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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Adult Basic Education Professional Development System Questions and Answers

Each time this document is updated, answers to questions will be noted in red font.

New Questions and Answers

Does the Department have a requirement or preference regarding when and/or how often PD workshops should meet? Is there a preferred schedule that we should incorporate in our proposal?
It is up to the applicant to propose a workplan that is responsive to the RFP. Applicants are advised to bear in mind that (a) the Department's goal is for every teacher in the ABE system, over the next several years, to complete the PD program for the subject(s) s/he teaches, and (b) all workplans and budgets are subject to negotiation with the Department.
Regarding specifications on font and font size: Does content in the Appendices have to conform to Arial 10 point? For example, resumes?
Since the appendices do not contribute to the page count, they are not required to conform to the Arial 10 point font and font size specifications.


Previous Questions and Answers

Under "Eligibility" the RFP says "additional eligible applicants are consortia of the agencies, organizations, institutions, libraries, and authorities described above." What exactly constitutes a consortium for this purpose? Could you provide examples of acceptable types of consortia? We are wondering whether or not a consortium of community colleges and/or public institutions of higher education, and/or non-profit agencies, might constitute a "consortium" and be an eligible applicant.
A consortium refers to a group of entities, each of which meets the definition of "eligible applicant" as defined in the RFP, formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member.

Applicants considering submitting as a member of a consortium should note that, as stated in the "Background" section, the Department intends toesign the ABE professional development system as a system of highly qualified statewide, rather than regional, professional development providers, and that 50 percent of the score will be based on the applicant's content expertise. Accordingly, any eligible applicant considering applying as a member of a consortium is advised to carefully consider the extent to which the applicant and its potential partners bring the requisite expertise outlined in the relevant section(s) of the RFP, and whether such an arrangement strengthens or weakens their proposal.

Further, the Department reserves the right to fund all or any portion of proposed components. As noted under "Additional Requirements," successful applicants will be required to participate in a grant negotiation session at which time the applicant may be required to revise aspects of its proposed plan and budget.

The consortium members must designate a lead agency to serve as fiscal agent and receive and distribute grant funds. Since the fiscal agent/lead agency goes on record as being the applicant, other consortium members may wish to consider also submitting individual applications, in case the lead agency/consortium proposal is not funded.

If the applicant is a consortium, what would the lead agency look like in terms of the proposal, the budget, and the budget narrative? How should the budget be structured? How should the rest of the proposal be structured?
The applicant responds to this RFP with one integrated response including the budget. Programmatic and budget information needs to be presented as clearly as possible, so that proposal reviewers clearly understand which consortium members propose to do what, and how resources are to be allocated, to priorities and to consortium members. Eligible applicants considering applying as a consortium are advised to carefully consider whether the benefits of such an arrangement outweigh the challenges of clearly describing the proposed arrangement, and answering the narrative questions completely, within the page limits.
Who exactly is eligible? Is there a process to determine eligibility?
The list of eligible applicants is in the Eligibility section on page 3 of the RFP.
If a successful applicant has not previously been part of the PD system, are there additional requirements or procedures to be registered and/or be able to apply?
All requirements and procedures are enumerated in the RFP. This is not a continuation RFP, but a competitive one. The Department makes no distinction between applicants that have previously been part of the ABE PD system, and those that have not.
Can an entity (e.g., a consultant) be part of more than one contractor/applicant's proposal?
Yes. Since the fiscal agent/lead agency goes on record as being the applicant, other consortium members may wish to consider also submitting individual applications, in case the lead agency/consortium proposal is not funded.
Does a consultant need to be concerned if s/he agrees to submit his/her resume to more than one consortium that is applying?
It is up to the applicant to decide who to bring in as staff and consultants.
If several people are going to be applying for the grant and there is one expert who appears in multiple applications, is it problematic for that expert?
It is up to the applicant to decide who to bring in as staff and consultants.
Is it correct to assume that a consortium needs to apply for each priority separately?
Yes. Applicants considering submitting as a member of a consortium should carefully consider the extent to which the applicant and its potential partners bring the requisite expertise outlined in the relevant section(s) of the RFP, and whether such an arrangement strengthens or weakens their proposal.
What are some examples of costs related to distance learning modalities?
See page 4 of RFP, second paragraph under the heading "General Fund Use Information".
How frequently will periodic summary updates need to be submitted to the Department?
Under General Fund Use Information, both quarterly and semi-annual reports are mentioned: quarterly participation and enrollment reports and semi-annual evaluation reports that summarize the results, effectiveness, and impact of PD initiatives and activities, and recommendations for future PD.

