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Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant Program; Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Overview Information; Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant Program; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011

Dates:

Applications Available:March 10, 2011.

Deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply:April 1, 2011.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications:May 9, 2011.

Deadline for Intergovernmental Review:July 5, 2011.

Full Text of AnnouncementI. Funding Opportunity Description

Purpose of Program:The purpose of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant program (SRCL) is to advance literacy skills--including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing--for students from birth through grade 12, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities.

Through this program, the Department will award competitive grants to State educational agencies (SEAs) to support competitive subgrants to local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are considered LEAs under State law, or other eligible entities for the purpose of advancing literacy skills.

Priorities:This notice contains three priorities, two of which are absolute and one of which is competitive preference. We are establishing these priorities for the FY 2011 grant competition and any subsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applicants from this competition, in accordance with section 437(d)(1) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), 20 U.S.C. 1232(d)(1).

Absolute Priorities:The first two priorities,Improving Learning OutcomesandEnabling More Data-Based Decision-Making,are absolute priorities. Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) we consider only applications that meet these priorities.

These priorities are:

Priority 1: Improving Learning Outcomes

Background:Improving the language and literacy development of disadvantaged students is essential to improving academic achievement for these students in all content areas. The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show disproportionately large numbers of disadvantaged students struggle with developing the necessary pre-literacy and literacy skills needed to read, comprehend, and use language effectively. This results in persistent gaps in academic achievement through the elementary and secondary school years and in high school graduation rates, and presents civic and economic difficulties for these students later in life. Meeting the language and literacy needs of disadvantaged students, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities, is a particular focus of the SRCL program.

Priority

To meet this priority, an applicant must propose a project that is designed to improve school readiness and success through grade 12 in the area of language and literacy development for disadvantaged students (as defined in this notice).

Priority 2: Enabling More Data-Based Decision-Making

Background:Accurate, timely, relevant, and appropriate data, and the effective use of that data for informed decision-making, are essential to the continuous improvement of children's literacy and language development. In developing comprehensive literacy plans and programs, it is important for States to consider strategies that provide educators, as well as families and other key stakeholders, with the data they need and the capacity and training to use those data to improve school readiness, respond to the learning and academic needs of students, improve educator effectiveness, inform professional development practices and approaches, and make informed decisions that increase student pre-literacy, literacy, and language development.

Priority

To meet this priority, an applicant must propose a project that is designed to collect, analyze, and use high-quality and timely data, especially on program participant outcomes, in accordance with privacy requirements (as defined in this notice), to improve instructional practices, policies, and student outcomes in early learning settings and in elementary and secondary schools.

Competitive Preference Priorities:The following priority is a competitive preference priority. Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(ii) we award up to an additional five points to an application that meets this priority.

This priority is:

Competitive Preference Priority: Effective Use of Technology

Background:The effective use of technology is a critical tool for improving learning outcomes and providing teachers with high-quality professional development. Use of concepts, ideas, programming techniques, and computer-assisted text displays that give access to the text for students who cannot access traditional print, including limited-English-proficient children and students with disabilities, is a basic tenet of universal design for learning and can help improve students' literacy and language development and identify and address student learning challenges.

Priority

To meet this priority, an applicant must (1) propose to use technology--which may include technology to support principles of universal design for learning (as defined in this notice)--to address student learning challenges; and (2) provide, in its application, an evidence-based (as defined in this notice) rationale that its proposed technology program, practice, or strategy will increase student engagement and achievement or increase teacher effectiveness.

Program Requirements

Statutory Requirements (see Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117)).An SEA awarded a grant under this program--

(a) Must subgrant no less than 95 percent of funds received under this competition to LEAs or, in the case of early literacy, to LEAs or other nonprofit providers of early childhood education that partner with a public or private nonprofit organization or agency with a demonstrated record of effectiveness in improving the early literacy development of children from birth through kindergarten entry and in providing professional development (as defined in this notice) in early literacy, giving priority to such agencies or other entities serving greater numbers or percentages of disadvantaged students;

(b) Must ensure that at least--

(1) 15 percent of the funds it subgrants to LEAs or other nonprofit providers of early childhood education (SRCL subgranted funds) are used to serve children from birth through age 5;

(2) 40 percent of its SRCL subgranted funds are used to serve students in kindergarten through grade 5; and

(3) 40 percent of its SRCL subgranted funds are used to serve students in middle and high school, including an equitable distribution of funds between middle and high schools;

(c) May reserve up to 5 percent of funds received under this competition for State leadership activities, including technical assistance and training, data collection, reporting, and administration.

Additional Requirements

The Department establishes the following additional requirements for the FY 2011 competition and anysubsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applications from this competition.

