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Research Questions

  1. How do intermediaries design and implement school improvement networks intended to improve the educational outcomes of Black and Latino students and students living in poverty?
  2. How and under what conditions do networks and intermediaries evolve over time?
  3. What intermediary strategies and contexts are associated with more-cohesive networks?

In an effort to improve high school graduation and college enrollment rates among students who are Black, Latino, or experiencing poverty, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation established the Networks for School Improvement (NSI) initiative and awarded five-year grants to intermediary organizations to develop networks of school teams that work together using continuous improvement (CI) processes. RAND researchers are leading a study on 25 of these networks to understand how networks launch and operate, as well as the factors that contribute to strong networks.

This report is designed to help organizations that are working toward school improvement, such as intermediaries and school districts, weigh strategies to use CI networks as part of their efforts. The researchers describe the common models and strategies in place across intermediaries to create and lead their networks, facilitate learning among network members, and help build schools' capacity to use CI to improve outcomes for students who are Black, Latino, or experiencing poverty. The researchers also explore crosscutting patterns in how intermediaries centered equity in these activities and how network activities shifted over time. Additionally, the researchers examine patterns in network engagement and development of network cohesiveness.

This interim report summarizes findings from school years (SYs) SY2020–21 through SY2022–23. This report is accompanied by three other reports: The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is evaluating CI processes in NSI schools through SY2022–23, Mathematica is evaluating early outcomes of the NSI initiative through SY2021–22, and the three evaluation teams collaborated on a summary report.

Key Findings

  • Intermediaries combined centralized leadership with local adaptation to organize and build the capacity of their networks.
  • Intermediaries sought to center equity across NSI activities.
  • How intermediaries approached capacity-building and network facilitation changed over time. In particular, shifts occurred in the following areas: increasing the focus on equity, shifting leadership from the intermediary to CI teams, and adjusting CI activities to the local context.
  • Networks that were especially cohesive appeared to use common strategies: hosting recurring role-alike meetings, creating cross-school small discussion groups, asking specific schools to present on their work to the network, and facilitating cross-school site visits.

Research conducted by

This publication is based on research funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.