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Executive Skills & Strategy

Federal Innovation-Grant Winners to Share $135 Million

By Michele McNeil — November 12, 2013 3 min read

Twenty-five districts and their nonprofit partners are slated to share $135 million in the latest round of the federal Investing in Innovation competition, the U.S. Department of Education announced last week.

This marks the fourth round of one of the Obama administration’s signature initiatives—a competition designed to find and scale up some of the most innovative ideas for improving education. The largest grants go to the promising ideas that have the strongest evidence base, with smaller awards set aside for more experimental ideas.

Individual awards will range from $2.4 million to $12 million. When the highest-rated applicants were announced Nov. 8, only two traditional school districts were winners: the Cabarrus County school system in Concord, N.C., and the Carroll County schools, in Carrollton, Ga. Both won the smallest development awards.

One charter school operator, University Public Schools in Tempe, Ariz., was a development winner, as was the Maricopa County Education Service Agency, also in Arizona.

“In this era of rapid change, we must make sure that our students are keeping pace with the rigor, relevance, and changing demands of the global job market,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the awards.

Just as in previous rounds, the new recipients—representing 13 states and the District of Columbia—will have to secure matching funds of up to 15 percent from the private sector by Dec. 11 before they can get their money. Technically, the Education Department calls them “highest-rated applicants” rather than winners until they’ve secured their matches.

Growing Portfolio

This year’s contest marks the second time the Education Department has decided not to award any grants in the “scale up” category, which carried the largest potential funding, $20 million, and required the most evidence of past success.

From a pool of 618 applicants, outside judges helped the department select seven “validation” winners, which could get up to $12 million each, and 18 “development winners,” which stand to get up to $3 million.

“Each year, we are able to grow the portfolio of solutions and the body of evidence that supports these practices,” Nadya Chinoy Dabby, the acting assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, said in a statement.

With the latest development-grant winners, there are 77 such winners in the department’s portfolio that are implementing new, promising practices, federal officials said.

The regents of the University of California won both a development grant and a larger validation award.

The six other winners in the validation category are: Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound and Teachers College at Columbia University, both in New York City; sri International, with headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.; Jacksonville State University, in Alabama; Spurwink Services, in Portland, Maine; and the Waterford Institute, in Sandy, Utah.

Other development winners are: CASA de Maryland, in Langley Park, Md.; the Center for Applied Linguistics and the Challenger Center for Space Education, both in the District of Columbia; Connected: The California Center for College and Career, in Berkeley, Calif.; the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, in Savoy, Ill.; Pennsylvania State University; Seneca Family of Agencies, in San Leandro, Calif.; Sonoma State University, in Rohnert Park, Calif.; the New York City Leadership Academy in Long Island City, N.Y.; the Children’s Aid Society in New York City; the Providence Plan, in Rhode Island; the United Way of Greater Atlanta; and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2013 edition of Education Week as Federal Innovation-Grant Winners to Share $135 Million

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