From the Editor

Head Start, the Learning Registry, Potential i3 Grantees

It was a busy week in Washington, as the Department of Education made a flurry of announcements, seemingly intent on pushing ahead on a number of fronts in the face of Congressional inaction. Monday, the Departments of Education and Defense launched the Learning Registry, a tool that facilitates sharing educational resources. On Wednesday the President and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services announced new rules for Head Start. Thursday the Department of Education announced the potential grantees for the second round of investing in Innovation - i3 - grants.

The Obama administration has focused more attention on early childhood lately.  The Department of Education has a proposal creating an Office of Early Learning, which would oversee the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants and coordinate early learning programs across the Department. The proposal names Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones as head of the new office, which will operate within the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). The Head Start rule changes are focused on improving the quality of Head Start programs. Under the new rules, Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks will be required to compete for continued federal funding.

On November 9, the Children and Families Administration issued a final rule that amends the Head Start Program regulations to implement the provisions of the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. The rule finalizes the adoption of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): Pre-K. CLASS is a research-based observational tool that rates the interactions between adults and children in the classroom in three domains: Emotional Support, Instructional Support, and Classroom Organization.

The Learning Registry is a joint project of the Department of Education and the Department of Defense, with each contributing $1.3 million to the effort. Work began in 2010, driven by a call for increased openness, sharing and use of digital learning resources as described in both the National Education Technology Plan and National Broadband Plan. The Learning Registry is an open source technical system designed to facilitate the exchange of data behind the scenes, and an open community of resource creators, publishers, curators, and consumers who are collaborating to broadly share resources, as well as information about how those resources are used by educators in diverse learning environments. The Learning Registry technology's open source license permits integration into other open projects, and in commercial applications.

The idea here is to make learning resources easier to find, access and integrate into learning environments. The Learning Registry provides a network to distribute information about learning resources, allowing anyone to publish or use the resources and to submit and augment data describing how the resources are used. In addition to traditional descriptive data - metadata - the Registry will also allow sharing of ratings, comments, downloads, standards alignment, usage information such as favoriting, remixing, embedding, and other social metadata/paradata, resource updates, relationships between resources, and other assertions

Federal agencies participating in the Learning Registry community, in addition to U.S. Departments of Education and Defense, include National Archives and Records Administration, Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Private sector organizations collaborating on the project include PBS, National Science Digital Library, Agilix, Institute for Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), BetterLesson, Benetech, Booz Allen Hamilton, JISC UK, European Schoolnet, Achieve, and JES & Co. State and local governments involved in the project include the Florida Department of Education's CPALMS project and the California Department of Education's CTE Online and Brokers of Expertise projects supported by the Butte County Office of Education/CADRE in California.

Secretary Duncan announced the 23 highest-rated Investing in Innovation (i3) applicants for the 2011 grant fund of the $150 million. The finalists must secure matching funds by December 9, 2011, in order to be confirmed as a grantee. The 23 highest-rated applicants include 1 Scale-up, 5 Validation and 17 Development proposals. The Department added STEM and rural education to its priority list for this year's competition. A significant number of potential grantees submitted proposals addressing the STEM priority.

Nearly 600 entities submitted i3 application this time around. In the first round of i3 grants, the Department received 1,698 applications and awarded 49 grants, totaling $646 million.

You'll remember from the 2010 competition that applications were made for specific grant categories - scale up, validation, developmental. Scale-up grants are eligible for the largest awards, up to $25 million, but require a higher level of evidence. The goal of a scale-up grant is to support scaling up those instructional strategies or programs for which there is already strong evidence of effectiveness and where the effect of implementing the proposed program will be substantial and important.

Validation grants provide funding to support practices, strategies, or programs that show promise, but for which there is currently only moderate evidence of effectiveness. The idea is that further study may show effects that may prove to be substantial and important.

Developmental grants, on the other hand, are meant to support "high-potential and relatively untested practices, strategies, or programs." The goal here is to systematically study these programs' efficacy. Applicants were required to provide evidence that the proposed practice, strategy, or program, or one similar to it, has been attempted previously, albeit on a limited scale or in a limited setting, and yielded promising results that suggest that more formal and systematic study is warranted.