Newswise — To help support the testing of innovations in public education that aim to improve student learning, The Wallace Foundation is joining with a group of foundations to support the efforts of creative people across the country who are applying to the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund of the U.S. Department of Education.

In an effort to make it easier for potential Department of Education grantees to seek matching funds from foundations, Wallace has joined a pilot test of an online registry at The registry will allow i3 applicants from around the country to post an abbreviated version of their innovation proposals – which if selected by the department will require a 20 percent match – so that foundations can read them and consider whether to invest in them.

Wallace has reserved up to $20 million of our 2010 grant budget for potential matches to projects posted on the registry. How much Wallace actually decides to allocate will depend on our judgment of how well projects match the foundation’s priorities, the projects’ likelihood of succeeding, the strength of the applicants’ plan to learn lessons, and their potential contribution to improving public education. “The registry is an unusual and promising foundation collaboration that we think has the potential to help streamline the work of prospective federal innovation fund grantees,” said M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation. “More broadly, over time, our hope is that the separate efforts of both foundations and the federal government to invest in innovations, assess their effectiveness, and then to promote wider use of those that work, will help improve education for all students, and especially those with the greatest needs.”

Wallace is among a group of 12 foundations that cooperated in the development of the online registry. Members of the group will work with the Foundation Center and Grantmakers for Education to expand the number of foundations that will use this site, with the hope of having 100 or more utilizing this important new resource.

The registry is designed to make it easier: for applicants to make their proposals known to foundations; for foundations to locate proposals that are a good match with their priorities; and for foundations to spot opportunities to work together on particular projects. Decisions on funding individual proposals will be made separately by each foundation.

Wallace’s own focus is on improving access of students living in distressed urban areas to good schools, and to a variety of enrichment opportunities in and out of school that prepare them to be contributing members of their communities. Wallace’s work in strengthening education leadership and increasing the amount and quality of learning time during the school year and in the summer are consistent with two of the department’s priorities of improving teacher and leader effectiveness, and turning around low-performing schools.

The Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) funds total $650 million and are in three tiers. Scale-up grants of up to $50 million each require strong evidence of effectiveness; validation grants of up to $30 million require moderate evidence of effectiveness; and development grants of up to $5 million are based on a reasonable hypothesis of effectiveness.

The foundations involved in the effort include: The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; Ford Foundation; The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Lumina Foundation; Robertson Foundation; The Wallace Foundation; The Walton Family Foundation; The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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