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Deadline: June 30, 2015

U.S. Department of Education: First in the World Validation Grants

The First in the World (FITW) program is designed to support the development, replication, and dissemination of innovative solutions and evidence for what works in addressing persistent and widespread challenges in postsecondary education for students who are at risk for not persisting in and completing postsecondary programs, including, but not limited to, adult learners, working students, part-time students, students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, and first-generation students. The focus of the FITW program is to build evidence for what works in postsecondary education by testing the effectiveness of these strategies in improving student persistence and completion outcomes.

For FY 2015, the Department will award two types of grants under this program: “Development” grants and “Validation” grants. These grants differ in terms of the level of evidence of effectiveness required for consideration of funding, the level of scale the funded project should reach, and, consequently, the amount of funding available to support the project. This solicitation is for Validation grants. Validation grants provide funding to support the expansion and replication of projects supported by moderate evidence of effectiveness to a scaled multi-site sample, which would include multiple institutions of higher education, including multiple institutions within a State system. Validation grants have four absolute priorities:

  • Absolute Priority 1: Improving Success in Developmental Education – The Secretary gives priority to projects designed to improve student success in developmental education or accelerate student progress into credit-bearing postsecondary courses.
  • Absolute Priority 2: Improving Teaching and Learning – The Secretary gives priority to projects designed to improve teaching and learning. New approaches to teaching and learning that incorporate curriculum and course re-design, such as by using tools and strategies that go beyond the traditional lecture to support active learning or customize learning, must be tested and expanded to more postsecondary institutions to improve accessibility and quality and reduce cost.
  • Absolute Priority 3: Improving Student Support Services – The Secretary gives priority to projects designed to improve the supports or services provided to students prior to or during the students’ enrollment in postsecondary education. Almost all institutions of higher education offer a diverse array of student support services to assist with financial aid, academic barriers and other issues related to persistence and completion. The range of services and support is extensive and includes interventions both inside and outside the classroom and campus. Many of these services are also provided by outside organizations, including non-profits. However, few student support services strategies are widely implemented on the basis of evidence of effectiveness. There is a great need to expand validated cost effective approaches, so that a greater number of students can be served.
  • Absolute Priority 4: Influencing the Development of Non-Cognitive Factors – The Secretary gives priority to projects that are designed to improve students’ mastery of non-cognitive skills and behaviors (such as academic behaviors, academic mindset, perseverance, self-regulation, social and emotional skills, and approaches toward learning strategies) and enhance student motivation and engagement in learning.

The selection criteria for the FY 2015 Validation competition are designed to ensure that applications selected for funding have the best potential to generate substantial improvements and research in student outcomes, and include well-articulated plans for the implementation, dissemination, and evaluation of the proposed projects.

Amount: $60,000,000 total is available for the FITW program, with up to $16,000,000 set aside for Minority-Serving Institutions. Approximately $40,000,000 will be used for the Validation grants program. Validation grant awards may range from $6,000,000-$10,000,000 over a 4-year period.

Eligibility: Institutions of higher education, combinations of such institutions, and other public and private nonprofit institutions and agencies.

Link: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fitw/applicant.html

Note: The Department will host three webinars in May. Registration details are available at the above website.

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