Getting Reading Right Online Summit

Free Online Event: Getting Reading Right

Download a PDF of the key takeaways

Learning to read is arguably the most important academic experience students will have during their school years. But it’s not a given.

The “nation’s report card” shows that just over a third of 4th graders are proficient readers. That’s despite decades of cognitive research specifying the skills students need to be taught to read fluently. So what’s happening in schools—and in teacher preparation—that’s making it so hard for some students to gain these foundational skills?

In this online summit, Education Week reporters and their expert guests will discuss the science behind how kids learn to read, as well as explore original survey data on what elementary teachers and education professors know and believe about early reading.

Thank you to those who joined us for this event, which took place on Jan. 28, 2020. Below, you can watch the reporter wrap-up we streamed at the end of the event.


Jan. 28, 2020
1-3 p.m. ET*

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*Agenda and times subject to change. Check back regularly for updates.

Event Video

Getting Reading Right: In Conversation With Education Week

  • 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET | Discussions Open
    Education Week journalists and their special guests provide practical takeaways on the foundations of reading.

    Room 1: How Colleges of Education Are Approaching Early Reading
    Moderator: Madeline Will, Staff Writer, Education Week
    ‣ According to an Education Week Research Center survey, just 22 percent of professors of early reading instruction said their philosophy of reading is based on systematic, explicit phonics, with comprehension as a separate focus. Education Week reporter Madeline Will will lead a conversation with professors and other experts who are working to introduce the cognitive science of reading into teacher preparation.
    Kelly Butler, Chief Executive Officer, Barksdale Reading Institute
    Billie Tingle, Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Southern Mississippi
    Amy Murdoch, Reading Science Program Director, Mount St. Joseph University

    Room 2: Improving Comprehension With Emerging Readers
    Moderator: Sarah Schwartz, Staff Writer, Education Week
    ‣ Learning how to decode words is an essential step in learning how to read, but it’s only half of the equation. Children also need a strong vocabulary and a wealth of background knowledge to comprehend text. This discussion will explore how teachers can develop these building blocks of reading comprehension with the earliest readers.
    Jackie Gross, 1st Grade Teacher, Detroit Prep
    Margaret McKeown, Clinical Professor Emerita, School of Education; and Senior Scientist, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh
    Jen McMillan, Co-Founder and Head of School, Detroit Prep

    Room 3: How Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Research Says
    Moderator: Sarah D. Sparks, Assistant Editor, Education Week
    ‣ How does a young child’s brain respond to an unfamiliar word? How does learning to read differ from learning to speak? We’ll explore the decades of research on the sounds and sights, synapses and stories that coalesce in early reading experiences.

    Room 4: What Teachers and Professors Say About Early Reading: A Look at Our Survey Results
    Moderator: Stephen Sawchuk, Associate Editor, Education Week
    ‣ The Education Week Research Center has conducted one of the first nationally representative surveys of K-2 and special education teachers and education professors about their views on early reading. We’ll guide you through highlights of their beliefs on the place of phonics, how they define “balanced literacy,” and the curricula they report using most.

    Room 5: A Practical Conversation About the Science of Reading
    ‣ Let’s have a practical conversation about the Science of Reading! Discuss, discover, and share instructional routines for elementary and middle school learners that are based on the Science of Reading and The Big Five!
    Wytonia Montgomery, M.Ed., Istation Strategic PD Specialist
    Claudia Casillas, M.A., Istation PD Specialist

    Room 6: Turning Struggling Readers Into Striving Readers
    Moderator: Jason Carroll, Director of Product Management, Texthelp
    ‣ Join Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) and Jason Carroll from Texthelp, as they discuss tools and tips to help struggling readers. Starting with basic phonics and phonemic awareness, they’ll then dive into fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Our guest will discuss what works not only in the classroom but for parents. She'll conclude with a lighting speed round "reading tools smackdown" where Vicki will share her favorite tools to help students help themselves.
    Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, Teacher and Instructional Technology Director

  • 2:30–3:00 p.m. ET | Final Reporter Wrap-up
    Getting Reading Right: In Conversation With Education Week
    Led by Associate Editor Stephen Sawchuk, the Education Week newsroom will close out the day with insights from the discussions they’ve had with you, the readers.

