Secretary Duncan Speaks About Innovation Grants

On August 20 Secretary Arne Duncan addressed a symposium sponsored by America’s Choice and ACT.  He laid out some of the details of the upcoming Investing in Innovation grant competition; now know in shorthand as i3.  The Secretary noted that a Notice of Proposed Priorities for the i3 fund will be published in the Federal Register “this fall”. There will be a comment period, followed by an application, and awards will be made in early 2010.  The Secretary stated that grants will fall into three categories:

  • Pure Innovation grants of up to about $5 million dollars for promising ideas that should be tried.
  • Strategic Investment grants of up to roughly $30 million for programs that need to build a research base or organizational capacity to succeed at a larger scale.
  • Grow What Works grants that will go as high as $50 million for proven programs that are ready to grow and expand.

Eligible grantees for these funds will be local education agencies (including charter schools) and non-profit organizations working in collaboration with one or more LEAs or a consortium of schools.

During his comments the Secretary, as he has done throughout his tenure, spoke about the role of charter schools, and echoed themes related to the importance of addressing the high school drop-out problem, President Obama’s goal of getting more Americans to get at least some postsecondary education, and the importance of American students being able to compete globally. 

The Secretary also stated clearly that he would like to change the relationship between the Department of Education and school districts.  He stated:

“I want the department to become an engine of innovation, not a compliance machine. I want the department to provide powerful incentives to states, districts, and non-profits to innovate–but at the same time leave most of the creative thinking and entrepreneurship for achieving our common goals in local hands. The best ideas will always come from local educators, not from here in Washington.”

A web stream of his 25 minutes presentation as well as the full text of his speech can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s website at

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