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2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition announced

Here’s a bit of information on the newly announced 2011 round of the federal Investing in Innovation Fund, or i3. We’re thrilled that nine members of the NewSchools portfolio were winners last year, and want to make sure you have the information that will enable you to decide whether the fund is of interest to you this year.

As background, the i3 Fund provides sizable awards to support the validation and expansion of innovations that benefit high-need public school students. (It’s important to note that an innovation, for the purposes of i3, is not necessarily the same as the overall work of a particular organization; it may be a particular project, program, or effort.) The full details of the Fund are on the Department of Education website, and there’s a good writeup in Education Week, but here are some key facts about the 2011 i3:

Key dates

  • Applications available June 6
  • Notice of intent to apply due June 23
  • Completed applications due August 2, 4:30 pm ET
  • Awards will be made by December 31

You can also expect workshops and webinars for potential applicants to be announced on the Department website in the coming weeks. The Department is also seeking peer reviewers who will judge applications.

What’s different this year?

As was true last year, larger grants are available for proposals that are supported by stronger evidence of effectiveness. However, the total size of the fund ($150 million versus $650 million previously), sizes of individual grants, and match requirements, are all smaller this year:

Type How many? How big? Match requirement
Scale-up 2 Up to $25M 5%
Validation 5 Up to $15M 10%
Development 15 Up to $3M 15%

In addition, two new absolute priorities have been added. (All applications must address one absolute priority.) The new ones are rural achievement and STEM education. (The three absolute priorities that remain from last year’s competition include: supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools.)

Following is the Department of Education press release on i3:

U.S. Department of Education
Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20202
FOR RELEASE: Friday, June 3, 2011
Contact: Press Office, 202-401-1576 or press@ed.gov

Second Round of i3 Provides $150 Million to Continue Scaling-Up, Validating and Developing Effective Education Innovations
New Priorities Include Improving Educational Opportunities in Rural Schools and STEM

The U.S. Department of Education announced that $150 million will be available for the next round of Investing in Innovation (i3) grants to continue support for evidence-based practices in education. Individual school districts, groups of districts, and nonprofits in partnership with districts or a consortium of schools are invited to apply.

Award amounts have been adjusted to ensure that applicants have sufficient funding to carry out program goals while enabling the Department to fund as many high-quality applications as possible. Grants will be available within the same three categories as in round one:

  • Up to $25 million each will be available for Scale-up grants to applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success;
  • Up to $15 million each will be available for Validation grants to verify effectiveness for programs with moderate levels of evidence;
  • Up to $3 million each will be available for Development grants to support new and high-potential practices whose impact should be studied further.

Grant recipients will be required to secure private sector matching funds of 5%, 10%, or 15%, respectively.

For the second round, the Department has included two new absolute priorities focusing on achievement and high school graduation rates in rural schools and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The three absolute priorities that remain from last year’s competition include, supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. All applicants must address one of these five key areas of reform.

“Smart innovation and entrepreneurship has the ability to dramatically accelerate student achievement and attainment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The next round of i3 grants will add to the growing portfolio of new and emerging successful practices in education and invest in ideas that help supply teachers and students with the tools they need to be successful.”

In addition, competitive preference will be given to grantees that demonstrate support for improving early learning outcomes, increasing college access and success, addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and limited English proficient students, or improving productivity or technology.

“Extraordinary work is happening throughout the country with the potential to not only transform our education system but invest in our economy and ensure equal access to a high-quality education for thousands more students,” said Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “The Investing in Innovation fund will continue to support promising and proven projects that elevate student performance, close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, and attract, support and retain high-quality teachers and principals.”

In round one, the i3 program received overwhelming interest from nearly 1,700 applicants. The Department awarded a total of 49 grants to a cross section of school districts and nonprofit organizations.

To aid the i3 application process, the Department will offer pre-application workshops in the coming weeks along with several webinars on key i3 topics. Notices Inviting Applications for each of the three grant categories will be published today in the Federal Register, and applications will be due on Aug. 2, 2011. Awards will be made no later than Dec. 31, 2011.

To read the notices inviting applications for new awards, please visit:

Scale-up grants: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-03/pdf/2011-13592.pdf
Validation grants: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-03/pdf/2011-13594.pdf
Development grants: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-03/pdf/2011-13596.pdf

UPDATE: Read this new, thoughtful analysis by the always-smart Sara Mead.

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