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Funding | News

i3 Grant Program Opens with New Priorities for 2011

Education technology has been added to the list of competitive priorities for the Investing in Innovation Fund, while STEM and rural schools gain "absolute" priority status for 2011.

The Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program for schools has received a major facelift. Based on "substantial feedback from prior applicants and other stakeholders," the United States Department of Education has revamped the rules and made it easier for schools to obtain matching funds.

The Investing in Innovation Fund provides competitive grants designed to encourage programs that boost student achievement and college readiness, improve science education, turn around low-performing schools, and support teacher/administrator effectiveness.

The 2011 i3 grant program, which formally opened Friday, will provide up to $150 million in funding to support "innovative approaches" to school reform that propose to improve student achievement and attainment and boost engagement in learning. This year's recipients will be awarded grants ranging from $3 million to $25 million, depending on the type of grant awarded, down from $5 million to $50 million in 2010, when the program had a $650 million pot.

Eligibility, Priorities, and Changes from the Previous Year
i3 grants are open to K-12 schools in the United States, as well as non-profit organizations.

Successful applications will focus on one or more of the following "absolute" (required) priorities for the competition:

  • STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math), a new "absolute" priority for 2011;
  • Improving achievement in rural schools, another new absolute priority;
  • Supporting effective teachers and principals;
  • Solutions that are designed to "complement the implementation of high standards and high-quality assessments"; and
  • Plans for turning around low-performing schools.

In addition, there are secondary "competitive preference" priorities that can help bolster an proposal's chance of receiving funding, including:

  • Improved use of education technology, a new competitive preference priority for 2011;
  • Improving productivity, also new for 2011;
  • Improving early learning outcomes;
  • Expanding access to college and improve students' chances of success in post-secondary education; and
  • Addressing the needs of disabled students and students with limited proficiency in English.

In a blog post Friday, ED also pointed to three critical elements for proposals: the "requirement to implement practices, strategies, or programs for high-need students; emphasis on sustainability and scalability; and rigorous independent evaluations of all grant projects."

Last year's program awarded 49 multi-million-dollar grants from a pool of more than 1,600 applicants.

Award Amounts and Matching Funding Requirements
Grants will be awarded as follows based on the level of evidence supplied:

  • Development grants, up to $3 million per grant, to support new concepts that are deemed worthy of further study (reasonable hypothesis);
  • Validation grants, up to $15 million per grant, for programs that have already shown promise but need additional evidence of effectiveness (moderate evidence); and
  • Scale-up grants, up to $25 million per grant, for programs that have already proved effective and have had large effect sizes, with adequate evidence to support any claims of effectiveness (strong evidence).

Grant recipients will be required to demonstrate that they have established one or more partnerships with private sector or philanthropic organizations that will match a portion of their funding. The specific portion that will be required has changed from last year, when applicants had to secure 20 percent in private sector matching funds. For this year, the matching requirement will vary with the grant type. For development grants, 15 percent of the grant award will need to be matched by the private sector, for validation grants 10 percent, for scale-up grants 5 percent.

Deadlines, Entry Information
Applications for the 2011 round of funding are due Aug. 2, though ED posted a notice "strongly" encouraging applicants to notify the department of their intent to apply by June 23 through a simple online form.

For the 2011 application period, ED reported it will host pre-application webinars and three in-person workshops to give applicants technical help with the grants. Workshops will be held June 17 in Washington, DC; June 24 in San Francisco; and June 28 in Houston. Further information about those events has not yet been made public.

Details about past winners can be found on ED's i3 dashboard. Information on becoming an i3 peer reviewer can be found on the i3 applicant information page. Additional details, including guidelines, forms, eligibility, and other resources, can be found on the i3 grant portal.

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