Request for Proposals

The full proposal and support documents must be submitted via the online portal by 5:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 4, 2018.

On this page:
Procedure and Submission Instructions
Frequently Asked Questions


The goal of this grant opportunity is to investigate the extent to which student-centered learning practices can be used to advance equity in public education. Research proposals should be directed at building the knowledge base related to the impact of specific student-centered learning approaches on marginalized populations of students, the supports that may be needed to ensure realization of positive outcomes for those populations, and the contextual conditions needed to sustain equity-enhancing forms of implementation. The subgroups of particular concern include students who identify as Latinx, African American, and/or Native American; students from low-income families; those who qualify for special education services; emerging bilingual students; and recent immigrants and refugees (other definitions of “underserved” may be applied in proposed studies). Our intention is for this research to influence educational practice, policy, and public awareness. Grantees will be expected to join the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative and contribute to its ongoing efforts to build the evidence base, inform policy and practice, and scale effective approaches.

Researchers from grant-eligible research institutions, universities, and colleges are encouraged to apply. Thanks to the generosity of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and other Research Collaborative supporters, we expect to make up to three grants of approximately $400,000 each to be conducted over two years. Detailed requirements and criteria are described in Sections IV, V, and VI of the RFP.

The deadline for receipt of proposals is 5:00 p.m. ET on June 4, 2018. We anticipate announcing the recipients by the end of July. Please contact with any questions.

Download the full RFP

Areas of Focus

Proposed projects should investigate student-centered learning approaches that fall into at least one of the following four areas:

  • How learning can be personalized: the techniques employed to customize and differentiate instructional activities and curricula to match each individual student’s needs, interests, background, and skills.
  • How learning can be competency-based: the methods educators use to encourage and affect student achievement that can be assessed by valid and authentic measures of mastery, proficiency, and growth over time, decoupled from a preset pacing calendar.
  • How learning can occur anytime, anywhere: the ways educators construct equitable opportunities to learn that extend beyond the school day and the school building, and take advantage of community and technological resources.
  • How students can be supported to take “ownership” of their learning: the set of practices that allow or promote students to be agents of their learning and/or that enhance students’ sense of belonging, motivation, academic efficacy, self-regulation, self-determination, or other related outcomes.

Key Research Questions

Regardless of which of the four areas are prioritized and combined, the proposed research study should address the following three questions:

  • What are the measurable effects of this approach on academic achievement, preparation for postsecondary education, and/or career and civic readiness of one or more marginalized populations?
  • What contextual, institutional, cultural, interpersonal, epistemological, and/or procedural factors contribute to these outcomes?
  • What are the implications of this study for the field writ large, and for marginalized students in particular?


Interested parties should follow the following process to submit a proposal:

  1. BIDDERS CONFERENCE: The recording of the Bidders Conference is available below.
  2. LETTER OF INTENT: Complete the brief letter of intent form by 11:59 p.m. ET on May 8, 2018.
  3. SUBMISSION: Submit the narrative and accompanying documents outlined below and in the RFP through the online portal by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 4, 2018.
    • Before awarding grants, we will reach out to finalists via the individual named as the main contact in your proposal submission to schedule a short call between June 25 and July 6 (excepting July 4) to discuss your proposal. Please ensure that at least one representative of the research team leadership will be available by phone and email during this span.

Please read on for further instructions for each step.

Bidders Conference

On April 26, the Research Collaborative held an online bidders conference designed to give interested applicants a chance to ask questions regarding the RFP. Watch the recording below.

Letter of Intent

To ensure that we have sufficient reviewers on hand to evaluate submitted proposals, we are requiring all applicants to submit a simplified letter of intent using the online form below by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on May 8, 2018. On that form, you will be asked to submit the following:

  • Name of lead organization
  • Names of principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs, plus institutional affiliations
  • Tentative topic of study (the phrasing/focus of which can change between the letter of intent and the final submission date)
  • Expected sample/partners/sites/measures (e.g., populations and subpopulations of interest, region(s) from which samples are drawn, sites where data will be gathered, key indicators or measures to be used, etc.)

The letter of intent form is closed. Please contact if you have any questions.

Submission Instructions

Successful submissions will clearly and concisely answer the questions outlined in Section IV of the RFP while paying careful attention to the criteria for evaluation detailed in Section VI. The narrative and all attachments must be submitted via the online portal on the Research Collaborative site by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 4, 2018.

Required Documents

  • Narrative
  • Budget (please use the template available here) and budget narrative
  • IRS Tax Status letter
  • JFF Conflict of Interest Form (download here)
  • Supporting documents
    • Work plan
    • Resumes for lead staff and a summary of qualifications (limit of 3 pages per individual)
    • Letters of support from all identified partners

Submit Proposal

N.B.: Before awarding grants, we will reach out to finalists via the individual named as the main contact in your proposal submission to schedule a short call between June 25 and July 6 (excepting July 4) to discuss your proposal. Please ensure that at least one representative of the research team leadership will be available by phone and email during this span.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the RFP, please carefully read both Section V (proposal requirements) and Section VI (evaluation criteria)  before submitting a proposal as they each contain important information. Questions from prospective grantees will be answered in our RFP FAQ document and updated regularly over the course of the submittal period. Additional questions can be submitted to

Download FAQs