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Ed. Dept.'s $135 Million Investing in Innovation Contest Starts Next Week

The U.S. Department of Education next week is beginning the first phase of its $134.8 million Investing in Innovation competition, which has so far awarded about $1 billion to schools and their nonprofit partners as they work to scale-up education-improvement ideas.

According to a notice to be published in tomorrow's Federal Register, the Education Department on March 17 will start the contest by asking for pre-applications for its smallest "development" grants, which are worth up to $3 million. This screening process is a way for the department to whittle down the list of interested applicants to those who have the best shot of winning. (This is the third time the department is using the screening process.)

The highest-rated pre-applications will then be invited to compete for the actual money. Preapplications will be due April 14. The department is expecting to award up to 20 development awards this time around.

Details about the larger "validation" and "scale-up" awards, worth up to $12 million and $20 million, respectively, will be released later by the department. These applicants do not have a prescreening process.

Development grants are designed to reward applicants who have some promising, yet relatively untested, ideas for education improvement. Validation and scale-up awards are for those ideas that have a stronger evidence base. 

The Investing in Innovation program has become one of the Obama administration's signature education-improvement levers, with more than 100 awards given out since the contest started in 2010

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