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In a Notice of Final Priorities (NFP), the United States Department of Education (USDE) presented a final set of 16 Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs in May 2011. The set embraces a total of 50 priority areas, one or more of which the USDE may use in its discretionary grant programs.

 

This post explores new statutory definitions in the NFP and some features of the 10 priority areas of the priorities for Building Capacity for Systemic Continuous Improvement. Earlier posts provided an overview of the 16 supplemental priorities and explored 40 priority areas under two priorities. This is the final post in the series. [Note: The cited priorities retain the sequence in the NFP.]

 

III. Building Capacity for Systemic Continuous Improvement:

The 10 priority areas within the four supplemental priorities of this focus area will shape an applicant’s planning of program designs and its framing of project objectives. In any competition for a discretionary grant, the USDE may invite projects that focus on one or more of these areas.

 

Priority 13—Enabling More Data-Based Decision-Making:

The four priority areas for Priority 13—Enabling More Data-Based Decision-Making, which focuses on projects that are designed to collect (or obtain), analyze, and use high quality and timely data, including data on program participant outcomes, in accordance with privacy requirements, are:

  • Improving instructional practices, policies, and child outcomes in early learning settings
  • Improving instructional practices, policies, and student outcomes in elementary or secondary schools
  • Improving postsecondary student outcomes relating to enrollment, persistence, and completion and leading to career success
  • Providing reliable and comprehensive information on the implementation of Department of Education programs, and participant outcomes in these programs, by using data from State longitudinal data systems or by obtaining data from reliable third-party sources

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 13, depending on the priority area, applicants may target students ranging from early learning programs through postsecondary programs. Applicants must plan to collect and report data that are timely and of high quality. They must measure and track four specific outcomes at the postsecondary level; otherwise, their options for outcome indicators are open-ended. All projects for this priority must reflect the statutory definition of privacy requirements. The priority accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants.

 

Priority 14—Building Evidence of Effectiveness:

The two priority areas for Priority 14—Building Evidence of Effectiveness are projects that propose evaluation plans that are likely to produce valid and reliable evidence for:

  • Improving project design and implementation or designing more effective future projects to improve outcomes
  • Identifying and improving practices, strategies, and policies that may contribute to improving outcomes

 

Priority 14 further stipulates that, at a minimum, the outcome of interest is to be measured multiple times before and after the treatment for project participants and, where feasible, for a comparison group of non-participants.

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 14, applicants must focus on evaluation design and must comply with several statutory definitions. Although Priority 14 accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants, it favors those of sufficient size and organizational capacity to implement the evaluation designs and alternatives, as defined by statute.

 

Priority 15—Supporting Programs, Practices, or Strategies for which there is Strong or Moderate Evidence of Effectiveness:

The one priority area for Priority 15—Supporting Programs, Practices, or Strategies for which there is Strong or Moderate Evidence of Effectiveness is: Projects that are supported by strong or moderate evidence.

 

Priority 15 further clarifies that a project that is supported by strong evidence will score better than one that is supported by moderate evidence.

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 15, applicants must focus on research-based rationales and must comply with two statutory definitions concerning levels of evidence. Discussion of evidence is apt to be necessary in a literature review and/or in a description of evaluation tools. The priority accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants.

 

Priority 16—Improving Productivity:

The one priority area for Priority 16—Improving Productivity is: Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources while improving student learning or other educational outcomes (i.e., outcome per unit of resource).

 

Priority 16 further clarifies that such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school schedules and teacher compensation systems, use of open educational resources, or other strategies.

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 16, applicants must link more efficient uses of resources to educational outcomes. Although the priority accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants, it favors those of sufficient size to be likely to realize significant gains in efficiency.

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