With nearly 1700 school districts and non-profit organizations vying for the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grants, it’s encouraging to see that 384 of them are putting a focus on early learning -- and at least seven of them are proposing programs that recognize the continuum of learning from birth or pre-K up through third grade.
The grants come from $650 million provided to the Education Department after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The i3 program emphasizes the same priorities as the Race to the Top grant program:
- Effective teachers and leaders,
- Use of data,
- High standards and high-quality assessments, and
- Persistently low-performing schools.
(a) improving young children’s school readiness (including social, emotional, and cognitive readiness) so that children are prepared for success in core academic subjects (as defined in section 9101(11) of the ESEA);(b) improving developmental milestones and standards and aligning them with appropriate outcome measures; and(c) improving alignment, collaboration, and transitions between early learning programs that serve children from birth to age three, in preschools, and in kindergarten through third grade.
- The Hartford School District in Connecticut requested $3,354,073 to develop theBetances Early Reading Lab Prek-3 Lab School, which would “create an innovative learning community by joining together two powerful components.” The first component of this project is the Pre-k – 3rd school structure. The second piece is the establishment of an early literacy professional development center, housed in the school, that would foster a learning community of teachers and staff who use data collaboratively and effectively to maximize student learning.
- The New School Foundation in Seattle submitted an application for $20,760,468 in collaboration with Bremerton School District, located in a working-class town; Toppenish School District, a predominantly Latino and Native American district; and Seattle School District, the state's largest district to validate its Pre-K-3rd Quality and Alignment Model (P3QAM). According to the project’s description, P3QAM links preschool programs to elementary school programs by using aligned high standards, curricula and instruction combined with high quality assessments. The applicants intend to validate that this approach increases third grade academic achievement, accelerates academic growth in the Pre-K - 3rd years, reduces achievement gaps, reduces supplemental services for students and improves the social/emotional status for children.
- The Bank Street College of Education in New York submitted an application in partnership with the Memphis City Schools for $3,951,419 to develop the Project Teacher Leaders for the Pre-K Continuum (Project TLC). The project’s goal is to support improved outcomes for all pre-K - 3rd grade children attending school in the district, with more intensive efforts in the city’s lowest-performing (striving) schools. Project TLC includes six activities: 1) a comprehensive and intensive teacher advisement program in striving schools; 2) on-site support for school leadership teams; 3) on-site and online professional development for teachers & leaders in striving schools; 4) visitations to higher performing (Paragon) schools; 5) a professional development video library and guide for district-wide use; and 6) annual citywide conferences.
- Building Tomorrow's Scholars Today is a project proposed by the Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut. The district requested almost $5 million to build on an existing Early Reading First Project. This pre-K – 2nd grade literacy initiative comprises a job-embedded coaching model and targeted professional development for classroom teachers and paraprofessionals. A multi-disciplinary literacy team, including a speech/language pathologist, would provide regular support to teachers and students as well as parent trainings. Additionally, teachers would be trained to work with parents to establish home-school connections intended to support children’s language and literacy development. Teachers who participate in the project would also have the opportunity to take three on-site graduate level courses delivered by Fairfield University.
- The Life Services System of Ottawa County in Holland, Michigan – in partnership with eight school districts – submitted a proposal to validate its project Parents and Communities United for Success. They requested $21,938,400 over five years. According to the project summary, this birth to 3rd grade initiative combines several strategies that create a continuum of support for children and their families from birth through 3rd grade. Strategies include extending learning time for core academic content; integrating support services; parent engagement activities; establishing a protocol for schools and parents to work together on an educational plan for their student/child; and securing the private sector's support and understanding of the importance of early childhood learning.
- McMinnville School District in Oregon submitted a proposal requesting about $3 million to develop a Birth through 3rd Grade Project. MSD’s plans is to build a bridge to graduation and postsecondary completion by increasing school readiness and ensuring that every child enters kindergarten with skills at or above age five, fostering early school success, and increasing the percentage of students performing at or above grade level in reading and math by the end of third grade. MSD would establish a mobile child development center to provide curriculum resources, modeling, and coaching to parents of high-needs young children. MSD would also provide preschool for high-needs children; Kinder-Plus (enrichment) for high-needs students; and an extended day/year and supplemental support for high-needs students in kindergarten through third grade.
- ServeMinnesota, along with a consortium of several schools, submitted a validation proposal for its Age 3 to Grade 3 Reading Proficiency: A Scalable Model for Individualized Interventions Harnessing the Power of Americorps to Deliver Accelerated Results. The applicants requested $20,232,904 over five years to validate the potential for AmeriCorps to “serve as the vehicle for implementing the use of an individualized data based problem solving model as a proven, effective methodology for helping age 3 to grade 3 children achieve reading proficiency by 3rd grade on a national, unprecedented scale.”