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Education Funding

Duncan Tells Districts, Nonprofits What He’s After With Innovation Fund

By Alyson Klein — August 20, 2009 2 min read
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Attention nonprofits and school districts: Dust off those bold ideas for “expanding islands of excellence.”
In prepared remarks for a speech today in Washington, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined some specifics on just how that $650 million in “innovation” money made available under the stimulus will be doled out.

The program has a catchy new name: The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3 for short, which is much snappier than the World War I Fund, the program’s nickname when it was tentatively titled the What Works and Innovation Fund).

The first notice on the grants will be published in the fall, and the initial round of funding will start going out in early 2010. Successful applicants will have a track record of improving student achievement, graduation rates, and student matriculation.

They’ll be proposing ideas that can be scaled up and sustained, which means they’ll have to have some other source of private or public dollars. Grants can go to districts and nonprofits, including colleges, turnaround specialists, charter schools, companies, and others.

And grants for “proven programs” will likely be bigger than those for “promising but untested” programs, Duncan said in prepared remarks. There will be three categories of grants:

*Pure Innovation grants of up to about $5 million to try out interesting ideas.

*Strategic Investment grants of up to around $30 million for programs that need more research or capacity to scale up.

*Grow What Works grant, which can be as big as $50 million for programs that have already proven themselves and ready to grow and expand.

Since the fund itself is just $650 million, I’m betting there aren’t going to be too many programs or districts that are going to get a grant from those last two categories. I’m guessing there aren’t going to be 13 maximum Grow What Works grants and nothing else.

But it seems there are already some “teacher’s pet” programs that could make a serious play for those last two categories. In his speech, Duncan signaled out the Teaching Fellows program and said Mastery Charters, Green Dot, and Academy for Urban School Leadership are doing a good job spearheading turnarounds of failing schools.

And he devoted a pretty sizable portion of his speech to praising Wendy Kopp, then a Princeton undergraduate, for starting Teach for America.

Michele will have more later, so check early and often.

Credit: Christopher Powers/Education Week

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