P. O. BOX 2120
May 14, 1999


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Early Intervention Reading Initiative - Application Process
The Governor and General Assembly have continued the 
funding for the Early Intervention Reading Initiative.  
For the 1998-99 school year 126 of 132 (95 percent) of 
the school divisions participated in the initiative.  
Statewide, divisions reported that approximately 26 
percent of the students who were assessed in either 
kindergarten or first grade needed intervention. Research 
continues to validate the need for and benefits of early 
diagnosis and remediation of reading deficits, 
particularly phonological awareness deficits.  

Participating divisions have the option to implement this 
reading initiative in kindergarten or first grade. Since 
many of the assessed skills are those that students 
should possess before or concurrent with the decoding 
emphasis typical of first grade, the department advises 
implementing the initiative in kindergarten.  For the 
1998-99 school year 80 percent of the divisions chose to 
implement the program at the kindergarten level.

There have been two changes to the requirements to 
participate in the program and one change to the 
application process for the coming year.  The changes in 
the requirements to participate will affect only a few 
school divisions, and the change in the application 
procedure will allow school divisions that are already 
participating in the Early Intervention Reading 
Initiative to update school and teacher information on-

The first change to the requirements to participate in 
the initiative was made by the General Assembly. Language 
was added to the bill requiring school divisions to agree 
to assess students at the end of the school year after 
they have received intervention services.  In previous 
years, school divisions were encouraged to do a spring 
assessment of students. Since most school divisions are 
already doing a spring assessment, this change will have 
no impact on most programs.

The second change will affect only those divisions that 
request approval to use an alternative assessment 
instrument. During the past two years, the Phonological 
Awareness and Literacy Screening (PALS) office at 
University of Virginia has done extensive work on the 
reliability and validity of PALS.  As part of the 
university's contract with the Department of Education, 
Dr. Invernizzi, the PALS project leader, provided the 
department with a PALS Technical Manual and Report. This 
report was reviewed by three consultants who have 
expertise in the areas of reading, psychology, and speech 
and language. Department specialists representing 
assessment, special education, and reading also reviewed 
the report.   All reviewers determined that PALS is a 
reliable and valid instrument to use in assessing the 
phonological and early literacy skills of children in 
kindergarten and first grade.  Therefore, in order to 
approve requests for use of alternative assessments for 
the coming year, divisions will need to provide the 
Department of Education with the same level of 
statistical documentation for the proposed alternative 
assessment that is currently available for PALS.

Attached you will find the necessary information and 
forms to apply for the incentive funds available under 
the Early Intervention Reading Initiative.  These forms 
must be completed and returned by July 1, 1999.  Form A, 
Superintendent's Certification, and Form B, Division 
Contact Person, should be completed and returned to the 
department. School divisions participating for the first 
time or using PALS for the first time need to complete 
Form C and return it to the PALS office. For school 
divisions currently using the PALS on-line service, the 
information requested in Form C, Division Information, 
can be updated by accessing the PALS website, 
or by returning Form C to the PALS office. This 
information will enable the University of Virginia to add 
or update division information to the website and to 
ship the correct number of assessment materials to each 
division.  Only school divisions requesting permission to 
use an alternative assessment for the first time need to 
complete Form D, Request for Use of Alternative 
Assessment, and return it to the department.

Sufficient copies of the state assessment instrument, 
PALS will be mailed to the division's designated contact 
person.  The assessment packages will be wrapped for each 
participating teacher and boxed by school.  The packages 
will be delivered by October 1, for administration 
between October 19 and November 30.

Fifty percent of the Early Intervention Reading 
Initiative funds will be disbursed in August, upon 
receipt and approval of the Superintendent's 
Certification (Form A) and Division Contact Person (Form 
B).  The remaining 50 percent will be released in January 
following a report of the number of children identified 
and served. This information will be available to the 
Department of Education from the PALS website for school 
divisions reporting screening information on line.  For 
school divisions not using the on-line services, a form 
requesting the information will be sent to the contact 
person in December.

Questions regarding options for local matching funds 
should be addressed to June Eanes, Budget Director, at 
(804) 225-2060.  Questions regarding the PALS on-line 
services should be addressed to Amie Sullivan, PALS 
Project Manager at (888) 882-7257. Questions regarding 
programmatic issues should be addressed to Linda 
Poorbaugh, Reading and Language Arts Specialist, Office 
of Elementary and Middle School Instructional Services at 
(804) 786-3925.