Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
03/07/19 4:30 PM Eastern Time
Grants to USA nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental research institutions and IHEs to partner with local education agencies for short-term evaluations of education interventions. Funding is intended for obtaining data that will inform LEAs regarding the efficacy of current educational interventions.
The program is designed to support rigorous evaluations of education interventions that state or local education agencies expect to produce meaningful improvements in student education outcomes within a short period (for example, within a single semester or academic year). The grant program will be carried out by research institutions and state or local education agencies working together as partners. The evaluations will use randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs to determine the impact of interventions on student education outcomes, and will rely on administrative data or other sources of secondary data to provide measures of these student outcomes.
The Institute views Low-Cost Evaluation projects as a means to obtain rigorous evidence of impact that state and local education agencies can use in making decisions regarding the scaling-up or revision of education interventions. Such evidence may help state and local education agencies meet their new responsibilities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in identifying evidence-based school improvement practices. The Institute also expects that Low-Cost Evaluation projects will contribute to a larger evidence base about education effectiveness, and demonstrate the feasibility and value of this type of evaluation.
The Institute recognizes that Low-Cost Evaluation projects may provide less information than can be obtained from studies with larger budgets and longer timeframes. However, Low-Cost Evaluation projects may provide better evidence than what education agencies currently have available to make similar decisions and may identify situations where a larger evaluation should be done before a costly acquisition is made. The Institute recognizes that Low-Cost Evaluation projects fill a specific niche in the evaluation process and are not a good fit for all types of interventions (e.g., multi-year interventions) or situations (e.g., where the necessary data are not available from a secondary source).
The Institute has several grant programs that support research done through partnerships between research institutions and state and/or local education agencies. These researcher-practitioner partnerships are intended to address the education agency’s research priorities, involve the agency in the design and implementation of the research, and support the agency’s decision-making by providing timely access to the findings. The Low-Cost Evaluation program provides funds for researchers and practitioners to work together to conduct rigorous evaluations of education agency interventions within a short timeframe and using available data.
Applicants may propose to evaluate interventions for students in prekindergarten, K-12, postsecondary, or adult education. At every level, the Institute is mainly interested in interventions that are expected to improve outcomes for students who are struggling or at risk of failure. The Institute is not specifying categories of interventions beyond those that can be evaluated in a short time frame and are important to the education agency. Note that the costs of interventions and their implementation are to be covered by the state and/or local education agency; they will not be covered by this grant program.
The evaluations supported under this program are intended to meet What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservations for determining the effectiveness of interventions. Specifically, applicants must propose either randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or regression discontinuity designs (RDDs). Within the first year of the project, the intervention must be implemented and the key outcomes should be obtained through administrative data systems or other secondary data sources. Project researchers should acquire the data no later than the first quarter of the second year. In the remainder of the second year, project teams should complete the analysis, provide results to their agency partner, and begin broader dissemination. Because of this schedule, Low-Cost Evaluation projects should not evaluate interventions that extend beyond one academic year or that rely on outcome measures that are not readily available.
Applicants must demonstrate that the intervention will be in operation during the first year of the project and that they will obtain prospective data. Evaluating the intervention as it is implemented during the first year of the project ensures that the education agency remains invested in the intervention and that the most recent version of the intervention will be evaluated. Applicants may also propose to include retrospective data so long as there was an appropriate design to measure program effectiveness (e.g., a lottery was used to assign students to program and control group conditions, or an RDD-appropriate assignment variable was used). Applicants who wish to analyze solely retrospective data should apply to the Education Research Grants program (84.305A) for a retrospective evaluation under the Efficacy and Follow-Up goal.
Low-Cost Evaluation projects are expected to rely on administrative data or other sources of secondary data to provide measures of student education outcomes. However, some primary data collection may be supported using grant funds if the state or local education agency partner deems such data key to understanding the value of the intervention. For example, grant funds may be used to collect more proximal outcomes such as classroom behavior by teachers or students not captured in administrative data. In addition, the data necessary for additional analyses such as studies of fidelity of implementation and comparison group practice, mediator and moderator analysis, and cost analysis may be collected if the education agency partner has interest in or need for this information in making decisions about the intervention. Gathering primary data for these additional analyses, and the analyses themselves, are not required. When the results of a Low-Cost Evaluation project indicate the need for more in-depth research or longer-term follow-up, the Institute will encourage project teams to apply for a grant under another grant program, such as the Education Research Grants program (CFDA 84.305A) or the Evaluation of State and Local Education Policies and Programs (CFDA 84.305H).
The Institute intends that Low-Cost Evaluation projects disseminate their results within the agency partner and to the practitioner community, the academic community, and the general public. To this end, applicants are required to discuss the dissemination of their findings in their applications including oral briefings and release of publicly available written brief(s) before the end of the grant.
Key Attributes of Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation Projects:
1. Evaluation of an education intervention implemented by a state or local education agency that is intended to have meaningful impacts on student education outcomes within a single semester or academic year.
2. Project carried out by a partnership between a research institution and a state or local education agency.
3. Evaluation uses a randomized controlled trial or a regression discontinuity design.
4. Evaluation relies on administrative data or other sources of secondary data for the measures of student education outcomes.
