Education Program Gets Mixed Score on Innovation

A new report on preliminary lessons from the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation, or i3, program suggests that it has successfully promoted school-improvement strategies based on research findings but made only marginal progress in sparking innovation.

Now in its second year, the i3 program provided $650-million in its first year for grants to nonprofits and schools for innovative and proven approaches to improving student achievement.

The report, released this week by Bellwether E…


New Round of Federal School-Innovation Grants Announced

The Education Department announced that it will award $150-million to nonprofits and school districts in the second round of grants for school-improvement projects under the Investing in Innovation program. Also known as “i3,” the program will provide the money to groups that can show evidence they will be successful.

The grant amount is down from $650-million last year, when i3 first received money under the federal economic-stimulus program. That money went to 49 groups, including $50-million…


$500-Million in Federal Early-Education Awards Available

The Obama administration plans to spend $500-million to help states expand innovative early-learning and child-care programs, the bulk of which are operated by nonprofits.

The new fund, called the Early Learning Challenge, will consume most of the $700-million that was allocated by Congress in April for Race to the Top, the grants program to help states improve the quality of their schools.

Like previous Race to the Top competitions, the Early Learning Challenge will award grants directly to sta…


Promise Neighborhoods Bill Introduced in the Senate

More than two years after President Obama took office with a pledge to expand the Harlem Children’s Zone idea to 20 communities across the nation, the Senate has introduced legislation that would make the program permanent.

Up until now, the Promise Neighborhoods program—the centerpiece of the President’s pledge—has received only temporary authority by Congress through annual spending bills.

Promise Neighborhoods is an important element of the Obama administration’s effort to promote innovative …


New Social Innovation Applications Dominated by United Ways

Only 18 applications are competing for the second round of grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, the new grant program to help nonprofits expand effective programs.  The total is a significant drop from the 69 applications submitted in 2010 (54 of which were deemed eligible). Half of the 18 new applicants are from United Ways.

What is behind the drop in applications? It is hard to know, but there are several possible explanations.

First, there i…


Social Innovation Fund Money Hits the Streets

We are now one step closer to discovering whether the Social Innovation Fund, the new federal grant program designed to help nonprofits expand effective social projects, will fulfill its promise.

Following a controversy last summer over charges that its awards process was too secretive, the fund has fallen out of the headlines. But the 11 organizations that won a total of $50-million in the first round of grants have been quietly going about distributing the money to the nonprofit groups that wi…


Charting a New Attempt at Nonprofit Innovation

Overhauling education is a hot topic. It has conflict—most often between “ reformers” and teachers unions. It has rock stars who grace the covers of news magazines, appear on “60 Minutes,” and even star in the occasional movie—people like Michelle Rhee, the former Washington public-schools leader, and Harlem Children’s Zone leader Geoffrey Canada.

It also happens to center on a vitally important issue: education.

Less well known (and perhaps less advanced) is a second movement that has been brew…