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Betsy DeVos Steers Federal Grant for ‘Innovation’ to STEM Programs

By Alyson Klein — October 08, 2018 3 min read
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Programs focused on helping schools to improve instruction in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, were big winners in the latest round of the Education Innovation and Research grants. In fact, of the 18 winners, at least 11 appear to have some sort of STEM twist.

EIR, a $120 million program, is intended to help test out and scale up promising practices at the state and district levels. The STEM focus with this year’s round of grantees is no surprise. In fact, Congress told the Education Department to funnel at least $50 million of EIR’s funding to STEM in fiscal year 2018, which covers this round of grantees.

Lawmakers upped that to $60 million in fiscal year 2019, which will cover the next round of applicants. The Trump administration had wanted to make the entire EIR program STEM focused, but Congress nixed that idea.

Even though U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made school choice a priority, none of the winners appear to be working on private school vouchers. But grants centered around some other favorite Trump administration issues did show up on the list, including a program aimed at apprenticeships and internships.

More background on EIR: EIR is the successor to the Obama administration’s Investing in Innovation grant program. The program got a makeover—and a new name—when Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. Among the changes made: States can now apply for the grants, not just districts. And states or districts can partner with for-profit companies, not just nonprofits as under i3. (More on i3 in this explainer.)

So who were the winners?

Expansion grants for going big on a proven idea:

  • The Regents of the University of California in Irvine got $14.7 million for a program to help English-language learners at the secondary level with academic writing, with an assist from the nonprofit National Writing Project.
  • The Waterford Institute in Sandy, Utah, got $14.2 million for a program to help with preschool access in rural areas.
  • WestEd, a research organization in San Francisco, got $14.7 million for an early math initiative to help prepare children for elementary school.

Midphase grants for ideas with some evidence to back them up:

  • The American Institutes for Research, in Washington, D.C., got $7.8 million for a program to support teachers. It is working with other nonprofits, including the Danielson Group, Learning Forward, and Educopia.
  • The Education Development Center, Inc., in Waltham, Mass., got $7.8 million for a mathematics professional development professional development program to support teachers working with kids in kindergarten through 5th grade.
  • Harmony Public Schools, a charter management organization in Houston, received a $7.8 million grant to help elementary school educators teach STEM.
  • Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit in Boston, Mass., received to help high schoolers in Texas with computer science.
  • The New York Hall of Science, in Corona, N.Y. got a $2.7 million grant to help middle-schoolers in high needs areas learn physics.

Early Phase Grants to test out promising ideas:

  • The Children’s Literacy Initiative in Philadelphia got $3.9 million for a kindergarten readiness program.
  • The Community Training and Assistance Center in Boston got $3.9 million for STEM-centered curriculum project.
  • ExpandED Schools in New York City got $3.6 million for a STEM-focused internship and apprenticeship program.
  • Independent School District 625 in St. Paul, Minn., got $3.9 million for a program to improve school climate and student behavior.
  • Knox County Schools in Knoxville, Tenn., got $2.4 million for a STEM-based workforce preparation program.
  • The National Math and Science Initiative in Dallas, Texas got $3.9 million for a program to help enroll more rural students in Advanced Placement STEM courses.
  • Sonoma State University in Rohnert, Calif., got $3.9 million to expand STEM-work based learning experiences for rural students, and improve STEM and computer science curriculum and instruction.
  • SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., got $3.9 million for a math work-based learning program for middle schoolers.
  • The Curators of the University of Missouri Special Trust in Columbia, Mo., got $3.9 million for a program focused on student behavior.
  • The Urban Arts Partnership in New York City got $3.9 million for a personalized learning computer science program for needy students.

Image: Getty Images

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