Guest Blogger: Dr. William L. Heller, Using Data Program Director, Teaching Matters

There is a growing philosophy that every teacher is a literacy teacher, a view that is becoming increasingly important as states prepare for the Common Core State Standards, which place an emphasis on content literacy.

But what does “every teacher is a literacy teacher” actually mean? Will science teachers be expected to put away the BunsenABC letters standing next to an abacus burners and take out the Balzac? Will social studies teachers be responsible for teaching contractions alongside the Constitution? If we misunderstand the idea, we may misapply it, and it may even lead to resentment among teachers who feel they are being asked to take on another’s responsibility.

Part of the confusion may stem from the tendency to refer to the English Language Arts (ELA) class as Literacy class. I’ve done it myself. After all, that is the class where students ultimately learn how to read and write. But as we continue to examine the demands of college and the workplace, we are discovering the need to expand our understanding of literacy as a set of essential skills that are critical for success in every subject area. Teaching literacy in isolation misses the point of why we need to be literate in the first place. (more…)