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Welcome to the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), headed by Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Dabby. OII’s 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. 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.

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The Hollywood We All Need to Know

Arne Duncan roundtable

“This is remarkable leadership in action,” Secretary Arne Duncan told the press at the Hollywood FamilySource Center, following a roundtable with community stakeholders of the East Hollywood Promise Neighborhoods project. (Official Department of Education photo)

A small youth and family resource center is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at the intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in warm, sunny Los Angeles. It’s in “the other Hollywood,” where instead of calling for the lights, camera, and action of movie making, community leaders are in search of the solutions to poverty, mental health issues, and learned helplessness. Since 2013, with the help of a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Hollywood FamilySource Center has become the “one-stop-shop” for local families in need of help.

On March 19, Secretary Arne Duncan, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods team, visited the center, which is operated by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). The goals of the center are to increase family income and students’ academic achievement. During its fourth year of operation in 2013-14, more than 3,140 clients benefited from the Center’s core services: adult education and computer literacy classes, tutoring and enrichment programs to improve children and youths’ academic skills, medical and dental health care, and a number of other services.

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Posted in Community Engagement, Grants, Promise Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

Art and Robots: Both Evidence the Creativity of Concept Students

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

From the Great Lakes to the nation’s capital, Department staff and guests were proud to welcome the talented student artists, their fellow students, and their teachers and parents to the Concept Schools Student Art Exhibit opening in Barnard auditorium on March 31. Some 130 charter school students, representing 18 Concept Schools from six states (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin), were in attendance to both celebrate their own artwork on display at the Department and support their fellow students’ work.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

To kick off the program, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Chinoy Dabby welcomed guests to the Department and thanked Concept Schools’ families for making the long journey to share their children’s work.  According to Dabby, “Arts education … at Concept Schools … is an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience.” She said that her high school education at an arts magnet school “helped nurture a lifelong appreciation for the arts.” Speaking on behalf of the Department, Dabby said, “We believe … that all children should have access to great arts instruction … no matter where you grow up or what school you go to.”

Next, Concept Schools President Sedat Duman expressed his appreciation for the Department, students, staff, teachers, and parents for making the exhibit and opening a success. He introduced a video describing the nationally recognized work that Concept Schools does to prepare students for higher education. According to the video, about 90 percent of Concept students go on to college.

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Posted in Arts, Arts Education, Charter Schools, STEM, Technology | 1 Comment

Update on OII’s 2014 Grant Competitions

For the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014, the Office of Innovation and Improvement is conducting 13 grant competitions in five program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Full-Service Community Schools, and Teacher Quality Partnerships. Four of the competitions are underway, with announcements of the other nine slated for later this spring.

Arts in Education grants are available in two categories: Arts in Education Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Educators, both of which help schools and districts to partner with community-based organizations to increase the quality and effectiveness of arts teaching and learning, including integration of the arts with other core academic subjects.

The three Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competitions — Development, Validation, and Scale-up — support school districts and nonprofits to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices. Development grants are for new and promising practices that should be studied further; Validation grants verify the effectiveness of programs with moderate levels of evidence; and Scale-up grants support applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success. (Note: While the rest of OII’s 2014 grant competitions will make grant awards by September 30, 2014, the i3 grant awards will be made by December 31, 2014.)

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Posted in Arts Education, Charter Schools Program, Full-Service Community Schools Program, Grants, Improvement Programs, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program | Comments Off

Jazz Takes Center Stage Nationally, Internationally, and at the Department of Education

2014 JAM PosterJazz, that most American of art forms, takes center stage all of April as we celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the U.S. and throughout the world. Under the leadership of the Smithsonian Institution, JAM annually focuses on the music as well as its connections to America’s history and democratic values, including cultural diversity, creativity, innovation, discipline, and teamwork.

This year, JAM celebrates the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a four-part suite that marked the melding of the hard bop sensibilities of the iconic saxophonist and composer’s early career with the free jazz style he later adopted. The annual JAM poster features Coltrane’s likeness, captured by American artist Joseph Holston from his screen print Jazz.

The Department of Education annually distributes the JAM posters to more than 16,000 middle schools in America. In a letter accompanied by the poster, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby encourages the schools’ principals to participate in JAM activities taking place in the 50 states and to take advantage of the Smithsonian’s jazz collection and its many Web-based educational materials that support learning across the K-12 curriculum.

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Posted in Adult Education, Arts, Elementary and Secondary Education | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Schools Leader Helps Arts Stay Strong for All Students

A tireless champion for the arts in education, Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent Dennis W. Creedon draws on nearly 30 years of working in or partnering with schools in Philadelphia to make the arts part of a well-rounded education for all of the city’s 131,000 students.

As a senior administrative leader in the district’s central office, Creedon, who began his education career as a theatre teacher in 1987, combines his understanding of research into the nature and value of arts learning with creative approaches to tapping Philadelphia’s rich array of cultural institutions to weather the latest budget reductions. Since 2008, Philadelphia schools are required to have art or music offerings and a commitment to every student having at least one arts lesson weekly. The policy, which Creedon was instrumental in developing, appeared to be in jeopardy last year as the district faced a $304 million budget deficit.