An SEA awarded a grant under this program--

(a) Must develop or update, implement, and continuously improve a comprehensive State literacy plan (as defined in this notice);

(b) Must align the use of Federal and State funds and programs within the SEA and in LEAs in the State, including funds under Title I, Title II-A, and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), and, as appropriate, under the Head Start Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, to support a coherent approach to funding and implementing effective literacy instruction (as defined in this notice) for disadvantaged students;

(c) Must make the process and the results of its review of subgrant applications publicly available, including the procedures the SEA used to review and judge the evidence base and the alignment with State standards for the curricula and materials LEAs propose to use; and

(d) Must ensure that SRCL subgrant funds are used to implement a comprehensive and coherent literacy program that serves students from birth through grade 12, or at any period in the birth through grade 12 continuum as determined by a needs assessment, and includes each of the components of effective literacy instruction and that--

(1) Provides effective professional development in literacy, including in instructional strategies to meet the literacy needs of disadvantaged students such as limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities, to teachers of reading, English, or language arts, which may also include professional development in literacy for teachers of other subjects and for teachers or instructional providers for children from birth through age five;

(2) Uses curriculum and instructional materials that are aligned with State standards, incorporate the components of effective literacy instruction, and, as appropriate, incorporate technology and principles of universal design for learning to support children and youth with diverse learning needs, including disadvantaged students;

(3) Uses coherent assessment systems that are aligned with State standards and assessments and that include--

(i) Valid and reliable screening measures or strategies;

(ii) Valid and reliable diagnostic and progress-monitoring measures;

(iii) The systematic use of the assessment data to inform instruction, interventions, professional development, and continuous program improvement; and

(iv) Appropriate accommodations necessary to ensure that all children and youth, including disadvantaged students, are reliably and accurately assessed;

(4) Implements interventions to ensure that all children and youth, including both children and youth who have mastered the material ahead of their peers and children and youth struggling with the material, are served appropriately;

(5) Provides language- and text-rich classroom, school, and early learning program environments that engage and motivate children and youth in speaking, listening, reading, and writing; and

(6) Informs continuous improvement by monitoring program implementation and outcomes, including the effectiveness of professional development, and tracking implementation and outcomes at the LEA or early childhood education provider, school, classroom, and student levels.

Program Definitions:In addition to the definitions in the authorizing statute and in 34 CFR 77.1, we establish the following definitions to apply to the FY 2011 competition and any subsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applicants from this competition:

Comprehensive State literacy plan:The term "comprehensive State literacy plan" means a plan (which may be a component or modification of the plan submitted under the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy formula grant program, CFDA 84.371B) that addresses the pre-literacy and literacy needs of children from birth through grade 12, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities; aligns policies, resources, and practices; contains clear instructional goals; and sets high expectations for all students and student subgroups.

Disadvantaged students:The term "disadvantaged students" means children and students at risk of educational failure, such as children and students who are living in poverty, who are limited-English-proficient, who are far below grade level or who are not on track to becoming college- or career-ready by graduation, who have left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who are homeless, who are in foster care, who are pregnant or parenting teenagers, who have been incarcerated, who are new immigrants, who are migrant, or who have disabilities.

Effective literacy instruction:The term "effective literacy instruction" means developmentally appropriate, explicit, evidence-based, and systematic instruction that provides students with--

(i) Early development and grade-level mastery of (A) oral language skills, both listening and speaking, (B) phonological awareness, using a wide vocabulary, (C) conventional forms of grammar, and (D) academic language;

(ii) The ability to read regularly spelled words and high-frequency irregularly spelled words with automaticity and to decode regularly spelled unfamiliar words accurately, using phonemic awareness, print awareness, alphabet knowledge, and knowledge of English spelling patterns;

(iii) The ability to read texts accurately, fluently, and with comprehension, relying on knowledge of the vocabulary in those texts and of the background information that the students possess;

(iv) The ability to read with a purpose and the capacity to differentiate purposes and to select and apply comprehension strategies appropriate to achieving the purpose;

(v) An understanding of, and ability to adapt to, the varying demands of different genres, formats, and types of texts across the core content areas in order to comprehend texts of appropriate levels of complexity and content, including texts necessary for mastery of grade-level standards;

(vi) The ability to effectively access, critically evaluate, and appropriately synthesize information from a variety of sources and formats;

(vii) The development and maintenance of a motivation to read and write, as reflected in habits of reading and writing regularly and of discussing one's reading and writing with others; and

(viii) The ability to write clearly, accurately, and quickly so as to communicate ideas and deepen comprehension in ways that fit purpose, audience, occasion, discipline, and format; adhere to conventions of spelling and punctuation; and benefit from revision so as to improve clarity, coherence, logical development, and the precise use of language.

With respect to programs serving children birth through age five, the term "effective literacy instruction," means supporting young children's early language and literacy development through developmentally appropriate, explicit, intentional, and systematicinstruction, in language- and literacy-rich environments, that provides children with foundational skills and dispositions for literacy, such as--

(i) Rich vocabulary development;

(ii) Expressive language skills;

(iii) Receptive language skills;

(iv) Comprehension;

(v) Phonological awareness;

(vi) Print awareness;

(vii) Alphabet knowledge;

(viii) Book knowledge;

(ix) Emergent writing skills;

(x) Positive dispositions toward language and literacy-related activities; and

(xi) Other skills that correlate with later literacy achievement.

