Tag: Department of Education

Upcoming changes to state standards may pose a threat to ED’s i3

Earlier this month the comment period closed on the proposed Common Core Standards for English-language arts and mathematics. After a brief period of final revisions based on comments received, the standards are scheduled to be released in time for most states to consider adoption prior to or around the start of the new school year.

Governors and education officials from 48 states (not including Texas and Alaska) and 2 territories committed to the process of developing these standards, and the assumption is that most states will adopt them to replace their current standards. Strangely, Kentucky already adopted them sight unseen.

Although the parties involved have taken great care to avoid calling these national standards, the adoption of common standards across even a few states is unprecedented, and the likely adoption of these standards by most states will push us as near to national standards as we are ever likely to achieve. Adopting states have the option of modifying or augmenting the standards, but they are being encouraged to keep changes to a minimum.

I think the adoption of common standards (followed eventually by a common assessment a la NAEP) may be the educational system’s best hope of fending off the impending (but possibly endangered) NCLB 2014 deadline, and it’s the only approach proposed so far that has any chance of not leaving whole states behind (my home state being one of them).

But the new standards may present a $643.5 million problem. The) is #3 which states that “Under this priority, an eligible applicant must propose a project that is based on standards that are at least as rigorous as its State’s standards. If the proposed project is based on standards other than those adopted by the eligible applicant’s State, the applicant must explain how the standards are aligned with and at least as rigorous as the applicant’s State’s standards as well as how the standards differ.”

So the adoption of new standards after the i3 submission date but before the award start date may present some problems for applicants if they plan to use their state’s standards. Even programs based on different standards may find it difficult to describe how their standards differ from the yet-to-be-adopted standards, particularly since the final standards won’t be released before the i3 submission date.

I think the programs that are based on standards other than the state’s standards may have an easier time of it, particularly since the i3 program also requires that Scale-up proposals use the same program for which the supporting evidence is provided and that Validation proposals use the same or a very similar program with a clear and reasonable rationale for the changes.

Most of the programs based on state standards are likely to be inextricable from those standards and may be headed for the trashcan once the Common Core Standards are adopted, and even if the framework of the program can be salvaged and retooled for the new standards, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether such a proposal will pass muster during review.


The Secretary speaks

Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the Talk of the Nation yesterday on NPR’s program of the same name. You can see a transcript of the show and kept him on the full hour. If you get a chance, you may want to listen to the audio. The anger and frustration out there was evident in every call except one.


The weekly news drop

If Representative Lipinski’s National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010 survives the legislative process intact, NSF will receive a 19% increase in funding over 2010 levels next year (compared to a 7% increase under the president’s proposed budget). The Act calls for a 55% increase in funding over five years to $10.7 billion in 2015. As always, writedit provides a good overview.

Jeff Mervis of AAAS’s ScienceInsider asks whether NSF is taking enough risks.

Former NSF director Guy Stever died this week. The current director comments on the passing of his friend and colleague.

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of ScienceInsider reports on the National Science Board’s decision to leave information on the state of American’s knowledge and understanding of evolution out of the 2010 report on Science and Engineering Indicators. (Full story is here if you have access to Science.) PZ Myers over at Pharyngula stirs the pot a bit more.

NIH Director Francis Collins rebuked the American College of Pediatricians for using language from one of his books “to make a point against homosexuality.” In this letter the group’s president points school district superintendents across the country to FactsAboutYouth.com where this article uses quotes from Dr. Collins and others to “educate” school officials.

We’re in the wrong business. The real NIH money is in staffing!

Roderic Pettigrew, director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, told attendees at the Design of Medical Devices conference that they’ll have to do more with less, and the key is innovation.

Meredith Wadman of Nature reports that the  WiCell Research Institute has submitted an application for NIH approval to fund research involving four Bush-era stem cell lines, including the frequently used H7 and H9 lines. Approval may come in a matter of weeks.

It’s been two weeks since the Dept. of Ed. announced Delaware and Tennessee were the only states to receive awards under the first round of Race to the Top, but you can expect it to stay in the news for a while. Some states have announced doubts about applying again, and a few have said officially they won’t pursue a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion. Others are considering extensive revisions to their applications.

At least one state is taking it’s case to the airwaves. Ed groups are making ad buys to promote New York’s application.

The VP’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, says be on the lookout for $2 billion in funding for education and training through community colleges, including funding partnership with regional industries.


Funding for i3 in 2011?

Potentially good news for as many as 94% of potential 2010 i3 applicants (and for all those groups who decided not to put together a $30 million program in a period of a couple of months): the president’s 2011 budget request includes $500 million for the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation program. If approved by Congress, that line item will fund another round of potentially massive i3 projects.