Guests, Speakers, and Moderators

Kelly Butler
Chief Executive Officer, Barksdale Reading Institute

Butler is the chief executive officer of the Barksdale Reading Institute in Mississippi, which focuses on early childhood and parenting for school readiness, professional development for PK-3 teachers and literacy coaches, improving teacher preparation for early literacy instruction, and developing literacy leaders. A former high school teacher, she spearheaded the institute’s development of The Reading Universe, a detailed scope and sequence for training teachers on how to deliver sequential, systemic, explicit reading instruction. Butler is the author of two statewide studies and developed a subsequent statewide initiative to improve teacher-preparation programs focused on early literacy instruction in Mississippi’s 15 public and private universities.

Catherine Gewertz
Senior Contributing Writer, Education Week

Gewertz covers curriculum and instruction. In recognition of her expert reporting on assessment, the National Council on Measurement in Education named her the winner of its 2019 award for Excellence in Public Communication. Since joining Education Week in 1999, Gewertz has been the lead reporter on the common core and assessment and has covered urban schools. Previously, she was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times and United Press International.

Jackie Gross
1st Grade Teacher, Detroit Prep Academy

Gross is currently a 1st grade teacher and leadership team member at her school, Detroit Prep Academy. She has been teaching at the primary aged level for the past ten years in Chicago and most currently, Detroit.

Margaret McKeown
Clinical Professor Emerita, School of Education; and Senior Scientist, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh

McKeown’s work covers the areas of learning, instruction, and teacher professional development in reading comprehension and vocabulary. She is the co-developer, with Isabel Beck, of “Questioning the Author” and robust vocabulary instruction. Before her career in research, McKeown taught reading and language arts in elementary school.

Jen McMillan
Head of School, Detroit Achievement Academy

As 2nd grade teacher at Detroit Achievement Academy, McMillan led her students to 2.22 years in reading and the 99th percentile for growth nationally in both reading and math. She was named Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year in 2015. Born and raised in metro-Detroit, McMillan spent seven years in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching high school and middle school, and working in teacher support and development with Teach For America and The New Teacher Project.

Amy Murdoch
Reading Science Program Director, Mount St. Joseph University

Murdoch is the reading science program director, graduate education chair, and an associate professor at Mount St. Joseph University. Previously, she worked as a school psychologist in a large urban school district, the director of several large reading grants, and a reading consultant at the Special Education Regional Resource Center. Murdoch’s research and service work has focused on helping schools and families implement research-based practices in reading instruction, intervention, family involvement, and assessment.

Stephen Sawchuk
Associate Editor, Education Week

Sawchuk covers superintendents, district management, school safety, and civics education for Education Week. He joined the newspaper in 2008 and formerly covered the teaching profession, curriculum and instruction. He holds degrees from Georgetown and Columbia universities and was a 2017 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Sarah Schwartz
Staff Writer, Education Week

Schwartz is a reporter for Education Week who covers curriculum and instruction. Before joining the staff, she was as an Education Week intern, covering education technology. She has also worked at a middle school in East Harlem, New York.

Sarah D. Sparks
Assistant Editor, Education Week

Sparks is a reporter for Education Week who has covered education research and the science of learning for more than a decade. She joined Education Week in 2010, and has published on education and other issues in Education Daily, the Republican-American, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, and others.

Billie Tingle
Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Southern Mississippi

Tingle is an assistant teaching professor at the University of Southern Mississippi who teaches literacy courses in the school of education. A former 2nd grade and gifted education teacher, she earned her National Board certification as an early childhood generalist in 2002 and recertified again in 2012. Tingle is currently serving as the president of the Higher Education Literacy Council of Mississippi.

Madeline Will
Staff Writer, Education Week

Will is a reporter for Education Week who covers the teaching profession. She joined the staff in 2016, initially as the assistant editor for Education Week Teacher, a section dedicated to the firsthand perspectives of teachers. Before joining Education Week, Will was the publications fellow for a legal nonprofit, the Student Press Law Center. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science.

Development of independent content for this virtual summit is supported in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Development of independent content for this virtual summit is supported in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation