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Investing in Innovation 'Development' Grant Competition Kicks Off

Attention non-profits and school districts: The competition for an Investing in Innovation "development" grant kicks off this week, according to a notice slated to be published in the Federal Register Monday

Development grants are the smallest of the three categories in the U.S. Department of Education's i3 program and are aimed at promising ideas, as opposed to programs with a lot of research to back up their approach.

So what do you need to do if you want to win a "development grant"? Applicants will select from at least four proposed areas of focus, including improving principal effectiveness; bolstering science, math, engineering and technology education; strengthening the use of technology in the classroom; and addressing "non-cognitive factors" such as behavior and social and emotional skills.

Previously, and at the direction of Congress, the department moved to add improving outcomes for high school students to that menu of options. That addition to the list of priorities is still going through the comment process.

To ensure that at least some of the winners are from rural areas, the regulations also place a premium on applicants who will primarily serve rural students. But those applicants will also have to choose one of the other areas of focus.

Development-grant applicants are urged to file a "pre-application" to help determine their chances. Pre-applications are available April 1.

And the new round of the i3 competition will give a competitive edge to programs that haven't secured a grant yet. (The program has had quite a few repeat winners.)

Another change this time around: Previous versions of the development competition sought programs specifically aimed at improving outcomes for English-language learners and students in special education, and many of the current i3 grantees are serving these students in some way. This new iteration will seek projects that help a broad swath of students, including those special populations.

The department will publish rules for the other two i3 competitions—"validation," for programs with a modest track record, and "Scale Up," for programs backed by significant research—later this spring.

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