K-12 Marketplace Glossary

Below you’ll find definitions for many K-12 terms to help you better understand the K-12 marketplace. This glossary is a live document so if you think we’re missing an important term, let us know!

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21st Century Community Learning Centers
21st Century Community Learning Centers provide services during non-school hours or periods to students and their families (particularly those who attend low-performing schools) for academic enrichment to meet state and local student academic achievement standards. While the focus is on improving students’ academic achievement, other activities associated with youth development, recreation, the arts, and drug prevention are permitted. Programs may be run by districts and/or community organizations including faith-based organizations. Federal funding is distributed to states based on their proportion of Title I funding. States distribute the funds via competitive grants to school districts and other providers. 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding may be used for curricula, programs, and professional development.
Source: ED


An accommodation is a change in how a test is presented or administered, or how the test taker is allowed to respond. This term generally refers to changes that do not substantially alter what the test measures. The proper use of accommodations does not substantially change academic level or performance criteria. Appropriate accommodations are made to provide equal opportunity to demonstrate knowledge. The most frequently used accommodations in NAEP are large-print booklets, extended time in regular test sessions, reading questions aloud in regular sessions, small groups, one-on-one sessions, scribes or use of computers to record answers, bilingual booklets (mathematics assessment only), and bilingual dictionaries (not for the reading assessment). In NAEP, accommodations may be provided to certain students with disabilities (SD) and/or English language learners (ELL), as specified in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Source: NAEP

Accountability System
Each state sets academic standards for what every child should know and learn. Student academic achievement is measured for every child, every year. The results of these annual tests are reported to the public.
Source: ED

Achievement Gap
The achievement gap represents the difference between how well low-income and minority children perform on standardized tests as compared with their peers. For many years, low-income and minority children have been falling behind their white peers in terms of academic achievement.
Source: ED

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
Adequate yearly progress represents an individual state’s measure of yearly progress toward achieving its academic standards. AYP is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts, and schools must achieve each year and has an impact on the funds they receive, how they are rated, and what can happen to them if they don’t achieve that minimum level. AYP is a major item of concern for many decision makers because it affects their funding.
Source: ED

Alignment is the process of linking content and performance standards to assessment, instruction, and learning in classrooms.

Alternative Assessment
Alternative Assessments are ways other than standardized tests to get information about what students know and where they need help. Examples include oral reports, projects, performances, experiments, and class participation (See also: Portfolio Assessment).
Source: EdSource

Alternative Certification
Most teachers are required to have both a college degree in education and a state certification before they can enter the classroom. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) encourages states to offer other methods of qualification that allow talented individuals to teach subjects they know.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was enacted by Congress to create new jobs, spur economic activity, and foster accountability and transparency in government spending. $97.4 billion of ARRA funding was earmarked for education.
Source: ED

Annual Measurable Objective (AMO)
Annual measurable objectives (AMOs) are measurements used to determine compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). States develop AMOs to determine if a school, district, or the state as a whole is making adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward the goal of having all students proficient in English language arts and mathematics. The objectives are often measured using student test score results.
Source: Ed-Data

Assessment is another word for “test.” Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), tests are aligned with academic standards. Beginning in the 2002-03 school year, schools began administering tests in each of three grade spans: grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12 in all schools. Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, tests had to be administered every year in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading. Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, science achievement began to be tested as well.
Source: ED

Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is technology used by individuals with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. It can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies.

Assistive Technology Act (ATA)
The Assistive Technology Act was first passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan as the Technology-Related Assistance Act of 1988. It’s often called the Tech Act for short and has been reauthorized in 1994, 1998, and 2004. The most current version of the Act was last reauthorized in 2004.

The Act seeks to provide assistive technology to persons with disabilities, so they can more fully participate in education, employment, and daily activities on a level playing field with other members of their communities. The Act covers people with disabilities of all ages, all disabilities, and in all environments (early intervention, K-12, post-secondary, vocational rehabilitation, community living, aging services, and so on).
Source: ED

At-Risk Student
The term “at risk” has been used to describe a child believed to be at risk of “significant harm” and therefore in need of protection by the local authority. When a child is described by someone from social services as being at risk, this is still likely to be what they mean. However, the term is also used more widely, for example to describe children thought to be at risk of social exclusion. Depending on the context, at risk may refer to children thought to be at risk of offending, social exclusion, or significant harm.
Source: ED

Authentic Assessment
An authentic assessment is an appraisal of student application and transfer of knowledge, skills, and processes in life-like or simulated situations through demonstrations and projects. Student performance may be scored on a rubric to determine how successfully the student has met specific standards. For example, a driving test is considered an authentic assessment because it tests students’ driving skills under real conditions on the roads.

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.
Source: EdSource


Balanced Literacy
Balanced literacy is an approach to reading instruction that strikes a compromise between phonics approaches and whole language approaches. Ideally, the most effective strategies are drawn from the two approaches and synthesized together.

A benchmark is a grade-level performance goal within each academic standard.

Bilingual Education
Bilingual education programs use the students’ native language, in addition to English, for instruction. Students are grouped according to their home language, and teachers are proficient in both English and the students’ language.
Source: ED

Blended Learning
Blended learning results from combining multiple approaches toward learning. The term is most commonly used where standard (face-to-face) teaching exists alongside e-learning, so a course could combine classroom lessons with computer mediated activities. E-learning may be live or self-paced. The mix of delivery methods is selected and fashioned to accommodate the various learning needs of a diverse audience in a variety of subjects.

Block Scheduling
A method of scheduling the traditional six-hour day into blocks of class time. Instead of traditional 40- to 50-minute class periods, block scheduling allows for periods of an hour or more so that teachers can accomplish more during a class session. Students have fewer classes per day, each for a longer period of time. Block scheduling 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.

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
This is the landmark Supreme Court case which banned school segregation. The opinion was delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren in May 1954. The opinion stated: “Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal. The ‘separate but equal’ doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, has no place in the field of public education.” Brown v. Board of Education led to the long (and continuing) struggle for racial equality in public schools. This is a common part of the education conversation.


Charter Management Organization (CMO)
A CMO is a non-profit organization that creates a group of schools with a shared educational vision and mission. Charter management organizations, generally speaking, are organizations that contract with one or more charter schools to deliver management services. These services typically include curriculum development, assessment design, professional development, systems implementation, back-office services, teacher recruitment, and facility services.
Source: Charter Resource

Charter School
Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others. They are sponsored by designated local or state educational organizations, who monitor their quality and effectiveness but allow them to operate outside of the traditional system of public schools.
Source: ED

Commingle is the term applied to using two or more funding sources for the purchase of a single product or project. The product or project must meet the requirements of both (or all) source funds. An example of commingling is funding an after-school program with Title I and 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding. Some funding sources (such as REAP) and Title I waivers allow commingling.

Common Core Standards Initiative
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt.
Source: Common Core Standards

Community-Based Learning
Community-based learning occurs when students, faculty, administrators, and community members work together to create new learning opportunities within local communities but generally outside traditional learning institutions. These programs provide a structured approach to learning and teaching that connects meaningful community experience with intellectual development, personal growth, and active citizenship. Community-based learning may included service-learning, experiential learning, School-to-Work, youth apprenticeship, lifelong learning, and other types.

Comprehensive School Reform Program (CSR)
The Comprehensive School Reform Program (CSR) was established as a demonstration program in 1998 and authorized as a full program in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It is one approach to help low-performing K–12 public schools meet state performance standards. CSR emphasizes two major concepts. First, the approach mandates that school reform should be comprehensive in nature, strengthening all aspects of school operations—curriculum, instruction, professional development, parental involvement, and school organization. Second, CSR should involve the use of scientifically based research models—that is, models with evidence of effectiveness in multiple settings.
Source: ED

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

Criterion-Referenced Test
A criterion-referenced test measures specific performance or content standards, often along a continuum from total lack of skill to excellence. This test can also have cut scores that determine whether a test taker has passed or failed the test or has basic, proficient, or advanced skills. Criterion-referenced tests, unlike norm-referenced assessments, are not primarily created to compare students to each other. The goal is typically to have everyone attain a passing mark.
Source: EdSource

Cy Pres
Cy pres (pronounced see-pray) from French, means “as close as possible.” it is a legal term meaning that when literal compliance is impossible the intention of a donor or testator should be carried out as nearly as possible. As a result of a 2004 class action lawsuit, Microsoft Corporation agreed to provide vouchers to consumers and businesses in many states and the District of Columbia to purchase certain hardware and software products. However, eligible consumers and businesses did not take steps to obtain the vouchers. Therefore, the states have been effectively holding millions of dollars of unclaimed funds.

Under the terms of a “cy pres” provision in the settlement agreements, states can give a portion of the unclaimed vouchers to certain schools to purchase hardware and software products. Every state handles the vouchers differently and have established state-specific criteria for how schools can claim the money.


Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction (also known as individualized instruction) provides customized curriculum or instruction that is tailored to the needs of the different learning styles or levels of knowledge students may have. Conducting a classroom in this fashion requires a skilled and knowledgeable classroom teacher.

Disadvantaged Student
A disadvantaged student is one who lives in poverty (i.e., is eligible for free or reduced price lunch), is from an ethnic/racial minority, has limited English proficiency, is homeless, or has a disability.
Source: ED

Discretionary Grant
Unlike a formula grant, a discretionary grant (often called a competitive grant) awards funds on the basis of a competitive process. The department reviews applications, in part through a formal review process, in light of the legislative and regulatory requirements and published selection criteria established for a program. The review process gives the department discretion to determine which applications best address the program requirements and are, therefore, most worthy of funding.
Source: ED

Distinguished School
This award is granted to a school when it makes major gains in achievement. Eligibility is based on federal and state criteria including the No Child Left Behind program, Academic Performance Index (API), and adequate yearly progress (AYP).


Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is the organized practice of educating those who are in early childhood, one of the most vulnerable stages in life. According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), it spans the human life from birth to age eight.
Source: NAEYC

The acronym for the U.S. Department of Education.

Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR)
EDGAR encompasses the administrative regulations governing the Department of Education’s discretionary grant and cooperative agreement programs found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which is a compilation of all final regulations issued by federal agencies and published annually by the National Archives and Records Administration. The regulations are divided into numbered “Titles”; Title 34 contains the regulations of the Department of Education. EDGAR is a document issued by the Department of Education that contains a reprint of these regulations of Title 34.
Source: ED

Education Management Organization (EMO)
An EMO is an organization or firm that manages at least one public school, using public funds to finance operations. An EMO operates the public school(s) it manages under the same admissions rules as regular public schools. EMOs can be for-profit or nonprofit organizations. They can manage traditional public schools or charter schools.

Effective Principal
An effective principal is a principal whose students, overall and for each subgroup, achieve acceptable rates of student growth (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year). States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that principal effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth. Supplemental measures may include, for example, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates, as well as evidence of providing supportive teaching and learning conditions, strong instructional leadership, and positive family and community engagement.
Source: ED, Race to the Top

Effective Teacher
An effective teacher is a teacher whose students achieve acceptable growth rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year). States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that teacher effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth. Supplemental measures may include, for example, multiple observation-based assessments of teacher performance.
Source: ED, Race to the Top

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was first enacted in 1965, is the principal federal law affecting K-12 education. The No Child Left Behind Act is the most recent reauthorization of ESEA.
Source: ED

English as a Second Language (ESL)
ESL is a program of techniques, methodology, and special curriculum designed to teach ELL students English language skills, which may include listening, speaking, reading, writing, study skills, content vocabulary, and cultural orientation. ESL instruction is usually in English with little use of native language.
Source: ED

English Language Learner (ELL)
An ELL student is a national-origin-minority student who is not yet able to read, write, speak, or understand English as well as her or his peers at their grade level. English language learner (ELL) is often preferred to limited English proficient (LEP) as ELL highlights accomplishments rather than deficits.
Source: ED

Enrichment courses are additionally offered courses outside those required for graduation.

Evidence-Based Program
To be described as “evidence based,” an instructional program or collection of practices should have been tested and shown to have a record of success. In general, educators agree that evidence of the effectiveness of a program or practice should be: (1) Objective—data would be identified and interpreted similarly by any evaluator; (2) Valid—data adequately represent the tasks that children need to accomplish to be successful readers; (3) Reliable—data would remain essentially unchanged if collected on a different day or by a different person; (4) Systematic—data were collected according to a rigorous design; and (5) Refereed—data have been approved for publication by a panel of independent reviewers.
Source: ED

Excess Cost
Excess cost is an expenditure for special education and related services for special education students that exceeds the amount needed to provide a basic education to those students.
Source: ED


Faith-Based and Community Organizations (FBCO)
The 2003 AmeriCorps Guidance provides the following definition for faith-based organizations: a religious congregation (church, mosque, synagogue, or temple); an organization, program, or project sponsored/hosted by a religious congregation (may be incorporated or not incorporated); a nonprofit organization founded by a religious congregation or religiously-motivated incorporators and board members that clearly states in its name, incorporation, or mission statement that it is a religiously motivated institution; a collaboration of organizations that clearly and explicitly includes organizations from the previously described categories.

The mission of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education is to promote student achievement by connecting schools and community-based organizations, both secular and faith‐based. The Center is part of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which works to form partnerships between government at all levels and nonprofit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to more effectively serve Americans in need.
Source: ED

Fiscal Year (FY)
A fiscal year is a 12-month period during which a company or government budgets spending and reports income. The fiscal year always refers to the date on which the account period ends, not begins. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 of the prior year through September 30 of the year being described.

Flipped Classroom
The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods. Direct instruction (the “lecture”) is delivered online or in teacher-created videos outside of class. In-class assigned problems (the “homework”) enable students to get individual time with their teacher on key learning activities.

Fluent English Proficient (FEP)
Fluent English Proficient is the designation for a former ELL student who is no longer considered a part of the school’s English learner population. It refers to students who have learned English.
Source: EdSource

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment refers to the gathering of information or data about student learning during a course or program that is used to guide improvements in teaching and learning. Formative assessment activities are usually low-stakes or no-stakes; they do not contribute substantially to the final evaluation or grade of the student or may not even be assessed at the individual student level. For example, posing a question in class and asking for a show of hands in support of different response options would be a formative assessment at the class level. Observing how many students responded incorrectly would be used to guide further teaching.
Source: CMU

Formula Funds
Formula funds are noncompetitive awards based on a predetermined formula or set of criteria defined by the government. Formula funds are also known as formula grant programs. Title II grants are an example of formula funds awarded for improving teaching quality.
Source: ED

Formula Grant
A formula grant is a grant that the Education Department is directed by Congress to make to grantees, for which the amount is established by a formula based on certain criteria that are written into the legislation and program regulations; it is directly awarded and administered in the Education Department’s program offices.
Source: ED

Free- or Reduced-Price Meal
This federal program provides food for students from low-income families. The program reports the percent of students who qualify to receive free or reduced price lunch, including all qualifying students who attended the school at any point during the school year.


Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
Source: ED

General Educational Development (GED)
General Educational Development (GED) is the process of earning the equivalent of a high school diploma, which is called a GED certificate or credential. The process requires passing a series of five tests in writing, social studies, science, mathematics, and reading. The tests are always taken in person and are not available online. Attending preparation classes is encouraged but not required.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
The generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, are a set of accounting rules used to standardize the reporting of financial statements in the United States. The Federal Accountability Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) establishes GAAP for federal reporting.

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

Government Accountability Office (GAO)
The GAO is the federal office often referred to as the investigative arm of Congress because it investigates and audits the use of public funds and the performance of federal programs. The GAO also provides analytical, investigative and legal services to support to Congress in its policy formulation and decision making processes. Most GAO reports are initiated at the request of Congress, while some are initiated by the agency itself, or are required by law.

