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Deadline: February 21, 2018

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Networks for School Improvement

The Networks for School Improvement (NSI) solicitation is guided by the belief that all lives have equal value, and that all students—especially Black, Latino, and low-income students—must have equal access to a great public education that prepares them for adulthood. A Network for School Improvement (NSI) is defined as a group of secondary schools (grades 6-12) working both collectively and individually in partnership with a high-quality Intermediary to use a continuous improvement process to improve outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students. To support the acceleration of learning and improvement, NSIs set a network aim, tackle problems of practice that are common across the network schools and track their progress using indicators that are predictive of student learning, graduation, and postsecondary success. NSIs are: 1) led by an Intermediary skilled in: continuous improvement processes, data collection and data analysis from multiple sources, and developing school-level adult capacity to address the network problem and aim; and 2) facilitated by a Intermediary to drive school and network improvements, surface learning within and across schools, and uncover meaningful variance as schools work to reach a specific and measurable aim. To learn more about NSI characteristics see the NSI glossary.

NSI funds will support two different types of investments:

Type 1: These grants are for Intermediaries (see eligibility section below for definition) that have demonstrated capacity and experience in the following areas: continuous improvement methods; data collection and analysis; network facilitation; school-level leadership development; improving outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students; and knowledge management. These Intermediaries:

  • Have successfully facilitated a network of schools or districts that used a continuous improvement process to improve one or more predictive student outcomes or indicators for Black, Latino, and low-income students
  • Are (or will be with planning funds) ready to launch an NSI in 2018 or early 2019 that aims to increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against a predictive student outcome or indicator in 10-50 schools

Type 2: These grants are for Intermediaries that have demonstrated experience in some, but not all, of the following areas: continuous improvement methods; data collection and analysis; network facilitation; school-level leadership development; improving outcomes for Black, Latino, and low-income students; and knowledge management. Intermediaries that apply for Type 2 grants are developing their capacity to facilitate an NSI. The purpose of the Type 2 investment is to support Intermediaries to lead a specific improvement project that seeks to improve a student predictive indicator while simultaneously building an Intermediary’s capacity and potential to apply for a Type 1 grant in future years.


  • Type 1: Award sizes will be determined based on the number of schools in the network and will include additional capacity building for Intermediaries. Based on an average network size of 20-40 schools for 3-5 years, investments are anticipated to range from $1,000,000-$4,000,000 per year. This financial information and average network size is preliminary and should be used as general guidance. Three to five awards will be made in 2018 (it is expected that this number will increase over the next three years).
  • Type 2: Award sizes are expected to range up to $500,000 and will be determined based on project specifics, including the scope and duration of the investment and number of schools involved in the network. The Foundation anticipates funding 10-15 awards in this first year. Each grant will fund a 12-24 month improvement project aligned to the NSI strategy.

Eligibility: Intermediaries that demonstrate alignment to the Foundation’s Networks for School Grantmaking Guidelines. 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.

To qualify as a Network for School Improvement, network schools working with the Intermediary must meet the following criteria:

  • Schools cohere around a common problem and aim related to improving the percentage of Black, Latino, and low-income students who make progress against an outcome or indicator(s) that is predictive of high school graduation or postsecondary success.
  • Schools serve students in grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and/or 12. Schools may focus on one or more grades depending on the network’s aim and theory of how to reach that aim.
  • At least 50% of students who are served across the network schools are Black, Latino, and low-income students. Low-income students are students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch.
  • Schools are represented by teams that include leaders, relevant administrators, and/or teachers with the time, expertise, ambition, and trust to solve the problem at hand. Depending on the nature of the problem, school teams might also include district staff. School teams share leadership, accountability, and decision making.
  • Schools have the commitment and support of district/CMO leadership. Support might include providing release time, access to data, and flexibility regarding district or CMO mandates.
  • Schools have the authority and autonomy needed to address the problem of practice. School team members have the support and time needed to participate in the network learning and convenings.
  • Intermediaries must work with 10-50 member schools to be classified as an NSI.

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

Note: Informational webinars will be held on January 17th and January 26 (see link above for details).

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