Early Literacy Intervention Leaders (ELI Leads) Scholars

ELI Leads Scholarship Recipients

These dedicated educators received a full scholarship to the EdD in Education Policy and Leadership Program, a three-year, online education doctorate program. Within they EdD, they are focusing on early literacy intervention and special education. They complete an internship experience in partnership with DC Public Schools and will commit to serving in DC schools for six years upon completion of the EdD program. Learn more about the 2020 and 2021 Leads cohorts below.

Magen Barnett Specialized Instruction Teacher

Headshot of Magen Barnett

Ms. Barnett is currently a specialized instruction teacher at Van Ness Elementary School. She has committed herself to providing her students opportunities, colleagues the resources they desire, and a position to truly advocate for the lives of those marginalized students in the DC Public School System. 

Ms. Barnett has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Finance from Howard University, Master’s in Elementary Inclusive Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Ms. Barnett is able to pursue her personal passion through her profession by being an advocate for ensuring all students are granted equal access to the general education curriculum, specifically opportunities to grow in literacy. There are many factors that can lead to the success of children, Ms. Barnett’s belief is kids need to be included in the least restrictive environment and growth in literacy requires family involvement, administrative support, accommodations, district wide support systems, professional development, and collaboration.

ShaMaar Blount Elementary Reading Interventionist

Headshot of ShaMaar Blount

Mr. Blount was born and raised in Freeport, NY before moving to Bridgeport, CT for college where he focused in Creative Writing.   Mr. Blount has a B.A. in Literature & Civilizations (2011), and a M.S. in Elementary Education (2012) from the University of Bridgeport.  Mr. Blount moved to Washington D.C. in 2013, where he was a first and second grade teacher in a DCPCS school for six years.  Mr. Blount is currently in his third year as a reading interventionist supporting students in grades first through fourth, who are reading below grade level and are not identified as Special Education students.  Mr. Blount works with 25 – 30 elementary students daily, on phonemic awareness, decoding, blending, letter identification and reading comprehension. 

His goal is to continue to work with students in cultivating a love for learning, and reading.  He aims to be an advocate for student voice and growth.  Mr. Blount hopes to learn, network and submerge himself with the people and policies that can help create a change in the quality and content of education for minority students.  Creating methods that are engaging, diverse, and culturally responsible to give students the educational foundation that they deserve.   

Kim Brogden-Jackson Chief of Schools,  DC Public Schools

Headshot of Kim Jackson

Ms. Jackson currently serves as the Chief of Schools for DC Public Schools. Most recently she served as the Chief of Elementary Schools where she supported the district’s elementary schools including early childhood programs. She works with Superintendents and schools to ensure that everyone is striving towards academic excellence while addressing the needs of the whole child. She also believes that all students should have access to enriching experiences and equitable opportunities that will prepare them to thrive in school and beyond. Ms. Jackson has served as a teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal and Instructional Superintendent. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University. She earned a M.Ed. in Special Education from Coppin State University and an Executive Master’s Degree from Georgetown University.

Ms. Jackson is thrilled to join to American University Ed.D Program. This program will sharpen her literacy knowledge, heighten her equity awareness and enhance her inclusive education lens. She looks forward to the American University experience.

Shareen Fernanders, EdD Director, Early Literacy Strategy, DC Public Schools

Shareen Fernanders

Dr. Fernanders is the Director of Early Literacy Strategy in DCPS. Her dissertation examined how system leaders within an urban public school district worked together to strategically plan for accelerating early literacy outcomes for historically oppressed, marginalized, and excluded (HOME) students. In response to persistent early literacy data demonstrating widening instructional opportunity gaps for students in grades K-2, district decision-making leaders anchored to guidance from research and evidence of early literacy instruction to inform their strategic planning. An assessment of need revealed compelling evidence that current structures for strategic planning for early literacy may have contributed to widening gaps between the early literacy progress of HOME students and their White counterparts. Deep collaboration that included student data analysis and reflection, observation of instruction, identification of resources, and planning strategic responses occurred in relative silos across the organization. She recommends that all leaders' undertake systematic analysis of experiences of district leaders and ensure that expertise be equitably valued and that strategic initiatives avoid leaving some leaders feeling marginalized, disempowered, and excluded from planning.

