Feds announce new round of i3 grant competition

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday invitations for another round of competitive grants through the Investing in Innovation program.

The department has $150 million to award to school districts and nonprofit groups partnering with schools on novel programs aimed at expanding promising or effective educational practices to improve learning for high-need students.

Applications for the two biggest categories - called scale-up" and "validation" projects - are due May 29. Pre-approval applications for the smaller awards, the "development" grants, are due April 9.

The i3 grant along with Race to the Top are perhaps the two signature education programs from the Obama administration where big federal dollars have been given in exchange for promises by states and local districts for sweeping changes.

This is the third round of i3 funding, which began in 2010 with an allocation of $650 million and another $150 million in 2011.

The Obama administration has proposed offering $150 million more for the program in 2013.

The department is offering up to $25 million for scale-up projects and awards of $15 million for validation proposals. Up to $3 million will be provided for development projects.

The scale-up grants are aimed at practices, strategies or programs in which sponsors can show strong evidence of having a statistically significant effect on improving student achievement or growth.

The validation grants are set aside for practices, strategies or programs that show promise of having a statistically significant effect on improving student performance.

Development grants are used to fund proposals that warrant further analysis and consideration.

Each of the applications will be subject to peer review in the context of five priority areas: supporting effective teachers and principals; promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education; supporting the implementation of high academic content standards and high-quality assessments; turning around low-performing schools; and improving graduation rates in rural schools.

There are also two additional elements of focus: improving early learning outcomes: increasing college access and success; addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency; as well as improving productivity, or using technology.

Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31.

To access the Scale-up application package, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-27/pdf/2012-7362.pdf

For the Validation application package, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-27/pdf/2012-7365.pdf

To learn more about the Development grant visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/index.html

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