If the question refers to another place in the RFP, please clarify with a follow-up question.

Is it possible that end users may need to access PD offerings through multiple providers and platforms?
Would successful applicants need to participate in monthly statewide meetings? If the successful applicant were a consortium, would it be only the lead agency that participates?
The Statement of Assurances includes the commitment to send "the appropriate representatives to monthly professional development system meetings, other content-specific meetings, the annual adult education directors' meeting, and any other required meetings and trainings held by the Adult and Community Learning Services unit of ESE."

"Appropriate representatives" will be determined by the agenda and intended results of each meeting.

In the current system, there are four STAR trainers. Is the Department still planning to use four trainers? If so, is it to be assumed that the other three trainers will be funded separately?
With the exception of the STAR-certified Reading Coordinator, the Department expects to continue to contract directly with STAR trainers. The number of such contracts in FY 2015 has not yet been determined.
Is more broken out data about the number of math teachers, the number of math classes and other areas available?
In FY 2013, there were approximately 549 ESOL teachers and approximately 518 teachers who taught either math, ELA, or both. The ABE MIS system (SMARTT) is not yet configured to be able to collect data about the number of math teachers and ELA teachers or math classes and ELA classes.
Will the Department look for quantitative goals about how many practitioners should be served?
The Department is introducing new standards and comprehensive PD programs aligned with these standards. It is the Department's intention that, over the next several years, every teacher in the ABE system will complete the PD program for the subject(s) s/he teaches.
Appreciative Advising is required. Can you give us more information about Appreciative Advising? Should the Appreciative Advising costs be included in budgeting the $150,000 available for the Education and Career Planning priority?
The PD provider for the advising piece will be responsible for providing the Appreciative Advising course. Related costs should be factored into the budget for applicants for this portion of the RFP.

In FY 2013, Jenny Bloom provided two one-day face-to-face seminars/workshops in Massachusetts at the rate of $2,500 each. When combined with travel, total costs for the two seminars/workshops were approximately $6,500.

The Appreciative Advising website was down and unavailable but now appears to be fully functional.

Will the ABE DL and Technology Support PD provider be responsible for supporting adult learners?;
The PD provider will be responsible for supporting students who are enrolled in ESE-funded ABE DL Programs; otherwise, the PD provider will be supporting ABE practitioners who in turn will assist students in acquiring the necessary technology knowledge and skills.
Will the ABE DL and Technology Support PD provider be required to provide support to any platforms offered by any provider?
To be clear, the entities selected as PD providers for each of the other priorities will have primary responsibility for assisting ABE practitioners to access and participate in all professional development offerings provided through distance learning, including effective use of the platform(s) used.

The RFP states that the applicant selected as ABE DL and Technology Support PD provider "must be prepared to assist ABE practitioners to access and effectively use a range of distance learning modalities using any platform, offered by any provider including non-ESE-funded providers".

It may be an efficient use of resources for the ABE DL and Technology Support (ABE DL&T) PD provider to develop and provide professional development activities to support practitioner use of the most common DL platforms.

Will the existing Help Desk model be defunct? Will the applicant have to come up with one? If it is a new one, will the field need training to use it?
The existing model doesn't have adequate capabilities (e.g., emails cannot be automatically imported into the tool, only DESE staff can view the information). Yes, the applicant does need to identify a Help Desk Tool that meets the specifications in the RFP. The field will not need training to use it.
Given the late submission deadline, what is the anticipated start date for services and funding?
Applicants should submit a twelve month budget. However, it is the Department's intention to start no later than September 1, 2014. If the start date is September 1, 2014, a ten month grant period will last through June 30, 2015.

