The United States Department of Education has released final priorities and opened the application process for the Investing in Innovation Fund, also known as "i3," a $650 million grant program that's designed to fund "the development of path-breaking new ideas, the validation of approaches that have demonstrated promise, and the scale-up of the nation's most successful and proven education innovations." The Investing in Innovation Fund, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides competitive grants designed to encourage programs that improve student achievement, student retention, student graduation rates, and teacher/administrator effectiveness. To this end, applications are being accepted by local school districts, groups of school districts, and non-profits working with groups of schools or whole districts. Eligibility and Priorities There are several eligibility requirements for those applying for i3 grants. Successful proposals must be geared toward any of the following, according to ED: "supporting effective teachers and principals; improving the use of data to accelerate student achievement; complementing the implementation of standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and careers; and turning around persistently low-performing schools." In addition, there are four other priorities that will enhance an applicant's ability to receive funding: "improving outcomes for young children; expanding students' access to college and preparing them for success in college; addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and of limited English proficient students; and serving schools in rural areas."
The closing date for the applications is still pending, but ED indicated it would be some time in mid-May. Grants are expected to be awarded in September. Additional grants may be awarded later, as there's an additional $500 million proposed in President Obama's 2011 budget plan. Additional information about the Investing in Innovation Fund is available on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.