Last round for the innovative i3 grant proposals
(District of Columbia) The Obama administration opened Tuesday the seventh and final round of competitive funding authorized under one of the boldest education research programs ever undertaken by the federal government.
The Investing in Innovation grant, created by Congress in 2009, called on school districts and private sector partners to test sweeping ideas that could be scaled up and repeated across the nation if proved successful. Participants have received $1.3 billion since its inception to carry out work that, in many cases, is still ongoing.
Awards that will be made later this spring can provide as much as $3 million per entry.
“We are proud to support innovative educators that are helping every student learn, grow and achieve their full potential,” said Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, in a statement. “Across the country, we have seen how innovation in education can close gaps in opportunity, and change the academic and life trajectories of underserved students.”
The program, also known as i3, began as a tiny slice of the $77 billion Congress allocated to states during the early months of the Great Recession to stabilize schools and maintain critical funding for low-income students.
Although not perhaps an economic engine in itself, the i3 grants broke new ground for federal education research by setting two unique goals.
One, participants were not necessarily asked to consider only those ideas they knew would work – what wouldn’t was also deemed important so that bad ideas weren’t repeated.
Second was the requirement that studies meet the rigorous standards of randomized control treatment trials – a goal of isolation more common in the medical lab than the very human and dynamic world of schools, students and teachers.
Many of those funded in the first round produced promising if mixed results. Among the projects highlighted by the Education Department are:
- The Bellevue School District in Washington State improved students’ scores on Advanced Placement tests, and increased college readiness by developing a comprehensive approach to Problem-Based Learning.
- The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee’s SPARK Literacy program boosted students’ reading achievement and literacy development, and participating students were 27 percent less likely to be chronically absent from school.
- The Building Assets Reducing Risks model closed the gap in academic achievement in math and reading between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students in a California high school.
- A fourth project not highlighted by the department, was sponsored by the California Education Roundtable Intersegmental Coordinating Committee and produced measurable improvement in the number of middle schools passing algebra using a summer boot camp, novel teacher training and project based learning.