You can read Dr. Fernanders dissertation here.

Kenneth Neat, EdD Early Childhood Teacher / Teacher Leader DC Public Schools

Kenneth Neat, EdD

Dr. Neat has twenty-two years of experience as an early childhood educator including roles such as teacher, Director of Child Development Services, and Teacher-Leader. In these roles, his goal is to improve the lives of children and families, support and develop teachers, and stay on the pulse of trends and changes in early childhood education on a local and national level. Dr. Neat's research focused on vertical alignment between Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten reading instruction and he designed and implemented a PD program for PreK and K teachers called "Bridging the Gap". He found that the current infrastructure does not allow for pre-kindergarten teachers’ knowledge development of reading instruction and implementation and recommends that school leaders create the conditions for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers to vertically align their instruction. 

You can read Dr. Neat's dissertation here.

Rebecca 'Becky' Nolin, EdD Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) Teacher Leader, DC Public Schools

Becky Nolin

Dr. Nolin's position as an instructional coach in Washington, D.C. gave her opportunity to study each of the key constructs reform, reading equity, foundational literacy, teacher knowledge, teacher beliefs, and the pivotal role of instructional leadership. Dr. Nolin's dissertation sought to understand the role that school leaders play in promoting teachers’ beliefs about their school, themselves, and their students. With foundations in self-efficacy and frame analysis theory, the study followed a mixed-method, two-stage design uncovering how school leaders’ beliefs compared to those of teachers and how school leaders could adapt and frame systems and structures to influence teachers’ beliefs. The study found that school leaders prioritized influencing teachers’ beliefs about students in order to increase implementation of evidence-based instruction, while teachers felt their overstretched capacity most limited foundational literacy success. The study also uncovered a persistent paradox: teachers reported high levels of confidence in their ability to offer effective foundational literacy instruction even as they held relatively muted expectations for student success. Her work calls for supportive systems and structures for influencing teacher beliefs. 

You can read Dr. Nolin's dissertation here.

Jasmine Rogers, EdD Manager, DC Reading Clinic, DC Public Schools

Jasmine Rogers

Dr. Rogers is a Manager in the DC Reading Clinic. Her dissertation publicly validates Black students’ language, educates teachers about Black Language and works toward cultivating linguistically responsive academic environments by dismantling standard language ideology. Observations, surveys and semi-structured interviews were conducted with undergraduate students serving as reading tutors to Black Language speaking, K-2 students in an urban public charter school. The study found that the professional learning experience provided tutors with knowledge of the most common phonological and morpho-syntactic Black Language features used by students in the tutoring program and tutors were able to identify specific features of Black Language spoken by students in lessons and an instructional change they can make in future lessons. The analysis revealed that students used Black Language most in the Reading portion of their structured literacy lesson. Recommendations for this work include providing instruction on Black Language features and linguistically responsive instructional teaching strategies to preservice teachers prior to their entry into the classroom. She recommends ongoing study into educator’s responses to Black Language speaking students in structured literacy lessons.

Dr. Rogers dissertation is not yet available online, but you can find her abstract here.

Brandi Smith DCPS Office of Compliance

Headshot of Brandi Smith

Brandi Smith works in special education compliance in the DC Public Schools. Her dissertation research seeks to advance the efforts of district-wide anti-racist initiatives and the needs of Black instructional leaders. Participants will engage in a professional book club where they will engage in a liberatory consciousness cycle, where they identify inequity, analyze its impact, and leverage resources or support for Black students with other intersecting identities.

Our Supporters and Partners

This project is fully funded by a $1,097,300 grant from the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Award Number: H325D190041 of the Special Education Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities
CFDA/SubProgram No: 84.325D

Thank you to our partner, DC Public Schools, for their collaboration and support of the ELI Leads Scholars. The Scholars will be placed in internships in DCPS headquarters within offices such as the Office of Teaching and Learning.