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.
In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, the U.S. Department of Education Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to host the art exhibit “America’s Children.” The exhibit features some 50 works of visual art and writing from students based around the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and Canada and Germany. Communicating the unique life experiences of military-connected children at the event were Taylor Walton, MCEC Student 2 Student president at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va.; the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs Eric Waldo; Mary Keller, president and CEO of MCEC; Patricia Shinseki, board member of MCEC; and student performers from Mount Vernon High School.
Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant projects allow school districts and their educational partners to take a good idea and make it better. In 2008, school leaders in California's Sonoma Valley School District launched an initiative to bring not just science instruction to the elementary grades, where it had been neglected, but to also combine hands-on science with English in a novel multidisciplinary approach that they knew had significant potential to help the district's growing population of English language learners (ELLs).
In 2010, the district's partner in this venture, San Francisco's Exploratorium museum, took the lessons learned from their combined efforts at an elementary school in Sonoma with the highest percentage of ELLs, applied for and received a five-year, $3 million i3 Development grant to expand the initiative to all five of Sonoma Valley's elementary schools. With matching funds contributed by two local philanthropies that began their support in 2008, the new collaborative project became Integrating English Language Development and Science: A Professional Development Approach.
The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC) is piloting tablet-based “playsets” designed to provide fun and engaging learning experiences for young children as they develop English language, reading, and math skills. The playsets, which are available as apps for iPads, use a combination of activities, including interactive games and storybooks, sing-along songs, and a word machine, to help close the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children.
The playsets feature Pocoyo, an internationally recognized preschool character created by Zinkia Entertainment, a partner of HITN in the development of the playset applications. Research during the pilot phase will assess the educational efficacy of these digital products before their commercial release, expected in late 2013. The Michael Cohen Group (MCG) is conducting ongoing formative research during the piloting phase as well as large-scale summative studies of the playsets. The development of the Pocoyo PlaySets will be also be guided by feedback from more than 25 pilot sites in New York, Alabama, Maine, Florida, and California.
“Charter schools were originally created to serve as labs of innovation, developing best practices, and then sharing them widely to improve the work of all students.”
— Shannah Varon, executive director, Boston Collegiate Charter School
The Charter School Exemplary Collaboration Award, a National Activities grant-award competition in the Charter Schools Program (CSP), is designed to provide just what Ms. Varon describes – an opportunity for high-quality charter schools with innovative ideas and a history of results to share their promising practices with non-chartered public schools and districts. The Collaboration Awards, funded for the first time in 2012, are grounded in a belief that trust and teamwork between high-quality charter schools and non-chartered public schools will accelerate educational excellence in all public schools. Additionally, successful joint ventures between schools can vary in their structures and objectives, while still remaining focused on the goal of strengthening a community and its schools.
On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, the Department of Education announced the start of the 2013 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program competition. The Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for the pre-application process for the Development category and the Notice of Final Priorities for the overall i3 program were published the same day in the Federal Register.
The Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement and the i3 team are looking forward to a successful competition, beginning with the pre-application process for the Development competition, to be followed by the announcement of the Validation and Scale-up competitions later this spring. This year’s competition includes a few changes from previous i3 competitions that are designed to incorporate lessons learned from the first three years, while maintaining the dual goals of supporting new innovations and scaling effective ones.