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Breaking Through to a Quality Education for Urban Children

Ten-year-old Roberto had failing grades and discipline problems in his Cleveland, Ohio, school, but his mother had high hopes for him — a quality education that met his particular needs and would help him to be college and career ready. Fortunately for her and Roberto, an expanding network of charter schools in Cleveland, Breakthrough Charter Schools, offered a nurturing environment in its Near West Intergenerational School, one of five new charter schools resulting from an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant awarded to Breakthrough Charter Schools. Roberto’s story is the subject of a CBS News report that aired in late May.

Two Charter Schools Program Competitions Announced

Last year, when the Department announced 20 grants awarded for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Non-SEA program competitions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said; "High-quality charter schools across the country are making amazing differences in our children's lives. These grantees serve a range of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and prepare them for college and careers." The Non-SEA (State education agency) competitions provide support for charter schools located in states that are not receiving funds from the CSP's SEA competition; currently 19 States and the District of Columbia receive SEA funding. Non-SEA grant funds support planning and implementation of program designs for new or existing charter schools or the sharing and dissemination of information about best practices for charter schools.

Last week, CSP announced the start of the 2013 competition with the publication of two Non-SEA notices inviting applicants (NIA) in the Federal Register. Since its inception, CSP has worked to increase understanding of charter schools and to support high-quality charter schools in communities nationwide. The CSP team is excited for that work to continue this year with the non-SEA competitions. The Department plans to award up to $2 million to grantees of both the Non-SEA Planning, Program Design and Implementation and the Non-SEA Dissemination competitions, and estimates making between 10 and 14 awards.

The Power of 3: Reflections on the 2013 i3 Annual Project Directors Meeting

The number 3 dominated the thinking and actions of the more than 400 participants of the annual meeting of the Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees on May 20-21, in Arlington, Va. Let’s start with three examples:

  • They represented three years of funding (2010-2012) for this Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) program that supports the development and scaling of ambitious, effective practices that improve student achievement.

  • The 92 projects represented spanned three levels of federal support for i3 — 59 Development, 28 Validation, and five Scale-up projects.

  • Each project came to the meeting with three objectives: share best practices they have developed as well as challenges they face; learn about evaluation methods and receive technical assistance to improve their evaluations; and explore strategies for sustaining their projects’ impacts through private-sector support.

Almost as if to build on the theme of 3, Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, who led OII’s efforts to create and support i3 as the assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since 2009, encouraged the meeting attendees to share their stories and learn three new ones to take home with them.

i3 Projects Look Back on Progress and Lessons Learned

“We’re in the middle of the work and it’s a time to look back, also see the finish line, review data we’ve gathered, and do some reflecting,” is how Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton began a May 30th Education Policy Briefing i3 grantee representatives (left to right) Justin Jones (The Achievement Network), Debbie Kasak (Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network), and Robert Balfanz (Diplomas Now) with Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton. that featured three Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees whose work began two-and-one-half years ago. All are working to improve student achievement in low-performing schools with the support of national reform networks.

The grantees ─ Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network; Diplomas Now; and The Achievement Network ─ shared data and lessons learned with an audience of both ED staff and interested stakeholders that included the International Reading Association, the Learning First Alliance, the National PTA, the National Title I Association, and the Rural Education Trust.

The School Transformation Network i3 project is building on the Schools to Watch (STW) initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform that began in 2002 to recognize academically excellent and socially equitable middle schools. With an i3 Development grant, the National Forum is engaging 18 high-poverty, low-performing middle schools in three states to adapt some of the core ideas that drove the Schools to Watch initiative and apply them to school turnaround.

Update on OII’s 2013 Grant Competitions

This year (fiscal year 2013, or FY13, which runs through September 30, 2013), the Office of Innovation and Improvement will be running six grant competitions: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination, Charter Schools Program Non-SEA, Investing in Innovation (i3), Magnet Schools Assistance Program, School Leadership Program, and Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED). Five of the six competitions are already underway, and we anticipate launching the sixth—the Charter Schools Program Non-SEA competition—shortly.

OII is excited about these six competitions. Our grant competitions showcase some of the most interesting and innovative efforts taking place in schools and districts across country, and we are always thrilled to support the great work that is underway. However, due to the amount of funding made available under the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution, we expect to award fewer grants in these competitions than originally planned. In addition, we are unable to conduct a competition in the Promise Neighborhoods program.

Please continue to use the OII homepage as a resource for information, for updates on our grant competitions, and for stories from us and our grantees.

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