Education Department seeks Applications for Student Test Fee Waivers

edThe Department is currently seeking applications for the Advanced Placement (AP) Test Fee Program and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program.

The AP Test Free Program awards grants to states to enable them to pay all or a portion of AP test fees on behalf of low-income students.  Applications are due June 3.  The grants can also apply to International Baccalaureate (IB) tests.

The Department makes awards to State educational agencies to enable them to cover part or all of the cost of test fees of low-income students who are enrolled in an Advanced Placement class and plan to take an Advanced Placement test. Funds from the Advanced Placement Test Fee program subsidize test fees for low-income students to encourage them to take Advanced Placement tests and obtain college credit for high school courses, reducing the time and cost required to complete a postsecondary degree. In determining the amount of the grant awarded to a State for a fiscal year, the Secretary considers the number of children eligible to be counted under the ESEA Title I Basic Grants programs.

The Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which awards four types of grants, is designed to effect long-range improvement in science and engineering education at predominantly minority institutions and to increase the flow of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into scientific and technological careers. Applications for this program are due May 31.

This program assists predominantly minority institutions in effecting long-range improvement in science and engineering education programs and increasing the flow of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into science and engineering careers.

The program funds are generally used to implement design projects, institutional projects, and cooperative projects. The program also supports special projects designed to provide or improve support to accredited nonprofit colleges, universities, and professional scientific organizations for a broad range of activities that address specific barriers that eliminate or reduce the entry of minorities into science and technology fields.

For more information, please visit:


ED Launches 2013 i3 Competition

edThe U.S. Department of Education announced the start of the $150 million 2013 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition with the release of the program’s invitation for pre-applications for the i3 “Development” grant category and the notice of final priorities for the i3 program overall. The announcement incorporates several improvements the Department has made to the grant competition in its efforts to support school districts and nonprofit organizations in partnership with schools to pursue innovative ideas that increase student success.

“Over the past three years, we have seen a lot of promising projects from the field. At the same time, we need to continue to build a broad and deep portfolio of solutions that address persistent challenges in education, particularly for disadvantaged students,” said U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton. “As we begin the fourth i3 grant competition, we look forward to supporting innovative practices in communities across the country that improve student learning.”

The i3 program aims to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers. The i3 program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. The Department plans to announce applications for the Validation and Scale-up categories later this spring.

This year’s notice of final priorities for the i3 program reflects the Department’s continued commitment to improving education for all students. While the Department continues to focus on broad priorities for the i3 program, the 2013 i3 competition, for the first time, includes subparts under each priority that target specific areas of need. This approach enables the i3 program to build a portfolio of solutions that addresses specific challenges in education. This year’s priorities for the Development grant category are: Improving the Effectiveness of Teachers or Principals; Improving Low-Performing Schools; Improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education; Improving Academic Outcomes for Students with Disabilities; Improving Academic Outcomes for English Learners (ELs); Improving Parent and Family Engagement; Effective Use of Technology; and Serving Rural Communities. The Department has also revised the program’s evidence standards and definitions so that applicants can better understand i3′s evidence requirements.

The Development category, which funds grantees with promising but relatively untested ideas, has been the most popular of the three grant categories throughout the previous three i3 competitions. Last year, the Department used a pre-application to reduce the burden on potential applicants and encourage a wider range of applications. Following the positive response from last year’s process-in which more than 650 potential grantees submitted a pre-application, the Department is once again using the simplified process.

In addition, this year the Department has modified the competition to assist grantees in building meaningful private-sector support. The i3 competition requires all grantees to secure private-sector matching funds; i3 Development grantees must secure a private-sector match comprising 15 percent of their budget. Each highest-rated applicant, as identified by the Department following peer review of the full applications, must submit evidence of 50 percent of the required private-sector match prior to the awarding of an i3 grant by the end of the year. The i3 grantees must then provide evidence of the remaining 50 percent of the required private-sector match no later than six months after the project start date.

The deadline for the pre-application is April 26, 2013. Following the peer review process, the Department will announce a list of the highly rated pre-applications. These entities will then be invited to apply for the Development competition and given additional time to complete their full application.

