Under the proposed priorities, grants would be awarded in three categories:
• Scale-up Grants: The largest possible grant category is focused on programs and practices with the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of students. Applicants must have a strong base of evidence that their program has had a significant effect on improving student achievement. Awards in this category can be as much as $50 million.
• Validation Grants: These are for existing, promising programs that have good evidence of their impact and are ready to improve their evidence base while expanding within their own and other communities. Grants of up to $30 million are possible in this category.
• Development Grants: The smallest grant level, designed to support new and high-potential practices whose impact should be studied further. This category awards grants of up to $5 million.
“We’re looking to drive reform, reward excellence, and dramatically improve our nation’s schools,” Duncan said.
Grant recipients will be required to match 20 percent of federal funds with public or private dollars. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate how their programs will be sustainable after their federal grants are completed.
Program evaluators from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of ED, will evaluate i3 applications against standards of evidence to determine which programs show the required quality of evidence for each grant tier, said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement.
ARRA’s school-reform money also includes the Race to the Top competition, which will reward states that are leading the way in school reform. A final application for $4 billion in Race to the Top grants will be available by the end of the year. ED plans to make two rounds of Race to the Top grant awards in 2010 and might hold a separate competition for up to $350 million for states to create common assessments to measure whether students are on track to graduate and succeed in college and the workplace.
“Through ARRA, we’ve been able to avert an education recession and save thousands of jobs in schools across the country,” Duncan said. “But we also need to invest in the next generation of school reforms and educate our way to a better economy.”
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