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.
Adapting teaching methods to learning standards is not always an easy task. Teachers and school administrators working with new or updated standards, like the Common Core State Standards, are faced with developing and recalibrating methods to ensure alignment. So imagine the challenge of redesigning a $1.1 million federal program right in the middle of a four-year grant cycle. That was the daunting task that faced the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) as it worked alongside the School District of Philadelphia to integrate the arts into the curriculum in four Philadelphia schools.
PAEP was awarded a four-year grant through the Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Program (AEMDD) in 2010. Entitled Arts Link: Building Mathematics and Science Competencies through an Arts Integration Model, the grant aims to integrate the arts into the math and science curriculum in grades two through five. The end goal is to increase student achievement in these subjects by presenting the material through lessons and in ways not done previously.
Jerry Kyle and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Courtesy of Cynthia Waller, U.S. Dept. of ED)
Over 200 teachers, teaching artists, principals, educators, and advocates met at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on August 7-8 for the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) Conference. VSA
was founded in 1974, by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Ambassador Smith showed her continued support Jerry Kyle and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Courtesy of Cynthia Waller, U.S. Dept. of ED)[/caption]of VSA and the conference by attending a special luncheon on the first day. As a baby-boomer, I must admit that I was excited to not only have an opportunity to meet a member of the Kennedy family that has served our country for decades, but also to experience the passion that Ambassador Smith has for the mission of VSA. At age 85, she is still advocating for the importance of the arts in special education.
The theme of this year’s conference was Intersections: Arts and Special Education. The desire of the conference planners was to provide a place where two or more things would intersect: participants intersecting with their colleagues –old and new; art teachers intersecting with special education teachers; practitioners intersecting with researchers; visual educators intersecting with performing arts educators; and many other intersections of the field.
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.
In his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged charter schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. “I want to see charters pioneering solutions that do a better job of educating students with disabilities,” he told the gathering last month of more than 4,000 charter school leaders in Washington, D.C.
The conference, organized annually by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, provided a variety of sessions with a special education focus. Was there a common thread? Yes, strong partnerships make for better services for students with disabilities.
When President Obama announced his universal pre-K initiative during the State of the Union Address this past Feb. 12th, a preschool educator was listening from a very coveted vantage point: a couple of seats away from First Lady Michelle Obama in the House of Representatives chamber. Susan Bumgarner teaches four-year-olds at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City. The school participates in the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program.
Since 1995, Susan and the other teachers at Wilson have attended professional learning programs sponsored in partnership with the Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc. The Kennedy Center program is a network of nearly 100 arts organizations and their neighboring school districts in more than 40 states that “partner” in offering professional development for teachers and teaching artists. The Kennedy Center program also offers a roster of trained teaching artists to support the Partners in Education sites.
Also offered by the Kennedy Center are national learning institutes on arts integration, online and traditional curricular and instructional resources and valuable lesson plans. Support for its programs is provided in part by the Office of Innovation and Improvement through the Arts in Education National Program grant. Continue reading
On July 9, 2013, Secretary Arne Duncan addressed participants at the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) 15th-Annual Training Seminar, “For the Sake of the Child,” in National Harbor, Md. The Secretary expressed appreciation for our service members and their families and acknowledged the personal sacrifices made by military-connected children. Organizations like the MCEC are focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.
The Secretary noted that military-connected students face unique education challenges as the result of frequent moves and multiple deployments. Of the 1.2 million school-age children of military service members, nearly 80 percent attend public schools. Thus public schools are distinctively positioned to address the needs of these students at a pivotal point in their lives. The Common Core Standards, according the Secretary, can help to ensure that all students, regardless of where they attend schools, will receive a high-quality education. And they can particularly benefit the children of active-duty military members who move three times more often than their civilian counterparts.
(July 18, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement). The recipients include a non-profit organization called The Reinvestment Fund, a consortium of non-profits called Build with Purpose, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.
One of several grants under the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program, the Credit Enhancement program helps to improve educational options for students and parents by targeting funds to areas with the greatest need for public school choice.
“Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grants help ensure that children learn in adequate facilities. The Credit Enhancement program supports charter schools, helps put the schools on stable financial footing and allows us all to continue working towards President Obama’s goal of leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020.”