Empowering Teachers through Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction

The Path Forward

The Path Forward utilizes a cohort model to support states in their efforts to transform teacher preparation and teacher licensure programs to include the science of reading. Through virtual convenings and targeted coaching support, state teams establish an understanding of their current state context and work towards the development of a comprehensive action plan to embed the science of reading in teacher preparation. A National Advisory Group, a cadre of experts in reading, policy, and teacher preparation, serve as partners in the work by presenting to teams at convenings, providing resources, and offering feedback on state action plans. The Hunt Institute staff and coaches provide monthly coaching to support the teams in processing the information from the virtual convenings and engaging in state action planning.

“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.”

– Johanna Anderson, Executive Director of The Belk Foundation


Over the course of a year, state teams come together to set goals and share best practices regarding ways to ensure that teacher preparation, licensure, and program approval are aligned to the science of reading.

Each state is supported in these efforts through intensive coaching, participation in virtual convenings, and attendance at an in-person convening. At the end of the program, teams will have a customized action plan for further embedding the science of reading into their state’s plans.

State teams are made up of individuals from the state working to improve literacy for its students. It is critical that each team prioritize members who have a deep understanding of the science of reading, understand policy levers to bring change in teacher preparation, licensure, and program approval, and are strong voices in the state’s teacher preparation programs.


Early literacy proficiency is critical to later success, both in academics and in life. However, despite efforts to improve early literacy instruction across the country, the United States struggles to effectively teach children to read, showing no progress on international exams in reading since 2000. According to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), average fourth grade reading scores increased in only one state between 2017 and 2019, while scores decreased in 17 states and showed no significant change in all other states. Additionally, when examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, the widely used Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) reveals a three to six percentile drop in student reading scores between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. 

In addition to declining scores generally, achievement gaps between white students and students of color are also widening. Scores from the 2019 NAEP fourth grade reading assessment show a 26 point difference in reading proficiency between white and Black students and between white and American Indian students, and a 21 point difference between white and Hispanic students. 

In 2020, The Hunt Institute partnered with The Barksdale Reading Institute and The Belk Foundation to improve early reading outcomes across the nation. The initiative, The Path Forward for Teacher Preparation and Licensure in Early Literacy, empowers states to embed the science of reading in teacher preparation, teacher licensure, and educator preparation program approval.


In its first year, The Path Forward set out to change the current state of reading by working with six states— Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio—to achieve four goals: 

  1. Transform the curriculum and delivery of early literacy instruction by embedding the science of reading into teacher preparation; 

  2. Increase educator preparation program (EPP) accountability for early literacy outcomes through changes in state regulations and/or legislative policies; 

  3. Knit together a coalition of states to bring national attention to solutions that improve literacy instruction; and 

  4. Encourage the involvement of philanthropy as a neutral broker to affect change at the state level.

“We know that early literacy proficiency opens up doors for students, both in academics and in life. 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.” - Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO of The Hunt Institute

National Advisory Group

  • Dr. Julie Washington, Professor, University of California, Irvine
  • Dale Chu, President, DC Strategies
  • Governor Bob Wise, Governor, Education Advocate, Consultant, Bob Wise LLC
  • Dr. Claude Goldenberg, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University
  • Kelly Butler, Chief Executive Officer, The Barksdale Reading Institute
  • Dr. R. Malatesha Joshi, University Professor, Texas A & M University
  • Dr. Edward Crowe, Chief Executive, Teacher Prep Inspection-US (TPI-US)
  • Dr. Kymyona Burk, Senior Policy Fellow, Early Literacy, ExcelinEd
  • Dr. Ellen McIntyre, Dean, University of Tennessee
  • Dr. Francesca Forzani, Deputy Director, TeachingWorks, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Lauren Morando Rhim, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Center for Learner Equity
  • Katrina Maestri, Board Chair of Chartwell School, Advisory Board of UCSF Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center, Advisory Board of Breaking Barriers by 8
  • Dr. Heather Peske, President, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
  • Kari Kurto, National Science of Reading Project Director, The Reading League
  • Dr. Emily Solari, Professor, University of Virginia
  • Dr. Amelia Malone, Director of Research and Innovation, National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • Dr. Tanji Reed Marshall, Director, The Education Trust
  • Dr. Louisa Moats, President, Moats Associates Consulting, Inc.
  • Dr. Antonio Fierro, Chief Impact Officer for Educator Preparation and Curriculum, The Barksdale Reading Institute
  • Johanna Anderson, Director of Philanthropy, Broward Grove
  • Titilayo Tinubu Ali, Partner, Policy and Evaluation, Bellwether Education Partners


“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." - Kelly Butler, CEO of The Barksdale Reading Institute