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Reading, STEM Ed. Are Big Winners in Federal 'i3' Contest

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced 49 winners of a high-profile grant competition to promote innovations in education. On that list are a striking number of proposals specifically targeting reading and STEM education.

One important caveat: To receive a grant under the Investing in Innovation, or i3, fund, the applicant must ensure a 20 percent funding match from the private sector, or win a waiver from the Feds. Also, the Education Department has not yet indicated how much each grant will be worth, though those in the "scale up" category are worth up to $50 million, "validation" awards are worth up to $30 million, and "development" grants will provide up to $5 million.

By my rough count, at least seven winning applicants appear to include a focus on reading/literacy and at least another seven include a specific focus in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In reading, for example, Ohio State University is a winner eligible for up to $50 million to scale up the use of the Reading Recovery program in schools across the country. The effort aims to train 3,750 new Reading Recovery teachers over five years. Also, the Denver district won and could get up to $30 million for a literacy intervention effort targeting the training of teachers in high-need middle schools.

On the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) front, an award of up to $30 million will go to promote the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement, which will provide intensive professional development for teachers in science. The Smithsonian Institution won for a proposal to expand and further study a program to promote "high-quality, inquiry-oriented" science instruction in schools. And the Chicago-based Erikson Institute was selected for a five-year initiative that will involve designing and implementing "an innovative" (of course!) professional-development program focused on the math needs of students in grades PreK-3.

I should note that the i3 proposals typically include a lot of partner organizations, from school districts to universities and nonprofits.

Meanwhile, arts education is getting a boost through at least two winning applicants. One will expand the Everyday Art for Special Education program of teacher professional development in New York City. The other aims to improve student achievement in the arts through an initiative that will have a strong emphasis on using technology to "promote innovations in student and teacher access to content and assessment feedback."

Here's a link to the full list of i3 winners.

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