Tune into this special Early Literacy
podcast episode
Equity in Early Literacy Instruction, Episode 1
In this podcast episode, Lisa Kvistad, MMSD’s Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning interviews Dr. Gabi Bell Jimenez, MMSD Interim Director of Humanities and Literacy. We’re also honored to welcome our first community partner to the early literacy podcast, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, President of the National Academy of Education and former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also served as the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at UW. An esteemed author and intellectual, Dr. Ladson-Billings is known for her work in the fields of culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory
 
Join us as we discuss the current literacy conversation across the state, the importance of this work for the future of MMSD, and the steps we are taking to meet the literacy needs of all of our diverse young scholars.
Dr. Angie Hicks Joins MMSD
Early Literacy Task Force










James C. Wright Middle School principal, Dr. Angie Hicks has worked diligently over the past eight years at building a trusting and collaborative relationship with her Wright Middle School families.
 
Students and parents know Principal Hicks has a hands-on approach to education, inspiring young scholars to be confident and expressive, while supporting her teachers and staff with the resources and leadership needed to provide meaningful and quality instruction throughout the school year.
 
“Knowledge is power,” said Dr. Hicks. “I believe education and literacy is each person’s basic human right. I tell all of my young scholars that once they get their education, no one can take that away from them. They have to be academic risk-takers, and together at Wright, we can make that happen."
 
Wright Middle School’s magnet has a special focus on social action, encouraging students to become actively involved in the communities where they live. With the superintendent’s vision for the district to thoughtfully and strategically prioritize early literacy, Principal Hicks is shifting her focus to promoting early literacy both in her current and future students.
 
With a professional background in elementary education, Dr. Hicks says that reading at an early age is critical to the development of a student’s vocabulary, creativity and understanding of the world around us.
 
“Literacy is extremely important at a young age for a number of reasons,” explained Dr. Hicks. “Literacy builds creativity and imagination in students and it starts by just talking to your child and listening to your child. Storytelling, reading the cereal boxes in your home at breakfast time, reciting the alphabet, arranging the alphabets to form words on your refrigerator, it’s all literacy. All the things that are around us and in our homes, this is how you incorporate literacy into your everyday life.”
 
Dr. Hicks believes that young people thrive in literacy when they have a deeper understanding of language, words and vocabulary.

“I’ve worked closely with young readers that struggled at the elementary level and have the same issues at the secondary level because the culture of literacy has shifted away from understanding language fundamentals,” said Dr. Hicks.
 
With early literacy being the top priority for MMSD, school and district leaders will be focusing on the Science of Reading to enhance student literacy development. Dr. Hicks supports the Science of Reading and explains why it is important for teachers and staff to be unified in their approach to teaching students how to read. 
 
“Our young people are experiencing issues with reading, writing and spelling, and one of the major ways we can address this is by lifting up the Science of Reading,” said Dr. Hicks. “Yes, we should continue to teach early readers with a phonics-based or structured literacy approach. But we know that not every reader learns the same, and by embracing the Science of Reading, we can help those students who need to be fully immersed in literacy experiences with an emphasis on understanding oral and visual language”, said Dr. Hicks. 

When MMSD and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education formed the joint Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force in December 2020, MMSD’s superintendent, Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins, invited Dr. Hicks to be part of the team. The task force’s work is focused on utilizing literacy as an equity strategy to ensure all MMSD students receive high-quality, grade level accelerated instruction.

Dr. Hicks believes she was invited to serve on the task force because of her versatility in elementary and secondary education leadership and her ongoing pursuit of equity as it relates to learning outcomes for her scholars and families. Together with other members of the task force, Dr. Hicks hopes to reduce opportunities gaps for students of color especially. 

“Collectively I hope to educate and empower young people at the highest level. I hope that our staff are trained appropriately in order to do the right work in the right way, for the right reasons; and personally, I hope that we all can work together and hold each other accountable to do better by our children and improve their literacy outcomes,” said Dr. Hicks. 

Dr. Hicks is currently focused on supporting her young scholars and school staff who are all dealing with the challenges of remote learning during a global health crisis.

“When our scholars come back to school buildings, we’ll be focused on their emotional wellness and making sure they have the support they need to return to in-person learning," said Dr. Hicks.
“I believe education and literacy is each person’s human right. I tell all of my young scholars that once they get their education, no one can take that away from them. They have to be academic risk-takers, and together at Wright, we can make that happen."
LETRS training Schedule:
The first step in our multi-pronged approach is to equip key stakeholders with the knowledge of Science of Reading (SoR) and the skills to lead for high quality reading instruction or to teach reading. We will use Language Essentials of Teaching Reading and Spelling (LETRS) as our foundational approach to teaching the SoR. This spring we begin LETRS training with leaders the district office and schools. See below for our Spring-Summer 2021 timeline.
Please click on the Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force banner below to visit our new website offering literacy resources, district updates and multimedia content centered around equity in early literacy instruction.