To learn more about the i3 grant program and the pre-application process, please visit the i3 site:


Spencer Foundation: “Evidence for the Classroom” Request for Proposals

mission_-about-us_-spencer-foundationThe Spencer Foundation, an organization that investigates “ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world,” is seeking research studies to inform the current push for data-based educational reforms.

Here is more from the press release:

We announce a second-round Request for Proposals (RFP) to promote research that examines the assumptions underlying these reforms by investigating whether, when, and how student performance data informs instruction in K-8 classrooms.  In an educational environment in which all kinds of decisions are expected to be “driven” by data, we are eager to learn more about how K-8 teachers use student performance data for instructional decisions and how organizational and individual factors affect that use.  We take a broad view of the types of student performance data that could form the basis of fundable studies, and we think that a collection of well-designed research studies can advance current conceptions of the role data can play in efforts to improve education.  In our first round of funding under this call, we awarded grants to five projects; project summaries can be found here.  We plan to fund up to five more projects in this round.

The Spencer Foundation has always “been dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to  improvement in education. The Foundation is thus committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities.”

Currently, the Spencer Foundation is accepting preliminary proposals for the second round of the “Evidence for the Classroom” project. The deadline is June 11, 2013.

The current Evidence for the Classroom RFP includes information on eligibility criteria and how to apply. For remaining questions on the RFP or for other Data Use related questions, please email

For investigators interested in data use questions that fall outside the scope of the RFP, the Foundation continues to welcome proposals within the broader focus area, Organizational Learning in Schools, School Systems, and Higher Education Institutions.

Further information about the RFP and the process to apply can be found at:


$10K Music Educator Award Nominations Open

canvasThe GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy are partnering to present their first-ever Music Educator Award.  The award is open to U.S.-based music teachers from kindergarten through college, in public and private schools.  Anyone can nominate a teacher, and teachers may nominate themselves. Nominated teachers will be notified and invited to complete an application.
April 15, 2013 is the deadline for nominations.

Here are more details from the press release:

Nominate your favorite music teacher today!

For every performer who makes it to the GRAMMY stage, there was a teacher who played a critical role in getting them there. And really, that’s true for all of us who are making music today. Maybe they introduced you to your first instrument. Or they showed you how to get over your stage fright. Or maybe they just inspired you to have the confidence to go for it when you were ready to give up.

It’s time to say thank you to ALL of those teachers who put in ALL of those hours to make sure that ALL of us love and play music today! And who better to do that than the people who bring you the GRAMMY Awards?

We’ll select 10 finalists including one winner each year to be recognized for their remarkable impact. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the Award and attend the GRAMMYs, plus pick up a $10,000 honorarium. All finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium as well.

Make your thanks real by nominating your teacher today!

Who is Eligible?

Current educators in the U.S., who teach music in public or private schools, Kindergarten through College. Teachers in after-school, private studios, or other educational settings are not eligible.

Who can Nominate?

  • Music Teachers
  • School Administrators
  • Students, Parents and Everybody Else
  • Recording Academy Members

Current elected leaders and staff of the Recording Academy and its affiliates are not eligible to apply.

For more information on evaluation criteria and process, please click here.

The facts about the importance of music education don’t lie. Here are a few we think are important:

  1. Students in high-quality school music programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the school or school district.
  2. Schools that have music programs have significantly higher attendance rates than do those without programs (93.3 percent as compared to 84.9 percent).
  3. Schools that have music programs have significantly higher graduation rates than do those without music programs (90.2 percent as compared to 72.9 percent). In addition, those that rate their programs as “excellent or very good” have an even higher graduation rate (90.9 percent).
  4. The combined results of 30 studies indicate that music instruction is linked to significantly improved reading skills.

The GRAMMY’s Music Educator Award is supported by the NAMM Foundation and the National Association for Music Education.

For more information, please visit:


Education Department Demands more Evidence

USDOEBig changes may be coming in the way the Department of Education selects grant recipients. Last year, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies requiring them to demonstrate the use of evidence in their fiscal 2014 budget requests. This new requirement signals a shift of emphasis toward the use of “evidence and rigorous evaluation in budget, management and policy decisions.”