At the Denver i3 pre-application workshop, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, stated very clearly that all funds for i3 will be disbursed prior to September 30, 2010. Shelton’s statement was in response to a question about how the funding would be allocated over the three to five years of the proposed projects.

As noted in a previous post, the Department stands by its intention to award up to 5 scale-up grants, up to 100 scale-up grants, and up to 100 development grants even though funding that many awards at the anticipated average award level (not the max) would require $2.25 billion–far exceeding the $643.5 million allocated for the program in 2010.

It’s possible that in developing the final announcement, the Department made a decision to allow for more awards than current funding could support, knowing that the 2011 request was in the pipeline. Thus, if the 2011 budget request is approved, they could make enough awards to disburse the current allocation for Year 1 spending and then use future budget allocations for future years.

This approach is risky given the uncertain budget climate, but it does follow the Department’s usual pattern of allocating major program awards on a 3-5 year cycle (e.g., TRIO awards). But unlike those other major programs, the i3 announcement doesn’t include any language about funding in subsequent years being contingent on suitable progress.

If they do decide to fund subsequent years through new budget allocations rather than giving a single lump-sum award as promised to date, that’s bad news for anyone hoping to apply for an i3 next year. My guess is that not even Jim Shelton knows which approach they plan to take, and the decision won’t be made till they know something for sure on the budget.

Tomorrow the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to testify on the full Education budget request before the Senate Labor/HHS/Education/etc. Appropriations Subcommittee. One of my senators is on the subcommitte…perhaps he’d ask the Secretary to elaborate on the i3 plans? Yeah, probably not.


Quoting Gandhi

In a post earlier this year, literary agent Nathan Bransford recounted the experience of a friend who reviews grant proposals for a living. In summary, “Apparently everyone who applies for a grant quotes Gandhi!”

Nathan goes on to explain that in writing queries to find an agent, just as in writing grant proposals, sometimes it helps to step back and ask what everyone else is likely to do and then do something different. Certainly, if you stretch too far toward the different end of the spectrum, you risk alienating the prospective agent (or reviewers and program officers), but the point is still valid.

Good writing is rarely sufficient to get a project funded (though it doesn’t hurt!), and most funding agencies and foundations aren’t keen on funding yesterday’s projects that have just been repackaged in today’s buzzwords. Increasingly, grant makers are asking for explicit statements within proposals describing how a proposed idea or specific approach is innovative, and the profusion of programs to fund innovation further underscores this focus (e.g., herehere, herehere, here, here, and half a dozen other places).

The NIH proposal writing guide presents one approach to distinguishing your research from other work out there:

Is Your Idea Original?

  • Check the literature to verify that the exact project you are considering has not been done before. Search the literature and the NIH CRISP database to minimize overlap with similar studies.
  • Assess the competition. See which other projects in your field are being funded, and consider turning competitors into collaborators to improve the strength of your proposal.
  • Carve out a niche that will allow you to significantly advance knowledge in your respective field. 

Did you catch the “consider turning your competitors into collaborators” bit? That’s not advice you hear every day, and it may be easier said than done. But it may be the best approach if you consider what other people would do and discover someone’s already making headway in your chosen area of research. Or if that’s not appealing, follow the last bullet, and make your own place–be innovative and original, and stake your claim.

Finally, whether you choose to collaborate or innovate or both, put the book of quotations back on the shelf, or at least save the Gandhi quotes for the first draft of your response to reviewers on an unfunded submission (you know the one I’m talking about–that visceral, heated response that makes you feel better but never makes it anywhere near your resubmission).

Here are two Gandhi quotes to get you started:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.

and

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

But should you despair of ever succeeding, recall this one:

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.


Dept. of Ed posts LOI stats for i3

The Department of Education has posted statistics on letters of intent received for its Investing in Innovation (i3) program.

Although LOIs aren’t required for the program, officials strongly encouraged potential applicants to submit letters to aid the department in planning for the mad rush of submissions and subsequent review.

The Department says it received 2445 LOIs with 1666 stating intent to apply for Development awards, 527 for Validation, and 87 for Scale-up. The stats also include LOIs by state and program, as well as information on which absolute priorities and competitive preference priorities applicants intend to pursue.

Although the numbers are sure to change, based on this report, applicants can expect the following funding rates:

Development: <6%
Validation: <19%*
Scale-up: <6%

*The Department of Education states its intention to award up to 100 Validation grants at an average amount of $17.5 million. However, this would require $1.75 billion, or about three times the funding available for the program. Based on the anticipated number and average size of awards for the other programs, the number of Validation awards should be 10–though the Department has stated in its pre-application workshops that 100 is the correct number. If the number is, in fact, 10, funding rates for Validation awards will be <2%.

Edit: updated the link to the summary following a change by the Department of Education.


Copyright © 2005-2010 Bryan DeBusk, PhD. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress