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Hundreds of STEM Plans Expected to Vie for i3 Grants

More than 400 proposals to improve STEM education are expected from applicants competing for a slice of $150 million in federal cash under Round Two of the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, program, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Over at Politics K-12, my colleague Michele McNeil gives you the full scoop on what's going on with i3. But as your faithful curriculum reporter, I was struck by the fact that STEM education was the most popular of five categories of grants.

STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—was actually added as an "absolute priority" by the Education Department for the second round of i3, and is the only one pegged to a particular content area.

A full one-third of those signaling an intent to apply for an i3 grant, 426, are categorized as STEM proposals, according to a summary document issued this week. The other absolute priority areas are effective teachers and principals, standards and assessments, low-performing schools, and rural districts (which was also added for this second round).

Some readers may recall that a number of STEM proposals did win grants in the first round of i3.

In a conference call last month, Jim Shelton, the Education Department's deputy assistant secretary for innovation and improvement, briefly discussed the inclusion of STEM education as an absolute priority.

"The President has talked a lot about winning the future and the need to focus on the areas of study that are going to allow us to prepare people for those jobs of the future," he said. "So we're trying to come up with solutions that can actually make specific strides in those areas."

The i3 program includes three types of grants: development, validation, and scale-up.

As Michele notes in her post, interest in the grants comes from every state, and most applicants plan to apply for a "development" grant, which requires less evidence of past success but offers the smallest award of up to $3 million. Nearly 1,000 of the roughly 1,600 expected applicants say they want the development grants. Another 242 say they plan to seek mid-level "validation" grants of up to $15 million, which require "moderate evidence" of success in improving student achievement or other outcomes, such as college enrollment and completion. And only 89 say they expect to apply for a scale-up grant, requiring "strong evidence" of success, for up to $25 million. The bigger the grant, the more evidence an applicant needs to show for the potential of its approach.

Eligible applicants include school districts, as well as nonprofit organizations in partnership with school districts or consortia of schools.

The deadline is Aug. 2, so if you've got an idea, it's not too late.

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