The Department of Education has made a number of proposed changes to EDGAR, or the Education Department General Administrative Regulations, which reveal the way in which evidence may play a larger role in education funding.The full text of the proposed changes is available at

Proposed changes would have the following effects:

  • The extent to which grantees meet performance targets would be considered in making continuation grants.
  • Procurement processes would be simplified to allow for the section of  implementation sites, implementation partners, and evaluation service providers during the preparation of an application.
  • The prohibition on subgrants would be lifted in some cases.
  • New selection criteria would be approved, including two new selection factors  regarding the extent to which the proposed project is supported by evidence of promise or strong theory. In addition, new selection factors would address the extent to which the methods of evaluation would, if well-implemented, produce evidence about the project’s effectiveness that would meet the What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards.
  • A priority would be established for projects that can cite and build upon an existing base of strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness. The Secretary could either establish a separate competition or give a competitive preference to applications supported by strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness.
  • A project may be able to receive an extension of the funding period for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and reporting performance data.
  • The following terms will be defined and integrated into future notices: ‘‘ambitious,’’ ‘‘baseline data,’’ ‘‘evidence of promise,’’ ‘‘large sample,’’ ‘‘logic model,’’ ‘‘moderate evidence of effectiveness,’’ ‘‘multi-site sample,’’ ‘‘national level,’’ ‘‘performance measure,’’ ‘‘performance target,’’ ‘‘randomized controlled trial,’’ ‘‘regional level,’’ ‘‘relevant outcome,’’ ‘‘quasiexperimental study,’’ ‘‘strong evidence of effectiveness,’’ and ‘‘strong theory.’’

So, what does all this mean for grant seekers? For those who seek a portion of the more than $2 billion in competitive, non-formula grants from the Department of Education, it means that evidence will play a much larger role in one’s ability to be funded and keep funding. More of the Department’s grants will take on the flavor of the Investing in Innovation or i3 competition, in which applicants compete in tiers based on the level of evidence supporting their proposed intervention. Only those projects with the most solid evidence basis are eligible to compete for the largest pots of money.

Final EDGAR regulations should be released within the next few months. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to ramp up data collection and begin cultivating a relationship with a project evaluator.

To access the OMB’s memo, see

For the proposed rulemaking, see


What are states doing with their Race to the Top funding?

RTTT_phase2_082410-thumb-640xauto-756On February 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education released state-specific reports for 12 Race to the Top grantees, detailing their progress on transforming education at the local level. The reports highlight the second-year work and accomplishments of states awarded funding through the first two phases of Race to the Top: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

“Race to the Top has sparked dramatic changes, and in only the second year of the program we’re seeing those results reach the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Most states have made tremendous strides and met aggressive timelines on work that has the potential to transform public education for years to come. Comprehensive education reform isn’t easy, and a few states have faced major challenges in implementing their plans. As we reach the halfway point, we need to see every state show results.”

The 12 reports provide detailed, transparent summaries of each state’s accomplishments and challenges in year two, which covered the 2011-12 school year, as well as the milestones they have ahead for year three. Each state’s work is measured against its own plan and progress in year two of its Race to the Top grant.

States reached a number of benchmarks in year two, as they implemented unique plans built around Race to the Top’s four assurance areas: implementing college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building robust data systems to improve instruction, supporting great teachers and school leaders, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. Some states made strategic investments to develop tools and resources for educators, students and parents; launch state-level support networks; or develop additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools or programs. Others launched new pipelines for teachers and leaders, supported key efforts to turn around low-performing schools, or implemented teacher and principal evaluations to better support educators and inform continuous improvement.

The Department’s Implementation and Support Unit (ISU) has partnered with states to track progress and provide feedback as they implement large-scale reform.  Where states encountered delays and challenges, the ISU worked with them on adjustments to help move the work forward, while holding states accountable to their commitments. ISU officials will continue to provide annual updates about states’ progress under Race to the Top.

In addition to the year two state reports, the Department posted Annual Performance Report (APR) data from states that received Race to the Top funding in phases one, two and three. These data helped to inform the year two reports, which were also developed with information from site visits, communications with state staff, and other performance reports. The APR helps to advance the Department’s efforts to provide transparent information and allow the public to follow grantees’ progress in implementing reform plans and meeting ambitious goals for student outcomes, including performance measures, student growth and closing achievement gaps.

