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Investing in Innovation Winners Look for Partner Schools

Winners of the federal Investing in Innovation grant contest overcame stiff competition to secure multimillion-dollar awards to scale up successful practices, or test out promising ones. Now many of them are expected to find local schools and districts to put those plans for expansion into action. One such winner was the Success for All Foundation, which won $49 million to build upon its model for turning around struggling elementary and middle schools.

Success for All is already working in about 1,000 schools. It's goal is to expand to about 1,100 more and reach a total of about 1 million children, the organization's chairman, Robert Slavin, told me. As part of its i3 grant, the group is looking for new local partner elementary schools. It wants to add another 150 or so schools in 2011-2012, each of which would receive $50,000 to help cover the costs of launching the project. In addition, the organization is seeking another 50 schools to participate, at no cost, in an evaluation of the effectiveness of the project, though those schools' participation would depend on whether they were selected at random for the study.

In order to take part, schools must be Title I schoolwide projects, meaning they serve a substantial portion of students in that category, Slavin explained. Those schools also must secure the support of their principals and school districts—as well as 75 percent of their teachers, as demonstrated through a secret ballot. Why is that necessary? The idea is to bring enthusiastic partners into the program, not ambivalent ones, Slavin said.

A question for the other i3 winners: How are you attempting to secure local participants in your projects? And what challenges do you face in finding them?

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