Tag: grant writing

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.


Eliminating the error correction window–comments due

Only a few days left to electronic applications to NIH, AHRQ, and CDC.

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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.


Copyright © 2005-2010 Bryan DeBusk, PhD. All rights reserved.
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