New and Upcoming Funding Opportunities for Public Charter Schools

  • This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) announced a $116 million grant competition focused on starting up new, high-quality charter schools via a State Education Agency (SEA) competition for the first time since 2011. We anticipate awarding these SEA grants in September 2015.
  • In the coming weeks, we will announce another grant competition to support the start-up of new charter schools via the “non-SEA” competition. These funds are for charter schools in states that don’t have existing—or do not win new—SEA grants. We anticipate awarding these non-SEA grants in fall 2015—after September 2015.
  • This timeline allows charter school operators that intend to open new schools in the 2016–17 school year to apply for federal start-up funding sufficiently in advance of those school openings—either via the SEA or the non-SEA grant competition. Even if a charter school operator’s SEA plans to submit an SEA grant application this year, interested charter school operators in those states may wish to apply for a non-SEA grant in order to maximize their odds of receiving funding in advance of the 2016–17 school year.
  • Please visit to learn more.

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Engagement, Creativity and Inspiration Found in New Afterschool STEM Programs.

Engagement, Creativity and Inspiration Found in New Afterschool STEM Programs.

Team Cupcake, Team Imaginators, Team Spaced Out, and Thinkers of Tomorrow. These are some of the hard-working student teams that can say that they have tackled challenges similar to those faced by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists and engineers.

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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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Preschoolers “On the Go” at the Department of Education

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HINN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

“Things That Go” was the theme of a recent Family Day Event at the Department of Education headquarters that featured the latest efforts of the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC), which uses an innovative transmedia approach to early learning.

More than 30 young children from the University of the District of Columbia Lab School and the Barbara Chambers Children’s Center of Washington, D.C., many of them English language learners, attended the event, along with their teachers, parents, and education professionals.

HITN Coloring (cropped)

A preschooler colors his vehicle as part of his journey to Baby Bird’s birthday party. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Through a series of hands-on activities, the children and adults engaged in a rich variety of experiences based on ELC’s English language development transmedia PlayGround called “Things That Go.” The PlayGround includes non-digital and digital materials, Web-based games, and the PlaySet— ELC’s tablet-based app.

This transmedia approach develops pathways to early learning through play and multiple, interconnected platforms that include storybooks, puzzles, picture/word games, as well as Web-based games and highly engaging digital apps. In 2013, ELC launched the pilot phase of its transmedia preschool learning PlayGround and tablet-based PlaySet at the Newseum (see this OII home page article for more information).

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OII Staff Celebrate and Connect With America’s Teachers

They didn’t go bearing apples, but tidings of appreciation nonetheless for the important work teachers do in preparing students for college and careers. As part of its contribution to Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9, 2014), the U.S. Department of Education took teacher appreciation to another level by “respecting through understanding” during its third annual ED Goes Back to School. On May 6th, 70 ED staff members — eight from OII — shadowed teachers throughout the country in order to better understand their work and the challenges teachers and their students encounter on the road to making America’s public education system the best it can be.

For ED headquarters staff, the day is an opportunity to see firsthand how principles of effective teaching and learning translate from the likes of grant applications to the classrooms of teachers in the D.C. metro area.

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Tadpoles and Children and Teaching! Oh My!

As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, I had the privilege of participating in ED Goes Back to School and shadowing kindergarten teacher Debbie D’Addario at McKinley Elementary School in Arlington, Va. My experience left me with a lasting impression of just how challenging it is to be an effective teacher and with a renewed appreciation for the people who step up to a teaching career.

In Ms. D’Addario’s classroom, when the morning bell rang, five-year olds who had been patiently lined up outside filed into the classroom one-by-one, systematically marked their attendance, turned in their homework, and sat in their assigned seats. I was immediately impressed by the routine Ms. D’Addario had established in her classroom. Next, everyone gathered on the carpet in the front of the room for a song about the class rules, which students sang and danced, reinforcing the expectations for the day in a fun and memorable way. We were then ready for our first activity!

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Equal Opportunities for All: New Civil Rights Guidance for Charter Schools

The charter school sector is based on a simple compact: In exchange for greater autonomy in its operations, a charter school bears greater accountability for the academic progress of its students. The goal is to create environments that foster innovative and impactful approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom, and ultimately, to scale those effective approaches.

As an Administration, we are committed to supporting high-quality schools for our students, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged. President Obama’s recent proclamation regarding National Charter School Week commended the role charter schools play in advancing opportunity. While they are still relatively few in number (comprising about 6% of public schools in the U.S.), charter schools are often a major focal point of community debate regarding how best to serve our neediest students. Regardless of the specifics of those debates, charter schools are obligated to adhere to federal civil rights laws.

Today, the Department released new guidance (en español) to emphasize that the federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in education on the basis of race, color, and national origin; sex; and disability apply to all public schools — including charter schools. Although these laws extend to all operations of a charter school, including recruiting, academics, educational services and testing, school climate (including prevention of harassment), athletics and other nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and accessible buildings and technology, this guidance focuses on admissions, educational services to children with disabilities and English learners, and disciplinary measures.

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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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Connect with the Office of Innovation and Improvement
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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 four program offices: Charter Schools ProgramParental Options and Improvement, 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.