Educational Buzzwords: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Like most occupations, education has a unique vocabulary, and teachers may use some educational buzzwords when talking about your child. What do educators really mean when they say things like 'individualized learning' and 'core curriculum standards'? You may want to keep current with all these words so you can discuss your child's education more knowledgeably.

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Overview of Educational Buzzwords


ADA (average daily attendance) is the term schools use to calculate the total number of days of student attendance divided by the total days in a school year. Days of non-attendance are subtracted from the total. Most schools are funded based on ADA.

API refers to academic performance index, which is the statewide ranking of schools according to results from standardized testing. Most schools have a ranking number of 200 to 1,000, which is used to compare them to similar schools.

AYP (adequate yearly progress) is the minimum level of progress as measured by state tests that schools and districts must achieve to meet federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

ESL (English as a second language) refers to English language instruction for students whose primary language is not English.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is a federal law mandating states to assess all students in basic skills. The law is intended to support standards-based education with the idea of raising the achievement gap for disadvantaged children.

Special Education Terms

An accommodation refers to the changes in a classroom structure that allow a person with a disability to participate in an activity. For example, allowing extended time or a different format for testing may be an accommodation for a student with a specific learning disability.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) refers to legislation that guarantees students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education and the right to be educated with their non-disabled peers.

An Individualized Education Evaluation (IEE) is an independent evaluation of a child, which parents may request if they disagree with the school assessment.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) defines the written document that states the disabled child's goals and objectives. It also describes the special education services available. In certain states, IEP can also stand for Individualized Education Plan.

General Education Terms

Aptitude tests are tests that attempt to predict a person's ability to do something.

A benchmark is the level of performance students should show by a particular point in their schooling.

Best practices refer to classroom instructional strategies that have been demonstrated and accepted by the professional community to improve student learning.

Core curriculum standards are your state's standards of instruction for each subject area. Core curriculum generally refers to math, language arts and science instruction.

Differentiated instruction is an instructional technique that includes various ways to teach content and assess learning. It is used to meet student needs and differences in readiness, interests, and learning styles.

Formative assessment is a test that determines what students have learned at a particular time in order to plan and 'formulate' further instruction.

Higher-order thinking skills refer to the ability to apply complex concepts to sometimes conflicting information to solve a problem that may have more than one correct answer.

Individual learning styles means that not all students learn the same way. For example, some kids are verbal learners, while others learn visually or aurally. One implication of different learning styles is that teachers should vary their teaching by using visual aids, concrete examples, and tactile experiences as well as verbal concepts in presenting what is to be learned.

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