Early Literacy & Beyond Task Force

Read the MMSD and UW–Madison Form Early Literacy & Beyond Task Force Press Release

Madison Metropolitan School District MMSD and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education have formed a joint Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force which will focus on analyzing the most promising approaches to teaching reading and making recommendations to MMSD and to teacher education programs at UW-Madison toward the goals of improving reading outcomes and reducing achievement gaps.

The task force’s work will be 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

The task force is 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.

Task Force Members

UW-Madison School of Education

John B. Diamond

John B. Diamond

About John B. Diamond

John B. Diamond (co-chair of the Task Force) is the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and a professor with UW–Madison’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He is a faculty affiliate with the departments of Afro-American Studies and Educational Policy Studies. Through his research, Diamond has made numerous contributions to the study of race, distributed leadership, educational policy, urban and suburban education, and other topics. His most recent book, “Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools,” examines how racial inequality thrives in racially diverse suburban schools. In related work, he recently co-authored an Educational Researcher article on reframing suburban educational research and co-edited an Equity and Excellence in Education symposium on the changing terrain of suburban education. He is currently writing a new book, “Defending the Color Line,” which examines the challenges of school district leadership in the context of racialized resistance. An engaged scholar, Diamond is the faculty lead for Forward Madison, a faculty fellow in the Teacher Education Center, and a steering committee member of the Madison Education Partnership. He's also a member of the Urban Research Action Network National Planning Team, a senior research specialist with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, and a new advisory board member of the American Sociological Association's Sociology Action Network.

Mariana Castro

Mariana Castro

About Mariana Castro

Mariana Castro serves as deputy director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at UW-Madison. After 16 years as a science, ESL and bilingual educator at the Madison Metropolitan School District, she spent 14 years engaged in research and development at WIDA, an organization housed within WCER with the mission of advancing the academic language development and academic achievement of multilingual learners in the U.S. and internationally. Throughout her tenure at WIDA, Castro directed professional development activities, co-lead the development of K-12 language standards and standards-based curricular resources in Spanish and English, supported the development of summative assessments and formative assessment tools, and directed research activities. Castro earned her PhD in curriculum and instruction from UW–Madison. Her current research focuses on the language practices and ideologies of bi/multilingual students and their educators through translingual lenses and methodologies.

Dawnene D. Hassett

Dawnene D. Hassett

About Dawnene D. Hassett

Dawnene D. Hassett is a professor with UW–Madison’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She has a bachelor’s degree and teaching license in elementary education, grades pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through eighth grade; a master’s degree and teaching licenses in reading and literacy education, grades pre-K through 12th grade; and a doctoral degree in literacy studies and curriculum theory from UW–Madison. Hassett was an elementary school teacher and a district reading specialist for the Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, and Madison Metropolitan School Districts. Hassett teaches courses in literacy and language development, and she administers the Wisconsin licensure programs for reading teachers and reading specialists. Her research examines early literacy curriculum and instruction to determine how it constitutes individuals and maintains particular social conception of what it means to read and write well, especially in terms of reading and racism, as well as reading and resistance through children’s literature. She has published numerous book chapters and articles in journals such as the European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, and the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing.

Melinda Leko

Melinda Leko

About Melinda Leko

Melinda Leko is a professor and chair of UW–Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education and a PhD in special education from the University of Florida, with specific emphasis on reading instruction for students with disabilities and educator preparation in reading. Her current research centers on preparing pre- and in-service teachers to provide inclusive, equitable, and evidence-based reading instruction, particularly at the secondary level. Her book, “Word Study in the Inclusive Secondary Classroom: Supporting Struggling Readers and Students with Disabilities,” was published by Teachers College Press in 2016. In addition to her research, Leko co-edits the journal Teacher Education and Special Education, and has provided technical assistance in reading and effective remote instruction to over 25 states through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) CEEDAR (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform) Center.

Mark S. Seidenberg

Mark S. Seidenberg

About Mark S. Seidenberg

Mark S. Seidenberg is a Vilas Research Professor and the Donald O. Hebb Professor with UW–Madison’s Department of Psychology. Seidenberg has conducted research on the nature of skilled reading, how children learn to read, developmental reading impairments, and the brain bases of reading, in English and other languages, for many years. He also studies how differences in spoken language experience, particularly the use of a non-mainstream dialect, contribute to achievement gaps in reading. Seidenberg is author of the 2017 book, “Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It.” His current work focuses on finding ways to improve literacy outcomes, especially for children at risk for reasons such as poverty or developmental conditions such as dyslexia.

