Julie Novak, Minnesota's first literacy director and a former teacher, once found a cheat sheet in a student's notebook that underlined her conviction that everyone can learn to read. The teenager regularly struggled with his assignments. But he had scribbled a series of complex instructions and notes for a video game he was playing.
"He wanted to read when he needed to read," Novak said.
She's now tasked with taking several new mandates passed down by lawmakers earlier this year and bringing them into classrooms in an effort to boost anemic reading competency rates made worse by the pandemic. Over the next few years, she'll lead the effort to ensure every educator takes a uniform approach to reading instruction in a state that prizes local control of its schools.