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Education Recovery and Reinvestment Center

Invest in What Works and Innovation Fund: Information for Districts, Nonprofits, and Philanthropies

The program will support efforts to bring to scale educational practices with significant evidence of success in improving student achievement and support the development, implementation, replication, and further evaluation of promising innovative practices. Specifically, the grants are intended as "academic achievement awards" to accomplish the following purposes:

  1. To allow entities to support scale-up and serve as models of best practices
  2. To allow entities to work with the private sector and philanthropies
  3. To identify and document best practices that can be shared and taken to scale

District and school partnerships may include those with philanthropies, the private sector, or a combination.

The program materials are expected to be released in the fall of 2009 in the Federal Register followed by a 30-day public comment period. Currently, grants are expected to be awarded in two phases with the first awards expected in early 2010.

During August, Secretary Duncan and Jim Shelton provided an update on the status of this program.

Applicants can be either LEAs or non-profits including districts and nonprofits, including colleges, turnaround specialists, charter schools, and others. Corporations cannot apply.

The applications will be evaluated on three major aspects

  • Programs that are outcome driven, specifically around the 4 assurances
  • Programs that can be taken to scale: easy to use and cost effective
  • Programs that are sustainable
    • Expecting additional dollars from private and public sources
    • Must show both financial model and a political or support model – sustainability is not just financial

The grants will be broken into three major categories:

  • Pure Innovation Grants– up to $5 million to try interesting ideas. While it is understood that these will not have data to demonstrate effectiveness, the ideas must be rooted in theories that show support for this innovation.
  • Strategic Innovation Grants – up to $30 million
    • These are strong innovative solutions that still need additional research base, and expanded organization capacity
  • What Works Innovation Grants – up to $50 million
    • These are proven, national or locally proven, solutions that can be taken to scale

General Information

Supporting Information

  • Events
  • Materials and Resources
  • Speeches
    • "[S]o much of...the $4.35 billion for states and $650 million invest in what works fund, the innovation not just investing in R&D, but really putting money into those current practices that have proven an ability to drive student achievement....[There is] this huge amount of entrepreneurial leadership, innovation, creativity in schools and school districts around the country, nonprofits. We have a chance to really invest in and scale up what works....The key for me is to take those things that are islands of excellence, pockets of excellence, and really take them to scale. And with significant resources to invest in those groups that have...the data to prove they have a demonstrated ability to drive student achievement, we can at unprecedented levels take those best practices to scale. So yes, we want to continue to invest in R&D, and yes, we want to continue to increase the role of IES and really give us real-time data on whatÕs working, whatÕs not. But where we know whatÕs working now, I feel a real urgency not to just do more research, but to get those things helping more kids and do that quickly. And we have a chance to do that going forward." Secretary Arne Duncan, at The Brookings Institution, May 11, 2009 Adobe PDF Icon
    • The What Works and Innovation Fund, first authorized by the Recovery Act, will support competitive grants to LEAs and partnerships between non-profit organizations and LEAs that have made significant progress in improving student achievement or other areas to scale up their work and serve as models of best practices. The additional $100 million requested for 2010, combined with Recovery Act funds, would support (1) the evaluation of promising new initiatives and approaches to determine if they are suitable for scaling up; (2) expanding the implementation of effective practices across districts and States; (3) supporting the development of 'model districts' that use multiple evidence-based strategies to increase student achievement; and (4) leveraging partnerships with the private sector and the philanthropic community to develop, scale up, document, and disseminate best practices for improving student achievement. U.S. Department of Education Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Overview Adobe PDF Icon
    • "We also plan to work very hard at scaling up success in our education system. Under our 2010 budget, the Department would continue to use the Innovation Fund created by the Recovery Act to identify and replicate successful models and strategies that raise student achievement. We know that there are many school systems and non-profit organizations across the country with demonstrated track records of success in raising student achievement, and our 2010 request would help bring their success to scale." Secretary Arne Duncan Testifies Before the House Budget Committee on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request, March 12, 2009

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