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GAO: Half of Nearly $1 Billion in i3 Funds Being Spent on Professional Development

Deep within a new Government Accountability Office report about the federal Investing in Innovation program is an interesting nugget of information:

"The majority of i3 projects use teacher and principal development as one method to achieve goals."

Sixty-two of 92 i3 projects awarded money in 2010 through 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education use teacher and principal professional development as a key strategy, the GAO found. Of those, half of the projects use professional development as the "primary or sole method underlying their innovations," the report says.

When you look at the sheer dollars, the GAO found that $457 million is being spent on professional development as part of the i3 program. (All told, from 2010 to 2012 the Education Department awarded $937 million in i3 grants.)

Bottom line: Half of all i3 grant money is being spent on professional development.

Given the state of the research about professional development—which shows that the vast majority isn't very effective—it will be interesting to see what the long-term results of i3 grants will be. That said, it's important to note that some i3 winners, such as Success for All, have a track record of strong results that includes strategies that focus on professional development. In addition, the whole point of i3 is to find, and scale up, innovative approaches to solving education challenges. 

We will have to wait a while, though, before we can start drawing conclusions about any successes (or failures) from the i3 program. The GAO report says one of the first reports evaluating the program and its 2010 first-round awards is due in 2016.


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