GLOSSARY OF COMMON EDUCATION TERMS

Below are common acronyms for education.

Accountability
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.

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.

Assessment
The collection of information about the nature and extent of learning outcomes/any procedure used to estimate learners learning. The term is derived from the Latin (assidere meaning “to sit beside”).

Assessment task
An instrument or systematic procedure by which assessment information is collected.

Authentic assessment
Assessment tasks which test whether a learner is able to demonstrate their learning outcomes in a situation which is as close as possible to a real world context.

Benchmarks
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.

Certificate/credential
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.

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.

Criterion-referenced
Establishes the criteria for performance and any learner meeting the criteria receives the associated grade. Every student can potentially achieve the highest 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.

Evaluation
The making of judgments about the value of a grade and/or the nature and extent of learning outcomes. Answers the question, How well?

Formative Assessment
Ungraded assessment task used before or during learning to support planning and/or diagnosis and/or to provide feedback about learning progress/offers advice and feedback which does not contribute grades towards the final result.

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.

Inclusion
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.

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

Measurement
Representation of assessment information by a number or grade on a scale of some kind. Answers the question, How much?

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.

Norm-referenced
Uses the performance of a group of learners to rank order learners or ‘grading on the curve’. Number of learners who can receive distinctions, credits, passes or fails is set.

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.

Portfolio
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.

Proficiency
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.”

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.

Readability
Degree to which the assessment task consistently yields the same result.

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.

Rubric
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.

Standards-based
Establishes the criteria for performance as well as articulates the various levels of quality in performance that is associated with a grade. Grades are awarded to students based on the level of performance they have achieved.

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.

Summative assessment
Graded assessment task used following learning which counts towards the final result.

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.

Tenure
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.

Tracking
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.

Validity
Degree to which the assessment task measures what it is intended to measure.