Posted by: Francis Koster Published: June 18, 2024

Education Innovation and Research Discretionary Grant (Early Phase; Exp. July 22, 2024)


The Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, established under section 4611 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), funds projects that create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement for high-need students.  Innovations and research must generate and validate solutions to persistent education challenges, providing support for the expansion of those solutions to substantially more students.

This funding opportunity is directed at applicants who would like to participate in the Early Phase of the EIR program, building evidence for a proposed intervention, with the potential for awarded applicants to receive later funding through EIR's Mid Phase and Expansion tiers as they demonstrate efficacy among high-need students. 

Eligible Entities

The following entities are eligible to apply for the Early Phase Education Innovation and Research Grant:

(a) An LEA;
(b) An SEA;
(c) The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE);
(d) A Consortium of SEAs or LEAs;
(e) A Nonprofit (see full announcement) organization; and
(f) An LEA, an SEA, the BIE, or a Consortium, in Partnership with—

(1) A Nonprofit organization;
(2) A Business;
(3) An Educational Service Agency; or
(4) An IHE.

Eligible Activities

Specifically, Early Phase grants provide funding for the development, implementation, and feasibility of an approach that prior research suggests can benefit the target population. Early Phase grants are not intended to simply expand established practices or address needs unique to one particular context.  Rather, the goal is to determine whether and in what ways relatively new practices can assist high-need students with overcoming significant educational challenges.

For example, projects may include new approaches to

  • instructional design, such as through project-based or experiential learning opportunities for students,
  • schoolwide frameworks, such as small schools or learning communities that support student connection and engagement,
  • increased interagency coordination to improve academic supports for highly mobile students, such as students in foster care and students experiencing homelessness, or
  • other innovative practices.

The FY 2024 Early Phase grants competition includes five absolute priorities. All Early Phase grant applicants must address Absolute Priority 1. Early Phase grant applicants are also required to address one of the other four absolute priorities (applicants may not submit under more than one of the other four absolute priorities).

Absolute Priority 1—Demonstrates a Rationale

Projects with prior evidence of effectiveness.

Absolute Priority 2—Field-Initiated Innovations—General

Projects that are designed to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to help high-need students.

Absolute Priority 3—Field-Initiated Innovations—Promoting Equity in Student Access to Educational Resources and Opportunities: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Projects that promote our Nation’s economic competitiveness by improving and expanding STEM learning and engagement.

In Absolute Priority 3, the Department recognizes the importance of funding pre-K through grade 12 STEM education and anticipates that projects would expand opportunities for high-need students. Within this absolute priority, applicants may focus on expanding opportunities in STEM education, including computer science, for underrepresented students in STEM education, including students of color, girls, English learners, students with disabilities, youth from rural communities, and youth from families living at or below the poverty line, to help reduce the enrollment and achievement gaps in a manner consistent with nondiscrimination requirements contained in Federal civil rights laws.

Absolute Priority 4—Field-Initiated Innovations—Meeting Student Social, Emotional, and Academic Needs

Projects that promote high-quality social and emotional learning.

The disruption caused by the pandemic, along with the growth in youth mental health distress, continue to impact student well-being. It is critical to address students’ social and emotional needs, not only to benefit student well-being, but also to support their academic success, as student social, emotional, and academic development are interconnected.

Absolute Priority 5—Field-Initiated Innovations—Promoting Equity in Student Access to Educational Resources and Opportunities: Educator Recruitment and Retention

Projects that elevate and strengthen the educator workforce in ways that prioritize recruiting and retaining educators to better support high-need students. Applicants are encouraged to address fundamental challenges that schools face in recruiting and retaining fully qualified educators, by addressing the responsibilities and challenges educators continue to face after the pandemic.

For example, projects may be designed to improve supports for educators that enhance recruitment and retention (e.g., restructuring schedules to ensure sufficient time for planning, collaboration, and coaching), and increase access to leadership opportunities that can increase pay for fully certified, experienced, and effective educators. Projects may support the recruitment and retention of all school staff or specific staff with acute recruitment and retention challenges (e.g., personnel serving children or students with disabilities).

Other Considerations

As an EIR project is implemented, grantees are encouraged to learn more about how the practices improve student achievement and attainment, as well as to develop increasingly rigorous evidence of effectiveness and new strategies to efficiently and cost-effectively scale to new school districts, regions, and States. To meet the required evidence level, applicants must develop a logic model (as defined in this notice), theory of action, or another conceptual framework that includes the goals, objectives, outcomes, and key project components (as defined in this notice) of the project.

The Department intends to provide grantees with technical assistance to support dissemination, scaling, and sustainability, as well as evaluation of program effectiveness.

Note: The EIR program statute refers to ‘‘high-need students’’ but does not define the term, which allows applicants to define it for purposes of their proposed project, population, and setting. Addressing the needs of underserved students (as defined in the full announcement) is one way to address EIR’s statutory requirement.

Important Dates

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: July 22, 2024.
Deadline for Intergovernmental Review: September 20, 2024.

Next Steps

Please go to the Full Announcement in the Federal Register for definitions of terms and further details.

Additional competition information for prospective applicants is posted by the Department of Education on the EIR Discretionary Grant Program website: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education--Education Innovation and Research.

To obtain and submit an application, go to Common Instructions for Applicants to Department of Education Discretionary Grant Programs, or search for the instructions in the Federal Register at 87 FR 75045 (published December 7, 2022).

For further information, contact Jamila Smith, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20202–5900, by telephone at (202) 987–1753, or by email at

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability and wish to access telecommunications relay services, please dial 7–1–1.

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Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

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