Policy & Funding

Feds Fund Education Innovation for $95 million

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the 16 recipients of this year's grants for education innovation and research. Recipients include organizations that are undertaking promising work in teacher professional development, reading and writing, school leadership and other practices.

The total issued — $95 million — is a far cry from the halcyon Race-to-the-Top days, when $646 million was issued in 2010. In every subsequent year, the total amount of innovation funded has dropped. Last year the total was $103 million; in 2015, it was $123 million.

The 2017 grants range from a high of $14.7 million to the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technology, which will be scaling up personalized literacy instruction, to a low of $3.1 million for the Center for Supportive Schools to work on improving educational outcomes in "high need, low-income rural and urban communities" with the use of middle school transitioning and peer mentoring.

The "Education Innovation and Research" program used to be called the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. That name disappeared with the passage of ESSA, which steered funding away from states for the most part and to the school districts, universities and non-profits that make up this year's list of winners.

The EIR program issues three types of grants:

  • Expansion (up to $15 million and requiring strong evidence in support of the proposed project), which the National Center for Research received;
  • Mid-phase (up to $8 million and requiring moderate evidence), given to six organizations, many of which had previously received i3 grants; and
  • Early-phase (up to $4 million and requiring a rationale backed up by research or an evaluation), issued to nine groups.

The Department of Education received 379 distinct applications, the majority of which covered early-phase projects. During the review process an extra nudge was given to those that served rural areas. Now the winners will be under the department's scrutiny for the course of their grants, and they'll be required to join in on communities of practice, work with the department on evaluation of their projects and communicate their progress and what they're learning with the public.

This year's winners are:

Type of grant




Expansion work

National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technology (Digital Promise)

$14.7 million

United2Read: Achieving strong student literacy outcomes for high-need students, using the A2i professional support system at 300 schools serving over 100,000 students.

Mid-phase work

American Institutes for Research

$7.8 million

Scaling of MyTeachingPartner-Secondary, a web video-based teacher coaching program for middle and high school teachers shown to improve teacher classroom practice, student engagement, and student achievement.


Education Analytics

$7.7 million

SPARK: Research-based, cost-effective K–2 early reading intervention which includes one-on-one tutoring, family engagement, and after-school literacy sessions throughout the year.


Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

$7.7 million

Expansion of the Pyramid Model, a framework for promoting social, emotional and behavioral competence in Pre-K and K classrooms serving high-needs students.


Niswonger Foundation

$7.8 million

Validating the use of personalized learning strategies focused on literacy in a group of schools and districts in a rural region of northeast Tennessee to improve academic achievement for students in grades 6-8.


Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute

$7.8 million

Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI): Engaging middle-school students in standards-aligned comprehension tasks that build toward grade level expectations in one year, while strengthening basic reading skills.



$7.8 million

Turnaround Leadership Teams Strategy: Recruit, select, train and support 15 leadership teams made up of experienced school leaders, new-to-leadership residents and teacher-leaders, who will work together to propel radical school turnaround.

Early-phase work

Austin Independent School District

$3.5 million

Evaluating the impact of implementing restorative practices (RP), a school-wide approach to climate and discipline in elementary and middle schools.


Center for Supportive Schools

$3.1 million

Developing a middle school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program for sixth-graders.


DuPage Regional Office of Education

$3.9 million

Partner to Lead: On-going professional development and coaching for principals and support for instructional leadership teams and teacher teams to help establish a strong professional community with collective responsibility for student learning.


Intercultural Development Research Association

$3.9 million

Reenergizing Leadership to Achieve Greater Student Success (RLSS): Strengthening and institutionalizing a school district leadership development pipeline and supporting principals in creating a school culture conducive to student success.


IDEA Public Schools Enterprises

$3.9 million

IDEA C3 (Culture, Character, and College): Testing whether increasing students' social and emotional skills; developing their characters; and increasing their knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs will help build and strengthen their college-going identities and increase their rates of college completion.


Osage County Interlocal Cooperative

$3.7 million

Project ENGAGE: To test the impact of new approaches to student engagement via technology for decreasing student discipline and increasing student academic achievement in rural schools.


School District 1J Multnomah County

$3.9 million

Personalized, Relevant, Engaged for Postsecondary (PREP): Providing students with intensive social-emotional support and use of personalized project-based learning tied to high growth/high demand career pathways to improve graduation and post-secondary transition rates for high-need and underserved youth.


Teach for America

$3.7 million

Rural Schools Leadership Academy: Increasing the number of effective principals in high-need, rural schools through a unique approach to professional development.


United Way of Massachusetts Bay

$3.9 million

BoSTEM Project: Increasing culturally responsive STEM out-of-school programming, aligned with in-school curricula, to prepare high-need middle school students academically and socially for STEM postsecondary education and careers.

To learn more about specific projects, visit the Department of Education EIR website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.