at-risk student: Students
may be labeled "at risk" if not succeeding in school based on information
gathered from test scores, attendance or discipline problems.
charter schools: Public
schools that run independently of school board governance, but still receive
public funding. They are run by groups of teachers, parents, and/or foundations.
Charter schools are free of many district regulations and are often tailored
to community needs.
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.
core academics: The required
subjects in middle and high schools—usually English (literature),
history (social studies), math, and science.
credential or certificate: A
state-issued license certifying that the teacher has completed the necessary
basic training courses and passed the teacher exam.
curriculum: The subject
matter that teachers and students cover in class.
English as a Second Language (ESL): Classes
or support programs for students whose native language is not English.
Family Math: A University
of California at Berkeley program that teaches families how to enjoy doing
math together. Parents and children attend workshops or use the Family
Math book to learn how to use everyday materials to do fun math activities.
Gifted and Talented Education (GATE): A program that offers supplemental, differentiated, challenging curriculum and instruction for students identified as being intellectually gifted or talented. (Ed Source)
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, and
little else. Note that English immersion may differ from other immersion
inclusion: A process whereby
students who are in the special education program enroll in general education
classes. The students are officially included on the general education
roster and are graded by the general education teacher, while continuing
to receive support from the special education teacher (compare with "mainstreaming.")
Individual Education Program (IEP): A
written plan created for a student with learning disabilities by his or
her teacher(s), 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.
in-service training: Classes
that help a school staff reach specific goals.
interdisciplinary method: A
teaching method in which teachers of core academic subjects work together
and plan instruction based on a particular theme. For example, when students
are learning about historic events in social studies, in English class
they may study a novel set in that historic period.
IQ: Shortened term for "intelligence
quotient." It is supposed to reflect a person's mental capabilities, but
these tests have become more controversial in recent years. Critics claim
they measure only a limited number of intellectual abilities, primarily "school
smarts," while others say the tests are biased against members of some
K–8: Schools that include
kindergarten through eighth grade classes, combining elementary and middle
language arts: Another term
for English class. The focus is on reading, speaking, listening, and writing
learning lab: A room in
a school that is set aside for academic support activities for students.
(See "resource room.")
library media center: A
library that has benefited from an investment in computer technology, usually
including the use of computers for research. The concept involves training
librarians in developments in technology, adding to collections, and increasing
the number of full-time, credentialed librarians.
Limited English Proficiency (LEP): A
now out-of-fashion term describing students who are not yet able to read,
write, speak and understand English as well as their peers at the same
grade level. The new, preferred term is English learners (EL).
magnet school: A school
that has as its focus a particular discipline, such as science, mathematics,
arts, or computer science. Its special focus is designed to recruit students
from other parts of the school district. They were created initially to
mainstreaming: The practice
of placing students with educational and/or physical disabilities in general
education classes. This helps special education and general education students
learn to function socially and academically together. The special education
teacher maintains the students' attendance records and grades. (Compare
national percentile: A number
that represents the percentage of students who scored at or below a given
point. For example, if a student scored at the 90th percentile, it would
mean that he or she scored higher than 89 percent of the students in the
national norm group who took that test.
No Child Left Behind Act: Signed
into law by President Bush in 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) sets performance
benchmarks 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”.
normed score: A score that
compares the performance of an individual student to the performance of
a nationally representative group of students.
optional enrollment: Similar
to open enrollment. A way for parents to enroll their children in schools
they choose. It is based on the state laws in California that enable a
parent to turn down a district-assigned school, and request an alternate
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA): A
national organization of parents, teachers, and other interested persons,
with chapters in schools. PTA's are normally parent dominated, and rely
entirely on voluntary participation. The PTA offers assistance to schools
in many different areas.
peer resource program: A
program that trains students to provide their peers with counseling, education,
and support on issues such as prejudice, drugs, violence, child abuse,
dropping out, AIDS, and peer pressure. Students are also trained to provide
tutoring and conflict mediation.
phonics: An instructional
strategy used to teach reading. It helps beginning readers by teaching
them letter-sound relationships and having them "sound out" words. It is
now the basis of the state's approach to teaching reading.
planning period: A period
set aside for teachers to plan curriculum, meet with parents, and evaluate
portfolio: An alternative
way of assessing students in which the teacher and student collect and
organize the student's work throughout a course or class year. Grades are
based on this packet of materials, which measures the student's knowledge
and skills, and often includes some form of self-reflection by the student.
