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Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions

Grants to USA Nonprofits, Agencies, and IHEs to Evaluate
Education Interventions for Special Needs Students

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

03/07/19 4:30 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA nonprofit and governmental research institutions and IHEs to carry out evaluations of interventions for special education students. Applicants are advised that required registrations may take several weeks to complete. This program is intended to support rigorous evaluations of education interventions that state or local education agencies expect will produce meaningful improvements in student education outcomes within a short period (for example, within a single semester or academic year).

The program will be carried out by research institutions and state or local 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 education outcomes.

The Institute views Low-Cost Evaluation projects as a means to obtain rigorous evidence of impact that state and local agencies can use in making timely 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 and adopting research-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 could 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 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 or situations.

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 (see WWC Standards Handbook at Evaluation designs must be 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 student education 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 researchers 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.

Applications under the Low-Cost Evaluation grant program must meet the requirements set out under the subheadings below (1) Student Education Outcomes, (2) Authentic Education Settings, (3) Education Interventions, (4) Partnerships, and (5) Dissemination in order to be sent forward for scientific peer review.

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 and 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 (see

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 pre-kindergarten 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., afterschool 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 the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA:

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 LowCost Evaluation grant program.

4. Partnerships 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.

5. Dissemination 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 (see 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.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 182601

Estimated Size of Grant:

The maximum award is $250,000.

Term of Contract:

The maximum duration is 2 years. Projects may start between July 16 - September 17, 2019.


  • City or township governments
  • County governments
  • For profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Independent school districts
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
  • See RFP and/or Grant Guidelines for full eligibility
  • Special district governments
  • State governments

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applications under the Low-Cost Evaluation grant program must meet the requirements set out under (1) Eligible Applicants and (2) Principal Investigator and Authorized Representative in order to be responsive and sent forward for scientific peer review.

Eligible Applicants:

-At a minimum, applications must include a research institution and a U.S. state or local agency proposing to work together in partnership.

-Applicants that have the ability and capacity to conduct scientific research are eligible to apply as the research institution partner(s). These include, but are not limited to, nonprofit and for-profit organizations and public and private agencies and institutions, such as colleges and universities, and research firms.

The U.S. agency partners may include:

-State education agencies such as education agencies, departments, boards and commissions that oversee early learning, elementary, and secondary education. The term state agencies includes U.S. territories’ education agencies and tribal education agencies.

-Local education agencies that are primarily public school districts2 and may also include county or city agencies that have primary responsibility for infant and child care, early intervention services, or preschool.

-Intermediate districts (sometimes called service districts) that provide services to multiple districts but do not have decision-making authority over implementing programs and policies cannot serve as the agency partner. Applications that include them will need to include one or more districts that have decision-making authority as the agency partner.

-Non-public organizations that oversee or administer schools (e.g., charter or education management organizations) can apply as long as they include the state or local education agency with oversight of the schools they manage as an agency partner.

-Individual schools or groups of schools that do not form a school district are not eligible to apply as the local education agency partner. In the case that a single school is recognized as a local education agency, they are eligible to apply as the agency partner, but the Institute notes that reviewers may consider the work less significant than projects that involve education agencies having multiple schools.

- Community college districts.

- State and city postsecondary systems: The postsecondary system must apply as a partner. The proposed research can take place at one, some, or all of the institutions making up the system. However, individual postsecondary institutions may not apply as a partner.
- A postsecondary system that applies as an education agency partner cannot also serve as the research institution partner in the same project.

- In places where state or local education agencies do not oversee adult education, the adult education providers, defined as eligible providers (e.g., community-based organizations, institutions of higher education, public or non-profit agencies, libraries) by Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA:, can serve as the agency partner.

- The Institute encourages partnerships to include other organizations that can contribute to the successful outcome of the work such as other state or local agencies (e.g., juvenile justice, social services), community organizations, parent organizations, and teacher and staff organizations.

- To help demonstrate a working partnership, the Institute strongly encourages the key research institution(s) and education agency(ies) forming the partnership to submit a joint Letter of Agreement (placed in Appendix E of the application), rather than separate letters, documenting their participation and cooperation in the partnership and clearly setting out their expected roles and responsibilities in the partnership. Any other institution involved in the
proposed partnership should submit a separate Letter of Agreement.

The Principal Investigator:

Applications must include at least one Principal Investigator (PI) from a research institution and at least one PI from a state or local education agency. When you discuss the PIs in your application, it is helpful to the reviewers to identify which partner they represent.

The partnership must choose one PI (either the PI from the research institution or partner agency) to have overall responsibility for the administration of the award and interactions with the Institute. This PI is the individual who has the authority and responsibility for the proper conduct of the research, including the appropriate use of federal funds and the submission of required scientific progress reports. This person should be identified on the application as the Project Director/Principal Investigator. All other Principal Investigators should be listed as Co- Principal Investigators (Co-PIs).

The Institute does not have a preference for whether the PI is based at the research institution or education agency, and expects the partnership to choose the person it feels can best lead the project. The Institute recommends that the person chosen as PI has the qualifications and experience to manage the grant and that the PI’s organization has the capacity to fulfill the administrative, financial and reporting requirements of the grant.

The PI and a Co-PI (representing the research institution and the education agency) will attend one meeting each year (for up to 2 days) in Washington, DC, with other grantees and Institute staff. The project’s budget should include this meeting. Should either the PI or Co-PI not be able to attend the meeting, he/she may designate another person whom is key personnel to attend.

The Authorized Organization Representative:

The Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) for the applicant institution is the official who has the authority to legally commit the applicant to (1) accept federal funding and (2) execute the proposed project. When your application is submitted through, the AOR automatically signs the cover sheet of the application and, in doing so, assures compliance with U.S. Department of Education policy on public access to scientific publications and data as well as other policies and regulations governing research awards (see Part II.B: Additional Award Requirements).

Pre-Application Information:

The Institute encourages you to contact the Institute’s Program Officer as you develop your application. The Program Officer can offer advice on substantive aspects of your application and answer other questions prior to submitting your application.

The Institute asks potential applicants to submit a Letter of Intent prior to the application submission deadline. Letters of Intent are optional but strongly encouraged by the Institute.

If you submit a Letter of Intent, the Program Officer will contact you regarding your proposed research. Institute staff also use the information in the Letters of Intent to identify the expertise needed for the scientific peer review panels and to secure a sufficient number of reviewers to handle the anticipated number of applications.

In addition, the Institute encourages you to view the Institute’s Funding Opportunities On-Demand Webinars for information on its research competitions, including advice on choosing the correct research competition, grant writing, or submitting your application. For more information regarding webinar topics, and webinar procedures, see

Applications must be submitted electronically and received no later than 4:30 PM, Eastern Time on March 7, 2019. The Institute strongly recommends that you not wait until the deadline date to submit an application. registration involves many steps including obtaining a DUNS number if you do not already have one. The DUNS number is necessary to complete registration on SAM (, which itself may take approximately one week to complete. Note: SAM registration can take several weeks to complete, depending upon the completeness and accuracy of the data entered into the SAM database by the applicant organization.

For additional assistance with registering your DUNS number in SAM or updating your existing SAM account, the Department of Education has prepared a Tip Sheet which you can find at:

-Letter of Intent Due: January 10, 2019
-Application Due no later than 4:30 PM ET on March 7, 2019
-Applicants Notified: By July 16, 2019
-Possible Start Dates: July 16 – September 17, 2019

View the webinar for this grant opportunity:

View this opportunity on

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Dr. Phill Gagné
Telephone: (202) 245-7139

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

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