Few skills are as crucial for success in school--and in life--as the ability to read. Unfortunately, too many children living in poverty fall behind their more affluent peers in reading proficiency and test scores. Much needs to be done, but one piece of good news is that a number of new teaching methods now being tried in high-poverty urban school districts have shown real promise for boosting students' reading ability.
Among these new methods is one developed by reading experts at the American Federation of Teachers and tested for the past several years at nine low-achieving urban schools in three cities. The AFT project has produced impressive gains in reading scores.
Funded in part by the US Department of Education and participating school districts, the project is based on years of proven research and combines instruction in the essential components of reading, such as phonics, with positive exposure to high-quality children's literature. But what distinguishes it most is its strong focus on preparing teachers to make the methodology work.
Kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade teachers received intensive training in teaching strategies and techniques, as well as in course content, and a skilled coach at each participating school regularly worked with the teachers to help them put their training into practice. …