The Race to the Top program, which made its first awards in 2010, has provided 24 states and D.C. with about $5 billion through three phases of the flagship competition and two rounds of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Last year, the Department launched the first Race to the Top-District program, which will fund 16 applicants – representing 55 school districts across 11 states and D.C. – with close to $400 million to support locally developed plans that will prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget requested an additional $850 million for the Race to the Top program to address the unmet demand of states and districts that have demonstrated a commitment to aggressive and comprehensive education reform.

For a report by this blog from last year about Race to the Top implementation, please click this link:

For more information about the Race to the Top program, and to review the 12 state-specific year two reports and APR data, visit:


Hilton offers Unique Teacher Travel Opportunity

6054331_152076358_9213366Hilton will fund 15 teachers to “travel and experience first-hand the subject they teach, enriching their curriculum and inspiring students to explore the world.” Known as the Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition, Hilton developed the program in partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), one of the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations.

K-12 teachers from across the United States and Puerto Rico are invited to enter here ( or at the HHonors Facebook page,, to enter their submission by March 15, 2013.

Along with a photo, candidates need to submit:

  • Two essays between 300 and 600 words, detailing their proposed global adventure and their plan for sharing their experiences with students and colleagues
  • A 140-character entry summary, telling voters why they should win
  • A letter of recommendation from their school’s principal

There are also several levels of award winners:

  • Winners: 15 winners will receive a trip valued at $6,000 to travel to a destination of their choice; in addition to the trip, each winning teachers’ school will also receive a $2,500 grant to use for cultural activities or enhancements
  • Runners-up: 15 runners-up will each receive a $2,500 grant for their school to use for cultural activities or enhancements
  • One winner from all submissions will receive a cultural excursion for their classroom valued at $1,500
  • From those that voted in the Teacher Treks competition, 10 random winners will receive one Hilton HHonors Gift Card valued at $250

Thirty finalists, for the winner and runner-up positions, will be selected by “a panel of judges that includes teachers and other education experts selected by IIE.” Then, voting will open to the public on Monday, April 8, 2013 with voting closing on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Each person visiting the website will be able to vote from within the 30 finalists selected by the panel.

Winners will be announced in May of 2013.

For more information, please visit the following website:


BetterLesson offers Stipend for Master Math Teachers

Master Teacher at BetterLesson

BetterLesson has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to offer a two-year program for master math teachers to develop Common Core aligned math curriculum that they would share with other teachers.  For those skilled teachers selected, BetterLesson is offering a stipend of $30,000 paid out over the course of 1.5 years for contracted, part-time, virtual work.

In the first year of the program, teachers would craft their curriculum and collaborate with other master teachers, and in the second year, teachers would hone the curriculum. Over that time, the teachers will further develop their mastery as teachers and, through the unique BetterLesson platform, be able to share this work with thousands of other teachers online.

Requirements include being a current math teacher in grades 6-12 with extensive teaching experience, as well as planning to stay in the classroom for at least the next 2 years.

BetterLesson is an interactive networking and content website “founded by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston public schools to connect educators and help them create, organize, and share their curricula. [They] are focused on aggregating and scaling the most innovative content and practices from high-performing teachers across the country.

The deadline for application is January 8, 2013.

The following link includes full details for the application:


16 Race to the Top District Winners Announced

ClickHandler.ashxOn December 11, 2012, the Education Department announced the 16 winners of the Race to the Top school district grants (RTTD).  61 Finalists had been announced recently out of an original 372 districts that turned in applications in November. A total of $400 million was due to go out, and winners ranged from $10 million to $40 million for a period of four years, depending on the population of the given district.  The winners included urban and rural districts, small districts and large consortia, and public and charter schools. The only large, urban school district to win was Miami-Dade (FL), which also just won the Broad Prize.

The winners, by order of total mean score, are as follows:

  1. Carson City, NV (208.33)
  2. New Haven Unified, CA (207.67)
  3. Miami-Dade, FL (207.00)
  4. Puget Sound Consortium, WA (205.33)
  5. Guilford County, NC (205.33)
  6. Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indianapolis, IN (205.00)
  7. IDEA public schools, TX (203.00) [charter schools]
  8. Charleston County, SC (201.67)
  9. Harmony Science Academy consortia, TX (201.67) [charter schools]
  10. St. Vrain Valley, CO (200.33)
  11. Galt Joint Union, CA (199.67)
  12. Iredell-Statesville, NC (199.67)
  13. Middletown City, NY (199.33)
  14. KIPP, DC (199) [charter schools]
  15. Green River Regional Education Cooperative, KY (197)
  16. Lindsay Unified, CA (196.33)

The rankings were based on the evaluations of “independent peer reviewers.”

