I3 Competition in Full Swing
Also in Issue 1, Volume 6:
I3 Competition in Full Swing
With 1,698 applications to review for the Investing in Innovation competition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has a lot of work to do this summer before announcing the winners in September. There are three categories within the competition: development, with awards up to $5 million; validation, with awards up to $30 million; and scale-up, with awards up to $50 million. In May, ED announced that it had received letters of intent from nearly 2,500 districts, schools, and non-profits.
However, based upon the latest information available, far fewer groups ultimately submitted an application. According to ED, it received 1,671 total applications. Of these, 1,324 were development applications, and ED intends to award up to 100 grants in this category.
It received 355 validation applications, and intends to award up to 100 grants in this category. ED also received 19 scale-up applications, and intends to award up to 5 grants in this category.
Clearly, the competition is tough, although the odds of success vary across the different categories from 1 chance in 13 for a development grant, 1 in 3.5 for a validation grant, and 1 in 4 for scale-up. If ED funds its maximum estimated awards (205), that leaves more than 1,400 unfunded.
As a result, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is already trying to manage expectations. "I need you not to scream about the process and the scoring system,” Duncan told about 600 in attendance at a June education summit. Instead, he said, "I need you to [fight for] Investing in Innovation Two." He continued, "We need losers to demand...the next generation of funding."
ED made two key decisions that have made the process longer and somewhat more complicated. First, it has separated out the content and the evidentiary reviews; and second, it has opted to provide successful applicants time to solidify their required 20 percent matches at the end of the competition. Having said it would announce winners in September, ED has limited time to accomplish an extremely large and complex review.
It is assembling panels of three content reviewers for each application, each led by an ED moderator. Each reviewer has approximately 20 applications. That task alone requires more than 250 people. For those applications that score high enough in the content round, a second panel of two “evaluation and evidence experts” will conduct a second review. If a quarter of the applications make it through round one, that would be 418 grants, requiring an additional 42 reviewers, assuming that these reviewers also review 20 applications apiece. That’s quite a lot to juggle.
Role of Business and Philanthropy
Unclear in this mix is the role of business leaders and philanthropists. With so many applications, there are certain to be many high-quality applications that cannot be funded by ED. In late April, 12 foundations announced a joint intent to provide $506 million in matching funds for some of the initiatives that aren’t funded through ED’s process. According to the press release from ED, the $500 million committed in 2010 will help support and scale innovations with evidence of effectiveness within three broad categories:
- $233,212,635 in Innovation in the Classroom Funds will be used to scale practices and programs that recruit and train effective teachers and school leaders, improve the use of data for professional development and high quality assessments, complement the implementation of high standards, improve early learning outcomes, support college access & success, improve education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), support the unique needs of English language learners and students with disabilities, and promote digital learning models.
- $178,114,911 in Innovative School Models Funds will go towards expanding effective practices in turning around low-performing schools; providing support for high-quality school choices including charters and alternative school designs; as well as for digital learning and supporting extended learning time.
- $95,059,728 in Sustainability of These Innovations Funds will help ensure that innovations have long-term impact and become a part of the broader education landscape. Funds will be used for research and evaluation of the effectiveness of the innovations and for growing the public support and capacity necessary for a more robust innovation sector.
Business leaders should consider what their funding priorities are, either for matching or for picking up some of the high-quality “losers” sure to be produced by this competition.