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In August 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (“the foundation”) launched its Networks for School Improvement (NSIs) initiative. To further its own continuous learning as well as the learning of its grantees and the educational field, the foundation engaged the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) to conduct a formative evaluation of the NSIs initiative during its first two years. The research questions that guided this study were:

  1. How are network hubs implementing the Network for School Improvement (NSI) strategy?
  2. What are the characteristics of effective networks and network hubs?

To answer these questions, CPRL used a qualitative research design to deeply explore the work of nine networks representative of the broader pool of grantees. Selection was designed to ensure diversity with respect to the following characteristics: (a) geographic location, (b) number of schools in the network, (c) number of districts in the network, (d) grade band targeted, and (e) problem of practice. The findings presented in this paper emerge from an analysis of data collected from these networks across two years. In total, CPRL conducted over 160 interviews, observed 22 network convenings, and analyzed nearly 1,000 artifacts and documents.