Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force
The task force’s work focused on utilizing literacy — at every level — as an equity strategy to ensure all MMSD students receive high-quality, grade level accelerated instruction.
“An explicit strategy around early literacy and beyond is an investment – an investment in our children, our families and our community.”
— MMSD Superintendent, Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins
“We are very pleased to collaborate with MMSD by creating this joint task force that focuses explicitly on what we can do together to improve the reading outcomes of all students.”
— UW-Madison School of Education Dean, Diana Hess
Final Report Executive Summary
The Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force was established in December 2020, charged with analyzing promising approaches to literacy education and making recommendations to Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the teacher education programs at the University of Wisconsin -Madison School of Education (UW-SoE) to improve literacy outcomes and reduce gaps in MMSD student’s opportunities and outcomes. The Task Force members met between February and June 2021 to address the charges listed below.
- Review and become familiar with the best evidence about the most effective ways to teach literacy in pre-kindergarten through Grade 12, and how to best develop future teachers who can better teach literacy in schools.
- Identify how literacy, especially early literacy, is taught across MMSD, and analyze achievement data for MMSD students with respect to literacy.
- Examine how literacy, especially early literacy, is taught to teacher education students at UW-SoE and analyze what these future teachers are learning about literacy.
- Recommend steps that strengthen literacy instruction in the Madison schools and UW-Madison teacher education programs.
The Task Force included 14 members, seven each from MMSD and UW-Madison who were experts in literacy and equity - the central foci of the effort. The project was managed by Dr. Jen Schoepke who holds positions in both organizations. Task Force members worked collaboratively as a whole group focused on the fourth charge listed above and in three subcommittees focused on the first three charges. To facilitate cross-fertilization and leverage our collective knowledge, each subcommittee included representatives from MMSD and UW-Madison.
Task Force members kept children and equity at the center of our work and our recognition that behind every data point was a child and a family with aspirations for success. The Task Force focused on the demand for social justice and the ways that reading can empower young people with the opportunity to create a more just future. Several things were abundantly clear through Task Force dialogue: (1) student’s opportunities and outcomes need to be more equitable; (2) all of our children need improved literacy outcomes, and (3) it is our collective responsibility to put systems, processes, and pedagogy in place that allows the excellence within our children to shine.
Building on a long-standing culture of collaboration across MMSD and UW-SoE, this report was developed through a true partnership, with an explicit focus on literacy instruction as an equity strategy. Tasks Force members agree that we need urgent change grounded in reflective, evidence-based practice. This report is meant to spur such transformation in MMSD and UW-SoE so we can realize the moral imperative to get all of our children to read successfully and at high levels. The Task Force submits this report to MMSD and UW-SoE leadership for their consideration, knowing that its recommendations are just the beginning of the work that needs to be done.
Task Force Broad Recommendation Themes
Theme 1: Ensure Anti-racist, Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Equitable Education
Theme 2: Improve Instructional Coherence
Theme 3: Align Leadership for Literacy
Theme 4: Enhance Organizational Structures to Support Literacy
Theme 5: Refine Data Systems
Theme 6: Build on the Strengths of Our Students, Families, and Community
Theme 7: Collectively Grow Together Through a Commitment to Continuous Improvement
Theme 8: Enhance Implementation Efforts Through Communication and Coordination
Task Force members believe that working on literacy is a journey, not an event. The recommendations are part of a large suite of activities to address literacy efforts across MMSD and UW-SoE. The Task Force stresses that the effort to improve literacy is not about blame, ideology, or politics, but rather it is an ongoing process of using evidence to do what is best for our youth. As the Literacy Task Force concludes the writing of this report, the process of implementation begins. This report, above all, serves as a living document that centers the work that MMSD and UW-SoE will do together to improve literacy outcomes for our children.
The task force was charged with:
- Identifying how literacy, especially early literacy, is currently taught across MMSD and analyzing achievement data for MMSD students with respect to literacy.
- Examining how literacy, especially early literacy, is being taught to teacher education students at UW–Madison’s School of Education and analyzing what these future teachers are currently learning about literacy.
- Reviewing and becoming familiar with the best evidence about the most effective ways to teach literacy in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade — and developing future teachers who can better teach literacy in schools.
- Making recommendations to MMSD and the UW–Madison School of Education about steps to be taken that can strengthen literacy instruction in the Madison Schools and UW-Madison’s teacher education programs.