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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Networks for School Improvement

Deadline: April 26, 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. The 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.

The current NSI opportunity will support organizations that address student outcomes from the full list of predictive outcomes. The Foundation is making funding available for larger, longer Validation/Impact grants (similar in scope to Type 1 grants from the 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. The Foundation will fund:

  • 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)

Model Design and Initiation investments are intended to help organizations clarify and refine their model for running an NSI and secure technical assistance for aspects of their model where they feel, as an organization, they could use additional support and development. A Model Design and Initiation grant differs from Validation/Impact grants in that its purpose is to support model clarification and capacity building to run an NSI rather than to support the primary activities associated with an NSI.

Validation/Impact grants are reserved for Intermediaries that have demonstrated capacity and experience working with schools in the following areas: continuous improvement methods; data collection and analysis; network design and facilitation; working with school systems; school-level leadership development; improving outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students; and knowledge management and asset generation. The Foundation calls these six things the components of an NSI model. These Intermediaries:

  • Have successfully facilitated a network of schools that used a continuous improvement process to improve one or more of the five predictive student outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students
  • Are or will be ready to launch an NSI during School Year 2020-21 that aims to increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against one or more of the predictive student outcomes.

Amount: Dependent upon project type, as follows:

  • Model Design and Initiation grants: Up to eight awards of approximately $250,000 per year will be made for 1-2 years. The request (of approximately $250,000 per year) should not represent more than 50% of the lead applicant’s existing annual revenue.
  • Validation/Impact grants: Up to 12 awards will me made ranging from $50,000-$100,000 per school per year with a maximum grant award value not to exceed $14,500,000 for a five-year grant. Awards will range in duration from 3-5 years. See website for additional details on cost estimates per school.

Eligibility: Intermediary organizations. 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: nonprofit school improvement organizations; regional education service agencies; school districts; charter management organizations (CMOs); higher education institutions; or for-profit professional services firms. Additional eligibility requirements per focus area are detailed below. Also, see website for additional information and an eligibility quiz.

  • Model Design and Initiation grant eligibility: Organizations applying for this grant are expected to have experience working directly with school and/or district teams to improve specific student outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students in grades 6-12. Applicants are expected to have at least five Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff in place to engage in capacity building efforts.
  • Validation/Impact grants: Small organizations with (a) annual revenue of less than $1,500,000; (b) fewer than five full-time employees; and/or (c) insufficient finance infrastructure are not eligible to receive a Validation/Impact award.

Link: http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/school-network-rfp-spring-2019/

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