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ED Simplifies Applications for 2012 i3 Development Grants

Pre-applications are now being accepted for the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program. The new pre-application process is designed to make it simpler for schools and other organizations to submit proposals for development grants.

The Investing in Innovation Fund provides $150 million annually in 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.

New Application Process
According to the United States Department of Education, applications in the first two years of the i3 program totaled more than 2,300, with most of those falling into the "development grant" category. Development grants are one of three types of grants offered under i3 and are designed specifically for supporting new concepts that are deemed worthy of further study. In 2012, as in 2011, development grants will award up to $3 million per program funded.

Through the new process, applicants are being allowed to submit proposals with less documentation than is required for full applications. According to ED, those organizations that receive the highest rankings during the pre-application phase will be invited to submit full applications.

"We have made efforts to improve the i3 competition each year, and simplifying the application process is part of ongoing efforts to make the Department's programs work better for potential grantees and have greater impact for students," said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, in a statement released by ED today.

ED has historically awarded funding in two other grant categories: validation grants for programs that have already shown promise but need additional evidence of effectiveness (awarding up to $15 million per grant) and scale-up grants for programs that have already proved effective and have had large effect sizes, with adequate evidence to support any claims of effectiveness (awarding up to $25 million per grant). ED has not yet opened applications for those types of grants for the 2012 i3 program but said information will be released in the coming weeks. Total i3 awards are expected to be $150 million in 2012.

New Rules
For 2012, ED has added one new category to the types of projects the development grants will fund: family engagement. (These categories are known as "absolute priorities" because applications must focus on at least one such category to be considered for funding.)

"Parent and family engagement is a critical component of student success, but there are too few models with evidence of effectiveness. By using i3 to shine a spotlight on this need and on promising approaches, we hope to identify new solutions of national importance," Shelton said.

So, for 2012, successful applications will focus on one or more of the following "absolute" (required) priorities for the competition:

  • Parent and family engagement;
  • 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, with one change this year: Programs can now focus "on a single stage in the teacher or principal recruitment, training, and retention process," according to ED;
  • 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 a proposal's chance of receiving funding, including:

  • Improved use of education technology;
  • Improving productivity;
  • 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.

i3 grants are open to K-12 schools in the United States, as well as non-profit organizations.

Pre-applications for i3 development grants are due April 9. Additional details can be found on the U.S. Department of Education's i3 portal.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .