Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the
MATH AND SCIENCE PARTNERSHIP (MSP) – NSF 02-190
The new MSP program has generated much enthusiasm around the country.
The official guidelines for submission of MSP proposals can be found in
the Program Solicitation NSF 02-190 (http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2002/nsf02190/nsf02190.htm).
Step-by-step submission instructions are also available at this site.
The following questions and answers are intended to be helpful supplements
to the program guidelines, and have been generated at recent workshops
and through communications with the MSP Cognizant Program Officers.
As additional questions are raised, please continue to review these FAQs
as they will be updated on a regular basis.
General MSP Questions
Question – Discussions of the two merit review criteria,
intellectual merit and broader impact of the proposed activity, are woven
throughout our proposal. Is that sufficient?
Answer – No. The Program Solicitation NSF 02-190
(under Section V. PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS, A.
Proposal Preparation Instructions, Project Summary) states: “Note
that the abstract MUST address both NSB-approved merit criteria in separate
statements. Effective October 1, 2002, NSF will return without review
proposals that do not address both merit review criteria in separate statements.”
Partnerships are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to submit relevant information on
the (single) Project Summary page in three sections, clearly labeled as:
Abstract, Intellectual Merit Criterion, and Broader Impacts Criterion.
Further clarification of what is entailed in the merit review criteria
can be found in Section VI, PROPOSAL REVIEW INFORMATION, of the MSP Solicitation
and in NSF’s Grant Proposal Guide.
Question – How does the MSP differ from NSF programs of
the past decade?
Answer – The MSP requires that mathematicians, scientists and engineers
from institutions of higher education participate fully in the improvement
of K-12 mathematics and science education. In all cases MSP proposals
must demonstrate commitments among school districts, institutions of higher
education, and other partners. Partnership models will be extensively
studied to learn how partners’ commitments result in institutional
changes that will lead to scalability and sustainability of their efforts.
The MSP program expects to learn and share how the partnerships contribute
to a national capacity for success in educational reform.
Question – Will there be another round of proposals for
the MSP after the January 7, 2003 deadline?
Answer – When initially conceived, it was anticipated
that the MSP program would receive funding from Congress each year for
five years. If Congress appropriates funding consistent with this timeline,
then we anticipate MSP competitions for Comprehensive and Targeted proposals
after the January 7, 2003 submission deadline. In addition we anticipate
two other competitions in FY 2003, for the MSP Research, Evaluation, and
Technical Assistance (RETA) component and for MSP Teacher Institutes.
Details are forthcoming.
Question – What is a Cooperative Agreement (indicated in
the Solicitation under the description for Comprehensive awards)?
Answer – A cooperative agreement is very similar
to a contract and includes explicit benchmarks and deliverables on a yearly
basis throughout the lifespan of an award. Cooperative agreements will
be negotiated with each partnership that receives a Comprehensive award.
This step follows the review process and commitment to accept the award
by a partnership.
Question – Under Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions,
B. Budgetary Information, the following statement appears: "Indirect
cost (F&A) Limitations: Not Applicable". Does this mean that
there are no limitations on indirect costs other than the rate negotiated
by an organization with the cognizant Federal negotiating agency? Or,
does this mean that indirect costs are not applicable to this solicitation?
Answer – It means that there are no limitations
on indirect costs other than the rate negotiated by an organization with
the cognizant Federal negotiating agency.
Question – Do we need to send a Letter of Intent before
submitting a proposal?
Answer – No, however, partnerships are STRONGLY
ENCOURAGED to enter specific information about their projects into the
MSP Data Registry. Details can be found in the Program Solicitation under
section V. PROPOSAL PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS, A. Proposal
Preparation Instructions. The registry can be accessed at http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/msp/msppartner/
. Information entered into the registry can be modified until the time
of proposal submission on or before January 7, 2003.
Question – Can my institution be the lead organization
on proposals for both a Comprehensive and a Targeted Award?
Answer – A single institution can be the lead
on only one proposal. The lead is defined as the institution
that submits the proposal, acts as the fiscal agent and is responsible
for overall management of the proposed project. An institution may participate
in more than one partnership proposal. However, a school district can
participate in no more than two proposal submissions of which no more
than one can be for a Comprehensive award.
An institution of higher education in which two departments
in a college want to participate in separate proposals with different
partners. This is allowed, but the college can be the lead organization
on only one of the proposals; the departments must negotiate with
each other on which proposal would have their college as the lead.
For the other proposal, the department and college would be a partner
with some other organization acting as the lead. A cautionary
note: Institutional change within colleges and universities
participating in the MSP is one of the expected outcomes when an institution
is a Core partner in a proposal. When there are multiple efforts involving
different departments/units of an institution of higher education,
care must be taken to ensure a common model of change to which all
parties will commit.
A school district would like to work on a mathematics proposal
with one set of partners and a science one with other partners.
This is permitted, as long as only one proposal is for a Comprehensive
award (or if both proposals are for Targeted awards).
