Office of Innovation and Improvement
Welcome to the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), headed by Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton. 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.
The Google Doodle seen by millions on Google's home page on May 23rd was created by Sabrina Brady, a 12th-grade student from Sparta, Wisc. Sabrina’s interpretation of the letters in Google was inspired by the day she was reunited with her father after he returned home from an 18-month tour in Iraq.
This year, Google hosted its sixth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. They received more than 130,000 submissions and after millions of votes, Sabrina's submission, "Coming Home," was named the 2013 Doodle 4 Google National Winner. She, along with four finalists from different age groups, will receive college scholarships; Sabrina will use hers when she attends the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.
The U.S. Department of Education celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) with a variety of events and outreach. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) kicked off the week with a Google+ Hangout. At the end of the week, the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized ED Goes Back to School Day. More than 60 staff from the Department visited schools and shadowed teachers across the D.C. metropolitan area on Thursday, May 9, 2013. OII was fortunate to be hosted by eight teachers in schools in D.C.
This year (fiscal year 2013, or FY13, which runs through September 30, 2013), the Office of Innovation and Improvement will be running six grant competitions: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination, Charter Schools Program Non-SEA, Investing in Innovation (i3), Magnet Schools Assistance Program, School Leadership Program, and Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED). Five of the six competitions are already underway, and we anticipate launching the sixth—the Charter Schools Program Non-SEA competition—shortly.
OII is excited about these six competitions. Our grant competitions showcase some of the most interesting and innovative efforts taking place in schools and districts across country, and we are always thrilled to support the great work that is underway. However, due to the amount of funding made available under the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution, we expect to award fewer grants in these competitions than originally planned. In addition, we are unable to conduct a competition in the Promise Neighborhoods program.
Please continue to use the OII homepage as a resource for information, for updates on our grant competitions, and for stories from us and our grantees.
When Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman arrives at the preschool classroom, all the children are excited that it’s time for dance — and for math. The teacher is amazed at how much the children love math, she tells Whiteman. She’s astonished that certain children who once showed little interest in school are absorbed and attentive during the classroom residency sessions. What’s happening in this Fairfax, Va., classroom to spark such a change?
Working side by side with the teacher in the classroom twice a week for approximately eight weeks to introduce the children to early math concepts through dance, Whiteman’s challenge is to “put math in their bodies.” How, she’s asked herself, can she use dance to help them make connections to math concepts?
Whiteman leads the young learners in the dance experiences they love to do, knowing they’re making important discoveries in the process. When she asks them to make a curvy or angular shape with their arms, they’re grasping the earliest concepts of geometry, while also learning to regulate their own bodies. When she asks them to alternate making high shapes and low shapes, they gain the vital math skill of pattern recognition as well as learning to create a dance phrase.
Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, participated in a Google+ Hangout on Monday, May 6, 2013, as part of the kick-off to 2013’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The panel discussion, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and moderated by Tamron Hall of NBC News, celebrated African American educators and explored issues in education pertinent to all teachers, including the challenges they face in preparing students for college and careers.
“One of the things we have to recognize overall is that in order for teachers to be successful, the context has to be right for them to do their best work,” Jim Shelton observed. The discussion, he said, is about “what kind of support and resources we can give them, what kind of school environments they operate in, … as well as what the individual teachers do.”
To read more about and watch an archived version of the Hangout, click here.
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