[Federal Register: April 11, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 71)]
[Page 16175-16177]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Challenge Grants for Technology in Education; Notice

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of selection criteria, selection procedures, and
application procedures.


SUMMARY: The Secretary establishes selection criteria, procedures for 
evaluating applications, and procedures for submission of applications 
under the Challenge Grants for Technology in Education Program. The 
program provides grants to consortia comprised of one or more local 
educational agencies and other appropriate entities for the purpose of 
improving and expanding new applications of technology to strengthen 
the school reform effort, improve student achievement, and provide 
sustained professional development of teachers, administrators, and 
school library media personnel. The Secretary establishes selection 
criteria and related procedures to make informed funding decisions on 
applications for technology projects having great promise for improving 
elementary and secondary education.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The provisions of this notice take effect May 13, 1996.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Challenge Grants for Technology in 
Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. 
Department of Education, Washington, DC 20202-5544. Telephone (202) 
708-6001. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-

[[Page 16176]]
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Challenge Grants for Technology in 
Education Program is authorized in Title III, section 3136, of the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 U.S.C. 
    Under this program the Secretary makes grants to consortia. Each 
consortium must include at least one local educational agency (LEA) 
with a high percentage or number of children living below the poverty 
line, and may include other LEAs, State educational agencies, 
institutions of higher education, businesses, academic content experts, 
software designers, museums, libraries, or other appropriate entities.
    The Secretary announces in this notice selection criteria for the 
FY 1996 competition. The program statute (20 U.S.C. 6846(c)) requires 
the Secretary to give priority in awarding grants to consortia that 
demonstrate certain factors in their applications. The Secretary 
carries out this mandate by incorporating the priority factors into the 
selection criteria. In addition, the Secretary believes that 
substantive selection criteria specifically framed for this program 
competition are necessary to enable the Secretary to evaluate how well 
the applicants address the purpose of the Challenge Grants for 
Technology in Education Program. The Secretary uses the following 
selection criteria instead of the selection criteria in the Education 
Department General Administrative Regulations, 34 CFR 75.200(b)(3) and 

Selection Criteria

    The Secretary uses the following unweighted selection criteria to 
evaluate applications:
    (a) Significance. The Secretary reviews each proposed project for 
its significance by determining the extent to which the project--
    (1) Offers a creative, new vision for using technology to help all 
students to learn challenging standards or to promote efficiency and 
effectiveness in education; and contributes to the advancement of State 
and local systemic educational reform;
    (2) Will achieve far-reaching impact through results, products, or 
benefits that are easily exportable to other settings and communities;
    (3) Will directly benefit students by integrating acquired 
technologies into the curriculum to enhance teaching, training, and 
student achievement or by other means;
    (4) Will ensure ongoing, intensive professional development for 
teachers and other personnel to further the use of technology in the 
classroom, library, or other learning center;
    (5) Is designed to serve areas with a high number or percentage of 
disadvantaged students or other areas with the greatest need for 
educational technology; and
    (6) Is designed to create new learning communities, and expanded 
markets for high-quality educational technology applications and 
    (b) Feasibility. The Secretary reviews each proposed project for 
its feasibility by determining the extent to which--
    (1) The project will ensure successful, effective, and efficient 
uses of technologies for educational reform that will be sustainable 
beyond the period of the grant;
    (2) The members of the consortium or other appropriate entities 
will contribute substantial financial and other resources to achieve 
the goals of the project; and
    (3) The applicant is capable of carrying out the project, as 
evidenced by the extent to which the project will meet the problems 
identified; the quality of the project design, including objectives, 
approaches, evaluation plan, and dissemination plan; the adequacy of 
resources, including money, personnel, facilities, equipment, and 
supplies; the qualifications of key personnel who would conduct the 
project; and the applicant's prior experience relevant to the 
objectives of the project.

