Q1. The RFP refers to Student achievement data (Section II. 3. C.2.) based on the
State Assessment. Presently only grades 5 and 8 are tested in Science. Math is tested in grades 3 through 8. How can we compensate for the gaps in science testing? For math, grades K through 2 are not tested. To add to this mix, the NECAP is going to be replaced by the Smarter Balance assessment. This makes it difficult to track student achievement. Any suggestions in this regard?
Answer. The requirement to report student achievement comes right out of NCLB Title II, Part B, Section 2202 (e)(2)(B) which states:
(e) Evaluation and Accountability Plan-
(1) In General- Each eligible partnership receiving a grant or subgrant under this part shall develop an evaluation and accountability plan for activities assisted under this part that includes rigorous objectives that measure the impact of activities funded under this part.
(2) Contents- The plan developed pursuant to paragraph (1)—
(A) shall include measurable objectives to increase the number of mathematics and science teachers who participate in content-based professional development activities;
(B) shall include measurable objectives for improved student academic achievement on State mathematics and science assessments or, where applicable, an International Mathematics and Science Study assessment.
Likewise, Under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), all federal agencies are required to develop indicators in order to report to the U.S. Congress on federal program impacts and outcomes. For the MSP Program, the following indicators have been developed:
1. The percentage of MSP teachers who significantly increase their content knowledge as reflected in project-level pre- and post-assessments.
2. The percentage of students in classrooms of MSP teachers who score at the basic level or
below in State assessments of mathematics or science.
3. The percentage of students in classrooms of MSP teachers who score at the proficient
level or above in State assessments of mathematics or science.
The expectation is that student achievement in State assessments of mathematics and/or science in those classrooms of teachers participating in the MSP project will be reported as a measure of the impact of project activities. This is not a new requirement for this RFP.
Student achievement on the NECAP and MEA Science assessments is available at district, school, and classroom levels. It is true that in 2014/2015, Maine will move from NECAP to Smarter Balanced. This is true across the state and, in fact, across the nation, as states adopt the Common Core State Standards. It will be a new baseline year for all of us.
For those grades not currently tested in Maine, K-2 for math and 2,3,4,6 & 7 for science, State assessment data will not be available and can be reported as such. Note, however, that this will only apply to participating MSP teachers of those grades.
Q2. Per Teacher Cost is new to us. In computing this number, would we use all the math and science teachers, ed techs and special ed teachers that are eligible to participate in activities of our partner schools?
Answer: Computing a per teacher cost for all math and science teachers, ed techs and special ed teachers who are eligible to participate in the MSP project could greatly inflate the cost proposal’s value. Rather than considering all who are eligible to participate, consider those who are likely or expected to participate. Remember that evidence of meaningful partnerships is an expected element of the proposal. The project narrative and partner letters of agreement should substantiate the number of participating teachers used to calculate the per teacher cost.
Q3. I am writing to you with a question about the schools identified as "High Need" in RFP # 201301459 (Mathematics and Science Partnership Projects). We noticed that, while one (grades pre-K - 3) in a district is identified, neither of the other schools (grades 4 – 6 and grades 7&8) in the same district are. As we are hoping to be able to work with teachers from schools across an entire district (K- 8) and not just a small subset of grade level teachers, we were wondering if these two schools may actually qualify as "High Need" or if we might also include them in our proposal.
Answer: The requirement is that at least one school identified on the “High Need” list be included as a partner. This does not preclude you from partnering with other schools in the district (or outside the district for that matter). Below is the definition of High-Need Elementary or Middle School for this competition:
High-Need Elementary or Middle School: (See Appendix D for eligible schools for this RFP) A high-need elementary or middle school is defined as a school that meets at least one of the following criteria:
1. Fewer than 50% of the students in grade 5 met or exceeded the State standards in science on the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) administered in the spring of 2012;
2. Fewer than 50% of the students in grade 3, 5, or 8 met or exceeded the State standards for math on the New England Comprehensive Assessment (NECAP) administered in the fall of 2011;
3. Fewer than 100% of the teachers in the school met the definition of highly qualified in the core content area for which they were assigned to teach during the 2011/2012 school year; and
4. More than 50% of the students in the school qualified for free or reduced lunch during the 2011/2012 school year.
It won’t necessarily happen that every elementary and/or middle school in a district meets this definition. However, if there one or more schools in the district are identified in the list at least one of them must be a partner.
Q4. The following statement from the website (http://www.nextgenscience.org) considers these four items to be the Disciplinary Core Ideas and calls the content areas domains, as it says in the last sentence:
Disciplinary Core Ideas
Disciplinary core ideas have the power to focus K-12 science curriculum, instruction and assessments on the most important aspects of science. To be considered core, the ideas should meet at least two of the following criteria and ideally all four.
