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Investion in Innovation Development Grants - Act Now!

Apr 7

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Monday, April 7, 2014  RssIcon

A New York student, parent and software developer view data on high school choice available through the School Choice Design Challenge. Innovate NYC Schools, a 2011 I3 Development grantee, is working to validate a different approach to achieve innovative answers to longstanding needs of students and teachers.  This approach emphasizes using technology to increase the degree of alignment between classroom needs and innovative solutions, and making students and teachers integral to the change process.   I3 Development grants provide funding to support high-potential and relatively untested practices, strategies, or programs, whereas Validation and Scale-up grants have a higher threshold for evidence. (Photo: Innovate NYC Schools)



Investing in Innovation grants were part of the President’s agenda that was reified in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One of three program types, project approaches under the Development type require the least amount of “evidence” (previously documented outcomes) to be eligible for funding. Instead, projects must simply demonstrate that they are “promising,” meaning that evidence, possibly even from entirely different strategies, seems to indicate that the project will move the needle on one or more of the priority areas of the program.

The good news is that unlike the more rigorous Validation and Scale-up type of I3 grants, Development grants pre-screen applicants through a comparatively simple pre-application process. This allows potential applicants to find out if their projects are at all close to what the Department of Education is planning to fund. 

The bad news is that pre-applications are due April 14, so even if you’re reading this before April 14, you have a very limited window to get your pre-application in. Unlike most full federal applications, though, this pre-application could conceivably be written in a day or two, if you’re willing to clear your calendar and work late night or two.

More Details on the Opportunity 

Development grants provide funding to support the development or testing of practices that are supported by evidence of promise or a strong theory and whose efficacy should be systematically studied. 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.

There are six absolute priorities under the FY14 Development Grants competition. Each of the six absolute priorities constitutes its own funding category. An applicant for a development grant must choose one of the six absolute priorities and one of the subparts under the chosen priority to address in its pre-application, and full application, if the applicant is invited to, or chooses to, submit a full application.

The absolute priorities are:

1. Improving the Effectiveness of Teachers or Principals

  • Developing and Implementing models for principal preparation that deepen leadership skills which have been demonstrated to improve student achievement.
  • Increasing the equitable access to effective teachers or principals for low-income and high-need students, which may include increasing the equitable distribution of effective teachers or principals for low-income and high-need students across schools.

2. Improving Low-Performing Schools

  • Changing elements of the school's organizational design to improve instruction by differentiating staff roles and extending and enhancing instructional time.
  • Implementing programs, supports, or other strategies that improve students’ non-cognitive abilities (e.g., motivation, persistence, or resilience) and enhance student engagement in learning or mitigate the effects of poverty, including physical, mental, or emotional health issues, on student engagement in learning.

3. Improving Academic Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

  • Implementing coherent systems of support that appropriately coordinate and integrate programs to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities and improve the quality of service for those children and their families.

4. Improving Academic Outcomes for English Learners

  • Increasing the number and proportion of ELs successfully completing courses in core academic subjects by developing, implementing, and evaluating new instructional approaches and tools that are sensitive to the language demands necessary to access challenging content, including technology-based tools.
  • Preparing ELs to be on track to be college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school by developing comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, early learning programs (birth-grade 3) that are aligned with the State's high-quality early learning standards, designed to improve readiness for kindergarten, and support development of literacy and academic skills in English or in English and another language.

5. Effective use of Technology

  • Providing access to learning experiences that are personalized, adaptive, and self-improving in order to optimize the delivery of instruction to learners with a variety of learning needs.
  • Integrating technology with the implementation of rigorous college- and career-ready standards to increase student achievement, student engagement, and teacher efficacy, such as by providing embedded, real-time assessment and feedback to students and teachers.

6. Serving Rural Communities

  • Under this priority the Department will provide funding to projects addressing one of the absolute priorities established for the 2014 Development i3 competitions and under which the majority of students to be served are enrolled in rural local educational agencies.


To be eligible for an award, a local educational agency (LEA) or consortium that includes at least one LEA must:

  • Have significantly closed the achievement gaps between groups of economically disadvantaged students, students from major racial and ethnic groups, students with limited English proficiency, and/or students with disabilities;
  • Have made significant improvements in other areas, such as high school graduation rates or increased recruitment and placement of high-quality teachers or principals, as demonstrated with meaningful data; and
  • Demonstrate that it has established one or more partnerships with the private sector, which may include philanthropic organizations, and that organizations in the private sector will provide matching funds in order to help bring results to scale.

Award Information 

The total amount anticipated under the i3 competition in FY14 is $138,800,000. Development grants will be made in amounts up to $3,000,000. 10 development grant awards are anticipated.  The project period is up to 60 months. The i3 program includes a statutory requirement for a private-sector match for all i3 grantees. While an applicant must secure 15 percent of its Federal grant award to be eligible for an i3 Development grant, the timeframe in which an applicant must secure and submit evidence of the required private sector matching funds has been expanded. In the past, the highest-rated applicants had only approximately 30 days to secure 100 percent of their required matches and become grantees, which proved difficult for both applicants and potential private-sector funders. For the FY 2014, i3 competition, each highest-rated applicant, as identified by the Department following peer review of full applications, must submit evidence of 50 percent of the required private sector match prior to the awarding of an i3 grant. An applicant must provide evidence of the remaining 50 percent of the required private-sector match no later than six months after the project start date. The grant will be terminated if the grantee does not secure its private-sector match by the established deadline. By decreasing the amount of the required match that must be secured before the i3 award can be made, the burden for both applicants and private-sector funders will be reduced, which in turn will foster improved collaboration.

History of Funding 

Previous awards under the Investing in Innovation Fund (I3) program are available at:

For more information, visit:


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