Networks of School Improvement

Proposals Sought for $500,000 to $4 Million Gates Foundation Grants

Proposals Sought for $500,000 to $4 Million Gates Foundation Grants 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is requesting proposals for networks of school improvement (NSIs).

NSIs are, according to the foundation's glossary for the project, groups of schools serving students in grades 6-12 that work on their own and together with an intermediary to implement a continuous improvement process that aims to improve outcomes for black, Latino and low-income students.

The organization said in a release that it will be requesting additional proposals to lead NSIs in the coming years, but the current one is specifically for intermediaries, which will receive funding directly.

An intermediary, according to the organization, is "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."

A range of organizations may qualify as intermediaries, including nonprofit school improvement organizations, charter management organizations, higher education institutions and school districts, for example.

Two types of grants will be awarded through the program.

Type 1 grants will be for three to five years and will vary in amount according to the number of schools in the network. The organiation offered a preliminary estimate, subject to later change, of $1 million to $4 million per year for this type of grant, assuming an average network size of 20 to 40 schools. Only three of these grants are likely to be available in 2018, though the number will increase yearly for the next three years, according to information released by the fooundation.

"Type 2 grants," according to information released by the organiation, "are reserved 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."

These grants are intended to build capacity for the intermediaries receiving them, and are therefore smaller in both the amount of the award and the time of the grant. These awards will be on the order of $500,000 for an entire 12- to 24-month grant period, with the actual amount determined by the needs of each individual project. More of these smaller grants will be available, according to the foundation, with as many as 10 to 15 intermediaries being awarded in 2018.

The NSI initiative is designed to help schools launch innovative change themselves, rather than having it imposed from the outside, according to an October speech by Bill Gates.

"We believe this kind of approach — where groups of schools have the flexibility to propose the set of approaches they want — will lead to more impactful and durable systemic change that is attractive enough to be widely adopted by other schools," Gates said at the time.

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About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].