- Have broad importance across multiple science or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline;
- Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;
- Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge;
- Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.
Disciplinary ideas are grouped in four domains: (1)Physical sciences; (2)Life sciences; (3)Earth and space sciences; and (4)Engineering, technology, and applications of science.
I did not know that engineering, technology and applications of science is a content area?
Answer: Yes, engineering is a disciplinary core idea. While the last draft of NGSS did not include a separate strand for the content of engineering design, it did split performance indicators (PIs) out that addressed engineering, highlighting these PIs with an asterisk. We are confident we will see a change in the final version of the NGSS from Achieve that will include a set of performance expectations that identify the content of engineering design. The Framework certainly does include engineering design as a disciplinary core idea.
Q5. Below are the eight NGSS Science and Engineering practices:
Science and Engineering Practices
The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn, and describes in some detail, are listed below:
1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
I assume we are to address one or more of these practices, in the context of a content area (Earth and Space or Life Science or Physical Science)?
Answer: Yes. Proposals must support the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by addressing one or more of the 8 Science and Engineering Practices and at least one Disciplinary Core Idea in the NGSS. See Q4. (above) which clarifies that Engineering/Technology/Applications of Science is also considered a Disciplinary Core Idea.
Q6. Is the “Proposed Cost” on the cover page for one year or all three years?
Answer: Bidders must submit a cost proposal that covers a three-year period of performance and cost-effectively meets the needs of a significant number of teachers. It is this Proposed Cost and Number of Teachers Directly Served that should be listed on the Proposal Cover Page (Appendix A).
Q7. The RFP discusses cost per teacher, and 25 points are awarded for the lowest cost per teacher. Yet, one project may involve teachers for 10 hours while another involves them for 60 hours over the year. How will you factor in the "time per teacher" along with the "cost per teacher”? Will you perhaps combine these to get a "cost per teacher hour”?
Answer: Research suggests that in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction and student learning, professional development should be sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused. Long-term plans that include multi-week institutes coupled with support over a sustained period will be rated higher than those providing fewer hours of professional development. The evaluation team may very well have to calculate a “cost per teacher hour” to make this determination.
Q8. Please clarify your requirement for number of hours per teacher.
Answer: There is no minimum requirement for the number of hours of professional development per teacher provided by a MSP project (see answer to Q7. above). The only mention of minimum numbers of hours provided by USED in reference to NCLB Title II, Part B states:
Approximately 60 percent of MSP projects report providing summer institutes. By definition, a summer institute must be for a minimum of 2 weeks (or at least 60 hours). Follow-up for summer institutes should include a minimum of 4 days. Other MSP projects provide shorter summer workshops during the summer and focus more of their activities during the school year.
Q9. Does the per capita cost for non-teachers cost the same as cost per teachers?
Answer: All professional development must be focused on teachers. Administrators and other non-teaching staff can be involved as long as the key focus of the training is on teachers. Assuming this requirement is met, the per capita cost for non-teaching staff would be calculated the same as for teachers.
Q10. The RFP enables bidders to bid for any or all of the $700,000 that is allocated. Assume that no bidder wins 700K, and that there are many qualifying proposals with budgets ranging from 100K to 600K: In that situation, how will you weigh quality of proposal against the need to fit the budgets together to total 700K? For example, if the proposal that ranks #1 has a budget of 550K, those ranking second, third, fourth and fifth all have a budget of 300K, and the eighth ranking proposal that qualifies has a budget of $150K, will you give the award to the $550 and $150K proposal and skip over those that are higher ranked? How is quality weighed against the need to fit the budgets together?
Answer: The Department reserves the right to make one or multiple awards as a result of this RFP process, whichever is in the best interests of the State, with an estimated $700,000 available for MSP grantee(s) for the initial period of performance. The Department also reserves the right to negotiate with the successful Bidder(s) to finalize a contract at the same rate or cost of service as presented in the selected proposal(s). In the event that an acceptable contract cannot be negotiated with the highest ranked Bidder(s), the Department may withdraw its award(s) and negotiate with the next-highest ranked Bidder(s) until an acceptable contract(s) has been finalized. So, it is entirely possible that the Department may enter into negotiations with the highest ranked bidder(s) in order to award as many grants as possible within the estimated allocation of $700,000. In the scenario proposed above, the first and second ranked bidders might be asked to each submit an amended cost proposal. If an acceptable contract budget cannot be negotiated with either or both of these two top ranked bidders, the third ranked bidder would be considered, and so on. Quality will be weighed equally against the need to fit the budgets together to the greatest extent possible.
Q11. Should all projects cover the full range of K-8 teachers or can they focus on a subset...K-5, 6-8? Are projects that cover the full span looked at more favorably?
