Alabama A&M University leaders (l. to r.) Provost Daniel Wims; President Andrew Hugine, Jr.; senior-year computer science student Charlevester Wims; and College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences Dean Chance Glenn join OII’s STEM executive director, Russell Shilling (second from right), following Education Secretary Arne’s Duncan’s visit to NASA’s Space and Rocket Center. (Photo courtesy of Alabama A&M University)
As Education Secretary Duncan’s bus tour departed Huntsville, Ala., on September 9th, I remained to explore the STEM and technology education programs in the area. Huntsville, home to NASA’s Space and Rocket Center, has the advantage of being a small city with huge resources to support education. I wanted to see what they were doing that might be exported to a wide range of schools across the U.S.
After Secretary Duncan’s visit to the Space and Rocket Center and its Space Camp, I was greeted by the president of Alabama A&M University (AAMU), Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., along with staff and students. Once on their beautiful campus, Dr. Chance Glenn, dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences, discussed the various programs AAMU has developed to help students pursue and excel in STEM fields.
From left to right: Jeremy Anderson, president of the Education Commission of the States; James Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Harry Berman, former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Erika Hunt, director of SLP-funded IL-PART grant, Center for the Study of Education Policy; and Christopher Koch, Illinois State Superintendent receiving the 2014 Frank Newman Award for Innovation. (Photo courtesy of the Education Commission of the States)
Since 2005, Illinois has pursued improving the quality of school principals as a top priority to reform K-12 education. A Commission on School Leader Preparation, followed by an Illinois School Leader Task Force, paved the way for groundbreaking state legislation in 2011, requiring alignment with new criteria for principal preparation programs and certification standards.
Behind this progress is a strong collaboration between the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the State Board of Education, and the Center for Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. On July 1, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) presented the 2014 Frank Newman Award for State Innovations to the three entities for their work. “In improving our schools, there is little that matters more than the quality of our principals,” said ECS President Jeremy Anderson, in a press release. “Illinois’ work exemplifies what can happen when stakeholders collaborate in such a critical area.”
N.B. Mills Elementary School’s intervention time, a COMPASS component, gives students the ability to grow and learn from each other while another group works with a teacher. (Left to right) 5th-grade students Ashley, Sitaly, Jose, Jasiah, and Bobbie work together during their science intervention time to discover the meaning of “force.” (Photo courtesy of Jada Jonas and the Iredell-Statesville Schools)
Serving more than 21,000 students, Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina ranks among the 20 largest school districts in the Tar Heel State. The district serves 36 schools in Iredell County — a diverse blend of urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods — 40 miles north of Charlotte. Four years ago, the district faced a dilemma: While it ranked in the top 10 percent of North Carolina districts in academic performance, it needed to increase teacher effectiveness and boost the academic achievement of its high-needs students, English learners, and students with disabilities. And while district leaders had a plan to achieve this ambitious goal, the annual I-SS budget resided in the basement of the state’s 212 districts, in the bottom five percent.
The plan to achieve their North Star goal of equity in student achievement was aptly called COMPASS — Collaborative Organizational Model to Promote Aligned Support Structures — with the route to success predicated on targeted professional development that focuses on use of data, curricular improvements, and instructional approaches to identify where students are struggling and address their individual academic needs. I-SS teachers would be equipped with the tools to ensure that all of their students are on track to achieve their learning goals. Integral to this approach is the alignment of the school’s support structures for teachers and deepening existing professional learning communities where educators collaborate, analyze student performance data, and share best practices.
In 2010, I-SS entered their COMPASS plan in OII’s Investing in Innovation (i3) competition and received a $4.99 million Development grant, setting them on a multi-year journey that would begin with bolstered professional development, followed by piloting the new approach in several schools, and eventually result in district-wide implementation.
(April 23, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education today announced the start of the 2014 grant competition for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program’s Scale-up and Validation categories. This competition will continue the Department’s investments in promising strategies that can help close achievement gaps and improve educational outcomes for our neediest students.
“This year’s Validation & Scale-Up competition is an opportunity for us to continue supporting strategies that help our highest need students succeed,” said Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “These efforts are part of our larger commitment to investing in what works.”
The i3 program aims to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare students to succeed in college and in their careers. As in years past, the program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. This year, school districts and nonprofit organizations, in partnership with districts or schools, are eligible to compete for nearly $135 million across all three categories. The maximum grant amount available in each category is based on the evidence of effectiveness.
