Glossary of Common Education Terms

Below are common acronyms for education.

The notion that people (e.g., students or teachers) or an organization (e.g., a school, school district, or state department of education) should be held responsible for improving student achievement and should be rewarded or sanctioned for their success or lack of.

Achievement test
A test to measure a student's knowledge and skills.

A set of college admissions tests; most colleges accept either the SAT or the ACT for admissions.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
An individual state's measure of yearly progress toward achieving state academic standards. Adequate yearly progress is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts, and schools must achieve each year, according to federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. This progress is determined by a collection of performance measures that a state, its school districts, and subpopulations of students within its schools are supposed to meet if the state receives Title I federal funding. In California, the measures include (1) specified percentages of students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" on California Standards Tests in English/language arts and math; (2) participation of a least 95 percent of students on those tests; (3) specified API scores or gains; and (4) for high schools, a specified graduation rate or improvement in the rate.

Advanced Placement (AP)
A series of voluntary exams based on college-level courses taken in high school. High school students who do well on one or more of these exams have the opportunity to earn credit, advanced placement, or both for college.

The degree to which assessments, curriculum, instruction, textbooks and other instructional materials, teacher preparation and professional development, and systems of accountability all reflect and reinforce the educational program's objectives and standards.

Alternative assessments
Ways other than standardized tests to get information about what students know and where they need help, such as oral reports, projects, performances, experiments, and class participation.

At-risk student
Students may be labeled at risk if they are not succeeding in school based on information gathered from test scores, attendance, or discipline problems.

A detailed description of a specific level of student achievement expected of students at particular ages, grades, or developmental levels; academic goals set for each grade level.

Bilingual education
An in-school program for students whose first language isn't English or who have limited English skills. Bilingual education provides English language development plus subject area instruction in the student's native language. The goal is for the child to gain knowledge and be literate in two languages.

Block scheduling
Instead of traditional 40- to 50-minute periods, block scheduling allows for periods of an hour or more so that teachers can accomplish more during a class session. It also allows for teamwork across subject areas in some schools. For example, a math and science teacher may teach a physics lesson that includes both math and physics concepts.

Bond measure
A method of borrowing used by school districts to pay for construction or renovation projects. A bond measure requires a 55 percent majority to pass. The principal and interest are repaid by local property owners through an increase in property taxes.

Categorical aid
Funds from the state or federal government granted to qualifying schools or districts for specific children with special needs, certain programs such as class size reduction, or special purposes such as transportation. In general, schools or districts must spend the money for the specific purpose. All districts receive categorical aid in varying amounts. This aid is in addition to the funding schools received for their general education program.

Certificated/credentialed employees
School employees who are required by the state to hold teaching credentials, including full-time, part- time, substitute, or temporary teachers and most administrators.

A state-issued license certifying that the teacher has completed the necessary basic training courses and passed the teacher exam.

Charter schools
Publicly funded schools that are exempt from many state laws and regulations for school districts. They are run by groups of teachers, parents, and/or foundations.

Classified employees
School employees who are not required to hold teaching credentials, such as bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, instructional aides, and some management personnel.

Content standards
Standards that describe what students should know and be able to do in core academic subjects at each grade level.

Cooperative learning
A teaching method in which students of differing abilities work together on an assignment. Each student has a specific responsibility within the group. Students complete assignments together and receive a common grade.

Differentiated instruction
This is also referred to as "individualized" or "customized" instruction. The curriculum offers several different learning experiences within one lesson to meet students' varied needs or learning styles. For example, different teaching methods for students with learning disabilities.

Disaggregated data
The presentation of data broken into segments of the student population instead of the entire enrollment. Typical segments include students who are economically disadvantaged, from racial or ethnic minority groups, have disabilities, or have limited English fluency. Disaggregated data allows parents and teachers to see how each student group is performing in a school.

English as a Second Language Classes or support programs for students whose native language is not English.

Additional courses outside those required for graduation.

Free/reduced-price meals
A federal program that provides food for students from low-income families.

General fund
Accounting term used by the state and school districts to differentiate general revenues and expenditures from funds for specific uses, such as a Cafeteria Fund.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)
A program that offers supplemental, differentiated, challenging curriculum and instruction for students identified as being intellectually gifted or talented.

Highly qualified teacher
According to NCLB, a teacher who has obtained full state teacher certification or has passed the state teacher licensing examination and holds a license to teach in the state; holds a minimum of a bachelor's degree; and has demonstrated subject area competence in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches.

