School & District Management

Education Department Awards $103 Million in Investing in Innovation Projects

By Sarah D. Sparks — November 09, 2016 2 min read
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In the last round of federal Investing in Innovation grants under President Obama, the competition intended to find and build up research-based educational interventions has borne its first full fruit.

Among the 15 grants announced this afternoon, Spurwink Services Inc.'s Building Assets, Reducing Risks, became the first program to work its way up through all three of i3’s grant tiers. Started by a Minnesota guidance counselor with a $5 million development grant, it built enough evidence to win a $12 million validation grant in 2013. Today BARR won a 5-year, $20 million scale-up grant to expand to 50 more schools in California, Tennessee, Maine, Minnesota, and Texas.

BARR trains teams of teachers to quickly size up the needs and progress of every student on campus using weekly data on students’ academic and social development. During a visit to two districts piloting the program in Maine, teachers said the program helped them prevent average but faltering students from slipping off track:

When you have 100 kids on your caseload, you have to deal with the bigger issues in class, and the kid who comes 30 seconds late to class every day can slip under your radar,” said Josh Tripp, who was a math teacher in the nearly 400-student Bucksport High School four years ago when the school district, located on the state’s far-north coast, volunteered to participate in a $5 million development grant in the first round of the federal Investing in Innovation program. “I thought we were really good at interpersonal relationships with our kids,” Tripp said, “but you don’t know your kids until you are talking about them every week.”

The i3 program, the only one of the Obama administration’s stimulus-era programs to be authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act, may face an uncertain funding future under a President Trump. But the current round of $103 million grants has all been forward funded for the next three to five years—provided they find private matching money by the end of December. That is likely to protect the i3 grantees from funding battles later.

Fifteen programs were selected from a pool of nearly 400 applicants. The National Writing Project also moved from a validation to a scale-up grant, winning just under $20 million to expand in 15 states. The validation grants included: $12 million for Texas A&M University, slightly less than $12 million for the Fresno County, Calif. office of education, and $9.3 million for Uncommon Schools. It also included 10 $3 million development grants.

“Educators are constantly developing new ideas to better assist their students, and i3 empowers educators to develop these approaches into practices that can benefit schools and districts across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement on the awards.

Photo: Science teacher Andrea Froburg, math teacher Jessica Cutliffe, and special educator Aimee Hall, from left to right, review a student’s file in a Building Assets-Reducing Risks meeting at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine. Noble is testing the BARR program with i3 funding. Source: Sarah Rice for Education Week.


A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.