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School Improvement RFP of the Week (2)

Outsourcing Educations Agencies' Communications Strategies

From Monday's issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report

Announcement: Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Communication Plan Due June 27 (May 14), Department of Education, Iowa

Their Description: The purpose of this Request for Proposal (RFP) is to solicit proposals from qualified service providers to contract for services for the Iowa Department of Education’s Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Communication Plan. The Iowa Department of Education intends to award a contract beginning on with an overall completion date of March 15, 2009 .

The 2006 regulations implementing the 2004 IDEA include directions on how states and local districts are to respond to this legislation. The two sections of this legislation are the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards (NIMAS) and the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center (NIMAC). Providing accessible formats in a timely manner is not a new requirement. The new NIMAS process will improve this process for the students covered under these regulations.

The NIMAS establishes standards to be used by textbook publishers to prepare electronic files of textbooks, which can be converted to specialized formats. Specialized formats means Braille, Audio, Large Print, Text to Speech or Digital Text, which can be used by students who are blind, vision impaired, physically disabled, and reading disabled.

The NIMAC’s duties are to receive and maintain a catalog of these electronic files. Publishers at the direction of local school districts send these files to NIMAC. When a student in a local school district requires one of these specialized formats to have access to the general education curriculum, the local district will contact an Authorized User designated by the State of Iowa to search the NIMAC for the particular textbook and associated materials. The Authorized User can access the electronic file and convert it into the specialized format requested or identify an Accessible Media Producer to convert the file into the specialized format. Once the specialized format has been converted, the Authorized User will send it to the local district making the initial request

1. The contractor shall assist bureau staff in development of a graphic identity for the AIM (assistive technology, universal design for learning, NIMAS, accessible instructional materials) project. Elements of this graphic identity shall include but not be limited to: Logo, graphic standards, key message points, tag line, and other items as identified.

2. The contractor shall assist bureau staff in developing the core messages to be used with the identified target audiences. Target audiences include: AEA & LEA administrators, teachers of the visually impaired, AT Liaisons, AEA staff, IEP Team members, textbook publishers, parents, and advocacy groups.

3. The contractor shall assist bureau staff in identifying and developing unique communication products which suit the target audiences and the key messages to be delivered. Elements shall include but are not limited to: Bookmarks, brochures, PowerPoint’s, fact sheets, webinars, podcasts, DVDs, and other products to be identified.

4. The contractor shall assist bureau staff in developing an evaluation plan to judge the effectiveness of the individual communication strategies and products.

Total cost of all activities and products shall not exceed $125,000.
Start Date: August 15, 2008
Completion Date: March 15, 2009

My Thoughts: K-12 education agencies request private sector assistance with message and outreach strategies all the time. I don’t know how the practice compares with other agencies but, as the Bush Administration can tell you, it's a problematic area. As long as the public affairs firm is not a conduit for government policy, but an advisor on how government might position its policies and place its messages, the work seems perfectly legitimate. I can’t speak to the profitability of these engagements.

K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report is a comprehensive weekly web-enabled report delivered by email on Monday. It covers grant and contract RFPs issued by every federal and state education and social services agency and every school district over the internet. K-12Leads is for school improvement providers who understand that their offerings are not commodities, rarely displayed as such, and so easily missed by traditional computer-based “word search” systems.

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