(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.”
On Jan. 13, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy posted a Request for Information (RFI) on advancing learning technology through “pull” mechanisms.
Traditionally, the federal government has favored “push” mechanisms, such as grants, contracts, or tax incentives, which pay for inputs; a problem must be solved and an organization is paid to try a particular approach, regardless of whether that approach is successful in solving the problem. “Pull” mechanisms, however, pay for outcomes, without specifying a course of action. Established pull mechanisms have been used in government and in other sectors; these include prizes; pay-for-success strategies, such as social impact bonds; and advance market commitments.
OII’s mission is to “accelerate the pace at which the U.S. identifies, develops, and scales solutions to education’s most important and persistent challenges.” An integral part of this work is serving as thought partners and collaborators in considering new and innovative structural solutions. A number of pull strategies are promising and could have strong applicability to learning technologies and our students’ future.
For more information, check out the White House’s blog post on the RFI.
Just in time for the New Year, the Department of Education has launched two new education reform resources. Bookshelf is a series of ready-made presentations that highlight numerous focus areas in education. The presentation slide decks present facts, charts, data, and other information reflecting progress and challenges in improving education, as well as ED programs and initiatives that aim to close achievement gaps and foster equal educational opportunities. The presentations are available to the public for download and use.
The Department has also created a new blog, Progress: Teachers, Leaders, and Students Transforming Education, to highlight state and local innovative ideas, promising practices, lessons learned, and resources informed by the implementation of K-12 education reforms. These lessons from the field showcase reforms in action spurred by programs such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, School Improvement Grants, Promise Neighborhoods, and ESEA Flexibility. The new blog is intended to provide insight into the exciting transformations taking place in classrooms, schools, and systems across the country through the leadership of teachers, school, district and state leaders and their partners.
Plan to visit these new Web resources in 2014 in addition to staying connected to OII’s home page. Not subscribed to our home page yet? Click here to subscribe and follow us on Twitter @ED_OII.
(Nov. 8, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education today announced results for the fourth round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, which will award the 25 highest-rated applications (HRAs) more than $135 million to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. These 25 potential grantees, selected from 618 applications and representing 13 states and the District of Columbia, must secure matching funds by Dec. 11, 2013, in order to receive federal funding.
“In this era of rapid change, we must make sure that our students are keeping pace with the rigor, relevance, and changing demands of the 21st-century job market,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “I am encouraged by the innovative ideas to accelerate student achievement demonstrated in these applications.”
Of the 25 HRAs, 18 are in the “Development” category and seven are in the “Validation” category (see list of applicants below). This year, the Department did not identify any potential grantees for the “Scale-up” category, instead choosing to invest in promising projects in the other two categories. The Development category attracted the greatest participation similar to the past three years of the competition. With the 18 Development HRAs from this competition, there will potentially be a total of 77 Development i3 grantees nationwide implementing new, promising practices to improve outcomes for students.
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in several events that explored the intersection and promise of education and technology. Although each conference covered distinct topics, considering them in retrospect reveals a common question worth exploring: given recent developments and trends, is it inevitable that technology will improve education and opportunities for our kids? Technology clearly has tremendous potential to improve education, but there are some real barriers that prevent that change from being inevitable. That’s hardly a controversial statement, but I’ll say more in a moment.
When charter schools and their supporters are looking for federal funds, most head straight for the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s (OII’s) Charter Schools Program (CSP). With a FY 2013 budget of about $242 million, the CSP administers eight grant programs, which have contributed to what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described as the “extraordinary accomplishments” of charter schools in the past two decades.
Topping the list of accomplishments, Secretary Duncan indicated in his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, “is that high-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.”
CSP’s grant programs aim squarely at helping disadvantaged children to achieve academically through the creation of more high-quality educational options. These include the Replication and Expansion for High Performing Charter Schools program, which provides funds for nonprofits, including charter management organizations, to grow existing charter schools or open new ones based on models that have demonstrated success.
But two other highly competitive and high-profile Department of Education grants outside of CSP have similarly supported at-risk children attending charter schools — the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and the Race to the Top‑District (RTT-D) programs. One session at the national conference focused on these programs, which have allowed charter schools and charter management organizations to grow in number, in impact, and in quality.