P. O. BOX 2120


June 9, 2000

TO:         Division Superintendents

FROM:       Jo Lynne DeMary

            Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:    Expanded Early Intervention Reading Initiative Ė
            Application Process

The Early Intervention Reading Initiative, which has served either kindergarten or first grade students, was established by the 1997 Virginia Acts of Assembly, Chapter 924, Item 140. The success of the initiative in curing reading deficits and the demonstrated need (26 percent of the children assessed were identified with reading deficits requiring intervention) prompted the Governor to propose and the General Assembly to approve funding to expand the Early Intervention Reading Initiative to students in first, second, and third grades.

The purpose of the initiative is to provide early reading intervention services to students in kindergarten through the third grade who demonstrate deficiencies reflected in each student's performance on a diagnostic test approved by the Department of Education. As the result of the intervention services, the essential reading skills of the identified students will be monitored and improved by the end of each grade level, kindergarten through third grade. This initiative will assist school divisions in their ongoing efforts to have all children reading well and on grade level by the third grade. Correcting early reading deficits also may remove a barrier to success on the SOL assessments in the third grade, thus enhancing school accreditation ratings.

Implementation for 2000-2001

Budget language adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor provides that all school divisions that choose to offer the Early Intervention Reading Initiative to students must expand the program to cover kindergarten through third grade.  However, in implementing this requirement it is understood that some school divisions will need a year to expand their programs. Recognizing the need for a gradual phase-in and for extensive planning and training to implement a kindergarten through third grade reading program, school divisions participating in 2000-2001 may implement the provisions of the initiative in one of the following sequences:

1) Kindergarten; or

2) Kindergarten and first grade; or

3) Kindergarten, first, and second grades; or

4) Kindergarten, first, second, and third grades.

School divisions that choose sequence 1, 2, or 3 will only receive state funding for the grades in that sequence.

Implementation for 2001-2002

By 2001-2002, school divisions participating in the initiative will be required to implement a fully expanded program for students needing services in kindergarten, and in the first, second, and third grades.

General Issues

Participating divisions will be required to use a state-provided diagnostic instrument, PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) to screen (1) all students at the selected grade levels in the fall, and (2) students who received intervention services in the spring. A PALS assessment for each grade level, K-3, will be available in the fall. Both fall and spring screening results must be reported to the PALS office at the University of Virginia via the PALS website.

Funding for the expanded initiative is based on the state's share of the cost of providing two and one-half hours of additional instruction each week for an estimated number of students in each school division at a student-to-teacher ratio of five to one. The estimated number of students in each school division in the first year, shall be determined by multiplying the projected number of students in each school division's fall membership in kindergarten through grade three by the estimated percent of students eligible for the free lunch program in that school division. Funding shall be based on a percentage of the estimated number of eligible students as follows:

Kindergarten - 100% of eligible students

Grade 1 - 50% of eligible students

Grade 2 - 50% of eligible students

Grade 3 - 25% of eligible students

The estimated number of students in each school division in the second year shall be based on the actual percentage of students who are determined to need services based on the results of diagnostic pretests administered in the prior year.

Divisions are permitted to request the authority to use a diagnostic assessment other than PALS, subject to the review and approval of the Department of Education. However, since the screening results from the first year will be used to determine funding for the second year, any alternative screening instruments approved by the department must match the PALS screening. It must be statistically valid and reliable and measure the same skills and have the same scoring criteria and benchmarks.

Attached you will find the Superintendentís Certification form to apply for the incentive funds available under the expanded Early Intervention Reading Initiative. Funds cannot be awarded until this form is completed and returned. It is due by July 1, 2000. Starting June 12, division contact persons must register online via the PALS website Registration must be completed by July 7, 2000, to receive PALS materials on time.

Sufficient copies of the state assessment instrument, PALS, will be mailed to the divisionís designated contact person. The assessment packages will be wrapped for each participating teacher and boxed for schools. The packages for kindergarten screening will be delivered by October 2, for administration between October 16 and November 10, with results due back to the PALS office by December 8. The packages for screening in the first, second, and third grades will be delivered by September 5, for administration between September 18 and October 13, with results due back to the PALS office by November 10.

Fifty percent of the Early Intervention Reading Initiative funds will be disbursed in August, upon receipt and approval of the Superintendentís Certification. 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 online.

Questions regarding options for local matching funds should be addressed to June Eanes, budget director, at (804) 225-2060. Questions regarding the PALS online services should be addressed to Amie Sullivan, PALS project manager at (888) 882-7257. Questions regarding programmatic issues should be addressed to Linda Poorbaugh, associate director reading and language arts, Office of Elementary and Middle School Instructional Services at (804) 786-3925.