Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant projects allow school districts and their educational partners to take a good idea and make it better. In 2008, school leaders in California's Sonoma Valley School District launched an initiative to bring not just science instruction to the elementary grades, where it had been neglected, but to also combine hands-on science with English in a novel multidisciplinary approach that they knew had significant potential to help the district's growing population of English language learners (ELLs).
In 2010, the district's partner in this venture, San Francisco's Exploratorium museum, took the lessons learned from their combined efforts at an elementary school in Sonoma with the highest percentage of ELLs, applied for and received a five-year, $3 million i3 Development grant to expand the initiative to all five of Sonoma Valley's elementary schools. With matching funds contributed by two local philanthropies that began their support in 2008, the new collaborative project became Integrating English Language Development and Science: A Professional Development Approach.
A recent study of middle-school students attending KIPP charter schools compared their performance in four core academic subjects over a three-year period and found that they gained between 11 and 14 additional months of learning over students in comparable traditional public schools. The study, “KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes,” was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (Mathematica), using multiple research strategies, including a rigorous, random-assignment methodology that compared students admitted to KIPP schools through its lottery system with students who applied to KIPP but were not admitted.
Today, Edutopia.org released a new video featuring one of OII’s i3 grantees — Bellevue School District’s Sammamish High School in Washington state. The video documents the transformation from the school’s use of traditional curriculum to problem-based learning. The district was awarded an i3 Development grant in 2010 for the development and implementation of a scalable, sustainable, 21st-century, skills-based program. This type of learning allows teachers to facilitate conversations and provide more effective classroom instruction; it also allows students to take more ownership in the learning process — how they connect to and learn the material, and how they put new knowledge into practice.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the National PTA Reflections program for the sixth time to host the opening of a new exhibit at the Department’s headquarters titled "Diversity Means." For the past 44 years, the Reflections program has allowed millions of students across the country and at American schools overseas to unite around a common theme and compete in one of six mediums: dance choreography, film production, music composition, literature, photography, and visual arts.
Guests attending the exhibit opening included student Reflections winners, families of the students, local and national PTA members and staff, teachers, Department of Education staff, and arts enthusiasts. Student winners traveled from Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina, as well as nearby Maryland and Virginia to be honored in Washington D.C. For many of the students in attendance, this was their first time visiting the nation’s capital and an experience of a lifetime.
School leaders in New York City are soliciting the best ideas for technology-based approaches to help middle school students excel in math through the Gap App Challenge, announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott earlier this month. The competition, which will award $104,000 in prizes and services in June, is part of the city’s education department's Innovation Zone (iZone), a consortium of schools committed to personalizing learning. Its efforts are supported through a $3 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. i3 Development grants support promising but relatively untested projects with high potential for impact on student achievement.