Beverly Trezek

Beverly Trezek

About Beverly Trezek

Beverly Trezek is an associate professor and the Tashia F. Morgridge Chair in Reading with UW–Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education-deaf and hard of hearing from Illinois State University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in special education-reading and learning disabilities from UW–Madison. Trezek’s research focuses on reading instruction for beginning and struggling readers, with a particular emphasis on students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Prior to joining the faculty at UW-Madison, Trezek was a professor of special education and director of the Reading Specialist master’s degree program at DePaul University (2005-2019). She was also a special education teacher for 12 years and spent the majority of her teaching career with the Madison Metropolitan School District. Trezek is the co-author of two books on the topic of literacy, “Reading and Deafness: Theory, Research, and Practice,” and “Early Literacy Development in Deaf Children.”

Ashley L. White

Ashley L. White

About Ashley L. White

Ashley L. White is an assistant professor with UW–Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Before her appointment at UW-Madison, White served as the 2019-20 Joseph P. Kennedy Public Policy Fellow with the Committee on Education and Labor under Chairman Robert Bobby C. Scott. Before earning her PhD from the University of South Florida, she taught for 13 years. White taught for the School District of Hillsborough County for 11 of those 13 years, primarily teaching fifth grade reading and mathematics. As a fifth grade teacher, she taught in general education, inclusion, and isolated special education settings.

Madison Metropolitan School District

Lisa Kvistad

Lisa Kvistad

About Lisa Kvistad

Lisa Kvistad has spent the past eight years as the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in the Madison Metropolitan School District.  She has supervised the departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, Student Services, Advanced Learning, Office of Multilingual and Global Education and Secondary Programs/Personalized Pathways. She currently also supervises the Chiefs of Schools as they collaborate with and develop strong leadership capacity in the 54 school principals in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Prior to this position, Lisa was the Director of State and Federal Programs.  Lisa was an elementary Principal in Madison for 11 years, at Elvehjem Elementary School and Lowell Elementary School. She was an elementary school teacher for 11 years and has spent 35 years total in the field of education. Lisa has her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Superintendent’s License from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She is a former YWCA Woman of Distinction and a Wallace Fellow.

Ana Gabriela Bell Jiménez

Ana Gabriela Bell Jiménez

About Ana Gabriela Bell Jiménez

Gabi Bell is the Interim Director of Literacy and Humanities at MMSD who partners with central office teams, leaders, and coaches to ensure that core instructional guidance and professional development K-12 attends to the rigor of grade level standards for Literacy, Biliteracy, Humanities, Social Studies, World Language and Arts. Prior to this work, Gabi spent many years in positions of instructional leadership such as Bilingual Program Developer K-12., and before that as a licensed teacher for World Language, Bilingual, and English as a Second Language.  Throughout  her work, it is evident that supporting early reading for socially, culturally and economically diverse students as a reading specialist was the catalist that awaken her to leverage reading as the higherst anti-racist strategy and most fundamental universal human right. Gabi is nearing the end of her doctoral work at the Universidad Nacional Estatal a Distancia, Costa Rica. Her research centers on the Science of Reading in multi linguistic instructional settings with adolescent learners. Her publications connect the intersectionality of education and race, Facts and Challenges Facing Bilingual Intercultural Education and Interculturalism: A Case Study of Afro-Costa Ricans (2020), and Education as a vehicle for social transformation: Paulo Freire’s pedagogy (2017)

Lisa Hepburn

Lisa Hepburn

About Lisa Hepburn

Lisa Hepburn graduated with an art degree from UW-Madison in 1993 and wondered, “what the heck am I going to do now?” She found the answer in Guanajuato, Mexico when her Spanish teacher suggested she teach English as a Second Language.  Lisa returned to the UW to earn her Masters in Applied Linguistics, and taught adult learners at both Madison College and the Literacy Network.  She made the shift to public education in 2007 and has been fortunate to teach as a Bilingual Resource Teacher in two excellent schools in the Madison District: Sandburg Elementary and Randall Elementary.  As dyslexia runs in her family, she is grateful for the training she has received through MMSD in Orton Gillingham and LETRS, and is passionate about the science of reading and structured literacy. When she is not on Zoom, you can find her in her basement studio making pottery.

