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Symposium Marks Start to District Rewriting Secondary Literacy Status Quo

Published November 10, 2023

Dr. La Sonja Ivory credits her success to the teachers who saw her potential and provided unwavering support.  lasonja ivory portrait

“I would not be standing here if it were not for teachers. They are my village. They made a difference,” Ivory said. “I am here to tell you that what you do makes a difference.” 

This week, the education author and consultant shared her story with more than 200 Fort Worth ISD secondary school literacy instructors (grades 6-12). She credits the teachers who cheered her on, advocated on her behalf as the ones who molded her into who she is today. Dr. Ivory emphasized the power of nurturing student-teacher relationships and the essential contribution that FWISD educators bring to the field.  

Dr. Ivory was the keynote speaker for FWISD’s inaugural Secondary Literacy Symposium. The symposium, organized by the Humanities Department, took place on District Service Day, Monday, Nov. 9 at North Side High School. Featured author, education, and literacy expert Dr. Alfred Tatum offered teachers literacy strategies in two sessions titled “Advanced Reading, Writing, and Intellectual Development for Middle and High School Students.” His presentation analyzed the disparities in standardized reading scores among FWISD student groups and provided teachers with tips for introducing engaging reading texts that students could relate to.  The event also included nine literacy-focused breakout sessions and focus groups.  picture of dr. tatum presenting

MJ Bowman, FWISD Executive Director of Humanities and Academic Support Initiatives, described the symposium as the beginning of a crucial dialogue about implementing strategies to foster literacy among all students.  

The idea for the symposium was born out of a desire to aid literacy teachers seeking to connect with three student demographic groups that are underperforming in state literacy assessments: African American, emergent bilingual, and special education students.  The event was spearheaded by district literacy coordinators Latanya Robinson and Stefanie Garcia, Director of Humanities Joe Niedziela, and Bowman. Organizers say they are hopeful the symposium revives teachers’ excitement for instruction and encourages them to reevaluate their teaching and how they might improve.  

Each symposium attendee received Ivory’s book “Who Cares About Black Boys?: Moving from acknowledgement to advocacy” and Tatum’s book “Fearless Voices: Engaging a New Generation of African American Adolescent Male Writers.”  

Organizers say the symposium is the launchpad to a movement focused on equipping teachers with tools that directly impact students’ academic growth. Bowman said that plans are already being discussed for a book study of the distributed literature, applying Tatum’s strategies, and bringing Ivory and Tatum back for additional conversations with campus principals and elementary educators in attendance. 

“It’s just the beginning of the important work that has to be done,” Bowman said.   

It represents not just the beginning of significant efforts but also a commitment to recognizing and nurturing the potential in every FWISD student.