Smart Scholars Early College High School (ECHS)
Questions and Answers
Can Smart Scholars grant funds be used for tuition?
Yes. Students recruited to participate in any Smart Scholars ECHS partnership school should NOT be charged tuition. Grant funds can be used for tuition and to purchase textbooks for the students.
Can charter schools partner with a college to form a Smart Scholars ECHS?
Yes, as long as the charter school is a public one.
Can students as young as 6th or 8th grade be part of a Smart Scholars ECHS partnership?
They may with a qualification. The purpose of the Smart Scholars ECHS Program is to provide rigorous college-level classes to students in high school grades 9 through 12 who are ready to take them. The RFP states that the partnerships successful in obtaining a grant from this program may elect to reserve a portion of their funding to reach students in grades 6 through 8 and provide them with additional academic and social support. The idea behind this is to bring students in the achievement gap to grade level so that by grades 9 through 12 they are able to succeed in college level work, and take advantage of earning college credit while in high school.
Can a charter school that serves grades K-8 participate in a Smart Scholars ECHS partnership?
As noted above, the charter school must be a public one. If the public charter school essentially acts as a “feeder school” to a public high school or public charter high school, it could participate as a partner with the eligible high school, provided that the public high school opts to reserve some of its funding to assist younger students in bringing them to grade level. These factors need to be specified in your proposal and in any Memorandum of Understanding (or one in development) with all partners of the ECHS school.
Are there plans for a third cohort of Smart Scholars ECHSs at this time?
A local institution of higher education (IHE) has already received a small grant to begin implementing an ECHS in one of the district’s neediest schools. We are proposing to use Smart Scholars ECHS funding, if successful, to expand the number of students to be served in the ECHS school currently underway. Is this appropriate?
It is our intent to be flexible in how partnership Smart Scholars ECHSs are developed. Therefore your proposal to augment any Smart Scholars funds received with those already in hand is appropriate. However, it would also be critical to expand the level of services you would provide your students with the use of Smart Scholars funding. For example, you might consider developing a demonstration site or sets of expanded practices that other ECHSs could replicate.
Can a grantee LEA (local education agency) or high school partner with multiple IHEs (institutions of higher education)?
Yes. A LEA can partner with one or more IHEs. It is our intent to be flexible with this program. It is up to the applicant/bidder to present their own model that most makes sense to their unique situation and set of circumstances.
What is the grant period?
The grant period for the Smart Scholars Early College High School Partnership Program grants is December 1, 2009-August 31, 2013
Can the Smart Scholars ECHS exist as a small learning community within a larger school?
The ECHS may exist within a larger school, as a stand-alone school, or it may exist on a college campus.
May students in the Smart Scholars program be with their ECHS cohort group for their core academic classes and then be mixed with other students in the school for other classes?
Yes. We are flexible with the model. But your proposal should make sense, be justifiable and work for your unique situation.
Can the term "full day" as it appears in the RFP allow for a half-day in one location and a half-day in another location?
We believe that our proposed Smart Scholars ECHS will be designed to serve students in grades 9 through 12. Is it acceptable to address only 9th graders in the first year of the program?
If the Smart Scholars ECHS were to be physically located on the IHE partner's campus, would the IHE faculty be permitted to teach or team-teach some of the courses for which students receive college credit or must all faculty teaching in the program hold NYS certification?
Team-teaching is encouraged. College professors can teach courses for college credit without certification. All non-collegiate courses for high school credit must be taught by appropriately certified teachers. The location of the courses taught is not a determining factor.
How do we determine our "needs" status when we are listed in the School Status Report in the following manner: "Has No Status - No Title I Funding, In Good Standing"?
"High Need" schools and "Very High Need" schools are defined in Appendix D-1 and D-2 in the Smart Scholars ECHS Partnership RFP. Bonus points may be awarded to "High Need" and "Very High Need" schools, 5 or 10 points respectively. If your school is designated as a school "In Good Standing," your school is not in one of these two defined categories. However points will also be awarded to bidders whose schools may not be high need or very high need, but nevertheless address high need/very high need students. We will consider proposals that focus on high need students in the school, such as English language learners, immigrants, children of immigrants, students with disabilities, low-income students,. We are committed to advancing the education and opportunities for students who attend college at traditionally low rates. It will be especially important to be very specific about defining these students and in preparing a detailed proposal with soundly justified expenditures.
We would like to incorporate student housing into the summer program portion of the Smart Scholars ECHS grant. Would fees for housing the charter school students in our dorms be an allowable cost?
Because we wish to be very flexible in our review of what the Smart Scholars ECHS schools will look like, we have placed few limitations on the program. The RFP does not exclude expenditures for student housing. It is up to the bidding IHE or LEA to present such details in the proposal with sound and necessary justification for both the program rationale for needing student housing, as well as the cost this would entail.
Our proposal will include a request for equipment. Would the equipment be required to remain in the possession of the charter school or can it be stored at the partner college for program use (when the charter school students are on our campus)?
Your proposal should include a detailed discussion about the equipment you require. We would, however, suggest that expenditures err on the side of the participating LEA, local high school or public charter school, because it is the secondary students who are the focus of the initiative.
Will minor remodeling be allowed? Does it have to occur at the LEA or can it also be done at the partnering college?
The RFP provides no disallowance for minor remodeling. However, it is entirely up to you to explain and justify your suggested model, and include detailed discussion about why the minor remodeling is necessary, where it will occur, who will use the revamped facilities and for what purpose. It will be up to the reviewers to determine the value-added to the overall program with the addition of remodeled space.
May a BOCES apply on behalf of a consortium of public schools?
Yes. We are flexible in the models we will entertain. It is critical for the bidder’s proposal to justify the suggested model and describe in considerable detail how and why it will work as you suggest.
Can a Smart Scholars ECHS partnership be as small as one school and one college?
Can college classes be conducted on the college campus, a school campus or on-line?
The answer is “yes” to all of the above. The proposal must explain in detail how the proposed model of class delivery will be determined, how it will work, and why it was chosen.
How important is replicability in the Smart Scholars ECHS program? Will the scoring system recognize plans to extend the model beyond the 100 students per grade that would initially be funded?
The Smart Scholars ECHS program review will take into consideration any number of possible scenarios or models. It is up to the proposal itself to advance the positive aspects of the model. It should explain why going beyond 100 students per grade level is a good idea for your specific situation. We have used 100 as the number of students per grade level because it is fairly basic to the research conducted in developing the Smart Scholars ECHS program that is envisioned. It is quite imperative that the number of students remains fairly small, since research shows that it is small classes that work. If you are speaking of replicability in terms of establishing best practices or creating new ECHSs after the Smart Scholars grant program expires in 2013, the RFP states that a consideration in creating an ECHS in the first place is to work toward its sustainability.
How do we interpret the statement "Subject to Charter School Law Provisions" on the Excel spread sheet located in the RFP that shows the High Need and Very High Need in Column L?
“Subject to Charter School Law Provisions” means that the charter school does not receive Title I funds and therefore is not part of our regular accountability system as codified in Section 100.2(p) of Commissioner's Regulations. While the Commissioner can identify Title I public and charter schools and non-Title I public schools as in improvement, corrective or restructuring, s/he has not such authority under State Education Law to do so for a non-Title I charter school. A Non-Title I charter school is subject only to the accountability provisions of the charter school law, under which a charter school that has extremely low academic performance for several years can have its charter revoked by the Regents.
Are you committed to having a cohort of 100 students per year, each year for 4 years, making the number of students reached around 400?
