This paper introduces the goals of the research project on which this special issue of Linguistics and Education is based. A case is made for considering contemporary education as saturated by and dependent on oral and written language, and on beliefs and practices that relate knowledge, talk, reading and writing. The project is directed at a better understanding of the relationship between oral and written language, and, through collaborations between researchers and teachers, at improving practices that encourage learning. This paper frames the special issue by pointing to a crucial but largely unremarked misalignment - between teaching and learning via classroom interaction and assessment via individual written performance - that lies at the center of current educational practice. A recognition of that misalignment and its significance for students together call for a theoretical and empirical re-engagement with the relationship between literacy education and knowledge on the part of educational practitioners and researchers. �� 2012.