Frequently Asked

Learn more about EarlyBird and this Request for Proposals by examining our frequently asked questions.


What is EarlyBird?

EarlyBird is a tablet-based, self-administered, interactive game that detects dyslexia and other reading difficulties in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and/or first grade students (with assessments for second and third graders coming soon.) EarlyBird effectively predicts the risk of developing problems with reading acquisition (including developmental dyslexia) through behavioral assessment of several research-established, pre-literacy abilities. These include phonemic/phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, nonword repetition, letter (sound) knowledge, vocabulary and oral language skills. The app provides a promising alternative to current practices, in which children are often identified after the most effective intervention window has passed.

How is EarlyBird unique?

Currently, many schools rely on a ‘wait-to-fail’ approach when it comes to the identification of dyslexia and other learning differences. If children are only identified with a reading impairment in late elementary school (often much later), the most effective time for intervention has long passed. Early identification of children at risk is critical for both improving reading outcomes and for preventing the long-lasting social-emotional problems that often accompany reading failure. Although there are many screeners in the market, EarlyBird is uniquely positioned to provide schools with trusted data as well as features that make it fun for kids, easy for teachers and leads to smart instructional choices. EarlyBird is a one-stop solution for comprehensive assessment, early identification of dyslexia and word reading risk, and accompanying teacher resources such as detailed lesson plans, activities, and progress monitoring tools, all on a web-based platform. 

Who developed EarlyBird?

Dr. Nadine Gaab, currently Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and formerly Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. EarlyBird was created in partnership with Dr. Yaacov Petscher, Director of Quantitative Methodology and Innovation Division and Associate Professor at Florida State University  Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). EarlyBird is advanced by the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator of Boston Children’s Hospital, through a rigorous three year scientific validation study involving schools across the country.

What does the EarlyBird platform include?

EarlyBird’s comprehensive assessment is accompanied by training and Next Steps resources that help teachers bridge assessment to instruction. The teacher journey using EarlyBird includes all of the following:

Have any New York charter schools already adopted EarlyBird?

EarlyBird has been adopted by charters, public schools, and private schools in more than 20 states. EarlyBird launched in New York in 2020 and has worked with a small group of schools over the last two years. One of those early adopters, Manhattan Charter School, is featured in this video

With Heckscher Foundation’s support through this Request for Proposals (RFP), EarlyBird will jump-start wide-spread adoption in New York charter schools.

What grade levels does EarlyBird support?

EarlyBird is available through the Heckscher Foundation for Children’s funding to support grades pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and/or first grade in SY 2023-24 and 2024-25. EarlyBird will be adding assessments for second grade in SY2023-24, and assessments for third grade in SY 2024-25. If schools are interested in utilizing assessments for these grade levels (outside of this proposal), please contact [email protected]. Support for these expanded grades will not be provided by Heckscher.

Is the EarlyBird assessment offered in Spanish?

While EarlyBird is currently administered in English, the assessment is designed for pre-readers, and therefore most subtests can be used with English learners. EarlyBird recommends administering to English Learners who: know enough English to understand the oral instructions for each subtests and can reasonably know how to play each game, and/or have a teacher who can pause the game for each subtest and provide the instructions in the students’ native language. The EarlyBird platform includes guidance about which subtests to administer and how to interpret scores. In addition, the Family Reports are available in English and Spanish. Thanks to support and funding from the MDRC Measures for Early Success initiative, EarlyBird is also beginning the development of a bilingual assessment for Spanish-speaking English Learners, on the roadmap for release as early as SY 2025-26.


What are the application requirements?

