Teachers' knowledge is a critical component to students learning to read proficiently. The present research sought to determine the literacy knowledge of 150 urban, elementary school teachers from 11 low socio-economic schools in one of nation's largest cities. Teachers' ability to understand concepts relating to phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle/phonics, and morphology as well as their knowledge about teaching these fundamental skills were assessed through a standardized measure. Using exploratory factor analysis to understand the latent constructs underlying the survey scores and hierarchical linear modelling on factor scores of each construct, the results revealed that teachers located in low socio-economic status schools did not have explicit knowledge needed to effectively teach struggling readers. Although the teachers possessed a high level of knowledge regarding syllable counting skills, they lacked knowledge related to morphology. Practical implications are provided to assist teachers in increasing their literacy knowledge. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.