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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.

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.

National Charter Schools Week Proclaimed by President Obama

Charter schools play an important role in America meeting its obligation to “equip all our students with the education and skills that put them on the path to a bright future,” according to President Barack Obama, in proclaiming May 5 through 11 as National Charter Schools Week, 2013. 

America’s approximately 6,000 charter schools are “learning laboratories [that] give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers,” according to President Obama.

When Charter Schools and Non-Chartered Schools Work Together: A Grant to Encourage Collaboration

Charter schools were originally created to serve as labs of innovation, developing best practices, and then sharing them widely to improve the work of all students.”

                     —  Shannah Varon, executive director, Boston Collegiate Charter School

The Charter School Exemplary Collaboration Award, a National Activities grant-award competition in the Charter Schools Program (CSP), is designed to provide just what Ms. Varon describes – an opportunity for high-quality charter schools with innovative ideas and a history of results to share their promising practices with non-chartered public schools and districts. The Collaboration Awards, funded for the first time in 2012, are grounded in a belief that trust and teamwork between high-quality charter schools and non-chartered public schools will accelerate educational excellence in all public schools. Additionally, successful joint ventures between schools can vary in their structures and objectives, while still remaining focused on the goal of strengthening a community and its schools.

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