U.S. Department of Education FY 2020 Education Innovation and Research Early-Phase Competition

The U.S. Department of Education has released details about a new funding opportunity that may be of interest to the ASTC community: the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program’s Early-Phase Competition.

As described in the Federal Register notice describing the program,

The Department expects that Early-phase grants provide funding to support the development, implementation, and feasibility testing of a program, which prior research suggests has promise, for the purpose of determining whether the program can successfully improve student achievement and attainment for high need students. Early-phase grants must demonstrate a rationale. These Early-phase grants are not intended simply to implement established practices in additional locations or address needs that are unique to one particular context. The goal is to determine whether and in what ways relatively newer practices can improve student achievement and attainment for high need students.

The program is intended to provide support for new and innovative programs and practices—and will generally not provide support for practices that are already in common usage, unless the proposal suggests the need for testing of significant adaptations or greatly increase the likelihood of widespread implementation for new populations or settings.

All applicants must address Absolute Priority 1 and either Absolute Priority 2 or Absolute Priority 3, which will be considered separately:

  • Absolute Priority 1—Demonstrates a Rationale, establishes the evidence requirement for this tier of grants. All Early-phase applicants must submit prior evidence of effectiveness that meets the demonstrates a rationale (as defined in this notice) evidence standard.
  • Absolute Priority 2—Field-Initiated Innovations—Promoting STEM Education, is intended to highlight the Administration’s efforts to ensure our Nation’s economic competitiveness by improving and expanding STEM learning and engagement, including computer science (as defined in this notice). (Will support awards of up to $4 million for up to 5 years)
  • Absolute Priority 3—Teacher-Directed Professional Learning—is intended to support efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate teacher-directed professional learning projects designed to enhance instructional practice and improve achievement and attainment for high-need students. The Department believes that teacher-directed professional development provided through such projects may be more effective in improving instructional practice and student outcomes than the one-size-fits-all professional development activities often funded by school systems in response to districtwide improvement goals. (Will support awards of up to $12 million for up to 5 years)

The Department estimates dedicating more than $175 million in funding to this funding opportunity, and initial awards will be made for three years. The remaining funding would be made available subject to the availability of funds and each grantee’s demonstration of progress toward accomplishing the goals and objectives of the project.

Each grant recipient must provide a 10 percent cost share or match from other Federal, state, local, or private sources in cash or in-kind contributions (which may be waived by the Department under exceptional circumstances).

Prospective applicants are encouraged to submit a Notice of Intent to Apply by August 18, 2020, to help the Department in planning for review; this simple web-based form asks about the applicant and which of the Absolute Priorities it intends to address.

The Department has produced a pre-recorded pre-application webinar on the Early-phase competition and another providing an overview of the EIR competition. The competition page also includes information PowerPoint presentations, including those on “Priorities and Evidence Requirement” and “Selection Criteria and Scoring” specific to the Early-phase competition.

Additional Information


  • Deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply (strongly encouraged):  August 18, 2020
  • Deadline for Transmittal of Applications:  September 10, 2020
  • Deadline for Intergovernmental Review:  November 10, 2020
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