Capital Times highlights new collaboration on literacy between MMSD, School of Education

The Capital Times newspaper spotlighted a new collaboration between the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and UW–Madison’s School of Education in an article focused on how the district is shifting its approach to teaching reading in an effort to boost literacy among its students.


The new Early Literacy and Beyond Task Force — which will include seven members each from MMSD and UW–Madison — 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 opportunity gaps. The group will hold its first meeting in January.

Diana Hess, dean of the School of Education and the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education, said the task force hopes to have recommendations by June.

Hess told The Capital Times she is hopeful that the task force can “get past the rhetoric of the reading wars” to settle on an approach that is best for students.

“What we should want is to craft the very best ways of teaching kids how to read,” Hess said. “What we shouldn’t want is to get trapped in an ideological battle that’s just going to be time-consuming and, quite frankly, I think not very productive.”

Gloria Ladson-Billings

The article also mentions work that UW–Madison’s Gloria Ladson-Billings, an education consultant and professor emerita in the School of Education, is doing with MMSD to help ensure the district’s reading curriculum is culturally relevant.

“Beyond finding books that will allow the students to challenge themselves with new words and phonemic concepts,” the article notes, “the district has also stressed the need for books that represent all students through characters and plot lines.”

Students still “need good stuff to read,” said Ladson-Billings.

“Now what we’re hoping is to combine what we know about phonics and phonemic awareness with an enriched vocabulary, with something substantive to teach, so that the comprehension is worth something,” she said.

Learn more by reading the full article at, here.