i3 Innovation Grant Program Opens

The United States Department of Education has released final priorities and opened the application process for the Investing in Innovation Fund, also known as "i3," a $650 million grant program that's designed to fund "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."

The Investing in Innovation Fund, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides competitive grants designed to encourage programs that improve student achievement, student retention, student graduation rates, and teacher/administrator effectiveness. To this end, applications are being accepted by local school districts, groups of school districts, and non-profits working with groups of schools or whole districts.

Eligibility and Priorities
There are several eligibility requirements for those applying for i3 grants. Successful proposals must be geared toward any of the following, according to ED: "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."

In addition, there are four other priorities that will enhance an applicant's ability to receive funding: "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."

Evidence must be provided to support the application, and grants will be awarded based on one of three categories into which the evidence falls (strong evidence, moderate evidence, reasonable hypothesis).

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

  • Development grants, up to $5 million per grant, to support new concepts that are deemed worthy of further study (reasonable hypothesis);
  • Validation grants, up to $30 million per grant, for programs that have already shown promise but need additional evidence of effectiveness (moderate evidence); and
  • Scale-up grants, up to $50 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 match 20 percent of their awards themselves or via investment from the private sector. ED has set up a new portal, called the Open Innovation Portal, to help match applicants up with potential sources of funding and investment.

The closing date for the applications is still pending as of this writing, but ED indicated it would be some time in mid-May. Grants are expected to be awarded in September. Additional grants may be awarded later, as there's an additional $500 million proposed in President Obama's 2011 budget plan.

"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," ED reported today in announcing the portal. "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."

Additional information about the Investing in Innovation Fund is available on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site, including information about pre-application workshops and registration for pre-application Webinars. All of these, plus the fully fleshed-out notice of final priorities, application invitation, and application package, can be accessed here.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).