Evidence-based:The term "evidence-based" means--

(i) Based on a comprehensive, unbiased review and weighing of one or more evaluation studies that--

(A) Have been carried out consistent with the principles of scientific research1 ;

(B) Have strong internal and external validity; and

(C) Support the direct attribution of one or more outcomes to the program, practice, or policy; or

(ii) In the absence of one or more studies described in paragraph (i) of this definition, based on a comprehensive, unbiased review and weighing of data analysis, research, or one or more evaluation studies of relevant programs, policies, or practices, that--

(A) Were carried out consistent with the principles of scientific research; and

(B) Are accompanied by strategies to generate more robust evidence over time through research, evaluation, and data analysis, including the measurement of performance with reliable process and outcome indicators and the implementation of evaluations with strong internal and external validity where feasible and appropriate.

Privacy requirements:The term "privacy requirements" means the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. 1232g, and its implementing regulations in 34 CFR part 99, the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a, as well as all applicable Federal, State, and local requirements regarding privacy.

Professional development:The term "professional development" means coordinated and aligned activities that are designed to increase the effectiveness of educators, which may include teachers, principals, other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, paraprofessionals, early childhood educators, and other school staff, and that--

(i) Are based, to the extent possible, on an analysis of data and evidence that indicates the needs of students and teachers;

(ii) Are evidence-based and implemented with meaningful tracking of impact on educator practices and effectiveness;

(iii) Foster individual and collective responsibility for improving student academic achievement;

(iv) Align with State academic content standards or State early learning standards, as appropriate, with LEA and school or early learning program improvement goals, and with school or early learning program instructional materials;

(v) Focus on understanding what and how students learn and on how to address students' learning needs, including by reviewing and analyzing student work and achievement data and adjusting instructional strategies, assessments, and materials based on that review and analysis;

(vi) Where appropriate, focus on improving both content knowledge and pedagogical skill;

(vii) Set clear educator learning goals based on student and teacher learning needs;

(viii) Address educator needs identified through evaluation, including by providing support for teachers and principals who earn evaluation ratings indicating the need for opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills;

(ix) Are designed to provide educators with the instructional strategies necessary to meet the needs of disadvantaged students, including limited-English-proficient students and students with disabilities;

(x) Are active, sustained, intensive, and classroom-or early learning program-focused in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom or early learning program instruction and educator effectiveness;

(xi) Are, in general, provided through school- or early learning program-based, job-embedded opportunities for educators to work collaboratively and transfer new knowledge into classroom or early learning program practice, such as through classroom coaching, data analysis teams, observations of classroom practice, and the provision of common planning time; and

(xii) Are, as appropriate--

(A) Designed to improve educators' ability to collect, manage, and analyze data to improve instruction, student support services, decision-making, school improvement efforts, early learning program quality improvement efforts, and accountability;

(B) Designed to provide educators with the knowledge and skills to work more effectively with families;

(C) Provided through workshops, courses, institutes, on-line learning, and other activities that advance and supplement school-based or early learning program-based professional development;

(D) Implemented with the involvement of external experts with relevant expertise, including content expertise; and

(E) Designed to provide joint professional development activities, for school staff and other early childhood educators in publicly funded center-based programs, that address the transition to elementary school, including issues related to school readiness across all major domains of early learning.

Universal design for learning (UDL):The term "universal design for learning", as defined under section 103 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that--

(i) Provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and

(ii) Reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students withdisabilities and students who are limited-English-proficient.

Waiver of Proposed Rulemaking:Under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553) the Department generally offers interested parties the opportunity to comment on proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria. Section 437(d)(1) of GEPA, however, allows the Secretary to exempt from rulemaking requirements, regulations governing the first grant competition under a new or substantially revised program authority. This is the first grant competition for this program as provided under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117) under the authority in section 1502 of the ESEA and therefore qualifies for this exemption. To receive public input on the structure of this competition, the Department held a public input meeting on November 19, 2010. This full-day meeting featured two panels of experts and elicited over 50 comments, both written and offered in person. In order to ensure timely grant awards, the Secretary has decided to forgo public comment on the priorities, additional requirements, definitions, and selection criteria under section 437(d)(1) of GEPA. These priorities, additional requirements, definitions, and selection criteria will apply to the FY 2011 grant competition and any subsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applicants from this competition.

Dated: March 7, 2011. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.
ACTION: (A) Apply rigorous, systematic, and objective methodology to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs;

(B) Present findings and make claims that are appropriate to, and supported by, the methods that have been employed; and

(C) Include, appropriate to the research being conducted--

(i) Use of systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;

(ii) Use of data analyses that are adequate to support the general findings;

(iii) Reliance on measurements or observational methods that provide reliable and generalizable findings;

(iv) Strong claims of causal relationships, only with research designs that eliminate plausible competing explanations for observed results, such as, but not limited to, random-assignment experiments;

(v) Presentation of studies and methods in sufficient detail and clarity to allow for replication or, at a minimum, to offer the opportunity to build systematically on the findings of the research;

(vi) Acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal or critique by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review; and

(vii) Consistency of findings across multiple studies or sites to support the generality of results and conclusions.