Launching the FY2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) Competition

Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched the 2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition.This second round of i3 makes $150 million available to school districts and non-profit organizations to continue support of innovative approaches that significantly improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement, engagement and attainment.

In 2010, the i3 competition received an unprecedented response. Nearly 1,700 applicants vied for $650 million in funding, and 49 organizations received awards ranging from $3 million to $50 million dollars.

This year’s competition has changed to take into consideration feedback from the field, what Secretary Duncan has called the “new normal”—the need to do more with less—and the administration’s focus on preparing our young people to win the future by improving STEM education.

The 2011 i3 competition marks an important milestone in realizing the full vision of the program—to find and fund the best ideas of educators and non-profits throughout the country in order to create a robust portfolio of innovative solutions with evidence of their effectiveness. The design of i3—three levels of grants, from $3 million to $25 million, based on the simple notion that promising ideas with little evidence can receive limited funding and proposals supported by a lot of evidence can receive substantial funding—reinforces the Department’s conviction that evidence matters and the goal of creating a pipeline of promising solutions that grows what works.

In response to substantial feedback from prior applicants and other stakeholders, the Department has simplified the i3 competition for 2011. The simplifications include fewer selection criteria and a smaller percentage of required private sector matching funds.

The Department also has included new priorities in the i3 competition that reflect key areas of reform. STEM education, a cross-cutting Administration priority, is now an absolute priority. In recognition of the need to improve educational opportunities for rural students, improving rural achievement is also now an absolute priority. Two new competitive preference priorities, improving productivity and improved use of educational technology, reflect the “new normal” and the need for schools and districts to improve performance with flat or declining budgets.

Other key design components that remain from the 2010 competition include:

  • Requirement to implement practices, strategies, or programs for high-need students;
  • Emphasis on sustainability and scalability; and
  • Rigorous independent evaluations of all grant projects.

To support potential applicants, the Department will be hosting three pre-application workshops and webinars. The Development, Validation, and Scale-up application packages, including the competition notices and supporting materials, and information on the pre-application workshops, can be found on the i3 webpage. Applications for the 2011 i3 competition are due on August 2, 2011, and awards will be made no later than December 31, 2011.