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Welcome to the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), where our mission is to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. identifies, develops, and scales solutions to education’s most important or persistent challenges. OII makes strategic investments in innovative educational programs and practices, and administers more than 25 discretionary grant programs managed by five program offices: Charter Schools Program, Improvement Programs, Parental Options and Information, Teacher Quality Programs, and the Office of Investing in Innovation. In addition, OII is home to ED’s STEM initiatives team and ED’s liaison to the military community.  OII also serves as the Department’s liaison and resource to the nonpublic education community through the Office of Non-Public Education.

This home page provides news about OII — its programs, grantees, and initiatives — through articles, blogs, press releases, and links to the Department’s home page.

Click here to see a list and descriptions of OII’s programs and here for key staff.

New PBS KIDS Series Combines Television and Technology to Make Math Accessible

Special agents Olive (Dalila Bela) and Otto (Filip Geljo) are ready to get their first assignment in the Nov. 26th series premiere of ODD SQUAD. (Photo courtesy of ODD SQUAD© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company)

Special agents Olive (Dalila Bela) and Otto (Filip Geljo) are ready to get their first assignment in the Nov. 26th series premiere of ODD SQUAD. (Photo courtesy of ODD SQUAD© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company)

As parents and educators seek to develop the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, one question remains constant: How do we make learning math and science accessible and fun for students? On Nov. 26th, PBS stations will premier ODD SQUAD, the network’s latest contribution to informal math education. A live-action television series, the show is designed to build curiosity and interest in math among early elementary school viewers.

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Opportunity to Succeed: A Jesuit Approach to Education

When the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) was founded in 2002, its leaders sought to answer an important question: “What more can we do for our students, our families, and our community to change the face of urban education?” During a recent visit, staff from the Office of Non-Public Education sought to identify lessons that could be shared with other educational leaders who are trying to answer this same question. WJA, a Catholic middle school for boys from low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., has established a model that seeks to defy the city’s opportunity gap and prepare its students for long-term success. The school provides tuition assistance as well as social, nutritional, and health services to nearly 100 students, an enrollment intentionally kept low to ensure students receive focused, individualized attention.

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Tools for State and District Leaders: Personalized Learning Case Studies

Miami RTT-D 4

Middle school students work at their own pace in iPrep Math classrooms in Miami-Dade County. (Photo courtesy of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools)

More than 100 exemplary school superintendents will convene at the White House today, November 19th, for the ConnectED to the Future Summit. As part of the President’s ConnectED Initiative, these leaders have committed to advancing technology-enabled instruction in their districts. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) supports several of these districts’ efforts to use technology to personalize and enhance student learning. OII is pleased to release a report that highlights some of these districts’ initial experiences, which is intended to serve as a resource for school leaders pursuing a path to personalizing student learning.

Personalized Learning in Progress: Case Studies of Four Race to the Top-District Grantees’ Early Implementation shares the experiences of four diverse school districts as they adopt personalized learning approaches that will prepare their students to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The four districts — Iredell-Statesville Schools (N.C.), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.), New Haven Unified School District (Calif.), and Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Ind.) — are highlighted in part because of their diversity, including the range in geographies, size of student populations, differing academic content areas, and their varied approaches to personalized learning.

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Arts Education Helps Bilingual Students Thrive

America’s public schools instruct more than four million students who are English language learners. The NEA Task Force on the Arts and Human Development will host a webinar to share how one innovative program is using dance and theater arts education to help ‘emerging bilinguals’ learn English and flourish in school.

Carol Morgan, deputy director for education at ArtsConnection, and Jennifer Stengel-Mohr of Queens College, New York will discuss findings from their research on the ArtsConnection’s program, Developing English Language Literacy through the Arts (DELLTA). DELLTA reaches English language learners and their teachers in 15 New York City public schools. This work was developed with support from the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Educators grant programs.

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Announces Highest-Rated Applications for Investing in Innovation (i3) 2014 Competition During Visit with High School Students in North Carolina

(November 6, 2014) U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today the 26 highest-rated applications for the U.S. Department of Education’s $129 million Investing in Innovation (i3) 2014 competition aimed at developing innovative approaches to improving student achievement and replicating effective strategies across the country.

These 26 potential i3 grantees selected from 434 applications and representing 14 states and the District of Columbia, must secure matching funds by Dec. 10, 2014, in order to receive federal funding. All highest-rated applications in previous years have secured matching funds and become grantees. To date, the Department’s signature tiered-evidence program has funded 117 unique i3 projects that seek to provide innovative solutions to pressing education challenges.

