June 03, 2011

New Round of Federal School-Innovation Grants Announced

The Education Department announced that it will award $150-million to nonprofits and school districts in the second round of grants for school-improvement projects under the Investing in Innovation program. Also known as “i3,” the program will provide the money to groups that can show evidence they will be successful.

The grant amount is down from $650-million last year, when i3 first received money under the federal economic-stimulus program. That money went to 49 groups, including $50-million each to Teach for America, the alternative teacher-training program, and the Knowledge Is Power Program, also known as KIPP, which operates charter schools.

The department said applicants for this year's grants must focus on one of the following:

  • Turning around persistently low-performing schools.
  • Supporting effective teachers and principals.
  • Helping schools develop high standards and ways to assess quality.
  • Increasing educational achievement and high-school graduation rates in rural schools.
  • Promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

As in the first grant round, applicants who have the best track record in running successful programs will get the most money—up to $25-million. Grants of up to $15-million will be available for projects with less evidence of success, and up to $3-million for projects with potential but whose impact must be studied further.

The administration will continue to require applicants to get matching donations from private sources, but the amount has been lowered from last year's requirement of 20 percent for all grants. This year, they will be asked to raise from 5 percent to 15 percent of the grant amount in private money, depending on the kind of award they get.

Last year, a dozen major foundations created the Foundation Registry to support i3 applicants. The list of participating foundations has since grown to several dozen.

Applications for the i3 grants will be due in August, and awards will be announced by December 31.