Graduation Rate Survey (GRS)
In 1990, Congress enacted the Student Right-to-Know Act (SRTK) which requires colleges and universities to disclose the rate in which students complete academic programs at post-secondary education institutions. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education developed the graduation rate survey (GRS) to help institutions comply with the SRTK requirements.
Source: ED

Guided Reading
Guided reading is an instructional strategy in which the teacher and a group of children, or sometimes an individual child, talk and think and question their way through a book of which they each have a copy. The teacher shows the children what questions to ask of themselves as readers, and the author through the text, so that each child can discover the author’s meaning on the first reading.


Hands-On Learning
Hands-on learning is often used to describe any activities in the classrooms that use materials, such as manipulatives in mathematics. Hands-on learning, at its best, is not simply manipulating things. The hands-on experience can engage the student in intellectual investigations, creating the development of new or more profound ideas.

Head Start
Head Start is a federally-funded program targeting children ages 3-5 and providing a variety of services, including education in the form of preschool, and nutrition and medical services. It was introduced in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson and adopted into law as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. It is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services within the Administration for Children and Families.

The Head Start program provides grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families. There is a special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school. The Office of Head Start provides grants to approximately 1600 local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide Head Start and Early Head Start services throughout the United States and territories. Head Start funding may be used for: curriculum, assessment, professional development and teacher improvement, administration, programs, technical infrastructure, school building products, and school supplies.
Source: OHS

Highly Effective Principal
A principal whose students, overall and for each subgroup, achieve high rates (e.g., one and one-half grade levels in an academic year) of student growth is classified as a highly effective principal. States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that principal effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth. Supplemental measures may include, for example, high school graduation rates; college enrollment rates; evidence of providing supportive teaching and learning conditions, strong instructional leadership, and positive family and community engagement; or evidence of attracting, developing, and retaining high numbers of effective teachers.
Source: ED

Highly Effective Teacher
A teacher whose students achieve high rates (e.g., one and one-half grade levels in an academic year) of student growth is classified as a highly effective teacher. States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that teacher effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth. Supplemental measures may include, for example, multiple observation-based assessments of teacher performance or evidence of leadership roles (which may include mentoring or leading professional learning communities) that increase the effectiveness of other teachers in the school or LEA.
Source: ED

Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT)
To be deemed highly qualified under No Child Left Behind, teachers must have: (1) a bachelor’s degree, (2) full state certification or licensure, and (3) prove that they know each subject they teach.
Source: ED

High-Minority School
1. High-minority school is defined by the state in a manner consistent with its Teacher Equity Plan. The State should provide, in its Race to the Top application, the definition used.
Source: ED

2. A measure of the level of historically disadvantaged minority student groups being served by schools participating in the High School Transcript Study. High minority schools have more than 50 percent disadvantaged minority students.
Source: NAEP

High-Need Local Education Agency (High-Need LEA)
A high-need LEA is an LEA (a) that serves not fewer than 10,000 children from families with incomes below the poverty line; or (b) for which not less than 20 percent of the children served by the LEA are from families with incomes below the poverty line.
Source: ED

High-Need School
A high-need school is (1) within the top quartile of elementary and secondary schools statewide, as ranked by the number of unfilled, available teacher positions; (2) is located in an area where at least 30 percent of students come from families with incomes below the poverty line; or (3) is in an area with a high percentage of out of-field-teachers, high teacher turnover rate, or a high percentage of teachers who are not certified or licensed.
Source: ED

High-Need Student
A high-need student is a student at risk of educational failure or otherwise in need of special assistance and support, such as a student who is living in poverty, who attends a high-minority school, who is far below grade level, who has left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who is at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who is homeless, who is in foster care, who has been incarcerated, who has disabilities, or who is an English language learner.
Source: ED

High-Performing Charter school
A charter school is classified as high-performing if it has been in operation for at least three consecutive years and has demonstrated overall success, including (a) substantial progress in improving student; and (b) the management and leadership necessary to overcome initial start-up problems and establish a thriving, financially viable charter school.
Source: ED