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Education Department Awards Nine Partnerships of School Districts and Nonprofits to Help Bolster Academic, Social and Health Services

(Oct. 9, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $4.7 million to nine partnerships to help improve the quality of elementary and secondary education and bolster community-wide, comprehensive services for students, families and their communities. The Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) program supports partnerships between schools, school districts, and community-based and nonprofit organizations.

Three of this year’s grantees will support Promise Zones, a federal interagency initiative that aligns a range of resources to build ladders of opportunity in economically distressed areas across the country. The 2014 FSCS program was among the first programs to include a focus on Promise Zones. Of the five current Promise Zones designations, the three supported by FSCS are the Youth Policy Institute (Los Angeles, California), Berea College (Berea, Kentucky), and the San Antonio Independent School District (San Antonio, Texas).

“Across the nation, we’ve seen schools come together to partner with key organizations to support comprehensive services for students and their families in some of our toughest communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Great schools require the entire community to work together, and these grants will help leverage our resources to create a range of wraparound services that help all students grow in the classroom, and graduate ready for college and their careers.”

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U.S. Department of Education Awards $39.7 Million in Grants to Expand High Quality Charter Schools

(Oct. 8, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education announced 27 new grants today totaling $39.7 million under the Charter Schools Program (CSP) to expand high quality charter schools, and open new charter schools across the nation. These grants will support charter schools’ efforts to increase high-need students’ success, especially in underserved areas, in 12 states.

“These charter school grants will help open new charter schools and expand or replicate those with a record of success to help ensure that every student has access to high-quality educational opportunities that prepare them for college, careers and life,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

These grants are awarded by two CSP programs: one program is focused on helping high-performing charter management organizations open new charter schools, and the other program supports new charter schools located in states that do not have a state-level CSP subgrant program. This year’s competitions included a focus on charter schools that serve geographies designated under President Obama’s Promise Zones initiative, as well as promoting diversity and supporting military families.

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U.S. Department of Education Awards $13.4 Million in Grants to 34 Organizations to Enhance Teaching and Learning Through Arts Education

(Oct. 8, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $13.4 million to 34 organizations to help arts educators grow and improve arts instruction, and share effective models of arts in education that support student achievement in the arts and other areas.

“The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience, and all students deserve access to high-quality arts instruction,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Great arts educators can help students grow and succeed inside and outside of the classroom.”

These grantees are supported by two distinct programs, Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD), and Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE). AEMDD grants support school districts and non-profit organizations with arts expertise to create materials that can be integrated into arts disciplines across elementary and middle schools. The Professional Development for Arts Educators program supports professional development for arts educators that use innovative approaches to improve and expand arts education programs.

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2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Award Winners Featured at ED: They Gave Their Inspiring Voices and Visions

Each September brings a special day at the U.S. Department of Education: a day when the marble halls and foyers of the agency’s headquarters fill with excited crowds of students, teachers, families, local and visiting officials, and passionate supporters of the arts.

This year was no exception: on Friday, Sept. 19, winners of the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were honored for their accomplishments. The Department sponsored the opening of two exhibits, one of awardees from around the country and one of Portland, Ore., awardees, with a total of 80 works of art. Among the honorees were the five newly chosen National Student Poets.

The day began with two workshops — one in the visual arts for the teachers of student winners, and one in poetry for the student winners.

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Magnet Schools Work to Promote Diversity, STEM Opportunity

Heldelberg school: Students at Heidelberg Elementary School, in Clarksdale, Miss., work on iPads in the classroom. (Photo courtesy of    )

Students at Heidelberg Elementary School in Clarksdale, Miss., work on iPads in the classroom. (Photo courtesy of Clarksdale Municipal School District)

What’s the first thing you think about when you hear about magnet schools?

If you had asked me before this summer, I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer the question. I knew a lot of people who attended magnet schools as kids, but that was about it.

After this summer, however, I know a great deal more about magnet schools and the role they play in American education. As an intern for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), I spent my summer researching Office of Innovation and Improvement funding to magnet schools and the impact of that money in 12 states nationwide. Magnet schools are free public schools that offer a specialized curriculum — like performing arts, International Baccalaureate (IB), or science — to students interested in a particular theme or focus.

The MSAP provides federal grants to local education agencies (LEAs) or consortia of LEAs to implement magnet school programs to achieve the primary purposes of promoting racial/ethnic diversity in schools and improving academic achievement.

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