Creedon quote 1In a recent Education Week profile of Creedon, the conductor of the All-City High School Orchestra, Don S. Liuzzi, draws on the meteorological metaphor to explain the school leader’s importance. “The ship was sinking,” he said, describing the district’s most recent round of budget reductions that threatened the jobs of nearly 4,000 teachers. And while some arts specialist positions were lost, the arts education ship is still afloat, according to Liuzzi, because the district’s top arts education advocate is “a very persuasive and avid supporter of the arts.”

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Posted in Arts Education, Grants, School Leadership | 1 Comment

Department of Education Announces Start of 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Competition

(March 18, 2014)  The U.S. Department of Education announced the start of the $134 million 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition on March 14th, 2014 with the release of the program’s invitation for pre-applications for the i3 “Development” grants (up to $3,000,000 each). In its fifth round of competition, the i3 program continues to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers. The i3 program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. The Department plans to announce applications for the Validation and Scale-up categories this spring.

“We’re excited to begin this year’s i3 Development competition to support promising efforts in the field. The initiatives supported by i3 are not only designed to boost students’ success, they also improve our understanding of what works for students and educators,” said Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Dabby. “We look forward to supporting new ideas to help all students—especially our highest need students—achieve.”

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Posted in Accelerating Innovation, Grants, Innovation in the Field, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) | Comments Off

Washington State Teachers Bring Real-World Problems to the Classroom

Sammamish teachers 2

Teachers at Sammamish High School meet for collaborative PBL curriculum planning. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Miller/Edutopia)

Changing a high school curriculum — such as moving it from traditional pedagogy and assessment to problem-based learning (PBL) — is a huge challenge, and one that the faculty and students at Sammamish High School in Washington state’s Bellevue School District know well. They’re three years into a five-year transition to PBL with support from an Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant.

Since the inception of i3 project in 2010, teachers and administrators at Sammamish High School have collaborated and redesigned 30 courses to incorporate PBL. They believe it will better prepare their students for college and careers by making content across the curriculum more engaging and relevant to the world students will encounter after high school. “Turning the school inside out,” is how Suzanne Reeve, a Sammamish High teacher leader, describes it.

Sammamish High teachers describe the process of integrating problem-based learning into a traditional curriculum through thoughtful planning and implementation.

Collaboration has been key for teachers and students as they make the transition from Sammamish’s traditional curriculum to problem-based learning. Seventy-five teachers so far have worked in subject-area teams to create rigorous coursework that engages all students. It’s a “really challenging mental shift” for the teachers, according to Adrienne Curtis Dickinson, another of the PBL teacher leaders, but the course redesign process is giving teachers a voice and the ability to decide where best to integrate problems or projects into the curriculum.

Dickinson, who is social studies teacher at Sammamish, is reporting on her school’s journey in Edutopia™, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, that is collaborating with the Bellevue schools on the implementation of its i3 project. Click here to read her latest report and watch a companion video in “Case Study: Reinventing a Public High School with Problem-Based Learning.”

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Posted in Academic Achievement, Grants, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), Professional Development | 1 Comment

Promise Neighborhood Contributes to San Antonio Transformation

San Antonio is undergoing a transformation, one that involves reinvestment in its schools and neighborhoods, including Eastside, one of the city’s fastest growing and diverse communities. As part of Eastside’s transformation, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro unveiled the EastPoint brand earlier this month. Because of the neighborhood’s innovative initiatives in education, housing, and economic development, it was “in need of some major rebranding,” according to a press release. Mayor Castro joined Eastside community leaders to announce the rebranding effort, which affects the neighborhood’s approximately 18,000 residents.

At the heart of the EastPoint revitalization are a Promise Neighborhoods grant from ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement and a Choice Neighborhood Program grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN), the emphasis is on leveraging and strengthening the neighborhood’s assets and resources so that children and families are “inspired to stay, grow, graduate … and stay.”

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Posted in Educational Improvement, Grants, Promise Neighborhoods | 1 Comment

A Month to Support the Arts in Our Schools

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Walt Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.

There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.

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Posted in Arts, Arts Education, Professional Development | 1 Comment

Thinking and Acting Outside the Box in the Big Easy

Want to contribute to the exciting education innovations happening in New Orleans? Believe in schools that center every decision around the needs of students? Ready to challenge outdated assumptions about school and launch a bold, new school model in a city on the cutting edge of education innovation and school transformation? Then consider the NOLA Future of School Challenge from New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) and 4.0 Schools (4.0), with the support of Khan Academy.

The NOLA Future of School Challenge is looking for bold, out-of-the-box individuals who can bring to life a new generation of responsive, student-centered schools, and will provide them with an opportunity to test their ideas, prototype their designs, and vie for funding and support to become a charter school that opens its doors in fall 2016.

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Posted in Accelerating Innovation, Charter Schools, Educational Improvement, Research and Development | 1 Comment