Immersion education
A program that teaches children to speak, read, and write in a second language by surrounding them with conversation and instruction in that language. Note that English immersion may differ from other immersion programs.

The practice of placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms. Also known as mainstreaming.

Independent study
Specially designed instruction in courses taught through a variety of delivery methods that complement traditional high school curricula and provide an accredited diploma.

Individual Education Program (IEP)
A written plan created for a student with learning disabilities by the student's teachers, parents or guardians, the school administrator, and other interested parties. The plan is tailored to the student's specific needs and abilities, and outlines goals for the student to reach. The IEP should be reviewed at least once a year.

Instructional minutes
Refers to the amount of time the state requires teachers to spend providing instruction in each subject area.

Integrated curriculum
Refers to the practice of using a single theme to teach a variety of subjects. It also refers to a interdisciplinary curriculum, which combines several school subjects into one project.

International Baccalaureate (IB)
A rigorous college preparation course of study that leads to examinations for highly motivated high school students. Students can earn college credit from many universities if their exam scores are high enough.

Job shadowing
A program that takes students into the workplace to learn about careers through one-day orientations or more extensive internships to see how the skills learned in school relate to the workplace.

Least restrictive environment
Federal laws require that disabled students be educated to the maximum extent possible with non- disabled students.

Magnet school
A school that focuses on a particular discipline, such as science, mathematics, arts, or computer science. It is designed to recruit students from other parts of the school district.

The practice of placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms; also known as inclusion.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
Signed into law by President Bush in 2002, No Child Left Behind sets performance guidelines for all schools and also stipulates what must be included in accountability reports to parents. It mandates annual student testing, includes guidelines for underperforming schools, and requires states to train all teachers and assistants to be "highly qualified." Soon to be reauthorized to ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Peer Assistance and Review Program (PAR)
A program that encourages designated consulting teachers to assist other teachers who need help in developing their subject matter knowledge, teaching strategies, or both. They also help teachers to meet the standards for proficient teaching.

Percentile ranks
One way to compare a given child, class, school, or district to a national norm.

A collection of various samples of a student's work throughout the school year that can include writing samples, examples of math problems, and results of science experiments.

Professional development
Programs that allow teachers or administrators to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs successfully.

Mastery or ability to do something at grade level. California students receive scores on the California Standards Tests (CST) that range from "far below basic" to "advanced." The state goal is for all students to score at "proficient" or "advanced."

Pull-out programs
Students receive instruction in small groups outside of the classroom.

Pupil-teacher ratio The total student enrollment divided by the number of full-time equivalent teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio is the most common statistic for comparing data across states; it is usually smaller than average class size because some teachers work outside the classroom.

Resource specialists
Specially credentialed teachers who work with special education students by assisting them in regular classes or pulling them out of class for extra help.

Resource teacher
A teacher who instructs children with various learning differences. Most often these teachers use small group and individual instruction. Children are assigned to resource teachers after undergoing testing and receiving an IEP.

Refers to a grading or scoring system. A rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria to be met in a piece of work. A rubric also describes levels of quality for each of the criteria. These levels of performance may be written as different ratings (e.g., Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement) or as numerical scores (e.g., 4, 3, 2, 1).

SAT (Standardized Achievement Test)
Also known as the SAT Reasoning Test (formerly called Scholastic Aptitude Test), this test is widely used as a college entrance examination. Scores can be compared to state and national averages of seniors graduating from any public or private school.

Staff development days
Days set aside in the school calendar for teacher training; school isn't generally held on these days.

Standardized test
A test that is in the same format for all who take it. It often relies on multiple-choice questions and the testing conditions—including instructions, time limits and scoring rubrics—are the same for all students; sometimes accommodations on time limits and instructions are made for disabled students.

Team teaching
Teaching method in which two or more teachers teach the same subjects or theme; teachers may alternate teaching the entire group or divide the group into sections or classes that rotate between the teachers.

A system of due process and employment guarantee for teachers. After serving a two-year probationary period, teachers are assured continued employment in the school district unless carefully defined procedures for dismissal or layoff are successfully followed.

Thematic units
A unit of study that has lessons focused on a specific theme, sometimes covering all core subject areas. It is often used as an alternative approach to teaching history or social studies chronologically.

Title 1
A federal program that provides funds to improve the academic achievement for educationally disadvantaged students who score below the 50th percentile on standardized tests, including the children of migrant workers.

Title IX
Of the Education Amendments of 1972 – Provision provides that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal assistance...."

A common instructional practice of organizing student in groups based on their academic skills. Tracking allows a teacher to provide the same level of instruction to the entire group.