Training Teachers to Best Educate Children with Dyslexia

  • Give Each Child
  • Social Emotional
  • Teachers & Tutors
  • Tutoring
Steve Wilkins, Head of School Blog


As we continue to work towards the principles of “Giving Each Child” what they most need, Carroll has not formed an official graduate school of education for our faculty and staff. But it sort of feels as if we have. This blog reveals how Carroll has devised a teacher training program to help ensure that all teachers and tutors have the skills necessary to best educate children with dyslexia.

“Carroll teachers are trained to a higher level than typical teachers. They need to be.”

We consistently make this statement about Carroll teachers and tutors. We enroll a talented and complex type of learner. Our students’ previous teachers undoubtedly worked tirelessly to teach them. But, in most cases, their schools and their teachers did not have the tools or resources to uncover and give what bright, motivated children with dyslexia most need. Their teachers undoubtedly loved each of these children, as they are well-behaved and sincere. But love alone wasn’t the answer for these complex learners - a talented faculty trained to specifically educate these types of learners is.

Carroll School's Strategy for Teacher Professional Development

Carroll has developed five professional training courses that all faculty will complete within their first five years of employment. These courses have been created meticulously by the Carroll Academic Leadership Team (ALT) over the past two years. Simultaneous with Carroll’s departure from the broad and generalized professional development requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we have installed this focused regimen of professional coursework in order to give all our teachers the tools for educating our students.

The five courses are: (1) Pedagogy: How to Teach, (2) Orton-Gillingham Principles, (3) The Whole Child: The Social-Emotional Side of Language-Based Learning Disabilities, (4) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and (5) Data-Informed Instruction. In addition, a special course of study for new faculty was implemented that includes elements of each of the five courses.

On our recent professional development day, we launched four of these courses for the first time. The fifth of these courses, DEI, has been underway for all faculty and staff since September 2018 and continues throughout this school year.

I had the pleasure of visiting each course today, and to follow are some of the notes I wrote. Most telling were the engaged discussions and shared ideas that I witnessed.

Pedagogy: How to Teach

  • Seek full engagement from each child
  • Use active, out-of-the-chair activities to stimulate curiosity, laughter, and connection
  • Much of the new faculty are rapidly developing their "Carroll" teaching expertise and moving to the next level

Orton Gillingham Principles

  • Videos from Carroll tutorials and classrooms were being used to kickstart best practice discussions
  • Focus: how to work with two kids in tutorial
  • Open discussions and lots of sharing of techniques, strategies and materials that engage kids in tutorials
  • Favorite quote: “Just because you’re OG trained doesn’t mean you’re done thinking about how to teach the complexity of reading.”

Whole a Child: Social-Emotional Development for LBLD Children

This course featured an alumni/ae parent panel who spoke of how Carroll affected their entire lives, not just the academic success of their children. Some highlights:

  • "Carroll saved my child's life, but it was really individual teachers who actually saved her."
  • "Carroll teachers saw what was intrinsically there. No need to add something, it was always there."
  • "As a parent you almost start believing the mainstream narrative (my child doesn’t have what it takes to succeed)."
  • "Kids can fake it until they can’t."
  • Many parents shared that the challenges of dyslexia caused physical problems, school avoidance, self-concept, anxiety
  • The grip of denial is so profound for parents; being told dyslexia doesn’t exist
  • "Pull out was a disaster. They make everyone think you’re stupid."
  • "We’re losing him already (second grade)."
  • Panel members expressed comfort being among others who share their story

Data-Informed Instruction

  • When I visited, the group was going in depth through a student’s data profile of assessments
  • Course goal: helping teachers really understand the significance of the data Carroll has on a child
  • What do these test score numbers mean?
  • What works for whom and under what conditions?
  • How do we makes data visible and understandable for kids, for parents, for teachers?

Having sat through only a small portion of each course, I'm humbled by the amount of commitment our faculty has for educating themselves to be the best teachers for our students.

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