FY 2014 professional development (SABES) grants will receive a two-month extension to enable services to continue through July and August.

Is it necessary to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI)?
Is it conceivable that an applicant could apply for all or many of the pieces of the RFP as a cohesive integrated delivery system?
Any applicant can apply for as many of the areas it feels it can respond to and manage. It is up to the applicant.

However, applicants are advised to consider the intent of this RFP -- toesign the ABE professional development system as a system of highly qualified professional development providers prepared to provide research-based, high quality PD throughout the state. The new PD system will be characterized by deep expertise focused on a limited number of content areas. In other words, the old model, "all things to all people," will be replaced by providers who "do one thing very well", for everyone who needs that one thing.

Since 50 percent of the score will be based on the applicant's content expertise, any eligible applicant is advised to carefully consider the extent to which it brings the requisite expertise outlined in the relevant section(s) of the RFP.

Further, the Department reserves the right to fund all or any portion of proposed components. As noted under "Additional Requirements," successful applicants will be required to participate in a grant negotiation session at which time the applicant may be required to revise aspects of its proposed plan and allocation of funds.

Is there some general acronym applicants could use for consistency?
The name of this grant program is the Adult Basic Education Professional Development System. Applicants who chose to do so can use the acronym ABE PD System.
What does the proposal consist of?
The proposal consists of the four required documents as listed on page 18 of the RFP. The biggest component of the proposal is the response to Part III. Applicants may also submit an application for indirect costs. The instructions are on page 18.
In the Connectivity section, it says some VC equipment may be transferred from current PD providers to providers newly funded through this RFP. If the equipment is broken or old, is it the responsibility of the new applicant to repair or update it?
Can funds be used for equipment?
Funds cannot be used for equipment, but they can be used for supplies. Applicants are strongly advised to consult the DESE Grants Procedural Manual, which defines items costing less than $5,000 per unit or having a useful life of less than a year as "Supplies and Materials", to be listed on line 6 of the budget forms. Subject to limitations outlined in RFPs, supplies can include books, paper, art supplies, computer hardware, and software. The Manual defines "Equipment" as items costing more than $5,000 per unit and having a useful life of more than a year. Equipment as defined in the Manual is not an allowable expense under this grant program.
How does the Department's right to approve staff interface with the ultimate authority for decision making of the entity applying? Who has the right to make the ultimate decision to hire? Would staff from ACLS have to be present during interviews?
While the grant recipient is the hiring authority, any entity funded through this grant program will be expected to work collaboratively with ESE, its designees, and each other to improve adult learner proficiency in key academic areas, and support the state's overarching goal of preparing all ABE students for success in their next steps, within the context of college and career readiness.

Accordingly, DESE reserves the right to review staff and consultant qualifications, and to approve or deny proposed hirings prior to the commencement of the grant and throughout the duration of the grant period prior to the grant recipient making an offer of employment. Further, after the start of the grant program, any substantial change in the full-time equivalency of any individual on this grant must be promptly reported by the grantee to the Department.

During the review of funding conditions in grant negotiations, successful applicants may be required to revise aspects of proposed plans, including hiring of staff and consultants.

