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Apply now for Schools That Lead

The Schools That Lead Request for Proposals (RFP) opened this week, and those interested in applying have until September 5th to try for this opportunity. 

The Schools That Lead pilot program was established via a provision in the most recent short session budget. It instructs the Department of Public Instruction to partner with an organization based in Delaware called Schools That Lead Inc., to give professional development to educators in up to 60 schools around North Carolina starting this coming school year. 

The program will offer services to “high schools working to increase on-time graduation,” middle schools trying to prepare students so they will not have to repeat ninth grade for multiple years, and elementary schools “working to reduce the number of students with early warning indicators of course failures, absences, and discipline,” according to the provision. 

More to the point, Dana Wallace, president and CEO of Schools That Lead, said that the program will be seeking to work with schools to identify what people on the ground think the challenges are and to help them dig down into the issues to find possible solutions. 

“Kind of a common thing that happens in schools is we adopt programs developed by external folks or agencies that we hope fix a problem that we have,” she said. 

Using a strategy called improvement science, Wallace said Schools That Lead will work with schools not only to help them with their challenges but also to give them the tools necessary to apply improvement science after the program is over so they can better identify and address problems on their own. 

She said the goal of the program is not to tell schools what is wrong or what they should be doing better. 

“We’re trying to carve out a niche and fill a space where we turn to the schools and get really clear about what they think is getting in the way of successful students,” she said. 

The RFP is open to all traditional and charter elementary, middle and high schools, and schools can apply individually or as part of a feeder pattern of schools. She said reading and completing the RFP takes less than 30 minutes and schools will be selected via a weighted lottery. The goal is to have 75 percent of the schools chosen be schools that had a C, D, or F in the last two years. Sixty schools total will be selected, and those selected will find out on September 14th. 

Wallace has worked as a teacher, principal, and superintendent, and she said the program is all about “trusting the capacity of teachers and principals to help their kids do better, and building the capacity of people so that they can do that and not be so reliant on external agents.”

Check out this video from Schools That Lead of two principals reflecting on the work of the organization.

Below is more information from Schools That Lead, as well as the link to the RFP.

Schools That Lead, in partnership with the NC General Assembly and the NC Department of Public Instruction, is excited to announce it will launch its North Carolina Networked Improvement Communities this fall for traditional public and charter schools seeking to improve learning outcomes for their students.

 Over the last four years, we have partnered with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to grow practitioners’ capacity to use improvement science. In our work, principals and teachers learn to use improvement science to articulate their theories and assumptions, select change ideas and measure impact over time as they work to solve a common problem. 

 Thus, Schools That Lead will convene and lead K-12 networked improvement communities for teachers and principals in up to 60 North Carolina public schools to address problems of practice using improvement science. We will facilitate three cohorts of schools, each working to solve a shared problem as a network to accelerate learning across schools.

       1) High schools:  Increasing on-time graduation rates; 

       2) Middle schools: Reducing 9th grade retentions; and 

       3) Elementary schools: Reducing the number of students with early warning  indicators in course  failures, absences and discipline.

 Each of the 60 participating schools will have teachers and principals deeply immersed in ongoing professional development over the course of three years. To that end, Schools That Lead provides:

 Teacher leadership: A curriculum for two teachers from each school to develop the requisite skills to use improvement science in their classrooms and lead others in their schools to do the same that spans 14 days over three years. Teachers have the option to earn micro-credentials and to be certified to lead improvement efforts.

  1. Principal leadership: A second curriculum for principals develop the requisite skills to use improvement science in their schools by setting aggressive student learning goals and supporting the work of their teachers that spans 10 days over three years
  2. Improvement facilitators: A third curriculum for another teacher from each school to develop the requisite skills to act as improvement facilitators, bridging the work between teachers and administrators and across their cohort of schools, that spans 10 days over three years
  3. Coaching: Bi-weekly coaching calls for each school
  4. Data management: An online resource for all participants to share their change ideas and improvement data
  5. Summer convenings:School teams gather to share their learning and learn from others in the network

 The total three-year membership fee is $6,000 per school, payable to Schools That Lead in $2,000 increments each year of the three-year program, or by other mutually agreeable terms. Cognizant of the timing of the release of this RFP, payment for year one can be delayed until the summer of 2019 and the new fiscal year. Schools should also budget for the costs of travel and substitute teachers for the professional learning sessions. 


  • Proposals are due September 5, 2018.
  • Schools will be selected by lottery and notified of selection by September 14, 2018. The lottery will be weighted in favor of schools with NC Report Card grades of C, D, and F.
  • The first convening of selected schools will be held in Raleigh on Wednesday, September 26, 2018.

 The RFP should be completed by the school principal and should take no more than 30 minutes.

 For questions please email:

 Access the RFP here:

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.