The Investing in Innovation Fund, established under section 14007 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), provides funding to support (1) local educational agencies (LEAs), and (2) nonprofit organizations in partnership with (a) one or more LEAs or (b) a consortium of schools. The purpose of this program is to provide competitive grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. These grants (1) allow eligible entities to expand and develop innovative practices that can serve as models of best practices, (2) allow eligible entities to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community, and (3) identify and document best practices that can be shared and taken to scale based on demonstrated success.
In early August, the U.S. Department of Education notified St. Vrain Valley School District that they had been selected for a $3.6 million development grant, over five years, under the 2010 Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) competition.
Out of 1700 applicants, St. Vrain received the highest score nationwide on its application and was one of 49 chosen to receive grant funds. The District’s grant plan focuses on expanding programs for at risk students in seven schools, including extending the school year at four elementary schools, targeting math students at risk of failing at two middle schools and fully implementing the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Academy at Skyline High School.
St. Vrain had already begun to implement many of the programs highlighted in the grant application. To receive the award, the District secured matching funds from the private sector, equal to at least 20 percent of the i3 grant, at least $721,000. As a partner, RidgeviewTel has committed to provide over $734,000 of in-kind donations over five years. This includes internet access, consultation and technical support. IBM will also collaborate with the District by contributing $215,000 of innovative software programs directly to the seven schools identified in the grant. To date, the commitment of in-kind donations exceeds the 20 percent and is now over $949,000. As a collaborator, IBM has also agreed to an additional $436,000 which will extend beyond the original seven schools in the i3 grant and provide software for 14 other schools district wide.
“As a District, we already have a strategic commitment to increase assessment scores of at risk students and to increase our graduation rate for certain segments of our population,” said Regina Renaldi, St. Vrain’s assistant superintendent of priority schools. “The grant funds will free up money that would have otherwise come out of our General Fund.”