Secretary Duncan Releases Application for $650 Million to Support Innovation

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Secretary Duncan Releases Application for $650 Million to Support Innovation

March 8, 2010

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the Department of Education's final priorities and the grant application for the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). The fund, which is part of the historic $5 billion investment in school reform in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will support the development of path-breaking new ideas, the validation of approaches that have demonstrated promise, and the scale-up of the nation's most successful and proven education innovations.

"Many of our generation's greatest breakthroughs occur when people are willing to invest in small scale projects with big scale potential," said Duncan. "We need to identify these pockets of promise in the education community and give them the resources they need to grow."

Individual school districts or groups of districts can apply for the i3 grants, and entrepreneurial nonprofits can join with school districts or a consortium of schools to submit applications. To qualify for the competitive grants, applicants will need to 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.

Applicants will receive a competitive preference if their project addresses one or more of the following priorities: improving outcomes for young children; expanding students' access to college and preparing them for success in college; addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and of limited English proficient students; and serving schools in rural areas.

Unlike other federal grant programs where evidence is a selection criterion, in the i3 program evidence is a formal eligibility requirement. The i3 regulations also include specific definitions for what constitutes strong evidence, moderate evidence and a reasonable hypothesis and will award three types of grants based on these three levels of evidence. Development grants will require a reasonable hypothesis and will be aimed at helping develop fresh ideas, Validation grants will require moderate evidence and will be aimed at validating and spreading promising programs to regional scale, and Scale Up grants will require strong evidence and will be aimed at bringing proven programs to national scale. The Department expects to make Development grants of up to $5 million each; Validation grants of up to $30 million each; Scale Up grants of up to $50 million each.

"This fund awards three different grants to programs at three different stages of development that all share one thing in common- evidence of success," said Duncan. "We will award modest grants for new ideas, more for programs with moderate levels of evidence and significant funds to those with the strongest track records of success. There is no argument for investment more powerful than a program that is making a difference in the lives of our kids."

Once identified as an award recipient, successful applicants will need to demonstrate how their programs will be sustainable after their federal grants are completed as well as find a 20 percent cash or in-kind match of the federal award from the private sector. To assist recipients in their efforts to find private matches and to serve the larger purpose of creating an innovation community, the Department of Education has launched an online community, the Open Innovation Portal. This is the first national forum within which entrepreneurs, education stakeholders of all types, and funders can partner to develop and fund innovative ideas in the education sector. Through this portal, the Department will hope to facilitate partnerships by convening like-minded individuals to accelerate the development, identification, and broad use of innovative products, practices, and processes to improve education in schools.

Applications will be due in mid-May and grants will be awarded in September. In the coming weeks, officials from the Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement will hold informational workshops in Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver that will be web-accessible. President Obama has proposed an additional $500 million of the i3 program in his fiscal 2011 budget.

Applications available here: