The Education Department will give $650 million to Investing in Innovation (i3) winners. How innovative are i3 winners? asks National Journal of its Education Experts.
With the i3 program, has the administration invested enough in proposals that bring truly innovative practices to the education system? Is America doing enough to leverage the benefits of modern technology in the education sector?
Stop chasing innovation, writes Diane Ravitch. Look for “systematic improvements” in curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The history of education-in-search-of-innovation is a story of big ideas, big egos, and no results. We are looking for change in all the wrong places. It is not innovation that we need, but an effective educational system, where teacher recruitment and preparation are highly valued, where the teaching profession is respected, where principals are known as master teachers, where the curriculum is rich and broad, where assessment eschews bubble-guessing, and where attention is paid to the quality of children’s lives.
Instead of “innovation,” call it Nonprofit and District Stuff That Seems to Work, writes Rick Hess. “Pound-for-pound, the $650 million for i3 is likely to do far more good than is the $4.35 billion for Race to the Top or the tens of billions showered upon K-12 through ARRA and edujobs,” he predicts. But “by narrowly drawing rules of evidence, emphasizing models that plug cleanly into conventional classroom-school-district structures, and stiff-arming for-profits, Congress and ED pretty much barred the door against potentially transformational innovations.”
This matters because i3 winners are going to be soaking up matching funds, climbing up foundation priority lists, and reaffirmed as the federally approved go-to’s for media stories on innovation. This will make it that much more difficult for truly game-changing efforts to gain support or attention, and will fuel the ED storyline that for-profit provision is an unnecessary distraction when it comes to scaling transformational innovation.
“Steering money to effective programs is loads better than mailing ten billion bucks to districts so they can keep doing the same old thing,” Hess writes. But transformative it’s not.