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i3 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

INVESTING IN INNOVATION FUND (i3)
Questions about Highest-Rated Applications Announcement
November 10, 2011

Questions

What were the priorities for this year's Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund competition?
What is the difference between the three i3 grant competitions?
How many applications were reviewed in this year's competition?
How much funding did i3 make available?
What's the difference between being highest-rated and being a grantee?
How many highest-rated applications (HRAs) are there?
Why are these numbers so much lower than last year?
How did the applications received compare to the awards?
What happens next in the i3 process?
Were any organizations that scored highly, but were unfunded in 2010 highest-rated in 2011?
Some of the highest-rated applicants received i3 awards in 2010. Is that OK?
Some organizations are both highest-rated applicants and partners with other highest-rated applicants. Is that OK?
Why did some of the highest-rated applications included in this announcement score lower than other applications that were not identified as highest-rated?
What was the impact of adding a STEM-focused Absolute Priority?
What was the impact of adding a rural-focused Absolute Priority?
Why didn't my state/district get a grant in either 2010 or 2011?
Is there i3 funding for 2012?

∇ What were the priorities for this year's Investing in Innovation (i3)Fund competition?

This year's competition had 5 absolute priorities (applicants had to select one):

  • Absolute Priority 1: Innovations that Support Effective Teachers and Principals
  • Absolute Priority 2: Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education
  • Absolute Priority 3: Innovations that Complement the Implementation of High Standards and High-Quality Assessments
  • Absolute Priority 4: Innovations that Turn Around Persistently Low-performing Schools
  • Absolute Priority 5: Improving Achievement and High School Graduation Rates (Rural Local Educational Agencies)

This year's competition also had 5 competitive preference priorities, each worth one point awarded all or nothing (applicants could select up to two for the purpose of receiving competitive preference points):

  • Competitive Preference Priority 6: Innovations for Improving Early Learning Outcomes
  • Competitive Preference Priority 7: Innovations that Support College Access and Success
  • Competitive Preference Priority 8: Innovations to Address the Unique Needs of Students with Disabilities and Limited English Proficient Students
  • Competitive Preference Priority 9: Improving Productivity
  • Competitive Preference Priority 10: Technology

∇ What is the difference between the three i3 grant competitions?

There are three types of grants within the i3 program - Development, Validation and Scale-up grants. Applicants must select which type of grant they are seeking. Following is a table that summarizes the differences amongst the three types of grants within the i3 program:

Development Validation Scale-up
Estimated Funding Available Per Grant Up to $3MM Up to $15MM Up to $25MM
Evidence Required Reasonable hypothesis Moderate evidence Strong evidence
Scaling Required Able to further develop and scale Able to be scaled to the regional or state level Able to be scaled to the national, regional or state level

∇ How many applications were reviewed in this year's competition?

587 applications were peer reviewed - 14 Scale-up applications, 99 Validation applications, and 474 Development applications, from a diverse pool of local educational agency (LEA) and nonprofit applicants that represented 48 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

∇ How much funding did i3 make available?

The 2011 i3 competition had approximately $148.5 million in funding to make new awards. All awards are fully funded for the 3-5 year period of the grant.

∇ What's the difference between being highest-rated and being a grantee?

In order to be eligible to receive an i3 award, an i3 applicant must demonstrate that it has secured matching funds or in-kind contributions from the private sector equal to an amount at least equal to 5% of the grant amount for Scale-up awards, 10% of the grant amount for Validation awards, and 15% of the grant amount for Development awards. Following this announcement, each highest-rated applicant will have approximately four weeks to submit evidence of the full private-sector match to the Department.

The term "highest-rated" describes those applicants to which the Department intends to award an i3 grant, if they secure their private sector matches. Provided these applicants secure their matches, the Department will announce them as 2011 i3 grantees.

∇ How many highest-rated applications (HRAs) are there?

The Department selected 23 highest-rated applications - 1 Scale-up, 5 Validation (one from each absolute priority), and 17 Development (3-4 from each absolute priority).

