RD640 - Plan for a Pilot Program to Incorporate Additional Diagnostic Tools into Reading Diagnostic Tests Used for Screening K-3 Students, as required by SB 1718 (2019) – December 1, 2019

Executive Summary:

In 2019, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1718 (SB 1718) which stated the following:

The Department of Education, in consultation with appropriate stakeholders, including a parent of a currently enrolled public school student diagnosed with dyslexia, shall develop a plan to implement a pilot program to incorporate additional diagnostic tools into reading diagnostic tests used for screening students in kindergarten through grade three. Such plan shall consider the appropriate interventions and services for students identified through such additional diagnostic tools and the resources that are necessary for the implementation of such interventions and services. The Department of Education shall submit such plan to the Chairmen of the House Committee on Education, the Senate Committee on Education and Health, the House Committee on Appropriations, and the Senate Committee on Finance no later than December 1, 2019

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) convened a workgroup, consisting of parents, practitioners, and dyslexia advocates, which considered several options to address the study mandate in SB 1718 for additional diagnostic tools into the current system required by Early Intervention Reading Initiative (EIRI). The options included: stand-alone measures commonly identified when discussing assessment of students experiencing difficulty with reading. For example, the Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) is a task that measures how quickly individuals can name aloud objects, pictures, colors or symbols. Adding such a component to the current Phonological Awareness and Literacy Screening (PALS) that is used in the majority of school divisions across the Commonwealth of Virginia is recommended. The workgroup also discussed enhancing current PALS’ measures: phonological processing, oral reading fluency of connected text, and single-word reading to strengthen the current assessment with components that are more sensitive to assessing a student’s reading skill development.

The legislation also required that appropriate interventions and services be considered. Based on a review of other states’ initiatives and a review of literature, VDOE identified the types of interventions used by other states and the characteristics of effective interventions identified in the literature. Lastly, the legislation required that resources necessary for implementation, including the costs of implementation and training, be considered.

To address the legislative requirements of SB 1718, VDOE recommends the development of a three-year pilot program that supports and requires the updating and enhancing of PALS with additional measures (PALS 2.0) that are more sensitive to identifying students with, or at risk for, reading difficulties, such as dyslexia. This update will build on the current assessment familiar to local school divisions in Virginia and will include measures that assess areas considered predictive of reading difficulties. This process will include steps designed to ensure that PALS 2.0 is valid and reliable to be better able to identify students experiencing or at-risk for reading difficulties. This recommendation is based on the review of reading research and the use of screening tools and external expert analysis and input. Factors such as the cost of the enhancement of the current assessment, retraining and ongoing professional development needs, instructional implications, and technology/data support are also noted and presented with corresponding budget information when available.