Office of Innovation and Improvement
Welcome to the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), headed by Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby. 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.
Last year, when the Department announced 20 grants awarded for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Non-SEA program competitions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said; "High-quality charter schools across the country are making amazing differences in our children's lives. These grantees serve a range of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and prepare them for college and careers." The Non-SEA (State education agency) competitions provide support for charter schools located in states that are not receiving funds from the CSP's SEA competition; currently 19 States and the District of Columbia receive SEA funding. Non-SEA grant funds support planning and implementation of program designs for new or existing charter schools or the sharing and dissemination of information about best practices for charter schools.
Last week, CSP announced the start of the 2013 competition with the publication of two Non-SEA notices inviting applicants (NIA) in the Federal Register. Since its inception, CSP has worked to increase understanding of charter schools and to support high-quality charter schools in communities nationwide. The CSP team is excited for that work to continue this year with the non-SEA competitions. The Department plans to award up to $2 million to grantees of both the Non-SEA Planning, Program Design and Implementation and the Non-SEA Dissemination competitions, and estimates making between 10 and 14 awards.
“In order to provide the best education in the world again, we must develop educational opportunities and resources that excite and prepare all our students,” is how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees the challenge for the teachers, school leaders, academics, advocates, and entrepreneurs who attended the Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World conference on May 28-29, in Washington, D.C.
Co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the convening brought together participants from many different sectors to think about and make recommendations for a future in which the latest technologies are available and are an integral part of personalized learning experiences for all students, as well as helping to deliver a major upgrade in teacher professional development and the advanced instructional tools they need. Technology alone won’t solve the challenges the U.S. must meet to be a world leader again in elementary and secondary education, but, as Secretary Duncan noted, “We cannot succeed without it.”
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, congratulated the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees on their achievements at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 3. In a press release announcing the ceremony, Secretary Duncan said, "These schools and districts exhibit best practices to reduce costs and increase achievement, health and equity, for all schools, not just aspiring green schools."
Among the 64 schools honored with the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award, 10 are private schools, seven are public charters, and five are magnets. Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) staffs were on hand at the awards ceremony to add their congratulations. "It was inspiring to learn how a number of the private schools that earned the Department of Education's Green Ribbon recognition have been focused on environmental issues and the health and wellness of students for many years,” said Maureen Dowling, director of the OII’s Office on Non-Public Education. “From vegetable and butterfly gardens, to student environment clubs and ‘electric cops’ who graph data on their school's conservation efforts, these honored schools are developing environmental awareness and responsibility in their students. In short, their students are becoming good stewards of planet earth."
We live in a highly connected world, but unfortunately, many of our students aren’t attending class in highly connected schools. Recent data suggests that 80 percent of K-12 schools do not have the infrastructure to access broadband Internet, meaning they don’t have the basic foundation to support digital learning in the 21st century. It also means the nation’s teachers don’t have access to tools to support their instruction or bring new technology into their classrooms.
Yesterday, President Obama called on the federal government, states and districts, rural and urban communities alike, and the private sector to tackle this problem together, as he outlined his ConnectED initiative. All children in the nation need to be career and college ready, prepared with knowledge and armed with 21st-century skills. ConnectED will help to ensure that this happens by bringing high-speed Internet within their reach.
Read more about Bringing America’s Students into the Digital Age, from the White House’s Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Munoz, and the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling. Also, click here to read an overview on closing the broadband gap by the Acting Director of the Office of Education Technology, Richard Culatta.
The number 3 dominated the thinking and actions of the more than 400 participants of the annual meeting of the Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees on May 20-21, in Arlington, Va. Let’s start with three examples:
They represented three years of funding (2010-2012) for this Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) program that supports the development and scaling of ambitious, effective practices that improve student achievement.
The 92 projects represented spanned three levels of federal support for i3 — 59 Development, 28 Validation, and five Scale-up projects.
Each project came to the meeting with three objectives: share best practices they have developed as well as challenges they face; learn about evaluation methods and receive technical assistance to improve their evaluations; and explore strategies for sustaining their projects’ impacts through private-sector support.
Almost as if to build on the theme of 3, Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, who led OII’s efforts to create and support i3 as the assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since 2009, encouraged the meeting attendees to share their stories and learn three new ones to take home with them.
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