The i3 program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and to support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students. The central design element of the i3 program is its multi-tier structure that links the amount of funding that an applicant may receive to the quality of the evidence supporting the efficacy of the proposed project. Applicants proposing practices supported by limited evidence can receive relatively small grants that support the development and initial evaluation of promising practices and help to identify new solutions to pressing challenges; applicants proposing practices supported by evidence from rigorous evaluations, such as large randomized controlled trials, can receive sizable grants to support expansion across the country. This structure provides incentives for applicants to build evidence of effectiveness of their proposed projects and to address the barriers to serving more students across schools, districts, and States.
As importantly, all i3 projects are required to generate additional evidence of effectiveness. All i3 grantees must use part of their budgets to conduct independent evaluations of their projects. This ensures that projects funded under the i3 program contribute significantly to improving the information available to practitioners and policymakers about which practices work, for which types of students, and in what contexts.
Development grants provide funding to support the development or testing of practices that are supported by 'evidence of promise' or a 'strong theory' (as defined the RFP, linked below) and whose efficacy should be systematically studied. Development grants will support new or substantially more effective practices for addressing widely shared challenges. Development projects are novel and significant nationally, not projects that simply implement existing practices in additional locations or support needs that are primarily local in nature. All Development grantees must evaluate the effectiveness of the project at the level of scale proposed in the application.
The approach for the FY 2015 competition is to focus on projects that are designed to test new or otherwise promising approaches that may impact a broad spectrum of students, including students with disabilities and English learners. Although the FY 2015 i3 Development competition does not include specific priorities for supporting English learners or students with disabilities, the Department requires applicants to serve high-need student populations, and encourages applicants to consider ways in which their proposed projects could serve students with disabilities or English learners.
There are five absolute priorities and one competitive priority under the FY15 Development Grants competition. Each of the five absolute priorities constitutes its own funding category. An applicant for a Development grant must choose one of the five absolute priorities to address in its pre-application, and full application. It is also important to note that applicants who choose to submit an application under the absolute priority for Serving Rural Communities must identify an additional absolute priority.
The absolute priorities are:
- 1. Improving the Effectiveness of Principals - Projects must be designed to increase the number and percentage of highly effective principals by implementing practices or strategies that support districts in hiring, evaluating, supporting, and retaining effective principals.
- 2. Improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education - Projects should expand high-quality out-of-school and extended-day activities, including extending the day, week, or year, or before- or after- school, or summer learning programs, that provide students with opportunities for deliberate practice that increase STEM learning, engagement, and expertise.
- 3. Leveraging Technology to Support Instructional Practice and Professional Development - Projects must be designed to leverage technology through using data platforms that enable the development, visualization, and rapid analysis of data to inform and improve learning outcomes, while also protecting privacy in accordance with applicable laws.
- 4. Influencing the Development of Non-Cognitive Factors - Projects must be designed to improve students’ mastery of non-cognitive skills and behaviors (such as academic behaviors, academic mindset, perseverance, self-regulation, social and emotional skills, and approaches toward learning strategies) and enhance student motivation and engagement in learning.
- 5. Serving Rural Communities - Under this priority the Department will provide funding to projects addressing one of the absolute priorities established for the 2015 Development i3 competitions and under which the majority of students to be served are enrolled in rural local educational agencies. Applicants applying under this priority must also address one of the other four absolute priorities, as described above, while serving students enrolled in rural LEAs. A Rural LEA means a local educational agency (LEA) that is eligible under the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program or the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program authorized under Title VI, Part B of the ESEA.
Competitive Preference Priority: Supporting Novice i3 Applicants - Eligible applicants that have never directly received a grant under this program will be eligible for an additional 0-3 points at the time of scoring.
Three types of grants are available under the i3 program: Scale-up grants, Validation grants, and Development grants.