Although the RFP states 100 students per year, we have not provided a specific minimum. For example, you may only have 25 students per year who are designated within the targeted population of high needs students in your particular school. Your partnership could include a school rated “in good standing” and yet have some academically at risk students, or the school could be located in a small town or rural area with a smaller student population. Your RFP would be crafted accordingly, most likely with a lesser overall budget request than if the proposal were identified with a large urban high school with greater numbers of high needs students.
May awarded contract funds be used for faculty costs?
Where do we find the lists of “high need” and “very high need” students?
This information is provided in appendices D-1 and D-2 of the RFP, along with the directions and URLS for locating this information.
The RFP states that an MOU, Letter of Intent, and budget are required. But the list of “Pre-opening” activities state that these items are expected to be developed. Please explain.
Draft or “in-development” MOUs or Letters of Intent will be acceptable in your proposal. A Completed Cost Proposal Form, Fiscal Form RR-01 Proposal Budget – which is appendix B in the RFP — is required along with the other documents as stated in the RFP. In the proposal narrative, bidders must also address the requests of all expenditures proposed in the Fiscal Form RR-01. Additional budget development activities will be expected of the selected partnerships during the planning year. Partnerships receiving an award through this RFP will work with the USNY-selected intermediary organization to refine the budget once program activities are launched.
Can you discuss what you mean by “at risk” students or those who “traditionally attend college at low rates?”
The RFP states generally that “at risk" students include those students who are traditionally under-represented in higher education and may include English language learners, students with disabilities, and first generation college-goers.
In the Smart Scholars ECHS Program RFP, minimal attention is paid to evaluation and assessment . Please explain.
The RFP requires assessment to be a component of any Smart Scholars ECHS model. However, the University of the State of New York (USNY) has issued a second RFP, the Intermediary RFP, that is specifically targeted to a research and consulting organization that will assist Smart Scholars ECHSs in reviewing assessment models and tools, and providing best practices to the ECHSs. The selected intermediary will provide assistance to USNY in coordinating the network of Smart Scholars ECHSs.
In determining high need and very high needs schools, will you consider the student data from feeder schools? We have 5 high schools, four of which fall in the high needs category. We are considering targeting the fifth high school to be our ECHS population but it is only 2 years old and therefore doesn't have the history to establish its accountability. However, it primarily serves students from the poorest section of our city, many of whom attended SURR elementary or middle schools. Would that also count towards potential bonus points or are you only considering the official accountability status of the targeted school in 2008-2009?
We will award points for proposals that come from schools determined to be "in good standing" so long as they target a population of high need students within it. Your proposal should concentrate on the fact that you are targeting this population of kids, underscoring the fact that they have come from SURR schools. This information would be a critical element in your application.
In reading what is allowable during the planning/pre-opening phase, there was no reference to the provision of student supports. Is it allowable to use the planning period to provide supports to the target population to better prepare them for 9th grade ECHS classes? Would it be allowable to provide staff development during this period as well?
We deliberately decided to be flexible and allow bidders to respond to the RFP in a manner that is consistent with our stated goals and objectives that targets the right students, but includes a plan that is workable in relation to your unique needs. The RFP does speak to a plan that provides both academic support as well as social/emotional support.
That said, the focus of the program is that students will take college-level courses in high school. This may mean that the selected partnership may need to reserve a portion of its award to reach students in grades 6-8 so that by the time they reach high school, they are at grade level and ready to undertake rigorous college level courses. Similarly, you could provide that same extra attention to students in grades 9 or 10, for instance, so they may be able to take college courses and earn some college credits before graduating high school.
It's not necessarily a good idea to begin your new ECHS program while you are in the planning phase or pre-opening phase of your school. A proposal that promotes this activity may be short-changing the planning. As of now, the planning phase for the first cohort of students is already somewhat abbreviated because of when we received our award. The planning time you do have available should probably be used that way, since the first cohort of students will be enrolled in September 2010.
The RFP does not specifically disallow your doing this, but you will see that the RFP discusses the various activities in pre-implementation and implementation phases of a typical ECHS school. Our research has suggested that completing thorough planning prior to implementation can lead to a successful program.
