The art of teaching teachers how to teach reading

CNN's Kelly Wallace takes part in a game of Hedbanz during reading instruction at P.S. 94 in the Bronx.

Story highlights

  • Eight high-poverty schools in the Bronx are benefiting from coaching on early reading instruction
  • Universities don't teach teachers how to teach reading, one principal says

Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter @kellywallacetv.

(CNN)A lifelong educator and advocate for children, Principal Diane Daprocida of P.S. 94, an elementary school in the Bronx, says she has been waiting for one thing since she started running the school 10 years ago.

You might guess it's more money or resources, or smaller class sizes, but something else topped her wish list: a way to teach her teachers, many of whom have four years or less of teaching experience, how to teach reading.
    "Our universities do not teach teachers how to (teach reading) at the undergraduate level," Daprocida said. "It's philosophy of education, sociology of education, classroom management. I mean, I can't even remember. It's been so long since I've been to school, but they are coming through a traditional track not knowing how to teach reading, just the overall basic components of it."
    Diane Daprocida is principal of P.S. 94 in the Bronx.
    As principal of a high-needs urban school with 1,260 students, up from 830 six years ago, she more than has her hands full just trying to keep her students and her 130 teachers on track. But she also is faced with narrowing a stunning word deficit: Children living in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 4 than children in higher-income households, according to researchers.
    Part of the challenge at P.S. 94 is overcoming a vocabulary word deficit.
    It's a struggle across the country. Reading scores on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, were steady for fourth graders since 2013, while reading scores for eighth graders declined. Additional 2015 NAEP results released this week showed that 12th grade students' reading scores remained flat since 2013. Thirty-seven percent of high school seniors performed at or above the "proficient" level in reading.
    Daprocida said she and her colleagues have tried different approaches to improve reading levels, but nothing was moving the students.
    Then, two years ago, she collaborated with Teaching Matters, an organization that works to develop and retain great teachers in some of the highest-needs districts in New York.
    "The reason I partnered with them is because I had so many new teachers, and we saw the difference immediately in the type of professional support that they