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Have at it. $650 million available for education innovation.

Yesterday, Arne Duncan presented an outline of his $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. They are using the term i3 as shorthand. First there was RttT, now there’s, that’s right: i3.

Some will find ways to establish a network of new schools or develop models that turn around low performing schools. Others will find new ways to use technology. Others might explore how to engage children in the arts to help them improve. We want the best ideas to move us forward. We will be investing in great work to scale up existing programs that have already shown success, can validate ones that need to establish evidence of their success or to develop new ideas to determine their potential.

Click here to go directly to the announcement., including fact sheets, Powerpoint presentations, transcript of presentation, and more.

Individual school districts or groups of districts can apply for the i3
grants, and entrepreneurial nonprofits can join with school districts
to submit applications. Colleges and universities, companies and other
stakeholders can be supporters of the projects.

Applicants must demonstrate their previous success in closing
achievement gaps, improving student progress toward proficiency,
increasing graduation rates, or recruiting and retaining high-quality
teachers and principals.

Under the proposed priorities, grants would be awarded in three categories:

  • Scale-up Grants: The largest possible grant category is focused on
    programs and practices with the potential to reach hundreds of
    thousands of students. Applicants must have a strong base of evidence
    that their program has had a significant effect on improving student
    achievement.
  • Validation Grants: Existing, promising programs that have good
    evidence of their impact and are ready to improve their evidence base
    while expanding in their own and other communities.
  • Development Grants: The smallest grant level designed to support
    new and high-potential practices whose impact should be studied further.

Grant recipients will be required to match federal funds with public or
private dollars (20% matching requirement. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate how
their programs will be sustainable after their federal grants are
completed.

As in Race to the Top, there will be a 30 day period for collecting public comments prior to the release of the final guidelines.

I believe that this will be the single most competitive grant program in the history of the United States. That’s right, no hyperbole. Think about it, even if only a subset of school districts are eligible, you have thousands of school districts (local education agencies), thousands of non profits when you include all the charter operators, higher education, etc. Grants will be at either the $5mm level for “development,” $30 mm for “validation,” or $50 mm for “scale-up.”

While the matching requirements will reduce the field of applicants significantly, you’re still looking at something quite fantastic.

More to follow.

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