5. Analysis completed, education agency briefed on results, and written brief made public by second year of project.
Applications under the Low-Cost Evaluation grant program must meet the requirements set out under the subheadings below:
1. Student Education Outcomes
All research supported under the Low-Cost Evaluation program must address student education outcomes, including measures of student academic outcomes. The Institute also supports research on student social and behavioral competencies that support success in school and afterwards, and employment an earnings outcomes when appropriate. These education outcomes may be for students from prekindergarten through postsecondary and adult education. Student education outcomes should align with the theory of change guiding the proposed research and applicants should describe this alignment when discussing student outcomes and their measures. If your focus is on education outcomes for students in prekindergarten through high school with or at risk for disabilities, you must apply to the Low-Cost, Short Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions grant program (84.324L) run by the National Center for Special Education Research.
The Institute supports research on a diverse set of student academic outcomes that fall under two categories. The first category includes academic outcomes that reflect learning and achievement in core academic content areas (such as measures of understanding and achievement in pre-reading, reading, pre-writing, writing, English language proficiency, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For postsecondary education, these outcomes apply only to students enrolled in developmental education, and undergraduate writing, career and technical education (CTE) and STEM courses. The second category includes academic outcomes that reflect students’ successful progression through the education system (e.g., course and grade completion and retention in grades K through 12; high school graduation and dropout; postsecondary and adult education enrollment, progress, and completion). Social and behavioral competencies encompass a range of student social skills, attitudes, and behaviors (e.g., attendance and tardiness rates, disciplinary actions) that may be important to students’ success in school and beyond. Social and behavioral competencies may be included as additional outcomes in your research so long as your application makes clear how they relate to academic outcomes. Employment and earnings outcomes include hours of employment, job stability, wages and benefits. In general, such outcomes are most pertinent to studies examining career and technical education, postsecondary education, and adult education interventions.
2. Authentic Education Settings
Proposed research must be relevant to education in the United States and must address factors under the control of the U.S. education system (state or local). To help ensure such relevance, the Institute requires researchers to work within or with data from authentic education settings. For prekindergarten through postsecondary education, authentic education settings include both in-school settings (including prekindergarten centers) and formal programs that take place after school or out of school (e.g., after-school programs, distance learning programs, online programs) under the control of schools, state education agencies (SEAs), and/or local education agencies (LEAs). Formal programs not under the control of schools, SEAs, or LEAs are not considered as taking place in an authentic education setting and are not appropriate for study under the Low-Cost Evaluation program. For postsecondary education, authentic education settings include 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities, and career and technical education centers that have education programs leading to occupational certificates, associate’s degrees and/or bachelor’s degree. For adult education, authentic education settings include those where eligible providers offer one or more of the following: Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Secondary Education (ASE), Adult English language acquisition programs, and programs that integrate adult literacy with education in other areas (e.g., family literacy, civics education, occupational training). Eligible providers include state and local education agencies, community-based organizations, institutions of higher education, public or non-profit agencies, libraries, and other organizations identified under Title II of theWorkforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
3. Education Interventions
Education interventions proposed for evaluation should be of high importance to the education agency partner and aimed at improving student education outcomes. Their implementation should be completed within the first project year. Therefore, interventions lasting more than one academic year or that are not expected to produce beneficial student education outcomes quickly should not be proposed to the Low-Cost Evaluation grant program.
The Low-Cost Evaluation program requires partnerships between research institutions and state or local education agencies. The partnerships must include a Principal Investigator (PI) from each organization. The Institute does not endorse a specific model of research partnerships (for example, see Coburn, Penuel, and Geil, 2013 for a discussion of different models) but envisions that work supported by the Low-Cost Evaluation program will be collaborative from start to finish. Together, the partners are expected to determine the intervention to be evaluated, agree on the evaluation design and its implementation, establish a process to discuss the results as they are obtained, consider the practice and policy implications of the results, and disseminate the full results to multiple audiences, such as practitioners, policymakers, and researchers.
The role of each partner may vary within partnerships. Research institutions may take the lead on the evaluation design and analysis, though some education agencies may have the capacity to take on large or equal roles in this work. Education agencies are expected to take the lead on identifying the intervention to be evaluated; play an important role in determining whether and how the evaluation design is actually implemented in the schools; and have at least an equal role in discussing the results, their implications, and their dissemination. Relevant decision-makers from across the agency are expected to take part in this process as are other key stakeholders. Education agencies are also expected to ensure that the intervention is implemented and the administrative data for the evaluation are collected using funds not provided by this grant. To maintain the objectivity of the research, personnel involved in the evaluation design, implementation of the evaluation, and data analysis at all partner organizations are expected to be independent of the development, distribution, and implementation of the intervention.
Low-Cost Evaluation projects are intended to aid state and local education agencies in making decisions regarding their education interventions as well as to advance scientific knowledge and theory on learning, instruction, and education systems in order to provide solutions to the education problems in our nation. To this end, the Institute is committed to making the results of Institute-funded research available to a wide range of audiences. For example, the Institute has a public access policy that requires all grantees to submit their peer-reviewed scholarly publications to the ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) and that requires grantees to share final research data from causal inference studies no later than the time of publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly publication.
Grant funds must be used solely for evaluation purposes, including implementing the evaluation design, obtaining secondary data, data cleaning, preparation, merging and analysis, and dissemination of results.
GrantWatch ID#: 162952
The maximum award is $250,000.
The maximum duration is 2 years.
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