If you would like to be sponsored to use EarlyBird for one or both of the next two academic years (either 2023-24 and 2024-25, or 2024-25 only), you must meet the requirements and complete the below application. To apply, the charter school must:

  • Be a New York charter school or charter network of schools.
  • Serve students in pre-kindergarten (4 year olds), kindergarten and/or first grade.
  • Designate a point of contact to manage the project. 
  • Demonstrate the commitment of the principal(s) and literacy leaders to the implementation and use of the EarlyBird literacy assessment through this application.
  • Use EarlyBird as a Tier 1 literacy assessment tool with all students at selected grade levels
  • Have a plan for how EarlyBird will complement any existing literacy assessment, as demonstrated by application response. 
  • Have a commitment to explicit literacy instruction, or be implementing the Science of Reading, as demonstrated by application response. 
  • Have technical devices (computers, tablets, headphones, internet) as described in the “How It Works” section. 
  • Commit to administering EarlyBird with fidelity, by fully engaging in the Adoption Process described below. 
  • Develop a plan for sustaining the engagement after the grant funding period has ended, as demonstrated through application. 
How do I ensure I’ve completed all of the components of the application process?

Charter Schools can use the following checklist:

Make sure your school meets the requirements listed above.

View a video overview to learn more about EarlyBird and this project.

If you have questions after viewing the Overview Video, please contact an EarlyBird representative (email [email protected], or set up a 1:1 appointment here

Complete the application and submit as soon as possible.

Make sure that your application has been submitted prior to October 3, 2023 at 5pm ET.

Some schools may be requested to participate in a 30 minute zoom call with an EarlyBird team member as a part of the process.

Grant Funding Model and Cost

How does the grant funding process work?

Schools should download a copy of this budget template and follow the instructions to update the applicable fields in yellow or green, depending upon whether you are applying to begin implementation in SY23-24, or 24-25. This will generate the cost of EarlyBird for the period covered by the grant.  Please see the screenshots below for examples.

If approved, funding for this initiative will be provided by the Heckscher Foundation for Children, directly to EarlyBird. The goal is that, at the end of the grant period, each sponsored school will have fully adopted and integrated EarlyBird into its school, and sustain its continued use without Heckscher’s funding. 

Sample 1: Standalone school applying to implement EarlyBird for 5 testing cycles (beginning MOY SY23-24 through SY24-25).  This school has 60 students in grades K and 1 (no students in pre-k).

Sample 2: Standalone school applying to implement EarlyBird for 3 testing cycles (during SY24-25 only).  This school also has 60 students in grades K and 1 (no students in pre-k).

How can I estimate the cost of continuing to use EarlyBird after the grant period ends?

To estimate the ongoing annual cost of EarlyBird, using current pricing as a guide, schools should plan for three post-assessment data workshops per grade per year (at $500 per workshop), licensing fees ($9 per student utilizing EarlyBird), and a platform fee per school ($750).  Note that there is a minimum fee of $2,500 per contract.

What does “covering the cost” of EarlyBird mean?

The Heckscher Foundation for Children is covering the cost of EarlyBird through SY 24-25, which includes:

  • Web-based/app-based gamified assessment (for Chrome or iPad) with three times per year benchmarking (beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year)
  • Kick-off live virtual webinar (45 min scheduled at school convenience) for all staff involved in administering the assessment
  • Data live virtual workshops with an EarlyBird literacy specialist (60 min scheduled at school convenience) for each grade level  following each assessment period. This means either 5 workshops per grade level over the course of the funded engagement (for schools starting with the Middle of Year assessment in SY23-24) or 3 workshops per grade level over the course of the funded engagement (schools starting in SY24-25).
  • Access to robust Next Steps platform with evidence-based, high-value resources such as lesson plans, instructional strategies, at-home activities, and more. These materials provide concrete next steps for instructors to support students based on the data from the assessments.
  • Access to Literacy Specialist office hours twice a week so your teachers have an expert on call.
  • Web-based data dashboard with classroom and student screens, family reports in English and Spanish, and alignment with Next Steps platform

How it Works

What does using EarlyBird look like?

EarlyBird is a three-times a year literacy assessment given at the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the school year. It can be administered in small groups or one-on-one. The administration takes approximately 25-45 minutes depending upon the grade, and is administered in a game-based learning environment on a computer or tablet. The students login and join their new friend “Pip” on a journey through the park to sail their toy boat in the pond. Along the way, they meet animal friends (one game/subtest each) and students are rewarded with a virtual prize at the end of each game. 

Note that for schools applying to implement EarlyBird for the 18 month grant period, EarlyBird will be administered two times in SY23-24 and three times in SY24-25.  

