Innovative Approaches to Literacy: United States Department of Education Holds Competition for 2021 Grant

The United States Department of Education (USDOE) is holding a competition for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant in 2021.

Program Description from USDOE:

The IAL program supports high-quality programs designed to develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade in high-need local educational agencies (high-need LEAs) and schools. The Department intends to promote innovative literacy programs that support the development of literacy skills in low-income communities, including programs that:

1) develop and enhance effective school library programs, which may include providing professional development for school librarians, books, and up-to-date materials to high-need schools;

2) provide early literacy services, including pediatric literacy programs through which, during well-child visits, medical providers trained in research-based methods of early language and literacy promotion provide developmentally appropriate books and recommendations to parents to encourage them to read aloud to their children starting in infancy; and

3) provide high-quality books on a regular basis to children and adolescents from low-income communities to increase reading motivation, performance, and frequency.

April 6, 2021, USDOE published a notice of proposed priorities and requirement (NPP) for this program in the Federal Register (86 FR 17757).

July 12, 2021, USDOE published a notice of final priorities and requirement in the Federal Register (86 FR 36510).

Eligible Applicants

USDOE’s information about applying, funding available, and so on, was not updated on its site at the time this article was published. A representative from USDOE said it should be updated within 24 hours. He said, too, that USDOE expects to hold two pre-application webinars for individuals interested in applying, and that the application deadline for applying for the grant is August 11, 2021.

For now, the following is known:

To be considered for an award under this competition, an applicant must be one or more of the following:

(1) An LEA in which 20 percent or more of the students served by the LEA are from families with an income below the poverty line (as defined in section 8101(41) of the ESEA).

(2) A consortium of such LEAs described in paragraph (1) above.

(3) The Bureau of Indian Education.

(4) An eligible national nonprofit organization (as defined in section 2226(b)(2) of the ESEA) that serves children and students within the attendance boundaries of one or more eligible LEAs.

Note: Under the definition of “poverty line†in section 8101(41) of the ESEA, the determination of the percentage of students served by an LEA from families with an income below the poverty line is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s SAIPE data.

An entity that meets the definition of an LEA in section 8101(30) of the ESEA and that serves multiple LEAs, such as a county office of education, an education service agency, or regional service education agency, must provide the most recent SAIPE data for each of the individual LEAs it serves. To determine whether the entity meets the poverty threshold, the Department will derive the entity’s poverty rate by aggregating the number of students from families below the poverty line (as provided in SAIPE data) in each of the LEAs the entity serves and dividing it by the total number of students (as provided in SAIPE data) in all of the LEAs the entity serves.

An LEA for which SAIPE data are not available, such as a non-geographic charter school, must provide a determination by the State educational agency (SEA) that 20 percent or more of the students aged 5-17 in the LEA are from families with incomes below the poverty line based on the same State-derived poverty data the SEA used to determine the LEA’s allocation under part A of title I of the ESEA.

For More Information:

Simon Earle, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 3E254, Washington, DC 20202-6450. Telephone: (202) 453-7923. Email:

If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

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