Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Second Round i3 Competition Announced

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that $150 million will be available for another round of Investing in Innovation (i3) grants. Individual school districts, groups of districts, and nonprofits in partnership with districts or a consortium of schools are invited to apply.  The same three categories of grants will be available through the second round:
  • Up to $25 million each will be available for Scale-up grants to applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success;
  • Up to $15 million each will be available for Validation grants to verify effectiveness for programs with moderate levels of evidence;
  • Up to $3 million each will be available for Development grants to support new and high-potential practices whose impact should be studied further.

This is a decline from the $650 million available in the first round of i3 grants that were funded through ARRA, but was added to DOE's budget for FY 2011 after approval of the final CR. The second round offers some important changes and opportunities for eligible applicants.  For example, one major change is the match required of applicants.  Grant recipients will be required to secure private sector matching funds of 5%, 10%, or 15%, respectively depending on the grant category.  In addition, the NOFA includes two new absolute priorities: one focused on achievement and high school graduation rates in rural schools and the other on promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  Having a focus on rural communities as one of the priorities likely is in response to concerns from the prior competition that rural communities were at a disadvantage in competing on an equal platform with urban communities that had more resources and capacity.

The other three absolute priorities are the same as last year's competition: supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. All applicants must address one of these five key areas of reform.

This is an important opportunity for communities seeking to implement education reforms in partnership with local school districts. Information about FY 2010 grantees can be found here. Another resource to examine for potential opportunities is the i3 Foundations Registry, created last year when a number of foundations came together to facilitate matching support for FY 2010 applicants.

The full notice can be found here. Applications are due August 2, 2011.

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