The Path Forward Program, Shaping Future of Early Literacy, Holds First Summit

November 3, 2021

The Path Forward for Teacher Preparation and Licensure in Early Literacy, a project led by The Barksdale Reading Institute, Belk Foundation, and The Hunt Institute, will host its first summit virtually on Thursday, November 4 and Friday, November 5. The event concludes the first year of the program, in which six states worked to build strategies to transform early literacy curriculum and instruction within teacher preparation in their states.

The program grew out of a desire to strengthen alignment among the science of reading and teacher preparation, program approval, and licensure. The first cohort, consisting of seven-person teams from Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio, met for the first time last January.

“We know that early literacy proficiency opens up doors for students, both in academics and in life,” said The Hunt Institute President and CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi. “Just looking at the National Assessment of Education Progress data, it’s obvious that students – especially Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students – aren’t receiving quality reading instruction to set them up for success. This is a matter of equity.”

Throughout its four sessions this year, the cohort explored topics to improve literacy instruction; considered the science of reading for racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse students; examined levers for change in teacher preparation; and planned for strategies in designing state action plans for impact.

“It’s been uplifting to see the collaboration among the key players who each play vital and distinct roles in ensuring that our teachers are well prepared to teach reading,” said Kelly Butler, CEO of The Barksdale Reading Institute. “This inaugural cohort of The Path Forward  has demonstrated a deep commitment to shaping policies that support equity and advancing early literacy practices based on the best evidence science offers us to date.”

At the Summit, the six state teams will report out on the comprehensive action plans they developed and share their next steps. Teams will also have the opportunity to meet with members of The Path Forward National Advisory Group to collaborate on opportunities related to the action plans. Throughout the Summit, cohort members will hear from resource experts with extensive knowledge on teacher preparation, the science of reading, and communication and advocacy.


  • Terri Clark, Arizona Literacy Director,  Read On Arizona 
  • Dr. Antonio Fierro, Chief Impact Officer and MS Momentum Partnership Coordinator, Barksdale Reading Institute 
  • Rupen Fofaria, Reporter, EducationNC
  • Dr. Francesca Forzani, Deputy Director, TeachingWorks
  • Emily Hanford, SeniorCorrespondent and Producer, APM Reports 
  • Dr. Cassandra Herring, President & Chief Executive Officer, Founder, Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, Inc. 
  • Dr. Holly Lane, Associate Professor, University of Florida 
  • Dr. Tanji Reed Marshall, Director of P-12 Practice, Education Trust 
  • Andy Rotherham, Cofounder and Partner, Bellwether Education Partners 
  • Dr. Laura Saylor, Dean and Associate Professor, Mount St. Joseph University, Ohio 
  • Dr. Mark SeidenbergVilas Research Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Dr. Kellee D. Watkins, Assistant Professor and MAT Coordinator for Elementary Education, North Carolina A&T State University 
  • Dr. Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education, Mississippi Department of Education 


“Often, our teachers hear conflicting information about literacy research, and they don’t always know how to apply evidence-based reading practices within their classrooms,” said Johanna Anderson, executive director of The Belk Foundation. “I believe this partnership between The Belk Foundation, The Hunt Institute, and The Barksdale Reading Institute has empowered these six state teams to think critically about how we can use what we know about brain science and reading to improve teacher preparation and reading outcomes for all students.”

For more information about The Path Forward program, please reach out to Dr. Amy Mattingly, The Hunt Institute’s literacy specialist at

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