ED Announces First Round of Grants Under i3’s Replacement

The Department of Education today announced the availability of new grants under the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, an updated version of the Investing in Innovation (i3) program.

As was the case with i3, EIR has three tiers of grants, with higher levels of funding provided to projects with higher levels of incoming evidence. The three types of grants are linked to each other, each “with the expectation that projects that build this evidence will advance through EIR’s grant tiers.” According to ED:

Applicants proposing innovative practices (as defined in this notice) that are supported by limited evidence can receive relatively small grants to support the development, iteration, and initial evaluation of the practices; applicants proposing practices supported by evidence from rigorous evaluations, such as large randomized controlled trials (as defined in this notice), can receive larger grant awards to support expansion across the country.

Congress authorized this reworked version of i3 in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind.

Final funding for the program has yet to be resolved by Congress, which passed a continuing resolution before leaving for Christmas. It funded all federal discretionary programs (including this one) at current levels until April 28.  The temporary funding extension will give the incoming Trump administration a chance to influence funding for the rest of the year when it comes up for full consideration in April.

Until then, EIR/i3 remains level-funded at $120 million. The program was also funded at that level in the Senate version of the full-year spending bill (S.3040), but it was defunded in the House version (H.R.5926). Assuming she is confirmed, the president-elect’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, may have some say on the final spending figure.

Meanwhile, ED is proceeding with the new roll out.  Descriptions of the three types of grants (and links to their associated applications) follow below. Application deadlines for all three are the same: February 13 for the notice of intent to apply and April 13 for the application itself.

Note: SIRC is anticipating release of a major report on lessons learned from the i3 program in January. The report is based on interviews with over 60 i3 grantees, outside experts, and former and current Education Department officials. This report was developed with the generous financial support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Three Tiers of Grants

Early-phase Grants: Applications in this lowest tier of grant are intended to be developmental. They must “support the development, iteration, implementation, and feasibility testing of practices that are expected to be novel and significant relative to others that are underway nationally.”

All applications must target high needs students and must meet at least one of five other absolute priorities: (1) improving school climate; (2) promoting diversity, (3) increasing post-secondary preparedness; (4) improving the effectiveness of principals; or (5) re-engagement of disconnected youth.

Some, but not all, of these priorities mirror those from the last year under i3. One notable change is the addition of disconnected youth, which could be a substantial opportunity for current grantees under the P3 program. (See Performance Partnership Pilots: An Early Look).

Grantees are expected to include an evaluation designed to produce “moderate” evidence with sufficient rigor to apply for a mid-phase grant (see below).

The department expects these grants to range from $700,000-$800,000 per year over five years. In its notice, the department indicated that it hopes to fund 24-38 awards, but this assumes $180 million in funding. Assuming EIR is actually funded at $120 million, expect the number of awards to drop by a third.

Mid-phase Grants
As with early-stage grants, applicants must target high needs students. They must also meet at least one of four other absolute priorities: (1) improving early learning and development outcomes; (2) social-behavioral competencies; (3) improving low-performing schools; or (4) evidence-driven practices.

Mid-phase grants are intended to scale programs that have “moderate” prior evidence of effectiveness. Among other requirements, the incoming research must include at least one experimental or quasi-experimental design that meets What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards with or without reservations.

The projects must also include an evaluation designed to produce “strong” evidence, as defined by the department, and sufficient to meet the minimum rigor requirements of the top tier Expansion Grants.

Mid-phase grants are expected to range from $1.4-1.6 million per year over five years. The department is projecting 15-20 awards, which will likely drop by a third once Congress fully funds the program.

Expansion Grants
  The top tier of grants is intended to scale programs that have “strong” prior evidence of effectiveness and that improve academic outcomes for high-need students. Among other requirements, the incoming evidence must include at least one experimental study (e.g., a randomized controlled trial) that meets What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards without reservations.

Expansion grants are expected to range from $2.75-3 million per year over five years. The department is projecting 3-5 awards, which will probably drop to 2-3 once Congress fully funds the program.

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