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587 Applicants Vie for Smaller Round of i3 Grants

Nearly 600 school districts, nonprofits, and groups of schools applied by the Aug. 2 deadline for the second round of the Investing in Innovation grant competition, worth $150 million this year. The competition is designed by the U.S. Department of Education to find and scale-up the most promising education improvement ideas. (Just how successful this competition is at doing that, though, is an open question.)

The department is expected to release a full list of applicants sometime this week, although the overall number of applicants for the second round is much smaller than the 1,669 applicants that threw their hats in the ring last year. But the program was new then, and there was much more money at stake too, $650 million, which eventually went to 49 winners.

In this round, most applicants, 474, are applying for the smallest-size awards, "development" grants worth up to $3 million. The smallest number, 14 applicants, want a chance at up to $25 million for the largest, "scale-up" grants. And the rest, 99, want "validation" grants of up to $15 million. In this evidence-based competition, the bigger the grant, the more information an applicant has to provide that the proposal has a good shot at working.

The awards, financed by a congressional budget deal reached in April, are expected to be announced in December.

Included in this pool of applicants are 99 that are applying under the rural school district category. This is noteworthy because Education Department officials, who are trying to make sure urban areas aren't the only beneficiaries of competitive grants, have said they may skip over other high-scoring applicants and choose lower-scoring applicants that will serve rural areas.

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