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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2021: From Research to Practice: Evidence-Based Early Literacy

Fund Code: 734


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) administers an Early Grades Literacy grant with the goal of improving early literacy as articulated in the state's ESSA plan, Student Opportunity Act, and Literacy Strategic Plan for Massachusetts. The purpose of this competitive grant program is to increase student proficiency in early reading, specifically foundational skills, using scientific, evidence-based practices, materials and assessments. This multi-year program is ideal for schools committed to improving early literacy through deep professional development and systematic supports.

Pending funding, this grant program will support selected schools in focused, intensive work to improve student reading in grades K-3. A team of teachers and one school-based administrator (principal or assistant principal), representing grades K-3, will participate in a year-long series of professional development from experts in early literacy to learn and implement evidence-based instructional practices and assessments during the 20/21 and 21/22 school years.

In addition, the school will be funded for 385 hours of work onsite with an expert consultant. The consultant support includes starting up a school-based Literacy Leadership Team (or adding capacity if such a team already exists), coaching for individual teachers, coaching for the principal, and after-school PD sessions.

Given students' potential loss of learning incurred during the pandemic, there is an even greater need to support all students through access to evidence-based literacy instruction. Of particular importance is the use of evidence-based, high-quality, early literacy screening and progress monitoring assessments to provide essential information on students' current skill levels.


Through a year of professional development, participating school teams will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the scientific evidence base for early literacy, including how children learn to read, why some children have difficulty learning how to read, and evidence-based early literacy practices that are best for all students.

  2. Implement these evidence-based practices in high-quality core literacy instruction.

  3. Administer valid assessments, including screeners and progress monitoring, and analyze and use assessment data to inform core and intervention instruction.

  4. Establish a school-based literacy team, to lead implementation of evidence-based early literacy, instruction, professional learning, and data-based decision making in grades K–3.


Districts interested in more than one school participating must apply for each school separately.

Schools serving grades K–3 or a subset of that grade span are eligible to apply. To be considered eligible, applicants must demonstrate that the school:

Uses high quality instructional materials.

  1. For the purposes of this grant, "high-quality instructional materials" is defined as curriculum materials for ELA/Literacy (core or foundational) rated partially meets or above by EdReports or CURATE
  2. If not currently using such materials, the school is eligible if
    1. It can demonstrate in the application that current curricular materials address grade-level reading foundational standards through systematic, explicit instruction and authentic application; or
    2. It indicates a plan to acquire and implement such instructional materials in the 2020/2021 school year.

  3. Agrees to use a high-quality screening assessment and progress monitoring for all students in grades K–3.
    1. For the purposes of this grant, "high quality screening assessment" is defined by the criteria available on this page: Early Literacy Screening
    2. If the applicant is using an assessment that has not been approved by DESE, the applicant must provide the evidence that the assessment meets the stated criteria on this page: Early Literacy Screening

In addition, applicants must commit to early literacy as a top priority for the school for SY 20/21 and 21/22. This grant is an opportunity for schools who are committed to improving early literacy, and understand that participation requires:

  1. Creating a consistent grant team (no more than six members) of teachers from each of the target grade levels, (K-3 team, K-2 team or a K-1 team depending upon school makeup) and one school-based leader to participate in five full-day professional development days and disseminating the learning across the rest of the school.
  2. Establishing a school-based literacy team, to lead implementation of evidence-based early literacy practices, assessment administration, progress monitoring and data analysis.
  3. Developing measurable, quarterly, school-based goals and action steps with the support of the consultant.
  4. Implementing evidence-based practices and resources presented in the grant program.
  5. Assessing all students in the participating grade band three times per year (fall, winter, spring) with the screening assessment, using data to inform instruction and sharing anonymous assessment data with DESE.
  6. Progress monitoring using evidence-based assessments and using data to inform instruction (full implementation SY 21/22).
  7. Dedicating time in the school day, including common planning time and PD time as needed, for 385 hours of work with an Early Literacy Consultant.
  8. Participating in eight (8) after-school PDs.
  9. Hosting visits by DESE staff.
  10. Planning and participating in one presentation of school implementation and an end-of-year showcase.
  11. Participating in all required DESE-funded grant evaluation requirements, including meeting surveys, pre- and post-tests of knowledge and practice, and focus groups of participants chosen randomly by DESE.

Note: Due to the pandemic, school-based literacy coaching may require some flexibility. Note that consultants will begin school-based work in early September either in person or remotely as determined by public health directives at that time. Similarly, the institutes and regional meetings may look different for school year 20/21 depending on state guidance on large group meetings. We will continue to support the Early Grades Literacy grant program and participants through combined efforts from the state government, DESE, districts and schools.

Funding Type:



A total of approximately $800,000 is projected to be available and will be distributed based on the number of quality proposals submitted and approved.

Fund Use:

Funds may be used for the following for four categories: stipends; substitutes; evidence-based materials and screener; and DESE-approved literacy consultant.

  • Grant Team Stipends: $2,000 for each designated grant team member (up to 6 people) for participation in professional learning beyond contractual hours and associated travel costs, which may include:
    • Travel (mileage, parking and/or hotel fees) for two (2) full day statewide literacy institutes;
    • Travel to three (3) full day regional meetings;
    • Participation in eight (8) after school meetings (minimum of two hours beyond contractual hours each)
  • Additional stipends amounting to $800 each for additional educators, up to ten (10), who elect to fully participate in the eight (8) afterschool, school-based, professional learning meetings;
  • Substitutes: up to $100/teacher/day for members of the school grant team (up to five [5] teachers) for five days each, to attend statewide institutes and regional meetings. The substitute budget should be based on the district's standard substitute rate;
  • Consultant: The grant-funded consultant is paid by the school (385 hours at $75/hour [$28,875 total]) for on-site, school-based support and professional learning;
  • Materials: If the school does not have in place an early literacy screening assessment with a progress monitoring component that meets DESE criteria, budget up to $6,000 to purchase one. See Early Literacy Screening for more information. In addition, up to $2,000 to purchase evidence-based materials to support instruction and professional learning related to the grant.

Project Duration:

Upon approval – 6 /30/2021
This grant program may have a continuation year in FY22 subject to state budget appropriation

Program Unit:

Center for Instructional Support (CIS)


Tracey Martineau
email address:

Phone Number:

(413) 519-8426

Date Due:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Complete proposals must be received via email by 5:00.
Applicants may submit proposals before the grant deadline.

Required Forms:

Applications submitted incomplete will not be considered.

Completed Proposals will include:

Download Word Document
Part I 2021 — General — Program Unit Signature Page (Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants)
Download Excel Document
Part II 2021 — Budget Detail Pages workbook (include both pages). Complete the following sections using the drop-down indicators:
  • Section 4: Stipends
    • $2,000/participant up to 6 grant participants
    • $800/participant up to ten participants for those who elect to participate in eight afterschool professional learning meetings
  • Section 6: Contractual Services:
    • school-based literacy consultant ($28,875)
    • substitutes (up to $100 for five teachers for 5 days each)
  • Section 7: Supplies and Materials:
    • up to $6,000 to purchase an early literacy screener, if needed
    • up to $2,000 for evidence-based materials to support instruction
Download Word Document
Part III — Required Program Information — Grant Narrative Form
Download Word Document
Part IV — Assurance from Participating School
Download Word Document
Part V — School District Assurance

Submission Instructions:

Email all required forms to by 5:00 pm on the date due. Applicants may submit before the due date. Applications submitted after the due date or missing required forms will not be considered.

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

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