∇ Why are these numbers so much lower than last year?

For the 2010 competition, i3 had $650 million in funding to award, and received nearly 1,700 applications. As noted above, there was substantially less funding available in 2011, but the number of applications received remained strong compared with the funding available (nearly 600 applications for $150 million in funding). Additionally, given the lower level of funding available and based on the selectivity of the 2010 competition, some organizations may have chosen not to submit an application because they did not expect to be competitive or because they are building up the evidence base required.

Nevertheless, despite having less than a quarter the funding of 2010, i3 anticipates awarding nearly half as many grants in 2011 as it did in 2010. This is in part because the grant sizes are smaller than last year (up to $25 million for a Scale-up grant, up to $15 million for a Validation grant, and up to $3 million for a Development grant in 2011 as opposed to up to $50 million, up to $30 million, and up to $5 million in 2010, respectively), and in part because fewer of the large Scale-up applications were identified as highest-rated.

∇ How did the applications received compare to the awards?

The number of awards and total amount of funding in each absolute priority area closely matched the breakdown of applications received. In addition, although each application primarily addressed one absolute priority area, many applications have components that relate to a number of the absolute priority areas (for example, a project funded under AP2 may include rural implementation sites, or a project funded under AP3 may include tools that help improve teacher effectiveness).

Absolute Priority % of Applications % of
Awards
Total Funding Percent Total Funding $ Value
AP1: Teachers & Principals 18% 17%
16% $23.4M
AP2: STEM 28% 22% 33% $48.9M
AP3: Standards & Assessments 18% 22%
17% $24.9M
AP4: Low-Performing Schools 20% 17%
16% $23.9M
AP5: Rural 17% 22%
18%
$26.9M

∇ What happens next in the i3 process?

The highest-rated applicants must now secure their required private-sector matches before they are fully eligible to receive an i3 grant. Highest-rated applicants will have approximately 4 weeks to secure their matches. The level of the required match is based on the amount of grant funding requested and varies depending on the type of grant the applicant requested:

  • Scale-up requires a 5% match
  • Validation requires a 10% match
  • Development requires a 15% match

As stated in the Notices Inviting Applications (NIAs), an applicant could request a reduced matching requirement in the most exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis. An applicant that anticipated being unable to meet the matching requirement must have included in its application a request to the Secretary to reduce the matching level requirement, along with a statement of the basis for the request. The Department did not approve any requests to reduce the matching requirement.

To meet the matching requirement, an i3 grantee must obtain matching funds or in-kind donations from the private sector, which may include the applicant or partners on the project, and use these funds or in-kind donations for carrying out the objectives of its i3 project during the project period. However, only contributions from non-government sources count towards the matching requirement - public funds may not be used for the match.

∇ Were any organizations that scored highly but were unfunded in 2010 highest-rated in 2011?

Yes, several organizations that were highly-rated but unfunded in 2010 are among the highest-rated applicants in 2011 (though not necessarily with the same proposed project). These organizations are:

  • Old Dominion University Research Foundation (Scale-up)
  • National Math and Science Initiative, Inc. (Validation)
  • Aspire Public Schools (Development)
  • Fresno County Office of Education (Development)
  • Ounce of Prevention (Development)
  • New York Hall of Science (Development)
  • Texas Tech University (Development)

∇ Some of the highest-rated applicants received i3 awards in 2010. Is that OK?

Organizations that received grants in the 2010 i3 competition were eligible to receive new awards in 2011, with the exception that an organization could not receive more than one Validation or Scale-up award in any two year period. A few organizations that received i3 grants in 2010 submitted applications in 2011 that peer reviewers scored highly enough to qualify as highest-rated. Those organizations applied with different projects in 2011 than they were funded to carry out in 2010, so they are eligible to receive i3 funding in 2011.

∇ Some organizations are both highest-rated applicants and partners with other highest-rated applicants. Is that OK?

