P. O. BOX 2120


August 4, 2000

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Reading Excellence Act

On July 26, 2000, the United States Department of Education awarded the Virginia Department of Education a $15 million Reading Excellence Act grant to improve the reading skills of children in eligible schools and school divisions across the state. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis.

The official eligibility list will be available in October. Those divisions and schools eligible will be Title I schools engaged in school improvement initiatives that meet the criteria set by the revised Standards of Accreditation. It is anticipated that approximately 50 to 60 schools will be served by Local Reading Improvement Awards and 25 to 30 schools by Tutorial Assistance Awards.

The purposes of the Reading Excellence Program are: (1) to provide children with the readiness skills and support they need to learn to read after they enter school; (2) to teach every child to read by the end of the third grade; (3) to use research-based methods to improve the instructional practices of teachers and other instructional staff; 4) to expand the number of high-quality family literacy programs; and (5) to provide early literacy intervention to children experiencing early reading difficulties and to reduce the number of children who are incorrectly identified with a disability and are inappropriately referred for special education. The primary activities supported by this grant are professional development, tutoring, family literacy, and transition programs for kindergarten students.

Two grant competitions will be conducted simultaneously to determine the schools and school divisions to be awarded grants under the Reading Excellence Program. These competitions will be held for Local Reading Improvement Grants and Tutorial Assistance Grants.

· Local Reading Improvement Grants: Eligible school divisions include those that:

1) have at least one school in Title I school improvement

status; or

2) have the highest or second highest percentages of

            poverty in the state; or 3) have the highest or second highest number of poor

children in the state.

· Tutorial Assistance Grants: Eligible school divisions must meet any one of the three criteria described above for Local Reading Improvement Grants and be located in an empowerment zone or an enterprise community.

School divisions can expect to receive funding ranging from $200,000 to $240,000 per eligible school over a two-year period (2001-2003) for Local Reading Improvement Grants. The range for Tutorial Assistance Grants per eligible school is $30,000 to $36,000 over the same period. The level of grant awards will be determined by the following: The department will hold its first informational meeting for eligible school divisions at the Virginia Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (VAFEPA) Conference,

October 24-26, 2000, at The Hotel Roanoke. Registration information for the conference will be available in August.

Questions regarding the Reading Excellence Act grant should be addressed to Linda Poorbaugh, associate director of reading and language arts, Office of Elementary and Middle School Instructional Services at (804) 786-3925 or .