P. O. BOX 2120
April 2, 1999


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Reading Excellence Act
The Reading Excellence Act is a new initiative designed to: 1)
provide children with the readiness skills they need to learn
to read once they enter school; 2) teach every child to read
in the early childhood years (as soon as the child is ready to
read or as soon as possible after the child enters school, but
not later than the third grade); 3) improve the reading skills
of students and the instructional practices for teachers and
other instructional personnel who teach reading, through the
use of scientifically-based reading research, including
findings related to phonemic awareness, systematic phonics,
fluency, and reading comprehension; 4) expand the number of
high-quality family literacy programs; and, 5) provide early
literacy intervention for children who are experiencing
reading difficulties and reduce the number of children who are
incorrectly identified as having disabilities and are
inappropriately referred to special education.

Reading Excellence funds will be awarded once, but can be
spent over three years.  A total of $241.1 million has been
appropriated for Reading Excellence Act grants to states.  An
estimated $7.5 to $15 million will be available to Virginia
contingent upon submission of an approved application.  This
is a competitive grant, both at the state and local levels.
Should Virginia receive the grant, two rounds of local grant
competitions must be held in order to distribute the funds to 
school divisions.  Local awards under the Reading Excellence 
Act, which includes Local Reading Improvement and Tutorial
Assistance Subgrants, must be made to schools in Title I
school improvement status or to divisions with the first or
second highest number or percentages of children in poverty in

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) sponsored a technical
assistance workshop on March 15 in Washington which was
attended by two Virginia Department of Education staff
members. A committee is currently working to complete and
submit the Reading Excellence Act application to USDOE for
competition by May 3, 1999. USDOE expects to make grant award
decisions by May 31 and allocate funds to states by July 1,
1999.  Further information regarding the status of this grant
will be provided as it is received from USDOE.  In the
interim, if you should have questions or comments concerning
Virginia's  Reading Excellence Act application, please contact
Mr. George H. Irby or Mrs. Denise C. Perritt at(804) 225-2869.