The grants are designed specifically to target and “support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.” The Education Department also released a more detailed explanation of what the grant money will address:

Race to the Top-District plans are tailored to meet the needs of local communities and feature a variety of strategies, including: using technology to personalize learning for each student; giving students opportunities to learn beyond the traditional school day and environment; supporting students’ transitions throughout their education, including from high school to college and careers; expanding partnerships with community organizations to provide students with targeted social services like crisis intervention, individual counseling and life enrichment opportunities; and providing professional development and coursework options to deepen learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The education department was very enthusiastic about the results, especially concerning how diversified the school districts were that won. Arne Duncan, education secretary, commented, “Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom. The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education.”  Duncan also tweeted his opinions shortly after the results were released: “Race to the Top sparked as much reform in some states that didn’t receive funds as in those that did-a trend we want to see continue. We had many more great RTTD applicants than money. We hope districts will move aggressively forward with their RTTD blueprints.”

Questions certainly remain, however, especially about the process by which the decisions were made.

Several districts that had been listed in the previously released top 61 finalists did not finish in the overall top 61 when each of the scores is ranked. The Education Department has not yet explained if the finalists were re-scored before a final determination was made. In particular, Baltimore, which had been one of the 61 finalists, finished in 109th place.  Lane County School District 4J, OR wasn’t a finalist but ended in 52nd.

Of the 16 winners, only 5 are from states that originally won Race to the Top money, and nearly all of the large, urban school districts lost. Some of the city districts that applied and lost include Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Nashville, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Finally, the only two districts that won top dollar ($40 million) were for consortia of schools.

For more information, please visit these two links from the Education Department:

Also see these three links for further commentary:


NBPTS and edTPA partners to Create Online Video Library for Teacher Preparation

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $3 million “Investing in Innovation” grant to a partnership of educational organizations that will aid in two major educational initiatives: better preparing new teachers and bolstering math and science instruction.

The project will operate under the leadership of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and with the cooperation of faculty from Stanford University, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC). These organizations are responsible for the creation of edTPA, “a performance-based assessment tool to help determine if student teachers are ready for the classroom.” edTPA is “based on standards developed by the National Board to identify the most accomplished teachers among experienced educators” and therefore attempts to merge the best practices of experienced teachers with what is taught to and expected of new teachers.

The grant itself allows for the creation of “an online repository of classroom videos and accompanying written materials that illuminate how master teachers go about the job of challenging and stimulating students to learn.” The repository will be known as ATLAS, or Accomplished Teaching, Learning and Schools, and will be constructed through a project the National Board calls “Building a Pipeline of Teaching Excellence.” Building a Pipeline of Teaching Excellence will focus on teachers in seven local school districts in New York, Tennessee and Washington along with six universities in those three states. The five-year project will attempt to prove that ATLAS has improved beginning-teacher instruction in the areas of math and science for grades 3-6.

Eventually, ATLAS will include all 25 National Board certificate areas, “including thousands of cases addressing all areas of the curriculum and every developmental level of pre-K-12 education.”

Work on the grant will begin before the end of 2012 and will require NBPTS to raise $450,000 in matching funds.  Furthermore, NBPTS will “disseminate findings from this project through research and policy briefs, presentations to their memberships, research monographs, postings on websites and social media” to “all of the nation’s schools, colleges and departments of education; state education agencies; and the National Board’s network of 100,000 accomplished teachers and policy partners.”

Linda Darling-Hammond, a co-principal investigator of the grant and the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education who helped develop edTPA, summed up the importance of the grant: “This is cutting-edge work at the nexus of the nation’s two most important educational challenges: promoting educator effectiveness and strengthening science and math teaching and learning. The integration of the National Board’s repository of master teacher certifications into teacher preparatory programs will be extraordinarily beneficial.”

For more information, please visit the following websites: