Society and Culture, Education

Evaluating the ‘Investing in Innovation’ Fund

Yesterday afternoon, the Department of Education released its much-anticipated “proposed priorities” for the “Investing in Innovation” fund. “I3” is a $650 million competitive grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the stimulus legislation. Its grants will help promising or already successful initiatives grow so they can help more kids. Even better, eligible applicants include nonprofits (not states, and not just school districts), meaning an increased likelihood of diversity and innovation in ideas and approaches.

The document is still in preliminary form, subject to public comment and then departmental amendment. As is, there are several things to like, and it raises a number of important questions. Unfortunately, it also includes one terribly ill-advised provision that must be changed for the sake of lots of disadvantaged kids.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the release:

• The program requires that all proposals address the achievement of high-need students. For those of us deeply interested in urban education and the achievement gap, this is generally welcome news. But it’s worth recognizing that about half of K-12 students would be classified as not high-need (non- poor, non-minority, non-special education, etc.). This means that a terrific program serving highly talented suburban kids and hoping to expand would not be eligible for funding.

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