Following quickly on the heels of its $43 million grant to the Teacher Quality Partnership program, the U.S. Department of Education announced this week the launch of a $650-million innovation competition aimed at closing the achievement gap in the U.S. educational system.
The competition, called the Investing in Innovation fund (i3), falls under the $5 billion investment in school reform from the America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The competition will award grants to individual school districts, groups of districts, or school districts with nonprofit partnerships that want to start or expand research-based innovative programs aimed at closing the achievement gap and improving outcomes for students.
"We're making an unprecedented investment in cutting-edge ideas that will produce the next generation of school reforms," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "We're looking to drive reform, reward excellence and dramatically improve our nation's schools."
The grants are divided into three categories: scale-up grants worth $50 million for innovations that have already been proven to improve student achievement; validation grants worth $30 million for existing, promising programs that are looking to improve their evidence base and expand their impact; and development grants worth $5 million to support new and high-potential practices whose impact should be further examined.
Grant recipients will also need to match their federal funds with public or private dollars, and must demonstrate how their programs will remain sustainable after their federal grants have finished. Proposals will be accepted in the spring of 2010 and all money will be obligated by September of that year.
This competition is in addition to the Department of Education's Race to the Top competition launched in July, which awards a total of $4.35 billion grants to states that pioneer school reform.