Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Maintain High Standards, but Reallocate Resources

by Augustus Mays and guest blogger, Candice DePrang

How much of an impact does evidence make at the Department of Education?

In the context of the Department of Education and the latest i3 grants– it’s a heavy weight. Recently Aaron Pallas overviewed the increasing rigor of the four goals funded within IES, and he made clear that an idea does not stand to be scaled up if there is not an immense amount of proof behind it.

The Investing in Innovation Fund, known as i3, shares this high standard. Successful applicants would receive funds to support local efforts to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.

Developing education innovations that work is difficult and chancy. It is quite possible that the pool of applicants meeting the requirements for Scale-Up grants (superb programs with the potential to be brought to scale) will be quite small. Thus, one could expect that the Department will allocate the majority of the grant awards to go to proposals that meet the requirements for Development (for promising but still unproven initiatives) and Validation (somewhat proven initiatives ready to grow at the State and Regional levels) grants.

In particular, the Development grant category represents a tremendous opportunity for the Department to develop new ideas based on research that could foster continuous improvement to the lowest performing schools and Districts in our public education system.

Should the Department of Education put a priority on funding proposals that meet the requirements for Development grants? Do you agree? How can the ED best use the i3 investment, knowing that very few applicants will meet the requirements for Scale-Up grants?

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