School Districts Can Apply for $650 Million Contest

Five months after Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the priorities for the Investing in Innovation competition, he finalized the rules and published the application package today.

To qualify, school districts must show that they are either supporting effective teachers and principals, improving the use of data to accelerate student learning, creating college and career level standards and assessments, or turning around low-performing schools.

While states are eligible for the Race to the Top competition, they are not eligible for the innovation competition. Individual school districts, groups of districts and districts with nonprofit partners get the chance to show how they can improve education in their area.

School districts have until mid-May to apply for the $643.5 million grant program, and grants will be awarded in September. In the meantime, representatives from the Education Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement will host workshops in Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver to give them more information. These workshops can also be viewed online.

In addition to the workshops, the department started an Open Innovation Portal so that entrepreneurs and education stakeholders can work together to improve education in schools.

This contest places high importance on evidence that districts' practices, strategies or programs are effective. The level of evidence that they have determines which grants they can apply for.

Scale-up grants

Focus on programs and practices that could reach more than 100,00 students and have strong evidence that they have improved student achievement.

Award estimates:

  • Average size: $40 million
  • Number: up to 5

Validation grants

Programs have good evidence of their impact, but are ready to expand.

Award estimates:

  • Average size: $17.5 million
  • Number: up to 100

Development grants

Support new and high-potential practices that need to be studied further to see if they're effective.

Award estimates:

  • Average size: $3 million
  • Number: up to 100

Peer reviewers will look over the applications, score them and make comments, just like the Race to the Top competition. The department is looking for peer reviewers now, so check out the requirements and e-mail your resume and an information checklist by March 18 if you're interested.


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