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Evaluation Studies of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Evaluation of Investing in Innovation (i3)

Contractor: Abt Associates, Inc.

Background/Research Questions

The Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to provide funds to local educational agencies and nonprofits with a record of improving student achievement. The program awarded competitive grants to implement and evaluate educational interventions to improve student academic outcomes.

The i3 program awarded three different tiers of grants. The amount of funding awarded was aligned with the strength of the prior evidence supporting the proposed intervention as well as the proposed implementation scale. The smallest, or "Development," grants supported developing and testing interventions with limited or no prior evidence. Interventions with moderate evidence of effectiveness could receive a larger "Validation" grant to implement and test the intervention in a broader population or in new contexts. The largest, or "Scale-up," grants supported interventions with strong prior evidence of effectiveness to be implemented and tested on a much larger scale.

The i3 program funded seven cohorts of grantees from 2010 through 2016. The program has awarded more than $1.4 billion to 172 grantees across the three tiers. One of the i3 program's key priorities is evaluating the impact of the funded interventions. Each grantee was required to fund an independent evaluation using local evaluators. To maximize what could be learned from these evaluations, the Department is conducting an evaluation of i3, which (1) provides comprehensive technical assistance to local evaluators for all grantees, and (2) summarizes both the quality of and findings from the evaluations. The lessons learned from this work will also inform the evaluations required of grantees under the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program, the successor program authorized by ESSA.

The key questions that the contract will address are:

  • Were the i3 evaluations strong?
  • Did the i3 evaluations find the interventions to be implemented with adequate fidelity?
  • Did the i3 evaluations find that the interventions improved student academic outcomes?

Design:

The contractor provides comprehensive, customized technical assistance to all i3 independent local evaluators. The technical assistance is facilitated by a one-on-one relationship with a technical assistance provider.

In addition to providing technical assistance, the contractor will characterize whether or not the evaluations meet several criteria used to define a strong study and provide a report for the program office each year about the number of grantees meeting the i3 evaluation-related Government Performance and Results Act measures. The contractor will also summarize the results of the i3 evaluations.

Cost/Duration: $25,359,202 over 11 years, 3 months (September 2010–December 2021)

Current Status

The contractor is providing technical assistance to all active cohorts and preparing the first report. The first report of the project, which will summarize the strength of and findings from the 67 i3 evaluations completed by May 2017, is expected in 2018 and will be announced on https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/.