What skills does EarlyBird test?

Each subtest is auto-scored and populated into a teacher dashboard. Areas tested are included in the chart below. 

What does the EarlyBird Gameboard look like?

Following are screenshots of the BOY gameboard for each grade level, annotated with the names of the subtests.

How many times do we administer EarlyBird each year?

EarlyBird is administered to students three times a year. Students are assessed at the beginning of year (BOY: Late August-Thanksgiving), middle of year (MOY: Post-Thanksgiving to end of February), and end of year (EOY: March-June).

Note that for schools applying to implement EarlyBird for the 18 month grant period, EarlyBird will be administered two times in SY23-24 and three times in SY24-25. Schools applying to implement EarlyBird for SY24-25 only will assess three times (beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year).

Can EarlyBird be administered in multiple sittings?

Yes, EarlyBird can be completed in one sitting or multiple sittings; the app automatically saves progress and auto-scores all completed subtests. Teachers also have the option of picking and choosing which games/subtests to give (unlocked mode), thereby giving the teacher flexibility in administration. Teachers will receive further guidance in the Training and Launch live webinar.

Can we select a subset of students for the EarlyBird assessment?

EarlyBird is a universal literacy assessment.  While schools may choose any combination of grade levels (PK-1st) for the grant application, all students in that grade must be included. 

What are the minimum technical requirements to use EarlyBird?

EarlyBIrd can be used on Chromebooks or any device using a Chrome browser, or on iPads (generation 5 or later and iOS 16.1 or higher).  Reliable internet is required. Additionally, having headphones (not earbuds) with a microphone is highly recommended. A key component of the screener involves recording the student speaking.

EarlyBird Adoption Process & Implementation

What can we expect with the EarlyBird Adoption Process?

The following is an overview of the implementation process with the EarlyBird Customer Success & Training Teams (all meetings are held live, virtually). This also includes assessment and post-assessment process details. 

  • Execute Contract and Data Privacy Agreement

The agreement will be sent to you by EarlyBird and should be forwarded to whomever processes contracts on behalf of your school.

  • Implementation Call

Call to align on individual school goals, discuss administration best practices, schedule benchmarks, assessment windows, and post assessment one-hour data workshops by grade level. 

  • Rostering Call

Call to discuss rostering options and technical setup.

  • School Administration Workshop (Optional)

Optional workshop for school leaders to review and understand the EarlyBird data.

  • Training and Launch

Sixty (60) minute virtual workshop for all EarlyBird users (teachers, literacy specialists, para-professionals, etc.) outlining EarlyBird and best practices for classroom administration.

  • Administer EarlyBird Assessment

Administer the EarlyBird Assessment at the applicable benchmark periods over the grant period (schools applying for an 18-month grant period will assess at the middle of year and end of year for school year 2023-24, and at the beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year for school year 2024-25. Schools applying to implement EarlyBird during SY24-25 only will assess at the beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of the year). The windows for these assessments are as follows: beginning of year (BOY: Late August-Thanksgiving), middle of year (MOY: Post-Thanksgiving to end of February), and end of year (EOY: March-June).

  • Benchmark CheckIns

Forty-five (45) minute call is conducted with the designated point of contact to review the student literacy assessment data (beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year) before the post-assessment data workshops are conducted with the teachers.

  • Post-Assessment Data Workshops

One (1) hour data workshops conducted after each assessment/administration window with grade level teams, at the beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year. Workshops provide information on interpreting data to inform instruction for all teachers and staff involved in student interventions.

  • End of Year Debrief

Forty-five (45) minute call conducted with the designated point of contact and the building principal to revisit previously established goals, discuss goals for upcoming school year, and understand the targeted grades for the upcoming school year.

  • Office Hours with Literacy Specialist

Weekly office hours, two days per week, available to anyone from your school to get answers to questions related to data, interpreting data, developing instructional plans, grouping students, etc. These are led by an EarlyBird literacy specialist.

How much time should the Project Lead plan to spend during each administration period?

The Project Lead can expect to spend ~5 hours for rostering and set-up and another ~5 hours per administration period on communications and logistics.