FR Doc 03-24530
[Federal Register: September 29, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 188)]
[Page 56133-56135]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []

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Part VI

Department of Education


Special Demonstration Programs--Model Demonstrations To Improve the 
Literacy and Employment Outcomes of Individuals With Disabilities; 

[[Page 56134]]



RIN 1820-ZA29

Special Demonstration Programs--Model Demonstrations To Improve 
the Literacy and Employment Outcomes of Individuals With Disabilities

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priorities.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education 
and Rehabilitative Services announces priorities under the Special 
Demonstration Programs. The Assistant Secretary may use these 
priorities in fiscal year (FY) 2003 and in later years.
    We take this action to focus attention on the adult literacy needs 
of individuals with disabilities pursuing employment under the State 
Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program. We intend that projects 
funded under these priorities will demonstrate that certain specific 
literacy services may raise the literacy levels and earnings of 
individuals with disabilities compared to individuals who receive the 
usual vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. These priorities are 
effective September 29, 2003.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan-Marie Marsh, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3316 Switzer Building, 
Washington, DC 20202-2641. Telephone: (202) 358-2796 or via Internet:
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the TDD number at (202) 205-8133.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Data from the Longitudinal Study of the 
Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program suggest reading achievement 
levels are highly positively correlated with earnings. However, VR 
agencies provide basic literacy services to only one percent of the VR 
population. As a result of these findings, the Assistant Secretary is 
interested in testing the impact of two instructional reading curricula 
(the Lindamood-Bell Language Program (LBLP) and the Wilson Reading 
System(r) (WRS)) on the literacy of adults with disabilities against 
the traditional services provided by VR.
    We published a notice of proposed priorities for this program in 
the Federal Register on July 25, 2003 (68 FR 44186). The notice of 
proposed priorities included a discussion of the significant issues and 
analysis used in the determination of these priorities.
    Except for minor editorial and technical revisions, there are no 
differences between the notice of proposed priorities and this notice 
of final priorities.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to our invitation in the notice of proposed priorities, 
three parties submitted comments on the proposed priorities. An 
analysis of the comments and of any changes in the priorities since 
publication of the notice of proposed priorities follows.
    Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes and 
suggested changes the law does not authorize us to make under the 
applicable statutory authority.
    Comments: One commenter recommended that it would be better to 
compare a ``phonics-based'' approach with a ``whole-word'' approach 
using an ``eclectic'' approach to see which approach would provide the 
most gains in literacy skills and, thus, employment.
    Discussion: While the idea of a comparison study in approaches is 
interesting, we are trying to rigorously test two research-based 
approaches to enhancing the literacy of adults with disabilities who 
are VR consumers. The interventions chosen fit those parameters. 
Current research suggests that we can teach to the consumers' 
``weaknesses'' effectively using these methods, and we are testing this 
specific population to identify those weaknesses and strengthen them. 
The problem with the ``eclectic'' approach or a method composed of 
elements drawn from various sources is that the treatment would vary, 
and this would jeopardize the research design and make it difficult to 
draw specific conclusions concerning the effectiveness of the treatment 
    Change: None.
    Comments: Two commenters indicated that the interventions will 
enable adults with disabilities to participate in literacy curricula 
that may ultimately be necessary for successful employment and that 
persons with barriers to employment resulting from low reading ability 
will benefit greatly from the opportunity to increase skills in basic 
reading, writing, and language. Additionally, they noted that it is 
important that literacy programs such as the LBLP or the WRS be 
assessed to determine their effectiveness with persons with 
disabilities in VR settings.
    Discussion: We agree with these comments.
    Change: None.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use one or more of these priorities, we invite 
applications through a notice in the Federal Register. When inviting 
applications we designate each priority as absolute, competitive 
preference, or invitational. The effect of each type of priority 

    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority we give competitive preference to an application by either (1) 
awarding additional points, depending on how well or the extent to 
which the application meets the competitive priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) selecting an application that meets the 
competitive priority over an application of comparable merit that does 
not meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the invitational 
priority. However, we do not give an application that meets the 
invitational priority a competitive or absolute preference over other 
applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).


Model Demonstrations To Improve the Literacy Skills and Employment 
Outcomes of Individuals With Disabilities

    This priority supports projects that demonstrate the effect 
literacy services and instruction have on improving literacy skills of 
targeted groups of VR consumers and the effect on their employment and 
earnings outcomes. Projects must demonstrate how VR offices can 
effectively integrate literacy services into their service delivery 
systems and can best provide literacy services and instruction to a 
targeted group of VR consumers.


