On December 15, the Department announced the launch of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant competition for 2017. EIR is a new program established under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the successor to the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which invested a total of $1.4 billion in 172 projects across all 50 states.
Like i3, EIR supports efforts to develop, implement, and take to scale innovative and evidence-based projects. However, EIR differs from i3 in key ways: states, in addition to school districts, will be eligible to receive grants, and states and districts may collaborate with a wide range of organizations on projects. EIR will award grants for both new and ongoing projects. Early-phase grants are focused on launching, iterating, and refining practices that have the potential for further scaling, while mid-phase and expansion grants require increasingly rigorous levels of evidence in order to justify further replication and scaling of practices. All grantees are expected to focus on underserved students, though the competition encourages projects that address persistent educational challenges, such as preparing students for college and careers, improving school climate, and supporting principal training efforts.
Applications for EIR grants are due April 13. They will be evaluated by peer reviewers. The agency will announce its inaugural cohort of grantees in fall 2017, pending Congressional appropriations for the program. (Note: The Department also announced that all 2016 i3 highest-rated applicants secured required matching funds for their projects and will receive their federal grants.)
On December 20, the Department announced six grants under the 2016 Promise Neighborhoods competition, awarding $33 million to help communities launch, scale up, and sustain educational supports and community-based services to meet the comprehensive needs of children and families. Grantees provide educational, health, safety, and family support services in high-poverty neighborhoods. To date, the program has awarded over $286 million, spanning approximately 700 schools and 1,000 community partners (press release). (Note: This year’s grantees include, for the first time, an Indian tribe; the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians [California] will reorganize their community’s elementary and high school programs to help ensure all students are prepared to master grade-level content.)
On December 22, the Department announced more than $3 million in eight grants to states, districts, and other local government agencies to explore whether Pay for Success is a viable financing mechanism for expanding and improving preschool in their communities. Pay for Success is an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors to provide resources for service providers to deliver better outcomes–producing the highest return on taxpayer investments. Through Pay for Success, the government agrees to pay for concrete, measurable outcomes, but taxpayer funds are spent only if those outcomes are achieved (press release). (Separately, the agency released case studies of five programs; these programs are aligning preschool through third-grade instruction and differentiating instruction in order to build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool.)