Partnering with a Provider: Issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP)

Overview: How do you plan for issuing an RFP?

An RFP may be required depending on the scale of your program and the regulations in your district. If so, understanding the approval process is critical. Some districts may require approval from the school board, while others may allow district employees to sign off. If higher levels of decision-makers are needed, their approval may extend your timeline: if the school board needs to approve the provider selected through an RFP, you may need to wait several months before they include this approval in their agenda.

In addition to planning for the approval process, consider how and when to advertise the RFP. Use a variety of channels such as the district/state official website, newsletters, press releases, and social media platforms to create awareness.

What district approval processes should be considered?

Depending on your district and potential contract size, you may be required to select only providers that have been approved by your district, locality, and/or state. Potential steps you may need to take when verifying approved vendor status are:

  • If a provider seems like a good fit for your district, look them up on your district’s approved vendor list.
  • If potential providers are already approved vendors, move on to the RFP process.
  • If a provider has not yet been approved, ask them to apply to become an approved vendor. Depending on your district, this process may take a few weeks or several months.
  • If you determine that an unapproved provider may be the best fit for your district, but your program timeline is too tight for them to complete the vendor approval process in time, consider creating a smaller scale contract that does not require vendor approval for a pilot program while the provider gets approved as a vendor. Once the vendor is approved, they can bid on a larger-scale contract in the future.

How do you design an RFP?

Refer to your jurisdiction’s policies and procedures for designing the RFP; ideally, you should build from a template crafted by legal counsel to adhere to all the requirements in your jurisdiction. The following checklist can serve as a baseline for what information to request from each provider beyond whatever the legal requirements in your jurisdiction may be. This tool is not legal advice, and the exclusion of any particular item from this checklist does not mean you should exclude it from your RFP.

General Fit/Experience in Identified Focus Area

  • Service. What problem does the provider seek to address? Is it one your district is facing right now?
  • Approach. What is this provider’s strategy for solving the problem? What does it look like in practice?
  • Business Model and Organizational Structure. Is the provider for-profit or non-profit? How is it run?
  • Provider History and Track Record. Does the provider have a track record of success in similar districts?
    • District References. Whom can you contact to discuss their past work with another district?
    • Financial Statements. Can the provider show that their business model is fiscally sound?
  • Content Area and Grade Level. Which grade levels and content areas does the provider have experience in?
  • Target Students. What students is the provider’s model most effective for? What populations do they have experience serving? If the provider does not have experience serving the student populations you want them to serve, how will they adapt their model to meet the needs of the target population?
  • Delivery Mode. Will sessions be in-person, virtual, or hybrid? What resources must the district provide?
  • Pricing. What will the provider charge for their services? How does this pricing break down in detail?
  • Scale. At maximum, how many students per campus can the provider serve? How many campuses?

Impact and Elements of High-Impact Tutoring

  • Impact Data and Explanation. What research and data show the provider’s impact or support its design?
  • Tutoring Program Design Badge. Has the provider earned an NSSA Program Design Badge indicating that the provider's tutoring model design is aligned with the characteristics of high-impact tutoring?
  • Evaluation Model. What methodology does the provider use to evaluate its impact and effectiveness?
    • Randomized Controlled Trials? Has the provider rigorously tested its impact scientifically?
    • External Evaluators? Has the provider worked with an external evaluator? What did they find?
    • District-specific Studies? Could the provider work with your assessment and accountability department?
  • Logic Model. What is the provider’s theory of change? What inputs and actions produce its results?
  • Equity. What is the program’s approach to equity? How is equity embedded within the tutoring model?
  • Safety. How does the program ensure safety for the student involved in tutoring?
  • Cohesion. What is the tutoring program’s mission? What are its organizational goals? Is leadership stable and effective?
  • Tutor Consistency. Will a student consistently work with the same tutor? How will they be matched?
  • Tutor Type. What qualifications will tutors have? How will they be selected, trained, and supervised?
  • Session Dosage. How often will tutoring sessions happen? How long will each session run?
  • Student-Tutor Ratio. How many students (maximum) will each tutor work with simultaneously?
  • Curriculum. What high-quality curriculum will the sessions use? How will it align with state standards? What instructional routines will tutors be required to use?
  • Session Setting. Where/when will sessions happen? What classroom space must the district provide?
  • Data Use. What data will be collected? How will these data support tutors to individualize instruction with students? What support will the program provide to the district for data review and reflection?

Level of Alignment with the District

  • Instructional Strategies and Pedagogy. What instructional strategies will be utilized? How do those align with the district’s instructional strategies and pedagogy?
  • Tech Requirements. What are the tech requirements that need to be in place in a district?
  • Alignment with Existing Initiatives. Will the provider be able to align its program with any specific existing initiatives within the district? How will the provider ensure this alignment?
  • Baseline and Growth Assessments. What tests will be used to measure student academic growth? Is the provider willing to leverage already existing assessments?

Organizational Capacity

  • Logistical Requirements. What are the logistical requirements for running the tutoring program in the district (e.g., physical space, scheduling requirements, etc)?
  • District Capacity Expectations. What capacity will be needed from central district staff members to support the implementation of tutoring?
  • Timeline. What is the lead time required before the provider can begin its work in your district?
  • Personnel. Which personnel can the provider dedicate to this project? What are their qualifications?
  • Fundraising. Is the program willing to fundraise with the district as needed?

For specific RFP language examples, please see the Tutoring Provider Selection Criteria Tool