    Projects must assure cooperation with the Rehabilitation Services 
Administration (RSA) and RSA's outside evaluator in meeting the 
evaluation needs of the project and RSA. Project cooperation with RSA's 
outside evaluator must include the following:
    1. The assessment of all entering VR consumers in the designated 
project service area using brief methodologically acceptable screening 
instruments for learning disabilities and literacy levels to determine 
their eligibility for the project. The

[[Page 56135]]

assessment does not include VR consumers with evidence of mental 
retardation in their case files.
    2. The assignment of approximately one-half of the eligible project 
participants into a literacy intervention group who would receive the 
additional services and benefits of the project and approximately one-
half of the project participants into a control group who would not 
receive project services. However, no individual in the control group 
can be denied literacy services if his or her Individualized Plan for 
Employment (IPE) requires those services. Furthermore, those services 
may not be provided or paid for under these demonstration grants.
    3. The use of diagnostic tests and effective assessments of reading 
proficiency consistent with the procedures of RSA's outside evaluator.
    4. The administration of a pre- and post-test to project 
participants as directed by RSA's outside evaluator.


    An applicant for this competition must choose either the LBLP or 
the WRS for its curriculum and provide a rationale for its choice 
(e.g., the local adult literacy provider already uses WRS). However, an 
applicant may also choose to describe its capacity to use the other 
curriculum if it would be willing to substitute the alternative 
curriculum as its curriculum in order to enhance its ability to 
compete. RSA will select grantees in a manner to ensure that each 
curriculum intervention is adequately represented in the applications 
selected for funding.

Project Participants

    The following participant research criteria must be met:
    1. Projects must have a sufficient number of individuals in the 
control and experimental groups so that the effects of the literacy 
intervention can be adequately measured.
    2. Project participants must be eligible to receive VR services by 
the State VR agency and have, or be in the process of developing, an 
    3. All project participants (control and experimental groups) must 
be given an informed choice with respect to participation in the 
demonstration project consistent with the human subjects provisions as 
included in the application package.
    4. Project participants for the experimental and control groups 
must be selected using the requisite instrument. RSA requires use of 
the Learning Needs Screening Tool, a validated and public domain 
screener, which can be incorporated into the VR intake process. Copies 
of the screener as well as further information may be found on the 
Internet at the following Web site:

Use of Funds

    Funds may be used only for project costs and related activities and 
may not be used to supplant the cost of services ordinarily provided by 
the VR program. Related activities may include, but are not limited 
to-- (1) counselor training or orientation, including counselor 
training on administration of literacy assessment instruments, (2) 
educational assessment and evaluation, (3) research expenses, (4) 
support services such as consumer transportation, childcare, and 
facilitation for attendance and retention, (5) instructional materials, 
(6) curriculum and instruction, (7) professional development for 
instructors and administrators, (8) assistive technology devices and 
services, (9) instructional technology, and (10) consultants.

Invitational Priority

    Within the priority for this competition, we are particularly 
interested in applications that meet the following invitational 
    Establishing partnerships with other organizations that can assist 
in carrying out their respective projects related to improving literacy 
and employability skills of adults with disabilities.
    These organizations might include Adult Education and Family 
Literacy (AEFL) programs, institutions of higher education, volunteer-
based literacy programs, community rehabilitation programs, nonprofit 
or for-profit vendors of literacy services, and other workforce 
agencies. Applicants under this invitational priority must meet the 
requirements in 34 CFR 75.127 through 75.129, which governs how 
partnerships and other groups of eligible parties may submit 
applications and conduct funded projects.
    Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(1) we do not give an application that meets 
the invitational priority a competitive or absolute preference over 
other applications.

Waiver of Delayed Effective Date

    The Administrative Procedure Act requires that a proposed rule be 
published at least 30 days before its effective date, except as 
otherwise provided for good cause (5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3)). In order to 
make timely grant awards, the Secretary has determined that a delayed 
effective date is impracticable.

Intergovernmental Review

    This program is subject to Executive Order 12372 and the 
regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the objectives of the Executive 
order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened 
federalism. The Executive order relies on processes developed by State 
and local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal 
financial assistance.
    This document provides early notification of our specific plans and 
actions for this program. Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 

Electronic Access to This Document

    You may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site:
    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at:

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.235P Special 
Demonstration Programs--Model Demonstration Projects to Improve the 
Literacy and Employment Outcomes of Individuals With Disabilities)

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 773(b).

    Dated: September 24, 2003.
Robert H. Pasternack,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 03-24530 Filed 9-26-03; 8:45 am]