Reading Recovery: An individualized
reading-skills program for students who are having difficulty learning
to read. Teachers are trained in a year-long course that emphasizes a whole-language
approach (reading within context rather than phonics) and integrates reading,
writing, and listening techniques. Students who don't improve are eligible
to receive 30 minutes of one-on-one instruction daily for up to 20 weeks.
reconstitution: A drastic
corrective action for a school whose students have performed poorly for
several years, and have failed to improve. A reconstitution is marked by
the replacement of the majority of the school's staff, the hiring of a
new principal, and the restaffing of its faculty from scratch. Only some
school districts have adopted this method of reform.
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 room: A room in
which students needing help with their work may go during regular class
time. The resource room teacher may have special education and/or bilingual
credentials. The teacher may provide one-on-one instruction or teach a
subject to the students as a group. In these cases, the resource teacher
grades the students' work. (See "learning lab.")
for schools that do not meet the goals set for them by state or federal
accountability programs. These can include providing free tutoring to students
or transfers to higher-performing schools. The most severe sanctions often
involve state takeover of a public school or district.
school accountability report card
(SARC): An annual disclosure report produced by a school that
presents to parents and the public student achievement, test scores,
teacher credentials, dropout rates, class sizes, resources, and more.
The SARC is required by state and federal law.
school-based (site-based) management: A
plan that shifts decision-making authority from school districts to individual
schools. While these types of plans vary, they usually give control of
a school's operation to a school council composed of parents, teachers,
and local administrators.
school site council: A group
of teachers, parents, administrators, and interested community members
who work together to develop and monitor a school's improvement plan. It
is a legally required decision-making body for any school receiving federal
sheltered English: A form
of simplified English that includes hand gestures to help convey meaning.
It is used primarily with students with limited English skills.
site-based decision-making: An
approach to running a school involving the staff in all-important decisions.
This includes curriculum, schedules, finances, facilities, and resources.
special day classes: Full-day
classes for students with learning disabilities, speech and/or language
impairments, serious emotional disturbances, cognitive delays, and a range
of other impairments. Classes are taught by certified special education
teachers. A student may be mainstreamed or enter a full-inclusion program
as appropriate according to the student's Individual Education Plan (IEP).
special education: Special
instruction for students with educational or physical disabilities, tailored
to each student's needs and learning style.
Student Study Team: A team
of educators, convened at the request of a classroom teacher, parent, or
counselor, that designs in-class intervention techniques to meet the needs
of a particular student. The team can consist of the primary teacher, the
parent or guardian of the student, two specialists (speech therapist, psychologist,
or counselor), an objective teacher (who does not teach the student in
any class), and/or the principal. Six weeks after implementing a program
(counseling, tutoring, or special assignments) for the student, the team
reconvenes to determine if further steps, including a transfer to special
education classes, are necessary.
staff development days: Days
set aside in the school calendar for teacher training, sometimes on school
days. School is not generally held on these days.
student teacher: Teachers
in training who are in their last semester of a teacher education program.
Student teachers work with a regular teacher who supervises their practice
teachers' assistants: Volunteers
or parents who assist teachers in the classroom. Teachers' aides may tutor
students or provide clerical assistance to the teacher.
team teaching: A teaching
method in which two or more teachers teach the same subjects or theme.
For example, one teacher may be responsible for teaching number skills
while another teacher focuses on geometry. The teachers may alternate teaching
the entire group or divide the group into sections or classes that rotate
between the teachers.
thematic units: A unit of
study that has lessons focused on a specific theme, sometimes covering
all core subject areas. For example, the theme of inequality may be explored
by studying the caste system in India and slavery in the American South.
It is often used as an alternative approach to teaching history or social
Title One: A federally funded
program designed to improve the academic achievement of students scoring
below the 50th percentile on standardized tests. It's a reference to the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and it was changed several years
ago. It was known as Chapter One of the same act.
tracking: A common instructional
practice of organizing student groups based on their academic skills. Tracking
allows a teacher to provide the same level of instruction to the entire
group. Also called ability grouping.
whole language: A teaching
method that focuses on reading for meaning in context. Teachers may give
phonics lessons to individual students (as needed), but the majority of
reading lessons emphasize teaching students to look at the wholeness of
words and text. Whole language methods were prevalent in California elementary
schools until the mid-1990's, and are faulted by some educators as the
reason for the decline of reading skills among the state's students.
year-round education: A
modified school calendar that gives students short breaks throughout the
year, instead of a traditional three-month summer break. Year-round calendars
vary, sometimes within the same school district. Some schools use the staggered
schedule to relieve overcrowding, while others believe the three-month
break allows students to forget much of the material covered in the previous
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