Investing in Innovation (i3)

Aligned to goals:
  • 1.4: Increase the transparency of the grant application and award process.
  • 1.5: Maintain up-to-date information on the Department's website about Department offices and key programs.
  • 1.6: Foster more transparency in the larger educational community.
  • 2.1: Provide more insight into the agency's decision-making process.
  • 2.3: Collect and use input from the public and other stakeholders in decision-making.
  • 3.1: Enhance collaboration with other federal and non-federal agencies, the public, and non-profit and private entities.

i3 is an innovative grant fund established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). It provides support to local education agencies (LEAs), and nonprofit organizations in partnership with (a) one or more LEAs or (b) a consortium of schools.

Applicants must address one of the four areas that are driving the Obama administration's school reform agenda:

  • Supporting effective teachers and principals;
  • Improving the use of data to accelerate student achievement;
  • Complementing the implementation of standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and careers; and
  • Turning around persistently low-performing schools.

Unlike many other federal grant programs where evidence is just a selection criterion, in the i3 program, evidence is both a selection criterion and an eligibility requirement. The i3 regulations also include specific definitions for what constitutes strong evidence and moderate evidence and will award three types of grants based on these levels of evidence. Validation grants will require moderate evidence and will be aimed at validating and spreading promising programs on a State or regional scale, and the Scale Up grants will require strong evidence and will be aimed at bringing proven programs to national, regional or State scale. Development grants will require a reasonable hypothesis and will support development of high-potential and relatively untested practices, strategies, or programs. The Department expects to make Development grants of up to $5 million each; Validation grants of up to $30 million each; and Scale Up grants of up to $50 million each. Complete information on the i3 program can be found at the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) website.

In keeping with the innovative nature of this program, i3 has modeled transparency principles throughout its development. The Department published the notice of proposed priorities (NPP) to obtain public comment (though it could have waived this requirement because this is the first competition under this program), hosted webinars following the NPP publication to answer questions, and, after publishing the notice of final priorities, held pre-application meetings in three cities (Denver, Baltimore, and Atlanta) to further engage the public in the competition. These sessions were also made available via webinar. Approximately 1,000 people attended the meetings, with an additional 2,000 participants via webinar.

The Department has applied transparency principles to the peer review process. An open call was made for peer reviewers, including visible posting on ED.gov, and approximately 1,000 applications were received for peer reviewer positions.

To further support innovation, the Office of Innovation and Improvement has launched the Open Innovation Portal, a public forum for all who wish to participate in creating opportunities for partnership and local private and public funding. See below in the Flagship initiatives for more detail on the Open Innovation Portal.