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Latest Investing in Innovation Contest to Start in Full Force This Week

On Friday, applications will be available for schools and nonprofits that want a shot at the largest awards available from this year's $135 million Investing in Innovation grant contest.

Between 10 and 20 "validation" awards, worth up to $12 million, are expected to be awarded this year, and betweenas many as two "scale-up" awards, worth up to $20 million. The rules will be published in Wednesday's Federal Register, with applications available from the U.S. Department of Education on Friday. The deadline to apply is June 24.

The department has already started the process for the smallest, "development" awards worth up to $3 million.

The Investing in Innovation grant competition is one of the Obama administration's signature education-improvement levers, born out of the economic-stimulus package in 2009. The goal for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his staff and outside judges is to find and scale up the best ideas to improve schools. The largest awards are given to ideas with the strongest evidence base, while the smallest awards go to promising, though more-experimental, ideas.

This year's "scale-up" category will be worth watching, for two reasons. First, the department for the last two years has not awarded any grants in this largest category. And second, Baltimore-based school turnaround organization Success for All has had the top-scoring, but passed-over, application during those last two rounds. So will the department hand out a big award this year, and will Success for All get it?

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