Mar 26, 2010 by Joseph Noble, Ph.D

what is the investing in innovation (i3) fund?

What is the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3)?

The Investing in Innovation Fund, known as i3, is a grant program developed by the US Department of Education as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with $650,000,000 in funding. The purpose of the i3 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.”(i3 Application)

Refer to the i3 RFP (Request For Proposal), also called the Application Packet, for more details on the i3 program and the application process.

The RFP, Frequently Asked Questions, a summary of the program and additional information can be found at:

What is the timeline?

i3 has several key dates to note:

  • April 1, 2010– Intent to Apply – not required but strongly encouraged
  • May 11, 2010– Application due by 4:30 pm Eastern Time
  • Late Spring/Early Summer– Proposals reviewed
  • Early-Mid Summer– Matching funds must be secured by those projects to be awarded funding
  • September 2010– All funds awarded
  • 2010 – 2015– Funded projects may last 3 to 5 years

You are strongly encouraged to submit an intent to apply if you believe you meet the eligibility requirements and plan to submit a proposal for i3. This information will allow the Department of Education to create a more effective and efficient review process, and will allow for more adequate time for securing matching funds on the part of those projects identified for funding.

Who is eligible to receive i3 funds?

To apply for i3 funds, you must be one of the following:

  • local educational agency (LEA)
  • nonprofit organization in partnership with one or more LEAs 
  • nonprofit organization in partnership with a consortium of schools

LEAsinclude public schools and public school districts. Private schools, colleges and universities are not LEAs, but may be included in i3 projects as partners.

Non-profit organizationscan include colleges and universities, afterschool program providers, and others. (See the i3 glossary and RFP.)

Additional Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for i3 funding, projects must:

  • Maintain a Student Focus– “implement practices, strategies, or programs for high-need students”
  • Demonstrate Historical Success– provide evidence demonstrating your past success
    • For an LEA applying on its own, the LEA must have “(a) closed achievement gaps or significantly increased achievement for all groups of students, and (b) achieved significant improvement in other areas,” such as “graduation rates or increased recruitment and placement of high-quality teachers and principals, as demonstrated with meaningful data.”
    • For partnerships involving a non-profit organization, the nonprofit must have “a record of significantly improving student achievement, attainment, or retention through their record of work with an LEA or schools,” whether or not the LEA and school partners have a history of success.
    • Note: Without this history of success you will not be eligible to apply.
  • Address an Absolute Priority– address one of the four absolute priorities listed on page 5 of the Investing in Innovation (i3) Overview Booklet (PDF)
  • Partner with the Private Sector and Meet the Matching Requirement– secure matching funds from the private sector equal to 20% of the funds sought prior to program start date, or request a reduced matching level (to be granted in rare situations)
  • Provide Evidence– meet the evidence requirement of the type of grant for which you are applying; see types of grants below and evidence requirements in the Investing in Innovation (i3) Overview Booklet (PDF)

Checklists for eligibility and definitions of the above can be found on the i3 website.

What will be funded under i3?

i3 is looking to fund projects based on several priorities within three types of projects, as described in detail in the RFP. At least one absolute priority must be met by each proposed project. It is anticipated that most projects involving Scientific Learning products and services will be Validation-type projects.

Types of Projects(Proposals must identify one of the following types):

  • Scale Up- project designed to “scale up” practices, strategies, or programs for which there is strong evidencethat the project will have a statistically significant effect in meeting the i3 goals. Scale-up projects are limited to $50 million/project and should scale up to a state, regional or national level.
  • Validation- project that shows promise, but for which there is currently only moderate evidencethat it will have a statistically significant effect in meeting i3 goals. Validation projects may reach $30 million/project and should scale up to a state or regional level.
  • Development- project with high-potential and relatively untested practices, strategies, or programs whose efficacy should be systematically studied. Development projects range up to $5 million and should be able to further develop and scale up.

Points= the basis for evaluating each proposal. Think of a rubric in a classroom – points are given for each criteria met. Those with the highest points will receive funding.

Absolute Priorities(At least one required):

  • Innovations that Support Effective Teachers and Principals
  • Innovations that Improve the Use of Data
  • Innovations that Complement the Implementation of High Standards and High Quality Assessments
  • Innovations that Turn Around Persistently Low-performing Schools

Competitive Preference Priorities(Extra points awarded for each):

  • Improve Early Learning Outcomes (particularly K-3)
  • Support College Access and Success
  • Address the Unique Needs of Students with Disabilities and Limited English Proficient Students
  • Serve Schools in Rural LEAs

Examples of possible i3 projects from Scientific Learning:

  • Scale-up– Successful use of Fast ForWord® in a group of districts or state is “scaled-up” by implementing its use nationally
  • Validation– Promising success with Reading Assistant™ in a district is expanded to a larger region or state-wide to demonstrate broader effectiveness
  • Development– A school collecting data on use of Fast ForWord expands its use district-wide and implements a stronger program to document effectiveness

Learn more:

Find out how Scientific Learning products fit with the i3 Fund.

See our Investing in Innovation (i3) Overview Booklet (PDF)for detailed information on eligibility requirements, preparing your i3 application, and getting help with your i3 application.