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Next on the ARRA Agenda: The i3 Fund

Investing in Innovation aims to close achievement gaps, improve teacher effectiveness, reduce dropout rates.

Jim Shelton is the DOE's point person for the 13 fund.

As states are preparing their applications for the Race to the Top fund, local education agencies (LEAs), consortia of schools, and nonprofit partners of these groups are getting ready for the next big competitive grant program from the Department of Education’s piece of the ARRA—the Investing in Innovation, or i3, fund—which will provide dollars for projects that address one or more of the following: raising student achievement and closing achievement gaps, improving teacher effectiveness, raising graduation rates, and reducing drop-out rates.

In formally announcing the i3 fund in October, Secretary Arne Duncan outlined three separate grants the $650 million fund will provide:

? Development awards. Given to proven programs that are poised to expand, these grants will top out at $50 million per award.

? Validation awards. Up to $30 million will be given to successful programs that need further research in order to expand.

? Scale-up awards. Recipients will receive up to $5 million per award for new, promising ideas.

Duncan also introduced a requirement that award recipients secure at least 20 percent matching funding from private sector sources. In a conference call with reporters on the same day the i3 fund was announced, Duncan explained that the DOE added the matching funds requirement in order to ensure that recipients put together “a broad set of stakeholders that are going to support this effort after the federal funding runs out.”

The DOE plans to provide an application in early 2010 and obligate all funds by Sept. 30. Duncan noted in the conference call, however, that grant money will be disbursed over time. “These are multiyear grants, and we’ll be monitoring progress on an ongoing basis,” he said. “If someone isn’t hitting their marks, we’re prepared to stop funding them. And so all the money is not going out the door on day one.”