School Improvement in Maryland

Disciplinary Literacy FAQs

"…each discipline acquires, develops, and shares knowledge in distinct ways, educators in each field must take ownership of building robust instruction around discipline-specific literacy skills to prepare students for college and careers." PARCC

  1. I am not an English teacher. Why do I need to teach literacy?
    It is critical that Maryland's students develop disciplinary literacy skills in order to be fully prepared for the challenges and expectations of college and careers. Today, 80% of reading required in college and careers is informational text; yet only 7-15% of reading at the elementary and middle school levels consists of informational text, and the vast majority of informational reading done in high schools involves textbooks. This does not prepare students for the reading they will encounter as adults. Teachers must help students build the skills necessary for success beyond K-12 education by providing opportunities to read, analyze, and evaluate sophisticated texts independently. In doing so, we will not only build literacy skills, we will deepen our students' understanding of essential discipline-specific content and strengthen their abilities to unlock disciplinary content on their own.

  2. Does this mean we should have our students write and read every day in the content areas?
    Each discipline has its own content standards and practices for developing conceptual understandings, and it is important not to lose the disciplinary intent. When reading and writing is meaningfully integrated with content, students have greater opportunities to engage, understand, clarify, question, or enrich their conceptual understandings. Integrate reading and writing in the content classroom where and when appropriate, not as an independent activity or practice.

  3. When you mention text, do you mean textbooks?
    Text includes a wide range of print, non-print, and digital resources. Text may include but is not limited to: maps, tables, charts, diagrams, oral histories, multimedia presentations, content specific journals and articles, technical data, art, photographs, websites, sound clips.

  4. Are textbooks in our classrooms enough to move our students to CCR?
    Textbooks are written for the purposes of quick content retrieval and often emphasize a breadth of information over depth. Students must learn to acquire a deeper level of content knowledge independently by analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating a variety of rich texts specific to the discipline, such as journals, websites, magazines, monographs, etc. Students must learn to extract information and make meaning from the types of texts they will encounter in college and careers.

  5. How do teachers access the Maryland Disciplinary Literacy Standards?
    The Maryland Disciplinary Literacy Standards can be access on MSDE website http://mdk12.org/instruction/commoncore/index.html. The standards will also be available on the MSDE Curriculum Management System.

  6. Will Disciplinary Literacy be tested in the PARCC assessments?
    PARCC will follow the guidelines for the balance of text as outlined in the Common Core State Standards (p.5): Elementary: 50% literature and 50 % informational text Middle: 40% literature and 60% informational text High: 30% literature and 70% informational text

  7. How do these new standards relate to our current content standards?
    Disciplinary Literacy standards are not meant to replace existing content standards in history, social studies, science or technical classrooms, but rather to support them. Disciplinary literacy instruction is not an end in itself but rather a means to unlocking, communicating, and building discipline-specific critical thinking skills.

  8. Should I cover the standards one-at-a-time in sequential order with my students?
    It is important to note that the Common Core State Standards are not hierarchal or sequential; they are a collection of skills and strategies that work together flexibly throughout the learning process. Teachers should employ these standards and skills regularly throughout the school year, combining them in different ways to best serve the purposes of individual lessons.