Filling the Gaps on Innovation

For much of the summer, we’ve been handicapping the future of Race to the Top and which states are going to be the beneficiaries of the $4.35 billion honeypot.  As of this morning, more than 1,500 comments and suggestions have officially be submitted with regard to the draft regs.  To date, the media highlight has been the statement issued by the National Education Association, making clear that effective teaching needs to focus on good, well-supported teachers.  As noted last week, Eduflack was most taken by the remarks jointly submitted by EdTrust, DFER, CAP, and EEP, which provided a broad-brush approach to many of the issues keeping us up at night.

As those comments have been diligently filed on (with many parties submitting three, four, or even five position papers apiece), the handicappers in the Vegas-version of education reform have been putting the odds on those states that will win, place, or show when it comes to RttT.  Florida and Louisiana are looking strong.  Tennessee and Arizona are mounting strong darkhorse candidacies.  States like Texas, California, and Pennsylvania are quickly seeing the roadblocks that will get in their way.  And of those not getting a special boost from the Gates Foundation, places like Rhode Island, Virginia, and Colorado offer some potential.
We all know that not every state will become an RttT state.  In fact, no one seems to expect that half of the states will receive the designation.  That leaves a lot of states on the outside looking in, particularly for those seeking to make some real change but currently lacking some of the intangibles.  So what happens to those who won’t make the short list?
Along comes a little program called the Investing in Innovation (or i3) program.  in our zeal to embrace RttT, many have forgotten all about i3 and its $650 million.  And while we are still waiting for the draft regs around i3 to be released, the rhetoric surrounding the program is starting to give us a roadmap for where we are headed, making it clear that i3 is designed to help fill some of the innovation gaps created by RttT.
To date, EdSec Duncan has spoken about i3 and its real investments in proven-effective innovations.  We’ve talked about working with non-profits and other third parties that are able to drive real change and improvement in the schools.  We’ve discussed how K12 and higher ed need to work together, and how we can leverage current pilot projects into future success stories.  
Clearly, i3 is going to reward those states that don’t benefit from RttT (or from the upcoming Gates Deep Dive grants, I’d suspect).  So think Chicago and i3 for its TAP teacher quality program.  A little love for NYC and its continued efforts to boost student achievement.  Some continued support for a few Texas cities that have shown some real high school improvements (since Eduflack is all but certain Texas will not win RttT, despite Gates’ best attempts).  We may even see some reward for Robert Bobb and Detroit if the Motor City can find some “successes” on which to build, as that seems to be the name of the i3 game.
Without seeing the draft protocols for Investing in Innovation (we wait with baited breath), the safe money seems to be on those communities that will not be covered through RttT.  Instead of further leveraging investments, we will likely see RttT going one direction and i3 going in another. Current stimulus dollars will be spread to hit as many regions as possible.  (The lone exception may be Tennessee, which looks good for RttT and where Memphis is a current Teacher Incentive Fund site, is a likely Gates Deep Dive site, and could truly double down with some i3 money.)  
The race will be on to see whether state-based or district-based reforms are the quickest paths to success.  RttT will let us try something new.  i3 allows us to take promising practice and innovation up to scale.  How fast we move down each path will likely determine the direction and emphasis of ESEA reauthorization over the next 12 to 18 months.  Through our federal lens of education reform, does success come through state leadership or district implementation?  

255 thoughts on “Filling the Gaps on Innovation

  1. I really like the idea of working with third party non-profits. In many cases these organizations have a very focused, local approach and are already accepted within their community. I’ve seen that many communities are weary of trusting large organizations, especially when it comes to their schools. The third party approach gives the program a face, and not just a face but a recognized face.
    Carly S.
    Director, ASL of Indiana

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