Program Description:

The Investing in Innovation Fund, established under section 14007 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), provides funding to support (1) local educational agencies (LEAs) and (2) nonprofit organizations in partnership with (a) one or more LEAs or (b) a consortium of schools. The purpose of this program is to provide competitive grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates.

These grants will (1) allow eligible entities to expand and develop innovative practices that can serve as models of best practices, (2) allow eligible entities to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community, and (3) identify and document best practices that can be shared and taken to scale based on demonstrated success.

2010 i3 Grant – Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network
A Peer Innovation Network Development Grant

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform proposes to develop and test a promising innovation aimed at 1) building the capacity of persistently low-performing middle-grades schools, 2) improving their students’ academic performance, and 3) closing achievement gaps among sub-groups. The Forum will develop and test the innovation with a consortium of 18 urban and rural schools in three states—North Carolina, California and Illinois. The innovation uses the (1) Forum’s Schools to Watch (STW) criteria as a framework for change; (2) tools for school assessment, goal setting, action planning and monitoring; (3) a multi-layered system of support including a STW coach, a principal leadership coach, and a mentor school matched by demographics; and (4) focused professional development designed to build a learning community and address the needs of students at risk of educational failure.

Over time, we expect the 18 schools to 1) strengthen their structures, norms, and processes for continuous improvement; 2) increase their academic rigor; 3) promote equity for all students, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency; and 4) develop an array of supports designed to meet the needs of young adolescents. Over the 4 years, the project will serve approximately 18,000 students in the 18 schools. Our State STW Program, which now operates in 19 states, provides a strong infrastructure necessary for both scale-up and sustainability. Our non-profit partners include the Illinois Middle Level Schools, the California League of Middle Schools, the North Carolina Middle School Association, and Academy for Educational Development. The Center for Prevention Research and Development at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign will conduct the evaluation.

2013 i3 Grant – Middle-Grades Leadership Development (MLD), Development Grant

Absolute Priority #1, a.
MLD will leverage productive practices to increase achievement by developing principals in 12 middle schools in Michigan and Kentucky affecting a total of 9,700 students to increase equitable access to quality leaders and is novel for its focus on leaders for the middle grades, an important time for keeping students on-track for graduation. The project goal is to increase student achievement. Objectives and actions include 1) Develop distributive leadership (All schools establish leadership teams that meet twice monthly) Coaches and principal mentors help schools establish teams then work on communication, trust-building, data analysis, and action planning; mentor schools shares and model best practice, 2) Improve collaboration skills (Principals improve leadership ratings on VAL ED. Shared decision-making ratings increases on Self-Study in 9/12 schools) Coach trains MLD team in vision and criteria to transform culture and climate. Principal mentors help hone leadership skills, 3) Implement strategies to increase student achievement (100% of schools initiate at least 3 strategies) MLD teams examine data, investigate practices, and develop appropriate plans with the coaching and mentor help. 4) Build collaborative relationship with district (100% of schools have district involved at least 85% of MLD meetings) District leader(s) participate, advocate, and plan with MLD team and school leadership team and 5) Use Schools to Watch network (100% of schools make at least 4 visits yearly) The MLD school is given a mentor school partner. This proposal is novel in its use of the Schools to Watch Network to accelerate innovation in the consortium schools as well as its use of Cognitive Coaching TM. Partners are the California League of Middle Schools, the Kentucky Middle School Association, and Institute for Excellence in Education in Michigan. The evaluator is the Center for Prevention Research and Development, University of Illinois.