Feds propose rules for $650M innovation fund

Awards will fund creative programs that aim to solve education problems.
Awards will fund creative programs that aim to solve education problems.

Applications for $650 million in new federal grants that encourage school innovation will be available in early 2010 and due in the spring, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) said in a conference call with reporters Oct. 6. The department estimates that all money under the program will be committed by Sept. 30, 2010.

ED will collect public comments on the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund for the next 30 days, giving educators a valuable chance to weigh in on the program’s proposed rules.

The fund, which is part of the historic $5 billion investment in school reform in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will support local efforts to start or expand innovative, research-based programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.

The $650 million i3 program will award grants in three categories, with winning applications proposing scalable programs that target specific needs such as early learning and decreasing the dropout rate.

“We’re making an unprecedented investment in cutting-edge ideas that will produce the next generation of school reforms,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “The i3 competition will provide seed money for fresh ideas, help grow promising programs with a good track record, and scale up programs with proven results to a national level.”

Individual school districts or groups of districts can apply for the i3 grants, and entrepreneurial nonprofits can join with school districts to submit applications. Colleges and universities, companies, and other stakeholders can be supporters of the projects.

Applicants must demonstrate their previous success in closing achievement gaps, improving student progress toward proficiency, increasing graduation rates, or recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals.

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