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.
I was truly inspired by the peer–to-peer learning that quickly developed into the pervasive spirit of this year’s Promise Neighborhoods Directors Meeting. Our annual convening on June 13-14 brought together more than 250 administrators, evaluators, and practitioners to strengthen relationships, forge new ties, and expand our knowledge of how to truly construct a cradle-to-career promise in our communities. Peers shared tips on how to effectively administer the program, apply solutions to nagging community challenges, and effectively use their data to drive results.
I wanted to take the time to introduce myself to all of you and to thank you for stopping by our corner of the Web. Through my work at the Department over the last few years — whether through some of its programs, like Investing in Innovation or Charter Schools, or through other initiatives like encouraging evidence-based funding — as well as through previous roles I held prior to joining the current administration, I have had the great opportunity to meet many of you.
On June 3, 2013, I became the acting assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education. Succeeding former Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, who is currently the Department’s acting deputy secretary, will no doubt be challenging, but I am looking forward to the work and rewards that lie ahead.
Ten grantees of the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) are also 2012 Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant-award winners. On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, the Department of Education announced 16 RTT-D applicants that competed successfully for the first-time district-level grants that will support reform efforts in 55 school districts across 11 states.
(December 18, 2012) Today the U.S. Department of Education announced all 20 of the highest-rated applicants in the 2012 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition have secured their required private-sector matching funds and have become official i3 grantees. Together, they will share more than $140 million in federal funds to expand innovative practices designed to accelerate achievement and help prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers.
“We know private partners play a huge role in driving local education reform efforts when they can invest in promising ideas, and these grantees have proposed a variety of innovative approaches to close achievement gaps and ultimately prepare every student for lifelong success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Partnerships like these are vital to supporting teachers and students as they tackle some of the toughest issues in education.”
(November 8, 2012) The U.S. Department of Education today announced results for the third round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, which will award the 20 highest-rated applications more than $140 million to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. These 20 potential grantees, selected from 727 applications, must secure matching funds by Dec. 7, 2012, in order to receive federal funding.
“These potential grantees have innovative ideas to accelerate student achievement and address some of our biggest challenges in education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Identifying these applicants and having them foster partnerships with private donors will support promising approaches to tackle these issues, such as engaging parents as essential partners in their children’s learning and improving student academic growth in math and science.”
OII’s Investing in Innovation program—better known as i3—is among 111 Bright Ideas recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Now in its third year, Bright Ideas recognizes efforts from all government levels, including school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies as well as public-private partnerships, that demonstrate “a creative range of solutions to issues such as urban and rural degradation, environmental problems, and the academic achievement of students.”
Solving pressing education problems at scale, managing challenges posed by geography, engaging the community in school improvement, and sustaining reform efforts beyond federal project funding —these topics and more were tackled by i3 (Investing in Innovation) project directors and other key leaders who gathered in Washington, D.C., this past July. The i3 team held this second annual Project Directors Meeting on July 19-20, bringing together Department staff, i3 project directors and project personnel from the 2010 and 2011 grantee cohorts. Project evaluators and education leaders were also important contributors to this event. The event provided the grantees a range of experiences designed to assist them in their work as OII grantees and to help them build relationships with other i3 projects and personnel.
For those who received i3 support in FY 2011, the opportunity to get advice and guidance from their FY 2010 peers was invaluable. “It was especially great to hear that others were facing some of the same challenges I face,” said first-year project director Toria Williams of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.
That’s the operative question for nearly 150 young men on San Antonio’s East Side this summer who are participating in the inaugural season of Midnight Basketball at the Davis-Scott Family YMCA. As part of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which received one of five Promise Neighborhoods implementation grants in 2011, the new league’s dozen teams compete on Friday and Saturday nights through August 4.
At the heart of all Promise Neighborhoods is the collaboration among diverse community organizations – public and private, non-profit and for-profit, secular and faith-based, academic and extracurricular – and the East Side collaborative, led by the United Way of Antonio and Bexar County, that is making the summer league possible exemplifies that principle. The San Antonio Police Athletic League organized the overall effort, but relied on area churches to recruit the players, who range in age from 17 to 23. The teams’ jerseys were donated by Generations Federal Credit Union and other assistance is coming from the Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which is investing in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood on behalf of San Antonio’s professional basketball organization. In keeping with its goal of ensuring that local students feel safe in their schools and community, $15,000 of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood grant is supporting the summer league. The new league attracted local and statewide media attention, including coverage by KSAT12 News and Texas Public Radio.
The Parents as Teachers National Center’s BabyFace project, an i3 Validation grantee, will be featured in a Rural Schools Innovations Webinar series hosted by the Rural School and Community Trust on June 13, 2012. The i3 project is using the home-based services of the successful Family and Child Education (FACE) program in 22 Bureau of Indian Education schools to serve high-needs American Indian families and children ages prenatal to three years. The goal is to narrow the achievement gap between American Indian and non-American Indian children at kindergarten and to improve student achievement in reading and math through third grade. For news and information on the Department of Education’s rural education outreach and resources, click here.