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Glossary of Educational Terms

Read more about Education Jargon


Education has its own lexicon, and much of it is a foreign language to parents. Here we present some of the most commonly used education terms, along with the most parent-friendly definitions we could find.

NOTE: Non-sourced definitions are from School Wise Press.

A-B | C | D-K | L-R | S | T-Z

Academic Performance Index (API)
A statewide ranking of schools based on student test scores from the CAT/6, CST, and high school exit exam; it ranges from 200 to 1000. Most schools have an API, a state ranking (by elementary, middle, or high school), a ranking in comparison to 100 similar schools, and growth targets for the following year. (Ed-data)

accommodations
Changes in the way tests are designed or administered to respond to the special needs of students with disabilities and English learners (EL).  (Ed Source)

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 success in doing so.  (Ed Source)

achievement test
A test to measure a student's knowledge and skills.  (Ed Source)

ACT
A set of college admissions tests. Most colleges now accept either the SAT or the ACT for admissions purposes.  (Ed Source)

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. (Ed Source)

adoption
Refers to the chosen curriculum of a particular school.

advanced  (see proficiency)

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. (Ed Source)

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
A four-year elective college preparatory class designed to motivate students to attend college.

alignment
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. (Ed Source)

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. (Ed Source)

Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM)
An alternative way of measuring student performance in schools with mostly high-risk students—such as continuation schools or some county office of education schools—and schools with fewer than 11 valid test scores. (Ed Source)

Annual Measurable Objective (AMO)
The annual target for the percentage of students whose test scores must be proficient or above in English/language arts and mathematics. Meeting the AMO is the first step toward demonstrating adequate yearly progress under the federal law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). (Ed-data)

assessment
Teacher-made tests, standardized tests, or tests from textbook companies that are used to evaluate student performance.

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.

average class size
The number of students in classes divided by the number of classes. Because some teachers, such as reading specialists, have assignments outside the regular classroom, the average class size is usually larger than the pupil-teacher ratio. (Ed Source)

average daily attendance (ADA)
The total number of days of student attendance divided by the total number of days in the regular school year. A student attending every school day would equal one ADA. Generally, ADA is lower than enrollment due to such factors as transiency, dropouts, and illness. A school district's revenue limit income is based on its ADA. (Ed-data)

basic (see also proficiency)

basic aid
The minimum general-purpose aid that is guaranteed by the state's Constitution for each school district in California. A basic aid district is one in which local property taxes equal or exceed the district's revenue limit. These districts may keep the money from local property taxes and still receive constitutionally guaranteed state funding. (Ed Source)

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. (Ed Source)

bilingual education
An in-school program for students whose first language is not 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. (Ed Source)

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. (See also parcel tax.) (Ed Source)

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