Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released some detailed data on the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant applications they received last month. The i3 program is a new $650 million program that was created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide grants to local education agencies (LEAs), partnerships between nonprofits and consortia of schools, and partnerships between non profits and LEAs to fund innovative reform programs. Applications were due on May 12, but more than 2,400 organizations and LEAs submitted intent-to-apply notices on April 1st. These data allow us to get a better sense of the applications that were submitted to ED and compare this information to expectations based on the previous intent-to-apply notices.
In total, 1,698 eligible applications were submitted. Grants can fall in one of three categories: development grants which help implement promising, but relatively un-tested, strategies and programs on a limited scale; validation grants, which require more concrete evidence of success; and scale-up grants that support programs or strategies with strong evidence of success that will be scaled to meet the needs of more students. Of the submitted applications, 1,324 (78.0 percent) were for development grants, 355 were for validation grants (20.9 percent), and 19 were for scale-up grants (1.1 percent). This is slightly different than expected based on the intent-to-apply notices received by ED. Of those, 87 organizations (3.6 percent) notified ED of their intention to submit a scale up grant, 68 fewer than actually submitted such applications.
This change in the number of scale-up grants received verses those expected based on intent-to-apply notices has some interesting implications for the types of proposals that ED might ultimately fund. ED previously announced that it expected to award up to 100 development grants, 100 validation grants, and 5 scale-up grants. Based on those expectations, only 7.6 percent of development grant applicants will receive awards, while 28.2 percent of validation and 26.3 percent of scale-up grant applicants will. Given this disparity, perhaps ED should adjust the number of grants it plans to distribute under each category so that awards more closely reflect the number of applications received in each category.
The average grant proposal was $4.1 million for development grants, $19.4 million for validation grants, and $31.0 million for scale-up grants.
i3 grant proposals were required to fall under one of four “absolute priorities” including programs that address effective teachers and principals, use of data, high standards and high-quality assessments, and persistently low-performing schools. Of the applications submitted, there were 354 (21.9 percent) under the effective teachers and principals priority, 274 (17.0 percent) under the data use priority, 592 (36.7 percent) under the standards and assessments priority, and 394 (24.4 percent) under the low-performing schools priority. Compared to the intent-to-apply notices, a higher percentage of applicants filed under the standards and assessments priority, while a lower percentage filed under the low-performing schools priority, suggesting a slight shift in priorities among organizations and LEAs.
The most development and validation grants - 465 and 123, respectively - were submitted under the high standards and assessments priority, while the most scale up grants – 7 – were submitted under the persistently low-performing schools priority. This distribution suggests that the most evidence of success is available for supporting low-performing schools, while there may be less hard-and-fast evidence supporting practices for improving standards and assessments.
As is to be expected, large states like California and New York had the most applications of any state, 221 and 145, respectively. But both states received fewer applications than expected based on intent-to-apply notices, particularly California which received 120 fewer applications than expected. The District of Columbia, which received a much larger proportion of applications relative to its size, also received almost half as many applications as expected. California, New York, and Texas also dominate the scale-up grant applications. Those three states received 11 of the 19 scale-up proposals, meaning that the recipients of those grant awards could be concentrated in these large states.
The i3 application reviewers certainly have their work cut out for them, especially since winners are expected to be announced at the end of July. It will be interesting to see how awards are distributed among the absolute priorities as well as among development, validation, and scale-up proposals. Given the impressive number of development grants received, we expect the competition to be intense. Best of luck to all the applicants!
UPDATE: Last month, Eduwonk reported that Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan mentioned the possibility of only 70 i3 award recipients. We're guessing that would mean about 50 development grant winners, 15 validation grant winners, and five scale-up grant winners.