Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Literacy

Two years ago this month, the Nashville Literacy Collaborative, a large group of Nashville’s socio-political elite assembled to announce a blueprint to double the number of 3rd graders reading on grade level by 2025. Currently, 28.8 percent of 3rd graders are reading “on track” or “mastered,” Black students 19.2 percent, and Economically Disadvantaged 15.2 percent. The Collaborative’s stated goal is to double these percentages in the next six years. Unimpressed by the low expectations, I’ve written many blogs in the last two years and met with dozens of folks to amplify this injustice. And that was before my granddaughter was born!

Sadly, the Collaborative has been silent for more than a year and rumors were swirling that the blueprint had been homeless for a spell but has landed at the United Way of Middle Tennessee. For a hot second, political leaders seemed to understand their role in dismantling the pipeline from school to low wages, illiteracy, and imprisonment. 

The good news is that our city has entered a time of hope. We have a new mayor committed to neighborhoods and a smart budget. In the next year, the district will embark upon a director search which means, at the present, there is no school board/director of schools drama. And, our local paper, The Tennesseean, has committed to a series of articles that focus on the trials of the local education system. Information is everything.

In my view, missing from all of the above is the life and death urgency of 85 percent of children in poverty struggling to read. I have devoted much of my personal time and energy to the literacy issues in my city and met some amazing warriors who are each committed to identifying best practices to ramp up students’ reading skills. Whether it’s getting creative with curriculum, strengthening parent-teacher partnership, or statewide literacy advocacy, I’m lucky to have learned from so many passionate and smart humans.

Toward that end, I am excited to be in the same room with many of these people at a family discussion on Tuesday, October 29th at 6 p.m. at Purpose Preparatory Academy. We are inviting the community to join us for Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Literacy. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for dinner and we will have a heart-to-heart about who we are as a community and work together to identify tools for families, educators, and community to work in concert toward a city teeming with a literate citizenry and poorly populated jails. 

At 6 p.m., we will lead with a panel discussion:

  • Jarred Amato, teacher and Project LIT Community Founder
  • Lagra Newman, principal Purpose Prep
  • Sonya Thomas, parent, and Nashville P.R.O.P.E.L. Leader
  • Anna Thorsen, parent, and TN Dyslexia Advisory Group Member

After the panel discussion, parent Tremayne Haymer will introduce the family discussion portion of the evening where everyone will participate in table discussions to identify tools and report out to full assembly just before going home. The goal is to answer the question: What tools will families, educators, and community members leave with that can assist our children in reading — today?

We won’t keep you long, but promise you will leave full – stomach, heart, and mind.

RSVP now!

2 thoughts on “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Literacy

  1. I am deeply saddened to learn that the literacy blueprint, initiative #47 of the last 92, has been thrown on the bon fire with Dr. Joseph’s excellent strategic plans. That plan was worked on by so many – and it did a good job of looking the cold data straight in the face. The observation that when kids don’t come to school, their results are just so much worse… was one that very few people in this town seem willing to talk about.

    Also, let’s please stop saying there is a “School to Prison Pipeline”. There is definitely a “Poverty to Prison Pipeline” and without our schools, the last vision of hope for so many kids at risk, that pipeline would be gushing at 10 times the rate.

    We need to get our poorest kids into classrooms, and we need to stop ripping down those classrooms.

    But, of course, that is just my opinion. I pray you are right about John Cooper, that he sees the picture clearly – and is ready to DO SOMETHING.


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