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Batter Up: The Federal i3 Grant Program

Today in Baltimore is the first of three technical assistance sessions across the country for potential applicants to the USDOE’s i3 program. I have written two different entries on i3, click here and click here to read them.

In a nutshell, the USDOE has set aside $650 million of Federal stimulus funds for education for this competitive grant program. The deadline for applications is May 11; and the “intent to apply” is “requested” by April 1st. The final guidelines were released on March 8th. There were relatively minor changes made in the final guidelines from what had been issued as a draft.


School
districts and non-profit organizations in partnership with districts or
consortia of schools can apply for the grants.  To qualify, applicants must
address one of four priorities aligned with the reform areas under the ARRA:
teacher and principal effectiveness; enhanced data systems; college- and
career-ready standards and quality assessments; and improving achievement in
persistently low-performing schools.  Applicants may get competitive preference
points if their projects sufficiently address one or more of following priority
areas: early learning; college access and success; serving students with
disabilities or limited English proficiency; and serving rural district
students.

Evidence is a
formal eligibility requirement.  The regulations have specific definitions for
what constitutes “moderate evidence” and “strong evidence,” and the i3 Fund will
award three types of grants based, at least in part, on the level of evidence. 
Development grants (up to $5 million each) will require a reasonable
hypothesis and be aimed at developing fresh ideas.  Validation grants (up
to $30 million each) will require moderate evidence and be aimed at validating
and spreading promising programs to regional scale.  Scale Up grants (up
to $50 million each) will require strong evidence and be aimed at bringing
proven programs to national scale.

With i3 open to thousands of school districts on their own, and in partnership with non-profits of all kinds, I believe this is going to go down in the history books as the most competitive grant program of all time.

There are three different categories to choose from, so to speak, and a required private match of 20% cash or services in-kind. The private match is one of the changes that appeared in the final issued guidelines, in that a bit more leeway is being given on proposing private match in the application. The USDOE appears to be very bullish on the notion that i3 grantees will have little trouble making the private match.

So, here’s the basic set of links for those who want to look a bit further at this opportunity. Most of the education pundits are predicting that the majority of grants will go to big league charter management organizations, like KIPP.

I will say, for those arts organizations that just submitted their AEMDD grants to the USDOE (the deadline for submission was this week), jumping right into i3 will test the mettle of any organization’s program and development staff.

Application fatigue anyone???? The application package is 76 pages…

And in case you might feel like it’s a mountain to climb, this will make you feel even worse: click here to read about The Gates Foundation giving planning grants to nine school districts and charter management organizations to help them win i3 grants.

Oh yes, and on single organization can win more than two grants totaling more than $55 million.

i3 Update from the USDOE

The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) is seeking
peer reviewers
.  The deadline has been extended through April 1.

The i3 grant application
and final priorities
were announced March 8.

Pre-application
technical assistance meetings
for those considering submitting an
application for i3 are being held in Baltimore on March 19, Denver March
24, and Atlanta March 30.

A fact sheet,
slideshow, and a webinar
in which Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim
Shelton discusses the release of the grant application and final
priorities are available.

i3 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.

For additional information, see the i3 website.

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