March 4, 2009
1. Is direct teacher support an allowable expense?
In addition to stipends, bonuses, and scholarships, direct teacher support such as salaries for specialists or new teachers to address the invitational priority related to intensity (e.g. to switch from half-day to full-day and/or to serve children for the two years prior to their entry into kindergarten) generally would be allowable, so long as they are necessary and reasonable to accomplish the program's purpose and objectives.
2. What constitutes a "center and how many conters may the applicant propose to serve with an Early Reading First Grant?
A center may be a classroom or multiple classrooms within a building or campus, or multiple buildings or campuses, within one LEA. For example, it may be a Head Start center with one or more classrooms or one or more buildings or campuses, or a private or non-profit preschool program with one or more classrooms, buildings, or campuses.
The Secretary recommends that no more than five (5) centers (for center-based programs) be served with the applicant's proposed program. This is an approximate guideline. Applicants may list more or fewer centers depending on their needs and capacity. Nevertheless, applicants should be sure to limit the scope of their proposed project sufficiently to ensure that resources are concentrated enough to achieve all their program goals and they become models of excellence within their educational communities. Applicants are encouraged to keep their focus on improving quality rather than quantity.
3. Can Early Reading First funds be used for paying rent?
Applicants should focus their proposed activities on the statutory purposes of Early Reading First. To the extent that the leasing of some additional space is necessary and reasonable for meeting the purposes and objectives of the program, rent generally would be an allowable cost. (See the applicable OMB Cost Circulars at http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/grants/index.html.)
4. Can Early Reading First funds be used for construction?
No. Construction costs are not allowed to be charged to the Federal funds for an Early Reading First project. This is a requirement of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) at 34 CFR 75.533 (applicants can access EDGAR provisions on the Department's website at http://www.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/edgarReg/edgar.html . However, Early Reading First funds may be used for minor remodeling (which does not include any structural alterations) to accomplish the program's purpose and objectives, such as to enhance the quality of the physical environment to make it more conducive to developing early language and early reading skills. (See the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) at 34 CFR section 77.1, definition of "minor remodeling," which you can access on the Department's website at http://www.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/edgarReg/edgar.html .)
5. Can Early Reading First funds be used for the transportation cost of a van or book mobile to bring books and a literacy program to children in their home as part of the program?
The use of a van or book mobile would be an allowable cost if it is shown to be necessary and reasonable to achieve the purpose and objectives of the program. However, the purchase of a van or book mobile generally would be considered a capital expenditure for equipment, assuming that it has a useful life of more than one year and a value of over $5,000. Thus, such a purchase would require specific prior approval from the Department.
6. Is there a requirement for in-kind contributions?
No. There is no requirement for matching funds or a local project cost-share.
7. How can applicants that do not have a current federally approved indirect cost rate with a cognizant federal agency obtain an approved indirect cost rate?
For the purposes of applications, if an applicant does not have an approved indirect cost rate agreement with a cognizant Federal agency, the applicant must apply to the Department for a temporary indirect cost rate if it wishes to charge indirect costs to the grant. For guidance in creating a cost policy statement please contact Katrina McDonald via e-mail, Katrina.McDonald@ed.gov. For additional information on establishing an indirect cost rate, please visit the Department’s website at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocfo/fipao/icgindex.html.
8. Is the Department of Education planning to contract with an external evaluator, and how does that relate to the local project evaluation?
By statute, the Secretary is required to conduct an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of Early Reading First. The purpose of that evaluation is to determine the overall effectiveness of Early Reading First projects, not to evaluate individual projects. This national evaluation is different from the evaluation referred to in the full application selection criteria, which local projects will conduct in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their own project. The national evaluation of Early Reading First was published in May 2007 and can be found at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20074007
9. Does your office make any specific recommendations about which assessments should be used?
Our office has not made any specific recommendations about assessments. However, assessments used in Early Reading First projects must be valid and rigorous. The statute requires projects to use screening reading assessments or other appropriate measures that are based on scientifically based reading research to determine whether preschool age children are developing oral language skills, phonological awareness, print awareness, and alphabet knowledge. Question B-3 in the Non-Regulatory Guidance for Early Reading First, located in the Laws, Regs, & Guidance section of the Early Reading First website (www.ed.gov/programs/earlyreading/legislation.html), discusses the qualities of scientifically based reading research. A discussion of measures or assessments proposed by an Early Reading First applicant may address how each measure meets this definition. Books and articles addressing the qualities of scientifically based reading research can be found in the Resource section of the website.
10. Do charts and tables have to be double-spaced?
No. It is permissible to prepare charts in a single-spaced format.
11. What format should applicants use for citing research?
Applicants are asked to discuss the key research that is tied to their program design and its implications for classroom practice specifically in the narrative. Expert peer reviewers will then evaluate, among other things, the relevance and the rigor of the research cited. Applicants can assist reviewers by providing endnote citations for all works cited in the narrative. Endnotes are to be included in the appendices, and if included there, do not count toward the 40-page narrative limit. While a specific citation style is not required, each endnote should include, at a minimum, the author(s), the title of the book, or journal and article, and the date of publication. Do not include a general reference bibliography.
12. May I include letters of support or the resumes of my key project personnel with my pre-application?
No, only include the appendices listed on the Full Application checklist in the application package. Any other materials will not be considered.
