August 5, 2010; Source: New York Times |  Remember when Teach for America was bemoaning the loss of its $18 million earmark in the federal budget, an event that would cause untold harm to TFA’s growth strategy? Lo and behold, TFA then landed the nation’s largest AmeriCorps grant. Now TFA, along with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), was the big winner in a $650 million federal grant competition known as Investing in Innovation (i3).

The groups, very closely connected in their origins, each scored $50 million grants from the program. Closely following in grant size was the Success for All Foundation in Baltimore getting $49 million to help struggling elementary schools, and Ohio State University with $46 million to train 3,750 teachers in the Reading Recovery technique. The remaining $455 million will get split among 45 other i3 winners.

The grants to TFA and KIPP are the Department’s statement that the two big winners are themselves innovations that deserve to be strengthened and replicated. That says volumes about DOE’s vision of public education: it’s a vision that is charter school oriented (KIPP) and untraditional teacher oriented (TFA). Digging into the substance of all 49 winners will be like a Rohrshach test of what the Obama Administration sees as the future of K-12 education.—Rick Cohen