Selection Procedures

    The Secretary intends to evaluate applications using unweighted 
selection criteria. The Secretary believes that the use of unweighted 
criteria is most appropriate because they will allow the reviewers 
maximum flexibility to apply their professional judgments in 
identifying the particular strengths and weaknesses in individual 
applications. Therefore, the Secretary will not apply the selection 
procedures in EDGAR, 34 CFR 75.217, which require a rank order to be 
established based on weighted selection criteria.
    The Secretary also believes that due to the highly technical nature 
of the applications, it will be necessary to obtain clarifications and 
additional information from applicants during the selection process. In 
accordance with 34 CFR 75.109(b), an applicant may make changes to an 
application on or before the deadline date for submission of 
applications. In accordance with 34 CFR 75.231, the Secretary may 
request an applicant to submit additional information after the 
application has been selected for funding. For the purposes of the 
Challenge Grants for Technology in Education Program, the Secretary 
also permits an applicant to submit additional information, in response 
to a request from the Secretary, during the application selection 
    The Secretary will use the following selection procedures for the 
FY 1996 competition.
    In applying the selection criteria, one or more peer review panels 
of experts will first analyze each application in terms of individual 
selection criteria. The reviewers assign to each application two 
separate qualitative ratings based on the extent to which the 
application has met the two individual selection criteria. The two 
ratings taken together yield a composite rating, representing each 
reviewer's total rating of each application. These reviewer ratings for 
each application are then combined to yield an overall rating for each 
application. The panels will also identify inconsistencies, points in 
need of clarification, and other concerns, if any, pertaining to each 
    The Secretary assigns each application to one of several groups 
based on the application's overall level of quality. Starting with the 
highest quality group and moving down in unbroken order, the Secretary 
then identifies the groups of applications of sufficiently high quality 
to be considered for funding. The Secretary may request each applicant 
whose application was identified as being in a group of sufficiently 
high quality applications to submit additional information or materials 
to address the concerns and questions, if any, identified by the peer 
review panels. Such requests are strictly limited to clarifications of 
a conceptual or technical nature, and are not meant to fill major gaps 
in information that reviewers identify in applications.
    A second peer review panel then reevaluates each application in a 
group identified as being of sufficiently high quality, taking into 
account any additional information or materials, to determine the 
extent to which each application addresses the selection criteria. The 
Secretary then reassigns each reevaluated application to one of several 
groups based on the application's overall level of quality.
    In the final stage of the selection process, the Secretary selects 
for funding those applications of highest quality based on the results 
of the second review panel. The Secretary may also consider the extent 
to which each application demonstrates an effective response to the 
learning technology needs of areas with a high number or percentage of 
disadvantaged students or the greatest need for educational technology.

[[Page 16177]]


    In order to ensure timely receipt and processing of applications, 
the Secretary takes exception to 34 CFR 75.102(b) by requiring that for 
an application to be considered for funding it must be received on or 
before the deadline date announced in the application notice published 
in this issue of the Federal Register. The Secretary will not consider 
an application for funding if it is not received by the deadline date 
unless the applicant can show proof that the application was (1) sent 
by registered or certified mail not later than five days before the 
deadline date; or (2) sent by commercial carrier not later than two 
days before the deadline date. An applicant must show proof of mailing 
in accordance with 34 CFR 75.102(d) and (e). Applications delivered by 
hand must be received by 2:00 p.m. (Washington, D.C. time) on the 
deadline date. For the purposes of this competition, the Secretary does 
not apply 34 CFR 75.102(b) which requires an application to be mailed, 
rather than received, by the deadline date.

Waiver of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    In accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553), 
it is the practice of the Department to offer interested parties the 
opportunity to comment on proposed rules. Ordinarily, this practice 
would have applied to the selection criteria, selection procedures, and 
application procedures in this notice. However, the Secretary waives 
rulemaking on these rules under section 553(b)(B) of the Administrative 
Procedure Act. This section provides that rulemaking is not required 
when the agency for good cause finds that notice and public procedure 
are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. The 
Secretary believes that, in order to make timely grant awards using 
Fiscal Year (FY) 1996 funds, public comment on these rules is 
impracticable. As of April 5, 1996, Congress had not authorized the 
final FY 1996 appropriations for the Challenge Grant Program. Final 
Congressional action regarding the FY 1996 appropriation is not 
expected to occur until after April 24, 1996. The Secretary anticipates 
that Congress will appropriate sufficient funds to enable the 
Department to fund new awards in FY 1996. However, if FY 1996 awards 
are to be made in a timely manner, the Department must proceed with the 
FY 1996 competition prior to a determination of the amount of funds 
available for this program. The Secretary believes that it is essential 
to make new awards no later than October 1, 1996. The Challenge Grant 
Program statute focuses on projects that apply technology in ways which 
will directly benefit students. To realize this statutory purpose, each 
funded project must be in the position to begin to implement project 
activities in classrooms at the beginning of the 1996-1997 school year. 
Due to the prolonged uncertainty regarding FY 1996 funds, it is now 
impracticable to receive public comments and still allow FY 1996 awards 
to be made by October 1, 1996.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required 
to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid 
OMB control number. The valid OMB control number assigned to the 
collection of information in this notice of selection criteria, 
selection procedures, and application procedures is 1810-0569.

Intergovernmental Review

    This program is subject to the requirements of Executive Order 
12373 and the regulations in 34 CFR Part 79. The objective of the 
executive order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a 
strengthened federalism by relying on processes developed by State and 
local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal 
financial assistance.
    In accordance with the order, this document is intended to provide 
early notification of the Department's specific plans and actions for 
this program.

    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 6846.

    Dated: April 5, 1996.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.303A, Challenge 
Grants for Technology in Education)
Sharon P. Robinson,
Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement.
[FR Doc. 96-9011 Filed 4-10-96; 8:45 am]