D.C.'s AppleTree Institute wins federal i3 grant

One of our goals with "Little Citizens, Big Issues" is to showcase diverse voices and viewpoints from the community on issues affecting young children in the District. This post is by Jack McCarthy, managing director of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation.

News from the US Department of Education's Investing in Innovation, or "i3" competition, leaked out on inadvertently last Wednesday. These grants fund programs boosting student achievement with strong evidence of success. After an intensive grant preparation process, with unheard of levels of competition--over 1,700 applicants for under 50 awards nationwide--those of us at AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.

While wrapping up a 9 p.m. planning meeting, I looked at my email on my iPhone and saw a note from a board member reading, "Hooray!!!" She attached a link to the Education Week blog that including the list of 49 highly rated proposals and AppleTree was on the list.

Two days later, we were on a conference call with Secretary Arne Duncan and 48 other I3 winners...

What an incredible honor and opportunity.

AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation was the only D.C.-based organization implementing a program in the nation's capital that was selected for funding. For the past 14 years, we've worked at the intersection of education policy and implementation. Our charter schools yield outstanding results: We close the achievement gap before children enter kindergarten. Dr. Craig Ramey, an internationally recognized as an expert in early childhood development, wrote that "Two years of the [AppleTree] program raised children’s performance by more than a full standard deviation (Effect size = 1.1), placing the AppleTree program among the most effective of which we are aware.”

Our i3 grant will allow us to help our three schools--serving about 800 preschool children in Southwest D.C. and Columbia Heights--improve their teachers' ability to collect and use data to improve instruction and professional development. We will catalogue and document our processes and activities to make them available to other preschools interested in improving quality.

It will be a lot of work, but the time is right, the need is great and we need Every Child Ready for success in school.