Organizations cannot receive more than two awards in a single year's competition, but they may partner on other applications.

∇ Why did some of the highest-rated applications included in this announcement score lower than other applications that were not identified as highest-rated?

In order to ensure that the i3 competition funded projects in all of the key areas of reform identified by the competition's absolute priorities, the Secretary announced in the NIAs his intention to fund projects in all absolute priority areas in which the Department received high-quality applications. Thus, the Department considered the applications under each absolute priority area separately when making decisions about highest-rated applications.

The Department received many more high-quality applications than it is able to fund. In some cases, the highest-rated application(s) in one absolute priority scored lower than an application(s) in another priority area that was not among the highest rated applications in that other priority area. The Department decided to fund approximately equal numbers of applications in each core area of need, as identified by the absolute priorities, and as a result high-scoring applications in some absolute priority areas are not identified as highest-rated because they did not score as highly as other applications in the same absolute priority area.

∇ What was the impact of adding a STEM-focused Absolute Priority?

The Department added an absolute priority focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM) to the 2011 i3 competition (Absolute Priority 2).

Of the 23 i3 highest-rated applications, five wrote to the STEM absolute priority - one Scale-up (serving Virginia, Texas, and Kansas), one Validation (serving Colorado and Indiana) and three Development grants (serving New York and Maryland). These projects encompass a range of grades and focus on STEM learning in both formal and informal environments.

In addition, there are several projects that did not write to the STEM absolute priority but are implementing projects that have a strong STEM focus. For example:

  • New Visions for Public Schools (Validation HRA), in support of implementation of common standards in New York, will improve algebra and geometry instruction by creating teacher inquiry teams that use formative assessments to monitor student understanding and target interventions
  • The College Board (Development HRA) will pilot student- and classroom-level feedback reports for teachers of AP Biology in Florida and Texas that identify specific areas of need and assist with differentiation
  • KnowledgeWorks (Development HRA) will turn around two low-performing South Carolina rural high schools by restructuring them as STEM-focused New Tech High Schools, where at least 50% of students will graduate with more than 12 hours of college credit.

∇ What was the impact of adding a rural-focused Absolute Priority?

The Department added an absolute priority focused on improving rural achievement to the 2011 i3 competition (Absolute Priority 5). For the purposes of this priority, LEAs eligible under the REAP program (either Small Rural School Achievement or Rural Low-Income Schools) were defined as rural.

Of the 23 i3 highest-rated applications, five wrote to the rural absolute priority - one Validation (serving North Carolina) and four Development grants (serving California, Kentucky, and South Carolina). Four of the five are implementing exclusively in REAP-eligible LEAs with their i3 funding, and the fifth is implementing primarily in REAP-eligible LEAs.

In addition, there are several projects that did not write to the rural absolute priority but are also implementing in part in rural LEAs. For example:

  • Old Dominion (Scale-up HRA), focused on improving STEM in middle school, plans to work with the Center for Rural Education and Economic Development to disseminate the program to 22 rural areas in Virginia
  • The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project (Validation HRA), which has primarily served rural districts in Alaska, proposes to expand into urban districts using i3 funding after showing substantial promise in rural districts, while maintaining funding for rural support
  • Metropolitan Education Commission (Development HRA), focused on school turnaround by implementing rigorous and culturally-relevant curriculum, plans to serve the rural Tohono O'odham Nation in southern Arizona

∇ Why didn't my state/district get a grant in either 2010 or 2011?

The list of highest-rated applications is based on the scores awarded by independent peer reviewers within each competition (Scale-up, Validation, and Development) and each Absolute Priority, along with eligibility screening performed by the Department. The Department awarded funds based on these scores and available resources, and based on creating a balance of projects across the absolute priority areas, as discussed above.

∇ Is there i3 funding for 2012?

The President requested $300 million in funding for i3 in his FY2012 budget request. Congress has not yet enacted a FY12 appropriations, but at this time the initial Senate appropriations bill includes $150 million in FY12 funding for i3.

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