Angie Hicks

Angie Hicks

About Angie Hicks

Angie Hicks is a Madison native and has been employed with the Madison Metropolitan School District for over 29 years. For the past 8 years, she has led as principal of James C. Wright Middle School. After serving with the U.S. Army in 1990, she joined the district as an Administrative Clerk-Typist. Dr. Hicks has held many roles within the district including: Title V Indian Education Tutor Coordinator, Custodian, Teacher, Title I Grant Facilitator and Instructional Resource Teacher for Mathematics and Literacy, Assistant Principal, and Principal. Prior to becoming an Administrator, Dr. Hicks grew a 12-year teaching career that spanned White Horse Middle School, and Emerson Elementary and Frank Allis Elementary Schools. Her administrative roles began as Assistant Principal at Sherman and Hamilton Middle Schools. Additionally, Dr. Hicks simultaneously served as Principal at Badger Rock and James C. Wright Middle Schools for the 2011-2012 school year.

Dr. Hicks received her B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from UW–Madison, and holds a Master's Degree in Educational Administration as well as a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from Edgewood College.

Dr. Hicks believes that literacy is foundational to the relentless pursuit of equity. This philosophy has shaped how she advocates for access and opportunity for her scholars and families. With scholars at the center, she challenges her staff to continually self-reflect, grow, and develop as servant educators. Dr. Hicks is committed to ensuring that scholars, staff, and families are focused on “Everyone Responsible, Every Day, Every Student Achieving, Whatever It Takes!”

Jorge Covarrubias

Jorge Covarrubias

About Jorge Covarrubias

Jorge Covarrubias is the Executive Director of Professional Learning and Leadership Development Department (PLLD) for the Madison Metropolitan School District. In his role as the Executive Director of PLLD, Jorge is part of the senior leadership team and is responsible for district professional learning, induction and mentoring of principals and teachers, and the professional growth of staff through Educator Effectiveness. Jorge represents MMSD in the Wisconsin Urban Leadership Institute, the Deeper Learning Dozen, the National Equity Project Midwest Network, and the States ESSA Leadership Learning Community (ELLC) as well as other partnerships such as Forward Madison.  Educational degrees include a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from UW-Madison and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Concordia University.  Jorge believes that education is a fundamental right steeped in deep and authentic relationships and rooted in the brilliance and rich experiences students bring.

Jaclyn Smith

Jaclyn Smith

About Jaclyn Smith

Jaclyn Smith is the Principal of Gompers, 4K-5, Elementary. This is her fifth year collaborating with parents, teachers and staff developing programs and innovative strategies to foster a  learning organization focused on meeting the needs of students. Gompers faculty and staff have embraced MMSD’s commitment to race, rigor and relationships and are determined to disrupt patterns that have historically marginalized our communities of color. 

A lifelong Madisonian she began her education at Leopold Elementary, Cherokee Middle School and Madison West. She knows first hand the quality and commitment of MMSD teachers and staff leading to her successful undergraduate and graduate studies.Also, she recognizes the disparities that exist within our city and is committed to continuing to learn to further support all MMSD students to have the amazing educational opportunities. Literacy is a passion of Jackie’s and she believes that teaching all of our students to read, write, listen and speak about complex text is the key to anti-racist teaching and opening lifelong possibilities for our scholars. 

Jackie holds a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies and Spanish from UW-Madison and served at a non-profit organization through AmeriCorp in Puerto Rico returning to Madison she continued to work supporting students through Centro Hispano. She began her professional education career in Madison while completing graduate programs culminating with Master’s of Science in Bilingual Education from Edgewood College. Past MMSD assignments include: Bilingual Resource Specialist, Bilingual Classroom Teacher, Bilingual Program Planner and her current role as Principal.

Chan Stroman

Chan Stroman

About Chan Stroman

Chan Stroman is a resident of Madison, and is the founding attorney and principal of Landlord Counsel LLC, her commercial real estate law practice. She is active in advocacy, research, consulting, and speaking on educational equity issues for students with disabilities and students of color, and organized Wisconsin’s first Wrightslaw conference. She is a pro bono reading tutor trained in methods based in the science of reading and is a consulting volunteer on special education matters with StEPP (Student Expulsion Prevention Project). She serves on the City of Madison’s Disability Rights Commission, the Dane County Aging and Disability Resource Center Governing Board, the Board of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, the United Way of Dane County Schools of Hope 2.0 Delegation, and the Advisory Committee of Reading League Wisconsin.