In reference to designing rigorous curriculums, is the expectation that partnerships will design all new curriculums or could existing curriculums (such as Advanced Placement courses) meet this requirement?
Your proposal will need to clearly explain to us your curriculum plans, and this will depend on what is stipulated in your draft Memorandum of Understanding. You may simply indicate in the proposal that this work is in progress with your partnering college or university. If the partnering IHE deems the AP courses college-level, then we will accept them as such.
Can you clarify what "budget must not include any costs to students "means? This makes it appear as though funds can be used to pay for student textbooks, courses and fees.
You are correct. The Smart Scholars ECHS funds should supply everything the student needs in terms of tuition, books, academic and other student supports.
Can these Smart Scholars ECHS funds be used to hire a counselor? Can funds be used to pay for an external evaluator?
These are all eligible expenditures. It may not be necessary to hire an outside evaluator, however, because the Smart Scholars grant includes the ability for USNY to hire a statewide intermediary organization, with experience and expertise in the early college high school context. This organization will be a research and consulting firm that will also have experience in assessment and evaluation.
Is the award range of $300,000-500,000 the average annual award over 4 years?
No. The proposal you develop may request anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 which will be a one-time award for use over the entire four (4) years of the program.
Could each public school in a consortium partner with a different IHE, or is the eligible partnership only one school and one IHE?
You may configure your partnership as you wish as long as at least one public high school, public charter school or BOCES and one IHE partner together.
Could college classes be conducted on the college campus, on the school campus and/or online, or does the RFP limit how the classes are delivered?
We will consider all of these options.
Small, rural schools may not have teachers that would be approved as college adjuncts for the range of courses to be offered. Could a consortium offer online courses or video conference learning opportunities to provide a more diverse range of course offerings to participating schools/students?
How many students should our Smart Scholars ECHS include?
It is recommended that Smart Scholars ECHSs would be relatively small, comprised of no more than 400 - 450 or so students for grades 9 through 12. However, smaller programs are also encouraged. The quality of the proposal will be an important consideration.
Should 9th and 10th graders be involved in Smart Scholars ECHSs?
The RFP makes clear that the target age of students for the Smart Scholars Program are 9th through 12th graders, high school students. The idea is that students in any of their high school years could take college courses so long as the students are deemed to be "college ready."
The RFP states that those partnerships successful in obtaining Smart Scholars ECHS funding may elect to reserve part of their awarded contract funding to reach to students in grades 6 through 8 to provide academic and social support so that by the time they enter high school they will be at grade level and ready to take rigorous college level courses. It will likely also be important to reach certain high school students--those in grades 9 or 10 as you mention, who might need additional academic and other support so they can take advantage of the college level courses as well, and have the chance to earn some college credits by the time they graduate high school.
We have intended to craft an RFP that is flexible so that we can entertain a number of ECHS models during the review process. The reviewers will want to see a well thought-out proposal, one with clearly stated objectives, discussion of students served, sound curricula, justified expenditures, etc. We want to see how the model you chose meets your unique needs. We understand that what might work for a school in the Southern Tier may not work for a school in the Adirondacks, or for a school in Buffalo or in Albany.
If a Smart Scholars ECHS partnership is developed on a college campus, may the ECHS students mix with the college students, or must they take classes exclusively with their high school student cohort? Must they take only pre-selected classes?
This combination is allowed. But, the Memorandum of Understanding that accompanies the proposal – or one that is in development—should have a component related to the curricula that can be vetted by both the LEA and the IHE. The Smart Scholars ECHS partnership school is quite free to submit its own model to USNY. We have crafted an RFP, we hope, that provides bidders with the opportunity to think creatively and present a cogent proposal that is cost-effective and meets the unique needs of the partnership. The goal is to reach high needs students who traditionally attend college at much lower rates than others. Whatever the model, it is wise to focus on those students lodged in the achievement gap.