Tonight’s Discussion on Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Literacy

Wow. Today is the day.

I have been planning for a community discussion on literacy since October 2017 — in my head, at least. It was then that the literacy crisis in Nashville became real for me. I was sitting in the very spot in which I am writing this post, mining through the 2017 TNReady data and I noticed teardrops on my keyboard. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Maybe for the first time, I realized that the numbers on the screen represented real people. Not just people, children. It was sobering, to say the least.

After that day, I launched a personal mission to identify the source of the failure. I sought first to understand and after 7 straight months of coffees and phone calls blaming parents for the crisis, Nashville’s literacy reality became clear. Few people know what to do and those with power have no sense of urgency. So, here we are, a city with 3 out of 10 public school third-graders reading on grade level and not even 2 out of 10 if you’re a student of color.

So, tonight a passionate community of thinkers and doers will assemble with the goal of leaving with full stomachs, hearts, and minds. We will challenge every parent, grandparent, and community leader to pour into our young people and schools to change the narrative, or, um… flip the script.

In last week’s blog, we highlighted panelists Lagra Newman, principal of Purpose Prep Academy and Dr. Jarred Amato, English teacher and founder of Project LIT Community. Joining them on the panel are three powerful voices in our community, all parents, all working to equip other parents with information to make the best decisions for their children.


Allison Simpson

Allison Simpson is an engaged parent of two beautiful girls, Ayanna and Malayah, who has stood by for way too long watching a system fail our children. Committed to the community, she volunteers for Second Harvest, her children’s parent organizations, and invests her time at a reading clinic.

Allison currently works in a priority school with an amazing team of teachers and administrators and was successful last year in decreasing the chronic absenteeism rate at that school from 22 to 18 to 13%.

Sonya Thomas


Sonya Thomas is one of the founding incubating parents for the first of its kind parent group here in Nashville. Nashville P.R.O.P.E.L. is an organization that empowers parents to demand an excellent education for all children.

The mother of two sons and two daughters has been bestowed the honor of leading this group of powerful parents who mobilize and organize other parents to disrupt inequities in education.


Anna Thorsen

Screen Shot 2019-10-29 at 1.53.53 AM

Parent, attorney, and advocate.

Anna and her daughter both have dyslexia inspiring Anna’s relentless school and state-level advocacy. She serves on the Decoding Dyslexia TN Leadership Team and TN Department of Education’s Dyslexia Advisory Council. Anna has also presented at the Tennessee Association for Assistive Technology annual conferences.

Anna authors a blog called Dyslexia Untied and is very knowledgeable about the science of reading and the dyslexia-to-prison pipeline.


In addition to our wonderful panelists and families, my Education Post blogger fam will be in town for its annual summit. I am proud that they chose Nashville and thrilled that they are supporting little ol’ me tonight! Welcome to Nashville, peeps. You will love it.

Let’s talk, then let’s do something.

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