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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2024: Early Literacy Universal Screening Assessment (K–3)

Fund Code: 586


This competitive grant will provide funding to purchase and implement an approved early literacy universal screening assessment that Meets Expectations in grades K–3. The grant also provides funding to purchase initial professional development which focuses on administration and using results to make data-based instructional decisions for students in grades K–3.

The amendment to Special Education Regulations on School District Administration and Personnel, 603 CMR 28.03 (1), requires that as of July 2023, local education agencies (LEAs) must administer a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved early literacy universal screening assessment at least twice per year to students in grades K–3. The Massachusetts Dyslexia Guidelines state, "screening students for risk of dyslexia and other reading disabilities is one essential process in preventing reading difficulties" (MA Dyslexia Guidelines, pg. 22 ). The purpose of this competitive Early Literacy Universal Screening Assessment Grant is to provide LEAs with funding to comply with this regulation.


Using funding from this grant, LEAs may purchase one of DESE's approved early literacy universal screening assessments that Meets Expectations and a training/support package (professional development) for educators who will be using the assessment. Please note for this grant opportunity, LEAs may only purchase early literacy universal screening assessments that Meet Expectations. Early literacy universal screening assessments that Partially Meet Expectations are not eligible for purchase through this funding opportunity.

LEAs must commit to:

  • Provide grant-funded, initial training to K–3 educators to support both the implementation of the universal screening assessment and use of the assessment's data to make instructional decisions during the current school year.
  • Assess all students in grades K–3 in the district using an approved early literacy universal screening assessment that Meets Expectations during the current school year.
  • Make this early literacy universal screening assessment a permanent piece of the schools' early literacy program.
  • Participate in future research and data collection efforts. See "Additional Information" below for more details.

Competitive priority will be given to LEAs based upon demonstrating one or more of the following:

  • At least one elementary school identified as requiring assistance in the state accountability system based upon 2019 data and/or
  • Districts and schools in chronically underperforming status in the Strategic Transformation region.
  • LEAs without an approved early literacy universal screening assessment.
  • LEAs without an approved early literacy universal screening assessment that meets expectations already in place.

Competitive priority will be given to districts and schools in chronically underperforming status.


This funding opportunity is available to public school districts, charter schools, collaboratives, and approved special education programs that serve students in grades K–3.

To participate in this grant, the Curriculum Data tab must be up-to-date on the DESE District Profiles for K–8 ELA/Literacy/Foundational Skills, K–12 math, and 6–8 Science by five (5) days after the due date of this grant. To check if this information is complete, check the statewide Curriculum Report. Or visit your District Profiles page via Profiles Home and select Curriculum Data from the left-hand navigation. If the required data is not complete or up-to-date, details and directions on how to enter or update this data can be found at Curriculum Data Collection.

Funding Type:

State Line Item 7010-0033


A total of approximately $300,000 is projected to be available and will be distributed based on the number of quality proposals submitted and the total cost of the training and support packages chosen.

The maximum award for any LEA is $100,000. LEAs must identify which early literacy universal screening assessment will be purchased.

This RFP is the governing document for these grant funds.

Funding is contingent upon availability. All dollar amounts listed are estimated/approximate and are subject to change. If more funding becomes available, it will be distributed under the same guidelines that appear in this RFP document.

Fund Use:

Funds may be used to purchase:

  • materials for an approved early literacy universal screening assessment designated as Meets Expectations;
  • If the assessment is digital, a two-year subscription may be purchased;
  • If purchasing hard copies, one year of materials may be purchased;
  • initial training and support package from the assessment vendor, which typically includes introductory training for staff and ongoing consultation and support throughout the first year of assessment use;
    If selecting DIBELS, LEAs may use funds to purchase use of DIBELS Data System (DDS) from Amplify.

Funding for substitutes and stipends is not allowable. Funds may not be used to purchase technology (e.g., iPads, headphones), or instructional resources (e.g., instructional materials, student activity materials, instructional apps often sold as add-ons with screening assessments)

Project Duration:

Upon Approval – 6/30/2024

Program Unit:

Office of Literacy and Humanities,
Center for Instructional Support


Dr. Mary L. Brown

Date Due:

Complete proposals are due by Friday November 3, 2023

Proposals must be received at the Department by 5:00 p.m. on the date due. Confirmation of receipt will be sent. Applicants may submit proposals before the grant deadline.

All responses must be received by the due date listed above. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Responses not received on time will not be reviewed. Applicants applying after the due date may be notified their application was received late and will not be reviewed. Applications must be submitted as directed in the Submissions Instructions below. Failure to do so may result in disqualification. If you need assistance with submitting your application, please reach out to the contact person listed on this funding opportunity.

Required Forms:
Budget Specifics:

LEAs should provide budget information on Part II. Current costs for approved early literacy universal screening assessment and professional development are included on the At-a-Glance document on the Early Literacy Universal Screening webpage. The cost of assessments for participating students should be listed on the Part II form in section 7, Supplies and Materials and costs for Professional Development should be listed in section 6, Contractual Services. Please note there are no funding allowances for stipends, salaries, or equipment.

Additional Information:

Questions and Answers — Please submit questions with the title "FC586 Grant Question" to by Thursday, October 19, 2023. Responses will be posted on DESE's Early Literacy Universal Screening Assessments webpage by Monday, October 23, 2023. Direct responses are not permitted.

Universal screening and dyslexia

An approved early literacy screening assessment will measure students' risk for experiencing reading challenges, including but not limited to their risk of dyslexia, as referenced in Chapter 272 of 2018. The Massachusetts Dyslexia Guidelines cites the following definition of Dyslexia from the U.S. National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) 2002:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge (pg. 6).

Universal screening assessments are not intended to determine eligibility for specific learning disabilities including dyslexia. Rather, they inform instructional planning at Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 levels.

Participation in future research

LEAs receiving this award will be required to share with DESE their student-level assessment data from the approved early literacy screening assessment that is administered in all schools during the grant period. DESE will support districts to submit the required data by June 30 of each year awarded. DESE will analyze the statewide data collected for research purposes. Analyses will only be reported in the aggregate (e.g., by grade-level, region, etc.) in order to meet state and federal confidentiality laws. Identifying information of LEAs and schools will not be reported. All reporting will protect the identities of students, educators, schools, districts, and LEAs.

Submission Instructions:

Please email the required documents as listed above, attached to a single email, to using the subject line District Name, FY24 EARLY LITERACY SCREENING GRANT FC586. Please use the provided filetypes (word and excel). Signature pages should be sent as pdf documents.

Applicants will receive confirmation within 48 hours of when the materials are received. Early submission is strongly encouraged to ensure the complete application is received and confirmed by 5pm on the due date. Late and/or incomplete applications cannot be accepted.

Awarded Recipients: Upon award, recipients will be required to enter Part I (Signature Page), Part III (Required Program Information and Narrative), Part IV (School Assurance from each participating principal), Part V (School District Assurance) and the approved budget in EdGrants. Once selected, recipients will be contacted with further instructions on the process.

Last Updated: October 12, 2023

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