Decoding Dyslexia VA

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PALS Screening in Virginia





In an attempt to understand our publicly funded Virginia Universal Screener and the impact it has on our children in the classroom, Decoding Dyslexia Virginia began requesting data that is required by our universal screening law to be collected on our children in grades K-3.  

To provide background:

  • We understand that our state has mandated that a universal screener be administered to every child ages kindergarten through third grade.  
  • We are aware that the PALS assessment is the screener that the state has made available through public funds to our districts and if a district chooses to use an alternate screener, there must be an approved waiver.  
  • At this time, every district with the exception of Fairfax County, has committed to using the PALS screener as their fulfillment of the universal screener mandate.

Decoding Dyslexia Virginia has a mission to raise awareness and connect families to information and resources.  In our work to understand the issue of dyslexia and how it is intrinsically connected to literacy in Virginia, we believe it is important to understand everything about initial literacy screenings, appropriate interventions delivered by qualified educators, and access to assistive technology and accommodations.  

In an effort to increase transparency with our community, we would like to share information about our efforts to obtain the PALS data in the last few months. Please consider completing this informal community survey to enrich our understanding of screening in the state of Virginia.

If you’d like to help cover the cost for this FOIA request, please DONATE here.

Timeline for obtaining PALS data:

September 19, 2018 – A DDVA parent sent an email to the VDOE requesting information on how to access the data collected from our publicly funded state screener.   

September 19, 2018 – VDOE response was that the data was accessible to vetted researchers only through the VLDS (Virginia Longitudinal Data System).

September 19, 2019 – DDVA parents respond that they are not vetted researchers and unable to access PALS data.

September 20, 2018 – VDOE informs us that suppressed data is available to the public through an FOIA, Freedom of Information Act request.  Easy how-to-do-it-yourself instructions available here!

September 21, 2018 – DDVA parents submit an FOIA request asking for state data.  This request was for information over multiple school years, to include grades K-3 and both subtest and composite test scores.

September 26, 2018 – VDOE issues the following response and invoice:

“VDOE staff has determined that it will take approximately 68.5 hours for staff to search, review, and produce the requested information.  VDOE policy provides that a $19.98 per hour fee shall be assessed for staff time to respond to FOIA requests, and waives the first $20.00 of charges. Therefore, your total estimated cost to respond to this request would be $1348.63.“  Invoice available here

September 26 – October 4, 2018 –  DDVA founding members conducted discussions regarding next steps. Outreach to additional experts in the field for guidance on our efforts to collect PALS data that was not readily accessible with our initial parent request

October 11, 2018 – DDVA submitted the $674.32 deposit (link google doc of invoice) through the mail to move forward with the data request.

October 18, 2018 – VDOE receipt of deposit begins the work on the DDVA FOIA request.

October 18, 2018 – VDOE files for an extension, new due date October 31, 2018

October 31, 2018DDVA receives answers to specific questions from VDOE.  Raw data for dollars that districts have received through the publicly funded Early Intervention Reading Initiative, EIRI

November 1, 2018 – DDVA sends the remaining balance of $674.32 to VDOE through the mail.

November 1, 2018 – Present  – DDVA begins analysis of data.

November 6, 2018 – DDVA developed an informal community survey to gather additional information.  
For a deep dive on Virginia literacy, we provided some additional resources HERE.

Summer is coming!

summer programs.jpg

We invite our supporting organizations to send us their summer time programs, camps, workshops, sessions, etc.  DDVA will work to put together a resource for Virginia families looking for opportunities for summer activities enrollment.

Please submit program details to now through March 30, 2014.

March 15, 2014 Show Me Your 1 in 5

March 15, 2014 Show Me Your 1 in 5

On March 15th, 46 Decoding Dyslexia states will be asking the public to display their “1 in 5” proudly for all to see.

This 1 in 5 campaign is piggybacking the observation of National Reading Month, with the reminder that 1 in 5 individuals is dyslexic and struggle with reading everyday.

Want to join in? Here is all you have to do.

“Write it out!”

Write, post, print, sky write the words: “1 in 5” on something; your hand, a t-shirt, car window, post it note, even a banner.

Take a picture of it and share it!

  • Post it to your Facebook page!
  • Post it to our Facebook page: Decoding Dyslexia VA
  • Post it on Twitter! @ddva13
  • Instagram it!
  • Pin it!

Include the hashtag #showme1in5 so we can all connect.

This campaign is to raise Dyslexia awareness.

1 in 5 individuals is dyslexic; early identification and proper intervention are key to helping these children succeed in their education.

Thank you from all of us DDVA! We look forward to seeing your “1 in 5” posts this Saturday, March 15th!!

Decoding Dyslexia VA hosts First Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day at the Capital!



Hello VA,

Below you will find our agenda for the events of February 4th!  We will continue to update you as we receive additional information.  We look forward to gathering together to raise dyslexia awareness and let policy makers hear our concerns.

Where:  Richmond, VA

7th Floor West Conference Room General Assembly Building.

When:  9:30-11:00am Reception

  • Light refreshments to be served
  • Short presentation:  Decoding Dyslexia VA: Parents United
  • Speaker: Ben Pasternak, DDVA Parent

Parents, educators, specialists and policy makers please join us as Decoding Dyslexia VA hosts our First Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day at the Capital!

Learn more about:

  • Decoding Dyslexia VA – Our history and plans for the future
  • What is Dyslexia? – Who does it impact and what can be done
  • How positive change will benefit our children, our schools and our state.

Following the reception, opportunities for Gallery seats to observe the State Session, as well as Capital tours may be available.  This opportunity is dependent on RSVP’s and is subject to change with no advanced notice.

We encourage families and individuals who join us on the 4th to reach out to your representatives.  Invite them to the reception or schedule to meet with a member of their staff some time during the day.  DDVA members will be available to join the conversations or offer talking points if needed.

Update: Please our Event Brite Link for additional information and the opportunity to RSVP.

To the Rescue

by Joan Moore


I recently perused the National Book Festival in D. C. to find a good book, but it was a dog in a book that was my find for the day. Jane Paley and her dog Hooper were on stage entertaining parents and children, chronicling Hooper’s journey as a dog displaced by Hurricane Katrina to the lead character in his own book, Hooper Finds a Family. Hooper also found a new role as a reading therapy dog.

Sometimes people get lucky too. My sons had a tutor who made them readers before their self-esteem plummeted. She was our rescue. She tutored in her home and was accompanied by two black labs, Abbey and Katy; and yes, they were rescue dogs. My sons are teenagers now, but they still visit their tutor and her new black lab, Cindy. Although not a registered therapy dog, Cindy often escorts reluctant children from their cars into her home where they embark on an effective reading program for dyslexics. Cindy is the reason we chose to get our own rescue lab.

We hope to create an atmosphere where our dyslexic children want to access a book. My son reminded me that I read to them each night for at least thirty minutes. It was our own book club; it was a time for discussion. Tutoring is crucial, but parents also try to find the right book, the right author, an audiobook, or any hook that makes accessing a book worth the trouble.  There must be a lure into reading when it’s difficult, and sometimes it’s sharing a good book with a parent or with a four legged friend like Hooper.

Try checking your local library to learn more about programs offered, we found  Read to the Dog  offered through the Fairfax County Library.

hooper book pic

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