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Trump Education Dept. Awards New Innovation and Research Grants

By Alyson Klein — October 24, 2017 5 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles education issues.
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The U.S. Department of Education recently announced sixteen winners of the first Education Innovation and Research program, which replaced the Obama administration’s signature Investing in Innovation grants.

Even though the program has been revamped, and a new administration is in charge, the list of grantees includes many of the usual suspects. (Scroll down to the bottom for a list of winners.) The biggest winner, the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technology, received a nearly $15 million grant for personalized learning, a big priority of both U.S. Secretary Education Betsy DeVos and the Obama administration.

Confused about the difference between EIR and i3? The Investing in Innovation or i3 program was first created in 2009 using money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment, aka the stimulus. It became one of the Obama administration’s marquee competitive grant programs. The goal of the program was to test out and scale up potentially impactful ideas.

When lawmakers passed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, they changed i3’s name to the Education Innovation and Research program. And it put some new twists on the program. For instance, only districts, universities, and non-profits could get i3 grants. But states can also snag EIR money. And states or districts can partner with for-profit companies. More on the Investing in Innovation program in this explainer.

So how did these changes play out with this first round of grants? No state education agency was a direct recipient of a grant. At first glance, it doesn’t appear as though any for-profit companies were direct recipients, either. And a lot of past grantees got more funding.

At least six of the sixteen winners also got i3 grants during the Obama era Those grantees include: the American Institutes for Research, Metropolitan Nashville Schools, the Niswonger Foundation, the Center for Supportive Schools, the Intercultural Development Research Association, and Teach for America. TFA, in fact, was one of the very first i3 grantees, receiving a $50 million grant. (Scroll down for a full list of grantees.)

It’s not a total surprise that some familiar names would make it into the winners circle. After all, part of the point of EIR—and i3—is helping grow proven approaches. And at least three of the past winners—the Niswonger Foundation, Metropolitan Nashville Schools, and the American Institutions for Research—originally got smaller grants, intended to test out promising ideas. This time around they got mid-sized grants, which are supposed to further test approaches that are already backed up by evidence. In fact, the Niswonger Foundation explicitly states that its new grant will build on past work.

What about school choice? DeVos and President Donald Trump had hoped to turn future rounds of EIR into a private school voucher program, but Congress nixed that idea. Still, EIR is the broadest federal grant program for K-12. It can fund everything from literacy to social and emotional supports to early childhood education. The sky is basically the limit, as long as the grant would test out a promising practice.

That means the secretary has some leeway to put her own stamp on this program. DeVos’ new priorities for federal grants, which include promoting school choice, haven’t yet become official. But there seem to be at least a few on programs on this list that track with the Trump administration’s focus on school choice and personalized learning. For instance, IDEA, a charter management organization, received one of the grants.

Here’s the full list of Education Innovation and Research grant winners:

Expansion Grants - For growing proven programs

National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital TechnologyUnited2Read - Washington, D.C.

Scaling Personalized Literacy Instruction to Ensure Strong Student Achievement - $14,651 million

Mid-phase grants - For ideas backed by some evidence

American Institutes for Research - Washington, D.C.

Scaling and Sustaining Effective Teacher Professional Development for Secondary Schools Using My Teaching Partner-Secondary

$7,787 million

Education Analytics, Inc. - Madison, Wisc.

SPARK CENTER: Scaling and validating a research based, cost-effective literacy intervention

$7.7 million

Metropolitan Nashville Schools - Nashville, Tenn.

Scaling up pyramid model implementation in preschool and kindergarten classrooms

$7.6 million

Niswonger Foundation - Greenville, Tenn.

Rural literacy initiative focused on effectiveness

$7.8 million

Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute - Washington, D.C.

Building capacity to support struggling adolescent readers

$7.8 million

TNTP, Inc. - Brooklyn, N.Y.

Turnaround Leadership Teams Strategy: Leadership More Effective Than the Sum of Its Parts

$7.8 million

Early Phase Grants - for testing out promising ideas

Austin Independent School District - Austin, Tex.

Supporting Behavior and Improving School Climate through the Elementary to Middle School Transition: Whole School Restorative Practices in Austin Independent School District

$3.5 million

Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) - Princeton, N.J.

Improving Educational Outcomes in High Need, Low-Income Rural and Urban Communities Through a Middle School Transition and Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Model

$3.1 million

DuPage Regional Office Of Education #19 - Wheaton, Ill.

Partners To Lead - A consortium of 26 rural and/or high-need local education agencies

$3.9 million

Intercultural Development Research Association - San Antonio, Texas

Reenergizing Leadership to Achieve Greater Student Success

$3.9 million

IPS Enterprises, LLC - Weslaco, Texas

IDEA C3: Culture, Character, and College

$3.9 million

Osage County Interlocal Cooperative - Hominy, Okla.

Project ENGAGE (Effectively Narrowing Gaps And Growing Engagement)

$3.7 million

School District 1J Multnomah County - Portland, Ore.

PREP: Personalized, Relevant, Engaged for Postsecondary

$3.9 million

Teach For America - New York, N.Y.

Rural Schools Leadership Academy: Developing the Next Generation of Principals Across the Rural Landscape

$3.7 million

United Way of Massachusetts Bay Inc. - Boston, Mass.


$3.9 million

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