P.O. BOX 2120
June 8, 2001
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Early Intervention Reading Initiative Ė Application Process

The Early Intervention Reading Initiative was established by Chapter 924, 1997 Acts of Assembly, to serve children in kindergarten or first grade. Last year, the Governor and the General Assembly provided funding to expand the Early Intervention Reading Initiative to include students in kindergarten through third grade.

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 screening tool 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 Standards of Learning assessments in the third grade, thus enhancing school accreditation ratings.

Implementation for 2001-2002

All school divisions that choose to offer the Early Intervention Reading Initiative to students must expand the program to cover kindergarten through third grade.

General Issues

Participating divisions are required to use a diagnostic test approved by the Department of Education or the state-provided diagnostic screening instrument, PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) to screen (1) all students in kindergarten through third grade in the fall, and (2) students who received intervention services in the spring. 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 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 fall of the prior year (2000-2001).

For school divisions that did not fully participate in kindergarten through third grade, the additional grade levels in 2001-2002 will be funded using the first-year formula as a proxy. That is, for these additional grades funding shall be determined by multiplying the projected number of students in each school divisionís fall membership in kindergarten through grade 3 by the estimated percentage 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

As stated above, 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 and the results must be reported. It must be statistically valid, reliable, measure the same skills, and have the same scoring criteria and benchmarks.

Participating divisions are encouraged to monitor closely the success of their intervention programs and take appropriate action to address the needs of students who, after intervention, do not meet the spring PALS benchmark. Data compiled on a state wide basis indicates that 42 percent of the students identified as needing services in the fall still needed services after the intervention was provided. The most significant cause of unsuccessful interventions is insufficient time.

The Superintendentís Certification form to apply for the incentive funds available under the Early Intervention Reading Initiative is attached. Starting June 15, division contact persons must register on-line via the PALS website Registration must be completed by June 29, 2001, to receive PALS materials on time.

Sufficient copies of the state assessment instrument, PALS, will be mailed to each 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 1, for administration between October 15 and November 9; results are to be received in the PALS office by December 7. The packages for screening in the first, second, and third grades will be delivered by August 27, for administration between September 17 and October 12; results must be received in the PALS office by November 9.

Fifty percent of the Early Intervention Reading Initiative funds are projected to be disbursed in December, upon receipt and approval of the Superintendentís Certification form. The remaining 50 percent will be released in February, 2002, following a report of the number of children identified and served. This information will be available to the Department of Education from the PALS office.

Questions regarding funding should be addressed to Kent Dickey, budget director, at (804) 225-2025. 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 Barbara F. Jones, specialist, reading and language arts, Office of Elementary School Instructional Services, at (804) 786-1997.