Working together with the Regional Comprehensive Centers, the Regional Educational Laboratories have hosted a series of forums on the federal stimulus package as part of their outreach efforts to help policymakers and practitioners stay abreast of issues related to the package, also known as ARRA.
To date, the laboratories and the comprehensive centers have held four major forums and one webinar bringing together state and local education agency teams. Both laboratory and center staff worked closely with Maura Policelli, the Department of Education's Senior Advisor for External Affairs, in planning topics and selecting invited speakers. The events were scheduled across the country to ensure that participants from all states and metropolitan areas were able to attend and included ED officials and invited speakers representing national policy, research, practice, and evaluation perspectives on ARRA issues.
This partnership has provided a unique opportunity for state and local education agency staff and community leaders to have in-depth discussions on major ARRA topics. The participants said they appreciated the opportunity to discuss policy and evaluation issues with laboratory, center, and ED staff, as well as with their colleagues from across the region. Others noted the need for more meetings, with a similar goal of providing updates on program guidelines, funding criteria for ARRA programs, and research and evaluation evidence that can be used to guide the development of proposals and education reform initiatives.
"The ARRA Forum was especially informative and provided a useful forum to continue our discussions with SEAs on supporting them in their ARRA funding efforts," said Edgar Stewart, Jr., from REL Mid-Atlantic. "We look forward to working with state educational agencies and the Department of Education on this important issue."
National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance staff—including Audrey Pendleton, Jon Jacobson, and Tracy Rimdzius—have been working with staff from ED's Office of Innovation and Improvement to provide technical assistance for the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund program.
The i3 competitive grant program was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is expected to provide up to $643.5 million in FY 2010 to support the development, validation, and scaling up of innovative practices, strategies and programs by local educational agencies, or by nonprofit organizations in partnership with one or more local districts or a consortium of schools. Three categories of grants will be supported through the program: (1) development grants for projects supporting practices, strategies, or programs based on reasonable hypotheses; (2) validation grants for projects supporting practices, strategies, or programs with moderate evidence of effectiveness; and (3) scale-up grants for projects supporting practices, strategies, or programs with strong evidence of effectiveness.
NCEE helped develop the evidence standards and evaluation requirements described in the Notice of Final Priorities for the program, published on March 12, 2010. NCEE staff Jacobson and Rimdzius also helped answer questions on evidence and evaluation from potential applicants at pre-application workshops held in Baltimore, Denver, and Atlanta, and through webinars and the posting of Frequently Asked Questions on the i3 website.
For more information on the program, see http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/index.html.