13. How many final grants will be awarded?
The Department will award the grants on a competitive basis for a project period of up to three years. The Department estimates that it will make between 24 and 74 awards, ranging between $1,500,000 and $4,500,000 for a three-year period with average size of awards $3,000,000.00.
14. What is the timeline for the FY 2009 project, i.e., approximately when will awards be made?
We anticipate that grants generally will be awarded no later than September 30, 2009 for a three-year project period.
15. Will there be a time for start-up/planning period for the grant?
Early Reading First programs will be given flexibility as to when they should begin the actual implementation of the program activities portion of their project. Projects are not required to be fully operational during the first months of the project, but may conduct start-up activities during that time, such as hiring and obtaining any needed new curricula. We encourage all FY 2009 Early Reading First project activities and services to be fully implemented by January 11, 2010.
16. Can anyone apply for the full application?
only applicants invited back from the pre-application phase of the competition can submit an application for the full application phase of the Early Reading First grant competition.
17. What does SBRR stand for?
SBRR stands for Scientifically Based Reading Research. The definition is included in section 1208(6) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and is included in the application package.
18. How should applicants complete question #9 (type of application)?
LEAs may select "C - city or township government", or write in "LEA" on the line under "Other."
19. How should applicants complete #15 (descriptive title)?
Applicants may cross-reference their 1-page project abstract in answer to this question.
20. How should applicants complete #17, the proposed project date?
The project period for Early Reading First grants is generally September 1st of the fiscal year in which the grant was awarded through August 31st of the fiscal year three years after the grant was awarded (e.g. September 1, 2007 – August 31, 2010 for FY 2007 Early Reading First grants). Projects are not required to be fully operational during the first months of the project, but may conduct start-up activities during that time, such as hiring and obtaining curricula. We encourage all Early Reading First project activities and services to be fully implemented by the January following their award date. See question #16 for additional on start-up activities.
21. How should applicants complete #18 (estimated funding)?
In response to question #18 on Form 424, applicants should provide the amount requested for the entire three-year project period.
22. Form SF-424, #19. Is the Early Reading First Grant application subject to Executive Order 12372? If so, what is the date the application is "made available for review."
Executive Order 12372 concerns the Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, and essentially gives States the opportunity to review and provide comments to Federal agencies on applications for Federal discretionary (competitive) grants. You can find more details in the Appendix for the Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs in the Early Reading First application package.
Early Reading First grants are subject to Executive Order 12372 if your State is listed as having a Single State Point of Contact in the Appendix for Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs in the application package. If your State is listed, you should check box “a” and contact the person listed for your State to determine your State's process under Executive Order 12372, and the date by which you must provide the application to the State for review. If your State is not listed in the Appendix, check box "b" in response to question 19 on the application cover page (Form SF-424).
23. Is there a specific format that applicants must use to demonstrate the support of the application by those stakeholders who would implement it?
No. Applicants may address Selection Criteria 3 (Adequacy of Resources), Factor 1, in any way they choose, However, any documentation demonstrating stakeholder support included in the appendices is limited to no more than five (5) one-sided pages. There is no prescribed form.
24. May applicants include the cost of food in their budgets?
Yes. Although entertainment (including food) is not allowable to be charged to the Federal funds for an Early Reading First project, food expenditures for participants (for example, parents, children, and attendees at professional development sessions) are allowable if they are not entertainment, and they are necessary and reasonable to accomplish project goals.
25. Is there a maximum or minimum number of centers we may propose?
No. Applicants may address Selection Criterion 1 (Quality of Project Design), Factor 2, Purpose 1, in any way they choose. However, it is suggested that applicants consider whether the number of centers proposed will allow funds to be sufficiently concentrated to achieve program goals.
26. Should we include a list of names and addresses of the existing preschool program(s) that the proposed Early Reading First project would support?
Applicants may address Selection Criterion 1 (Quality of Project Design), Factor 2, Purpose 1, in any way they choose. However, section 1222b requires that applicants include a list of programs to be served by the proposed project, including demographic and socioeconomic information on the preschool age children enrolled in the programs. (Selection Criterion 1), Note, Purpose 1.
27. If I don’t yet have a specific person committed for one or more project positions, may I provide a job description and qualifications for the position, in lieu of the vitae?
Yes. Applicants may address Selection Criterion 2 and factors in any way they choose, applicants may only include in the appendices position descriptions and/or vitae for five positions, although they may have more key personnel than these five positions.
28. Will the same pool of reviewers who evaluated the Pre-Application also review the Full Application?
Generally, the same pool of expert readers will review the Full Application proposals. However, the same panel of readers that reviewed a Pre-Application will not review a Full Application from the same applicant.
29. Must we include a response to the “Need for Project” Pre-Application selection criterion in the Full Application?
The applicant should prepare the Full Application Narrative to respond to the Full Application Selection Criteria and factors. Full Applications will be evaluated only on the Full Application Selection Criteria published in the Federal Register, which are incorporated in the Full Application. Applicants should not assume that reviewers have read their pre-applications and should ensure that their full applications include all information needed by the reviewers to evaluate their proposals, including any program context information necessary for the reader to understand the applicant’s responses to the Full Application selection criteria.
30. Will the expert peer reviewers have access to the Pre-Applications?
No. Applicants should not cross-reference in the full application material from their pre-application because the full application is a “stand-alone” document. Reviewers will base their evaluation of the full application on the Full Application Narrative, the Budget and the Budget Narrative and other limited materials listed in the appendices.