Season 6, Episode 8

Love at the center of literacy, with Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson

Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, Deputy Chief of Curriculum and Instruction in the School District of Philadelphia, has played an integral role leading and sustaining a transition to the Science of Reading in the Philadelphia public school district. But making such a change across a large district is difficult. In this episode, Dr. Francis-Thompson (who goes by Dr. Ny) talks with Susan about Philadelphia’s experience. She also talks about her own experience learning about the Science of Reading, and offers tips to other district-level leaders and wisdom about providing all students with the liberation that comes through reading and leading—all with love at the center.

Meet our guest(s):

Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson

Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson is an education leader who advocates for students with diverse academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs. She is Deputy Chief of Curriculum and Instruction in Philadelphia, where she leads the Curriculum Equity Initiative. She previously led the development of an instructional guide for supporting students with disabilities. Her dissertation on Multi-Tiered System of Supports implementation has a focus on evidence-based reading interventions. She approaches the Science of Reading conversation from an equity lens, focused on all students having access to culturally and linguistically inclusive instruction.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“I have never met a student that did not want to learn how to read or a family that did not understand the importance of their children knowing how to read.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
“We have to listen to our young people in order to be able to move with that sense of urgency.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
"Liberation is connected to our students being literate… In order for our students to truly be free, we [need to] understand the power that reading has in their future.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
“We have to remember who we are serving and why we are serving them.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
“A lot of times when you’re in a large system and you’re leading a large system, it can become very robotic, like a machine. You do this, you get this, you do this, you get this. But there’s a human aspect that if you have not considered that human aspect, you could very well end up in the same place that you’re trying to move away from.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
“And while it’s a five-year strategic plan, we do have a sense of urgency and I’m sure within that there are gonna be benchmarks and hundred-day plans and smaller plans to make sure that we are actually doubling down again on the things that truly matter, that are gonna lead, outcomes for our students here in the school district.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson
“If we’re only in the business of educating some students, then what are we really doing? It’s important to look at the students that are not benefitting and really identifying the things that work for that population of students rather than continuing with practices that aren’t meeting the needs of the students we’re serving.” —Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson

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