Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, Teaching Quality, and Student Literacy Achievement Across Discipl

i3 and Child Literacy

For philanthropists interested in supporting promising practices in the realm of education, a new and exciting opportunity has come about. In early August, the Department of Education announced the recipients of the $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition. Together with the Race to the Top competition for states, the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund was established as a section under last year’s economic stimulus package to fund innovative practices and programs shown to improve student achievement. Contingent upon the recipients’ ability to raise a 20% match of their potential award from private donations, the i3 grants will provide scale up, validation and development funding to promising programs aimed at improving student outcomes and closing achievement gaps. A shared theme among several of the i3’s top-rated recipients is the focus on child literacy. Among the highest-rated applicants is the Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI), an organization profiled in our Pathways to Student Success investment guide on pgs. 31-32. CLI’s Model Classroom Innovation for Raising Teaching Quality and Increasing Student Literacy Achievement project was selected to receive a $21.75 million validation grant for growing programs with emerging evidence of success.


Many teachers enter their classrooms unready to respond effectively to the needs of their students.1 Lack of training in early literacy instruction results in large numbers of elementary students who fail to gain the necessary vocabulary and literacy skills they need to learn to read. Furthermore, students who do not gain these skills early are unlikely to improve significantly over time. Research has shown that only one in ten students who are reading poorly at the end of the first grade read proficiently at the end of fourth grade.2,3

Responding to the need for specialized literacy training, Children’s Literacy Initiative’s program model provides quality professional development and coaching in literacy instruction for preschool through 3rd grade teachers. Results of our Center’s past analysis on CLI’s success rate and cost-per impact figures have shown that the model enables an additional 32 of every 100 students taught by CLI trained teachers to meet literacy bench marks at a cost of approximately $586 per student (see snapshot below).


Roles for Philanthropists

As with the other finalists of the i3 competition, the Children’s Literacy Initiative must secure at least 20% of the matching funds of their grant from private-sector donors by September 8th, 2010 in order to become an i3 grantee. In the case of CLI, this will require an additional donation of at least $4.35 million from individual philanthropists, foundations and other private donors to be matched five times over by their $21.75 million i3 grant from the Department of Education.

While CLI’s work targets improving literacy instruction for only elementary school teachers, research also shows a great need for general literacy training for secondary (middle and high school) teachers, especially those teaching high-needs students. Without the proper literacy skills, middle school and high school students cannot grasp concepts and meet accepted standards in the content areas of math, science, social studies and English/language arts.4

Improving the quality of secondary teachers is the focus of our teaching quality investment guide.

Thanks to Kate Doornbos and the CHIP team for their contributions to this post.

1 Levine, A. (2006, September). Educating school teachers. Washington, DC: The Education Schools Project. Retrieved July 2, 2008

2 Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80 (4), 437-447.

3 Paragraph taken from pg. 31 of Rhodes, H. J., Noonan, K., & Rosqueta, K. (2008). Pathways to Student Success: A Guide to Translating Good Intentions into Meaningful Impact. The Center for High Impact Philanthropy. Retrieved August 24, 2010, from 

4 The Education Alliance at Brown University (2009). Adolescent Literacy Collaboration: Overview. Retrieved August 24, 2010, from