On page 24 of the RFP, the guidelines indicate funds would not cover rental space. Is the Department expecting the space to be in kind?
Is there an allowance for rental of space to provide services in other parts of the state, computer labs in particular?
Each successful applicant is required to provide space for its own professional development offerings as well as those of other successful applicants. Further, grant recipients will be expected to seek collaborative arrangements with educational facilities (e.g., Readiness Centers, institutions of higher education, public schools) in order to provide services in areas of the state that have no ABE PD provider.
What other costs are allowed?
The answer to this question is in the Fund Use section on page 4, paragraph 2 of the RFP. "Other reasonable costs associated with planning and implementation" are allowed.
If an application is from a lead agency in a consortium, does that mean the staff of the other organizations that are part of the consortium are all staff? Are the consultants staff?
A consortium is considered to be one applicant and staff of any consortium member organization are considered staff of the consortium.
Is the Department looking for knowledge of ABE PD needs or also knowledge of the ABE field?
The Department is looking for knowledge of ABE PD needs, but primarily for expertise in the content area.
Can you provide further guidance on how to describe a one year plan vs. a three year vision for what could be delivered?
Assuming the question refers to Section II, Program Services, applicants are advised to describe a vision for achieving the purposes of the grant program by the end of the three-year performance period of the grant, and to be clear about exactly what elements of the plan they propose to implement in the first year.
In Part III - Required Program Information, isn't asking for job descriptions of key staff under Question IV - Organizational Capacity a duplication of the same question under Question I - Content Expertise?
Question I is asking about staff who are providing services (i.e., developing and delivering PD offerings, providing technical assistance.) whereas Question IV is asking about staff who are coordinating or managing the PD program.
Are footnotes included in the overall page dimensions as specified in the RFP or can they be located within the 1 inch bottom margin?
Footnotes may be located within the bottom margin.
In the Massachusetts ABE Assessments area, what is the desired balance between resources allocated for delivery of the standardized assessment trainings, trainer certification, formative assessment, and funding of psychometricians? What percentage should be allocated to delivering the mandated assessments and the other requirements?
It's up to the applicant to propose allocation of funds in response to the RFP. The RFP does not stipulate that psychometricians must be hired. The RFP provides a variety of examples of appropriate expertise for this priory area.
Are lead agencies allowed to subcontract with another agency to provide services?
Yes, subject to Department approval. Applicants are strongly encouraged to review Appendix F of the FY2015 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Basic Education in Community Adult Learning Centers and Correctional Institutions Download PDF Document  Download Word Document. Appendix F is a set of guidelines for Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) between grant recipients and partnering organizations; these MOA guidelines are relevant for collaborating entities applying for ABE Professional Development System Grant Program funding.
When a lead agency submits a grant on behalf of a consortium, should all agencies within the consortium submit an audit or just the lead agency?
Any applicant, including any member of an applying consortium, that is providing a significant proportion of the proposed services (i.e., 10% or more) should submit a copy of its latest completed audit report. In addition, the Department reserves the right to request a copy of an audit from any applicant (member) prior to the awarding of funds.
If an organization is applying for more than one PD priority, should it: (1) submit only 1 combined Part II Budget that combines all funding requests, (with individual budget narratives for each priority) or (2) submit individual Part II Budgets for each priority and an additional Part II Budget which combines the individual budgets (with the individual budget narratives)?
See Section V, Budget, of Part III - Required Program Information:

"If the applicant proposes initiatives and services for more than one priority area, the applicant must submit the following budget documents: one Part I - General Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants signature page that shows one combined total amount of requested funds for all priority areas; one Part II - Project Expenditures - Detail Information set of line item budget detail pages that show the combined funding information (e.g., number of staff, full-time equivalents, line-item sub-totals and totals) for all priority areas; and for each priority area, a separate budget narrative that clearly explains each proposed expenditure, following the line item sequence of the budget detail pages."