A state educational agency submits a proposal involving school
districts and institutions of higher education. This is allowable
and the state educational agency, as a Core partner, must demonstrate
commitment to institutional change. However, at least one institution
of higher education and at least one school district would also have
to be Core partners in order to meet eligibility requirements of MSP
Solicitation NSF 02-190.
Question – Is a school district that received funding from
the first round of proposals now excluded from involvement and partnership
in all subsequent proposals?
Answer – Solicitation NSF 02-190 does not put
any restrictions on currently funded school districts. However, the onus
will be on the Partners of a proposal involving a currently funded school
district to provide compelling rationale and documentation for the need
for this proposal given the currently funded endeavor and the relationship
of the proposed effort to the funded endeavor. In the case of a school
district that has received funding for a Comprehensive MSP under Solicitation
NSF 02-061, which means that K-12 mathematics AND science are being addressed,
this rationale and documentation would need to be convincing.
Question – Our partnership will have many partners. Should
we provide information within the body of the proposal on all partners?
And what about the Supplementary Documentation? If we include a letter
of commitment from all core partners we will already exceed the 40-page
limit. And that's before attaching baseline data and the other required
documentation. What should we do?
You should provide information on each entity that will share in
the goals, the responsibility, and the accountability of the project.
You should also discuss the identified intended institutional change
for each Core partner.
When there are several partners with common commitments, they can
sign-off on ONE letter of commitment, but the letter should contain
description of substantive commitments. As for the baseline data on
students and teachers, it is up to the Partnership to gather the necessary
data and to present the (disaggregated) data in a coherent fashion.
Ultimately, it is a Partnership decision as to what must be placed
in the Supplementary Documentation. All proposals submitted, regardless
of size of Partnerships, will be held to the same page limitations.
Question – In a proposal for a Comprehensive award, do
we have to work on issues of both mathematics and science education?
Answer – No. You may submit a proposal for a Comprehensive
award that address K-12 science (amounts awarded will be up to $4 million/year),
K-12 mathematics (up to $4 million/year), or both K-12 mathematics and
K-12 science (up to $7 million/year).
Question – May a partnership submit a proposal for a Targeted
award that is K-12 Mathematics and/or Science?
Answer – By definition, a project that covers
K-12 mathematics and science, or K-12 mathematics, or K-12 science, is
a Comprehensive project. Targeted projects are intended to have specific
grade level and/or content focus. For example, a project addressing geometry
in K-12 would be appropriate as a proposal for a Targeted award. Similarly,
a project focusing on just grades 6-8 or grades 5-9, etc., would be appropriate
as a proposal for a Targeted award.
Question – The Program Description states, "the MSP
program seeks to improve K-12 achievement through a sharp focus on three
interrelated areas…" Is it important to address all three (3)
areas in a Targeted project?
Answer – Yes, regardless of whether the proposal
is for a Comprehensive or Targeted award, the three interrelated issues
should be addressed. In a Targeted project, partnerships will address
student achievement gains in a specific grade range and/or within a content
Question – What are the “challenging curricula,”
discussed in the Program Solicitation, which MSP programs should utilize?
What is the expectation for inclusion of NSF-funded curricula in MSP projects?
Answer –There is no intent on the part of NSF
to designate or proscribe a specific curriculum in schools, as curricular
decisions are viewed by NSF as a local or state decision-making process.
Partnerships are expected to evaluate the relevant literature on high
expectations for all K-16 students and to make decisions consistent with
state mathematics and science student academic achievement standards.
MSP projects must start with disaggregated data indicating which students
are in which courses and develop benchmarks indicating how partnership
activities will lead to all students being engaged in challenging curricula
that promote the development of increasingly sophisticated levels of problem-solving
and critical thinking and reasoning skills in mathematics and science,
as well as increased student participation and success in advanced coursework.
Students’ curricular options and assessments should parallel the
benchmarks that are developed, as should support of the teacher workforce.
Ultimately, partnerships must utilize evidence for K-12 student achievement
in the selection of materials for use in schools, as well as in teacher
education and professional development programs.
Question – Must all of the proposed work be new development
and design or can the work be centered on existing proven initiatives?
Answer – The MSP is not meant to replace, continue
or supplement previous efforts funded under other NSF programs or other
funding sources. A proposal for funding through the MSP may be based on
prior work that demonstrates credible evidence of success. Beyond simply
building on effective programs that have been funded in the past, the
MSP seeks to support strong partnerships that will result in increased
student achievement while also stimulating new, innovative solutions to
issues in mathematics and science education.
Question – Do projects have to impact at least 10,000 students?
Answer – The figure “10,000 students or
more” is identified as a guideline only and indicates that the scale
of the partnership, i.e., the number of students and/or teachers impacted
by the project, is one factor in the strength of a proposal. This guideline
is not meant to stifle innovation nor exclude sparsely populated areas
from participating. However, as noted in the Solicitation, projects that
incur high costs but which impact small numbers of students and teachers
typically do not hold as much promise for broad dissemination as more
cost-effective approaches. All costs must be well justified in the Budget
Justification and must directly correlate with the scope, complexity and
scale of the proposed project.