Spotlight FAQs

The call for applications for the 2018 Spotlight is closed.

The information below was created for the 2018 Call for Applications process. For more information about the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, visit Carnegie’s FAQ page.


General Information

What is the Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement?

The Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement is an initiative designed to create opportunities for educational leaders to learn from and celebrate groups that have demonstrated quality in the application of improvement principles to make real progress on persistent educational problems.

Selected spotlight applicants will present at the Spotlight Symposium on November 15, 2018, in Washington, DC, and also at the Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education in April 2019, in San Francisco, CA.

Who should apply?

The Foundation welcomes applications from any group that can demonstrate quality and rigor in the application of improvement principles to make progress on a persistent problem of practice. These types of groups are eligible to apply:

  • Improvement project teams;
  • Organizations that have been transformed by making improvement principles, methods, and tools a standard practice; and
  • Improvement networks.

Why apply?

Selected groups will be publicized nationally, inspire others to take up continuous improvement approaches with similar rigor, have opportunities to learn from and develop colleagueship with other Spotlight honorees, and be featured in educative videos and written case studies.

How are spotlighted groups chosen?

Applicants must provide evidence of measurable improvement on specific outcomes and show how improvement principles have guided their work.

  • Improvement Project Team applicants should show how they made progress on an aim through the use of improvement tools and methods, and how their efforts positively impacted students and/or teachers.
  • Organizational Transformation applicants should demonstrate how the use of improvement principles, methods, and tools became a standard practice.
  • Improvement Networks applicants should have worked together to make significant progress on an improvement aim; and demonstrate effective communication, collaboration, and practical knowledge-building.

A Spotlight application committee will carefully review the submissions, and select one or more groups in each category.

Spotlight Events

What is the Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement Symposium, who attends, and when and where does it take place?

On November 15, 2018, invited educational leaders from policy and research organizations, federal education agencies, foundations and nonprofit organizations, and professional organizations will come together in Washington, DC to celebrate and learn from the improvement stories of this year’s spotlighted project teams, improvement networks, and organizations. This event brings together leaders from across the education sector to celebrate, learn from, and discuss what it takes to lead improvement with quality.

What is the Summit on Improvement in Education, who attends, and when and where does it take place?

The Summit on Improvement in Education, the Carnegie Foundation’s premier annual conference for education improvers, is a vibrant three-day event that brings together a diverse group of educators, researchers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and policymakers dedicated to accelerating improvement in education. The 2019 Summit will be held April 16-18 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis hotel in San Francisco, CA. Join Carnegie’s mailing list to be updated when registration opens in late summer 2018.

What are the expectations of presenters at the Spotlight Symposium and Summit sessions?

For the Spotlight Symposium: Spotlighted groups will be expected to prepare short 20-minute presentations (5-6 slides maximum) telling the story of the project team’s, organization’s, or improvement network’s improvement journey, showing how improvement principles manifested through the work, detailing what methods and tools were used, and describing evidence of measurable improvements.

For the Summit on Improvement in Education: Spotlighted groups will be expected to present their work in sessions, varying in in length.

In each case, Spotlight honorees will receive coaching from Carnegie Foundation leaders.

Application Process

How do I apply?

Visit Application Process on the 2018 Call for Applications page to download a category-specific application (PDF). Prepare your answers to each prompt in a Word document before submitting your answers online, since the online application cannot be saved and must be submitted within a single session. For Part Three of your application, upload supporting documentation (e.g., documents, reports, charts, etc.) directly into the form. For more than 10 files or single files larger than 30MB, check a box at the end of the form, and you will receive a link to upload additional files.

Can I receive feedback on my application prior to submission?

Though the Foundation can provide information about the logistics of completing and submitting your application, we are unable to provide feedback or coaching on the content of your submission. Since the main goal of the application is to find out more about you and your work, it’s possible you may be asked to provide additional details about your work after you submit your application.

We run a successful (literacy, etc.) program. Can we apply?

Spotlight on Quality in Continuous Improvement does not have a program category. You could apply as an organization if you can demonstrate how the use of improvement principles, methods, and tools have become a standard practice in your organization; a project team engaged in your program might apply if they can show how they made progress on an aim through the use of improvement tools and methods, and can demonstrate how their efforts positively impacted students and/or teachers.

Our organization works with teachers and schools in various districts to implement and scale specific practices, using improvement approaches. What is the appropriate application category for us?

Here is some guidance that may help you determine which category is appropriate:

The Improvement Network category: Given that you support many teachers, this category could be appropriate if all teachers, or a subset of them, are networked by a common, measurable aim. Each teacher’s aim might differ but would all be aligned to a common network aim. For example, the network aim might be: To improve literacy outcomes (by some amount) for elementary school students. A teacher within that network might have an aim to improvement literacy outcomes for his/her 3rd grade class. All the network members (or teachers in this case) must collaborate in a learning system in which they share their work, and this shared learning should accelerate improvement.

The Transformational Organization category: Are you a learning organization that applies improvement approaches, methods, and tools to the operation of your organization? If so, you might consider this category.

The Improvement Project Team category: You might consider this category for an individual team led by a specific teacher in your network who applied improvement approaches within his/her school to improve outcomes for students. In this case, it would likely be the teacher or school leader that might apply.

Can I apply in two categories?

Though most groups should apply to only one category, it’s possible that an organization could submit two applications (e.g., as a transformational organization and also as an improvement project team). The content within each of these applications would be different.

What types of evidence should I include in Part Three of my application?

It’s expected that you may be further along in some areas than others. For each of the three dimensions, provide the best available evidence (e.g., reports, charts, documents, data) to demonstrate accomplishment of aims and to support your claim that improvement principles and methods had an impact on outcomes.

Are there specific topics or areas for which the Foundation hopes to receive applications?

Of particular interest are initiatives that work on persistent, high-leverage problems of practice, since those efforts are of most benefit to the field. Initiatives that seek to advance more ambitious student learning goals and/or attack longstanding disparities, by race/ethnicity or income, in students’ progress through school and educational attainment, will also receive special attention. Beyond those considerations, there aren’t other factors that would privilege one topic over another.