Can funding be used to purchase food for working lunches and breaks for professional development session attendees?
Reasonable costs for food at professional development sessions can be an allowable expense, if the session is essential to the implementation of the grant, and the time and place of the session are such that those in attendance would not be able leave and get their own food without causing a disruption to the proceedings. (Reference federal OMB Circular - A-87, Cost Principles for State and Local Governments.)
There are internal discrepancies within the RFP regarding the due date. What is the actual due date for proposals?
Since there were discrepancies, proposals will be due on the latest date mentioned: Tuesday June 17, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.
Is it permissible to use end notes, and can they be exempt from the page limits since they don't directly contribute to the narrative content?
Yes, end notes are permissible, and yes, they are exempted from page limits.
The RFP references the provision of technical assistance in several places. For example, Part I.1 "Identify key staff and key contractors who will develop and/or deliver professional development offerings and provide technical assistance services in the proposed priority area." Part II.1 "Describe how you will promote and implement the components of this professional development program including the provision of technical assistance." What is the Department's definition of technical assistance? Is it 1:1 support and assistance, program-based training, individualized support for staff, etc., and is it for any ABE program requesting it, or only for Tier 4 ABE providers?"
The Department does not have a unique definition of technical assistance. Technical assistance is generally considered to be support needed by an organization to do its work more effectively. The purpose of technical assistance provided through this grant program is to help ABE programs and staff increase their capacity to provide the educational leadership and instructional and advising services to effectively prepare ABE students for success in their next steps, within the context of college and career readiness. It is up to the applicant to determine which targeted assistance venues are the most responsive to the needs of ABE programs and staff within the context of this grant program.
With respect to the second part of your question, for whom is technical assistance intended: Programs in performance level or "Tier" 4, considered to be underperforming programs, are prioritized for technical assistance. These Tier 4 programs, which constitute approximately 10-15% of ESE-funded ABE programs annually, collaborate with the Department on an Intervention/Improvement Plan and use the plan to develop intervention strategies and benchmarks for improvement. The professional development provider for Educational Leadership and Strengthening ABE Programs will be responsible for providing targeted intervention and support, in coordination with the Department, for these programs. Depending on the type of technical assistance that is warranted, one or more of the professional development providers for the other priority areas may also need to collaborate on an intervention plan to meet the needs identified. For example, if the program needs assistance with its curriculum, the providers for English Language Arts, Mathematics and Numeracy, and/or English for Speakers of Other Languages may collaborate. If the advising component of the program needs strengthening, the provider for Education and Career Planning may become involved.

Programs in performance level or Tier 3 may request assistance from the Department and its professional development system as needed. Depending on resources and needs, the Department may also make a determination to give priority for technical assistance to Tier 3 programs.

In addition to ensuring that the needs of Tier 3 and 4 programs are addressed, the Department seeks to make technical assistance broadly available to any program. Providers are therefore encouraged to budget sufficient resources for this function.

The Department's ABE Accountability and Assistance policies are detailed in full in the FY2013 Massachusetts Guidelines for Effective Adult Basic Education for Community Adult Learning Centers and Adult Basic Education Programs in Correctional Institutions (referenced in the RFP), which is located on ABE Program Management page; the information herein is a summary of those policies.

Under General Fund use, the RFP states: "Applicants may use grant funds for personnel and non-personnel expenses relevant to the purpose and priorities of this grant program (e.g., development and delivery of professional development offerings including costs related to distance learning modalities; provision of technical assistance; training of trainers; teacher observation and feedback; data entry for all professional development offerings and data analysis; and the coordination and management of all priority area activities) as follows: salary and fringe benefits for staff; compensation for consultants with expertise related to grant priorities including mentors or coaches; ABE professional development travel expenses including transportation, conference registrations, and lodging; relevant professional development materials and supplies, including computer software and upgrades necessary to support the distance learning requirements and access to technology lab required of all providers; and other reasonable costs associated with project planning and implementation. Applicants are not permitted to use grant funds for capital expenses."

Are funds allowed to be used to defray participants' costs (e.g., mileage not covered by their employer) or for incentives (for example: for completing surveys)? (b) If there are examples or categories of allowable and unallowable expenses related to participant stipends, could you list them, please?

Professional Development System funds are not allowed to be used to defray participants' costs or provide for incentives. Allocating funds in this way deflects resources from the intended fund purpose of providing professional development and technical assistance multiple times, across the Commonwealth. Furthermore, providing stipends for participation in professional development creates a precedent that cannot always be sustained, and inadvertently can create a disincentive to participate in courses without such a stipend. In carefully designed and monitored circumstances (e.g., the Department's STAR reading program), the Department has set up a stipend program for qualified and fully committed participants in a comprehensive and intensive professional development program. The Department prefers to provide such support directly, rather than indirectly through its professional development providers.

Last Updated: June 13, 2014
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