Answer: The Department invites proposals that contain validated ways of addressing the complex issues surrounding the teaching and learning of STEM in grades K-8. That does not mean, however, that proposals will only be considered if they include professional development for teachers over that entire grade range. The intent is to support students as they move along the continuum of handling more complex and sophisticated content and cognitive processes. Proposals may focus on only one grade level, a subset (such as K-5 or 6-8), or they may choose to cover the full K-8 range. One grade level or span will not be looked at more favorably that another, all other things being equal.
Q12. Can we enrich the project through “in-kind” contributions? If so, should we reflect these contributions in the budget?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. The Cost Proposal should reflect resources needed to implement and evaluate the MSP project and any coordinated uses of resources from other sources.
Q13: In our letters of support, what documentation is needed to demonstrate a school’s level of commitment (in terms of number of teachers and number of hours per teacher)?
Answer: A Partner Identification Form and Letter(s) of Agreement (or Support) are required elements of the proposal for each Partner Institution/Organization. A school’s level of commitment in terms of number of teachers and number of hours per teacher may be included in the letter. In addition, there is space provided at the bottom of the Partner Identification Form (or following it as additional pages) to provide evidence of involvement of this partner institution/organization in project planning (meeting dates, places, agendas and participants). Keep in mind that Partner Identification Forms and Letters of Agreement/Support are among the proposal elements that will not be counted as part of the maximum total number of pages allowed, so you are free to include whatever evidence you deem most appropriate to demonstrate a school’s (or partner’s) level of commitment.
Q14. The materials for the last round of MSPs included detailed scoring rubrics for each section of the proposals. Is there a rubric like this available for this round of proposals?
Answer: Yes, see attached. Remember that the use of a consensus approach will be used to evaluate the proposals and assign evaluation points. This means that members of the evaluation team will not score the proposals individually. Instead, the entire team will arrive at a consensus as to assignment of points on each evaluation criterion of each proposal.
Q15. What is the indirect rate cap?
Answer: In the last two RFPs issued by the Maine DOE for MSP projects (2010 and 2011), there was a maximum percentage rate allowed for indirect costs. Current practice, recommended by the State Division of Purchases, is to request a justification of any indirect costs as part of the cost proposal. Note the instruction at the bottom of the Cost Proposal Form to “please include an itemized breakdown and explanation [of indirect costs – if appropriate] in the budget narrative”.
Q16. The proposal requires partnership with an IHE. Does the IHE need to be within the state of ME?
Answer: No, the definition of an IHE adopted for ESEA programs, including the Mathematics and Science Partnership program in Title II, Part B, is:
An educational institution in any State that:
1. Admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate;
2. Is legally authorized within such State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education;
3. Provides an educational program for which the institution awards a bachelor's degree or provides not less than a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward such a degree;
4. Is a public or other nonprofit institution; and
5. Is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association or, if not so accredited, is an institution that has been granted pre-accreditation status by such an agency or association that has been recognized by the Secretary for the granting of pre-accreditation status, and the Secretary has determined that there is a satisfactory assurance that the institution will meet the accreditation standards of such an agency or association within a reasonable time.
It seems pretty clear from the definition that the IHE can be in any state and is not required to be from the state awarding the MSP project grant.
Q17. If a partner district has some schools that are in the high-needs category and some who are not, do we count only the teachers from high-needs schools?
Answer: The requirement is that at least one school identified on the “High Need” list be included as a partner. This does not preclude you from partnering with other schools in the district (or outside the district for that matter). In your Cost Proposal, you should consider all those teachers who are likely or expected to participate, whether or not they teach at the high need school or another school.
Q18. In the past that you accepted separate grant applications for Math for Science. [In other words, a proposal could target just mathematics or just science content] Do we need to do two applications? Does each application this year have to include BOTH Math and Science?
Answer: This year’s RFP is different than year’s past in that we are requiring proposed projects to target both mathematics and science content. Proposals must support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards with a focus on improving and encouraging student learning of STEM content through the use of the Mathematics and Science and Engineering Practices.
Q19. Are applicants able to include pre-service teachers in the professional development projects proposed?
Answer: Yes. According to NCLB Title II, Part A, Section 2202(c) Authorized Activities:
(3) Establishing and operating mathematics and science [STEM] summer workshops or institutes, including follow-up training, for elementary school and secondary school mathematics and science teachers that -
(B) may include -
(i) programs that provide teachers and prospective teachers with opportunities to work under the guidance of experienced teachers and college faculty.
According to the MSP FAQs document created by USDE, “All professional development must be focused on teachers. Administrators [and presumably pre-service teachers] can be involved as long as the key focus of the training is on teachers.