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Nearly 1,400 Plan to Apply for Latest Round of 'i3'

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Even though there is far less money available for the second round of the Investing in Innovation program, interest has not waned.

Nearly 1,400 districts, schools, and nonprofits say they plan to compete for $150 million in prize money from the U.S. Department of Education, which wants to find and scale-up innovative education ideas that also have some track record of past success.

Last year, more than 1,600 applied for $650 million, and 49 won.

According to a summary document the Education Department posted online today, interest comes from every state, and most applicants plan to apply for the smallest, or "development" grants, which require less evidence of past success but bring a smaller jackpot of $3 million than the other categories. Nearly 1,000 say they want those development grants, while 242 say they plan to apply for the mid-level "validation" grants of up to $15 million, and 89 say they plan to apply for the biggest, $25 million "scale-up" grants. Just as in the first round, the bigger the grant, the more evidence an applicant needs to show that its idea might work.

These likely applicants also indicated which areas their proposal will focus on. The department this year added STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math ) and rural districts as new priority areas, and folks have responded. STEM is the clear favorite. The rural category appears to be drawing the least amount of interest, but the department has already signaled that it may pick good rural proposals even if they don't score as well as other applications. Other areas applicants can focus on are effective teachers and principals, standards and assessments, and low-performing schools.

And based on the list of those who filed an "intent to apply"—which is not a binding commitment to apply—some winners from last year want a crack at more money. Teach for America and Success for All, which won $50 million scale-up awards last year, want to repeat.

If you have a favorite organization that is not on this list, don't lose hope, as anyone can still turn in an application. But time is running out. Applications are due Aug. 2. Yes, that's the same as the deadline for Congress to raise the debt ceiling, so get your application in before the country defaults.

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