How to Participate

Participate in the Innovation Grant Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Innovation Grant Program:

Each year since 2004, CFF recognizes innovative programs within San Diego County through our Innovation Grant Program. Awardees are honored at our Innovation in Education Awards event.

Four awards distinguish innovative projects that demonstrate the power and scope of ways to improve K-12 education:

  • INSPIRE– inspiring students to learn
  • INNOVATE – finding new and better ways to educate
  • ACHIEVE – demonstrating the results of innovations
  • IMPACT – doing it all, the best of the best for the year

To see examples of award winners in each category, we invite you to visit our Video Library with videos from 2005 to the most recent ceremony.

Q: Who can apply?

Anyone associated with projects in a K-12 classroom, school or district. We have received nominations from teachers, principals, district administrators, business partners, even volunteers. You can nominate a worthy project or even self-nominate.

Q: What projects qualify?

Any innovative project that improves K-12 education will be considered. Read through the request for application form on our website and see if your program can provide compelling answers.

Q: What do I get?


Just the process of preparing a substantial and convincing application may provide you with satisfaction of a job done well. Some programs realize that they have work to do before they fully qualify and what might be needed to be recognized.


CFF donates $5,000 to the school or district for the inspire, innovate and achieve awards. CFF donates $10,000 for the impact award, the best of the best.

Video profile documentary

CFF creates a brief, 2-3 minute, video profile that documents each award. The video appears during the awards program at the CFF Innovation in Education Awards event and remains archived on the CFF web site.


CFF presents a trophy suitable for a display case that recognizes the program and its school or district.

Recognition in the community

The education community has come to anticipate the annual CFF Innovation in Education Awards as recognition of exemplary innovations. CFF invites the four award programs and several honorable mention programs to bring a table of people to attend and be recognized at the event. CFF publishes several recognition ads in San Diego Union-Tribune. The CFF web site will list this year’s innovative programs along with their video profile documentaries.

Q: Do I have to be a CFF program to be recognized?

No. CFF works with a variety of programs in San Diego but we are interested in all programs that do innovative work, that inspire students to learn and that achieve their goals. While we have recognized some programs that have benefitted from CFF collaboration and funding, we have recognized far more that came to us during the application process.

Q: What do I need to do?

First, review the request for applications on our website. Think about the questions and gather evidence for that program you want to nominate. Note the deadline date.

Prepare answers in advance so you can copy them onto the form. Provide contact information for yourself, the submitter. Provide information about the nominated program, its school or district.

Decide which award category best suits your nomination: inspire, innovate, achieve or impact. You may apply for only ONE award so it is important to decide which award best fits your program. Because the Impact award is “the program that embodies the elements of the other three awards, Inspire, Innovate and Achieve,” the prompts for these awards will be embedded in the Impact prompts. In the event that none of the applications for the Achieve award qualify, the runner up for the Impact award will be awarded in the Achieve category.

Complete the prompts.

Then, provide a PDF file(s) with evidence that the nominated program has met its objectives. Videos are also encouraged. More directions can be found in the request for application form.

Q: How are the awards decided?

CFF invites a jury of reviewers for a half-day selection meeting. Reviewers are selected from teachers, principals, administrators, superintendents, higher education leaders, business leaders, and CFF board members. The jury reviews all applications, perhaps 25 to 50 nominations. They first decide on the impact award and then each of the individual categories of inspire, innovate and achieve. Some programs are so good that they receive honorable mention recognition.

Q: How do you choose the impact award?

The Impact Award is the most prestigious award given to the ONE  program that embodies all three attributes: inspire, innovate and achieve. This program exceeds all others in its ability to impact students and teachers through inspiring, innovative, exceptional, unprecedented and/or extraordinary program components that are verified  by quantitative results. Additionally, this program substantiates its sustainability and can be replicated by others. This program is graded using the characteristics described in the Impact Rubric.

Q: What makes a good application?

Please see the Innovation Grant Rubrics to learn more about the criteria for reach award.

Q: I have a good idea but I haven’t got results yet. Should I apply?

CFF wants to recognize programs that are proven to be effective. Good ideas that have not yet been tested by students, teachers or the trials of time may be worthy but without evidence of results, they will not rise to the top.

Q: Do I have to have better test scores?

Not necessarily. CFF appreciates that effective programs may be measured in other ways than test scores. Give us the evidence that convinces you, your administrators, your school board, your community that this program works. We created the inspire and innovate awards specifically to address programs that might be effective in other ways than improving test scores. But we still need evidence that something good happened.

Q: My evidence is big. Should I submit it all?

You are limited in the application to a specific word count. Try to prune down your answers to the essence. Well-organized answers have proven to be more effective than lengthy responses.

Q: My program evidence is on my web site or in a video. Can I just send you a link?

At the moment, we need your application to be in narrative form entered through the on-line web form. Since the CFF reviewers have limited time and we want each reviewer to see a consistent exposure, we need something simple. If the program is really good, work hard to describe it well. We require you to upload evidence at the end of the application. This can include screenshots of evidence on your website or links to short videos.

Q: What programs have been recognized?

Since 2004, CFF has recognized 60 programs with Innovation in Education Awards. The complete list is on the CFF web site. Some programs based on individual determination of a single teacher, some on a classroom initiative, some on school-wide innovations, some district-wide programs. We have recognized programs for special education students, for English language learners, for technology innovations and for school-wide reform programs.

Q: I still have questions. Who do I contact?

Please contact the Classroom of the Future Foundation office by email at We will be happy to discuss your ideas and answer your questions.

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