can have meaningful effects on the postsecondary education choices of high school students, especially those from low-income families.

Postsecondary advising is particularly important for low-income students and students of color, many of whom are the first in their families to attend a postsecondary institution. Data show that these students have the greatest needs, but have less access to strong counseling and advising in high school. For students from low-income families and students of color, it is not enough to simply encourage them to apply to a postsecondary program. A “to and through” approach to advising requires a deep understanding of students’ identity, motivations, and mindsets, emphasizes personal relationships and family engagement, and focuses on three critical decision points which directly impact students’ chances of obtaining a credential or degree. Key decision points include:

  • Advising students to apply to and enroll at institutions that support student success
  • Supporting students to successfully navigate financial aid and affordability issues
  • Avoiding summer melt

Grant recipients will commit to measuring and reporting on evidence-based indicators and conditions that will enable them to deliver significantly more impactful advising for students. These commitments include:

  • Report on estimated postsecondary completion and adopt a measurement framework using key predictive indicators (see “Key Outcomes and Indicators,” available at: http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/to-and-through-rfp/).
  • Analyze current student data, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and income.
  • Understand all the actors currently providing postsecondary advising in schools and the surrounding community.
  • Based on the initial analysis of current student data and context, develop an initial aim and goals for improvement during the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Develop the capacity for ongoing measurement, disaggregated reporting, and use of indicators for improvement at both the school and district levels.
  • Implement key enabling conditions and leadership commitments at both the school and district levels.
  • In conjunction with school leaders, counselors, educators, and community partners, create an implementation plan to ensure systemic access to effective advising. This plan may include strengthened partnerships with college access organizations, higher education institutions, and other community supports.
  • Commit to continued measurement, usage, and reporting of key indicators and outcomes in the second year of the grant.

Grantees will also commit to fully participating in and exchanging learning across a community of practice. This will include engagement in two national convenings, the National College Access Network national conference, and ongoing trainings, communications with coaches, and other supports. Fundamental to this effort is a learning agenda which allows participants, the foundation, and the field to learn from grantees’ experiences.

Amount: Up to 20 school systems will be selected to:

  • Participate in a year-long community of practice, receive individualized coaching and technical assistance, and benefit from access to effective models, tools, and practices
  • Receive National College Access Network membership and conference registration
  • Receive $75,000 in grant funds during the 2018-19 school year
  • Receive an additional $15,000 to support continued measurement and improvement practices in school year 2019-2020
  • Be eligible to apply for additional implementation funds for school years 2019-20 and beyond

Eligibility: The Challenge is open to local education agencies, including traditional school districts and charter management organizations. The Foundation also welcomes applications from partnerships that span across school districts and/or charters. Large school systems may choose to apply for a subset of their schools (with a clear goal of full system implementation). The Foundation purposely seeks a variety of applicants, including across rural, suburban, and urban districts or charter management organizations, to increase the opportunity to learn about progress in different contexts. Creative partnerships with college access organizations and other community partners are encouraged. The Foundation seeks to fund applicants that directly serve a student population of which at least 50% are Black, Latino, and/or low-income (students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch).

Link: http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/to-and-through-rfp/

Note: A prospective applicant webinar will be held during the week of May 7, 2018 (timing TBA; see website above for updates).

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