High-Poverty School
A high-poverty school is a school in the highest quartile of schools in the state with respect to poverty level, using a measure of poverty determined by the state. This measure is often a percentage of all students that qualify for either free or reduced-cost lunches.
Source: ED

High-Stakes Test
Any test that results in some kind of consequence for those who score low, some kind of reward for those who score high, or both is classified as a high-stakes test. Tests are government-mandated when schools make high-stakes decisions such as grade-to-grade advancement, tracking, granting high school diplomas, rating the performance of individual schools, teachers and school administrators, providing and denying funding, disbanding schools. The NCLB Act requires testing at every grade level for districts to keep their federal funding. Failure to meet certain levels (adequate yearly progress) can also mean not only loss of funding, but also loss of local control over governance of the district.


Individual Education Program (IEP)
An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
Source: ED

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. (IDEA website)
Source: ED

International Baccalaureate (IB)
International Baccalaureate is a rigorous, international college preparation program of study for highly motivated high school students. The program culminates in exams for which students can earn college credit from many universities if their exam scores are high enough.
Source: EdSource

International Reading Association (IRA)
The International Reading Association was founded in 1956 as a professional organization of those involved in teaching reading to learners of all ages. Through the years, its focus has expanded to address a broad range of issues in literacy education worldwide. This organization has spearheaded the efforts in national literacy standards development.
Source: IRA

Involved Local Education Agency (Involved LEA)
An involved LEA chooses to work with the state to implement those specific portions of the state’s recovery plan that necessitate full or nearly-full statewide implementation, such as transitioning to a common set of K-12 standards.
Source: ED


Language Arts
Language Arts encompass the school curriculum areas concerned with the development and improvement of reading, writing, spelling, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing.

Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission
Answering a challenge from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Education, experts from across the education and technology space formed the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission. The Commission has developed a blueprint, detailing the opportunity for using technology as a catalyst to transform and improve American education. The LEAD Commission has incorporated input from a cross-section of teachers, parents, local government officials, school officials, students and education technology industry leaders to develop its findings and guide the creation of the blueprint.
Source: LEAD

Learning Management System (LMS)
A learning management system is a software information system for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
The least restrictive environment is the educational setting or program that provides a student needing special education the chance to work and learn in as much of the regular education program as is appropriate in view of her or his educational needs. The law holds that children with special needs must not be separated from students who do not have disabilities any more than is educationally necessary. The least restrictive environment is a standard established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Source: ED

Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
LEP is 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 their grade level. The new term: English language learners (ELL).

Local Education Agency (LEA)
A local education agency is a public board of education or other public authority within a state which maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a state.
Source: ED

Low-Minority School
1. A low-minority school is defined by the state in a manner consistent with its Teacher Equity Plan. The state should provide, in its Race to the Top application, the definition used.
Source: Race to the Top

2. A measure of the level of historically disadvantaged minority student groups being served by schools participating in the High School Transcript Study. Low minority schools have less than 5 percent disadvantaged minority students.
Source: NAEP


Magnet School
A magnet school is a public elementary or secondary school that focuses on a particular discipline, such as science, mathematics, arts, or computer science. The specialized curriculum is designed to attract students that the school may recruit from across normal school district boundaries.

In the context of classroom instruction, a manipulative is an item that students use to support hands-on learning. Manipulatives provide visible models that help students solve problems and develop concepts. Manipulatives are often used in mathematics and include items such as counting beads, base ten blocks, rulers, and so on.

McKinney-Vento is the primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in U.S. public schools. It addresses the problems that homeless children and youth face in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school.

Under this program, state educational agencies (SEAs) must ensure that each homeless child and youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as other children and youth. Homeless children and youth should have access to the educational and other services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state student academic achievement standards to which all students are held. In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment. States and districts are required to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices, or policies that may act as a barrier to the enrollment, attendance, or success in school of homeless children and youth.

The program is authorized under Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 USC 11431 et seq.), (McKinney-Vento Act). The program was originally authorized in 1987 and, most recently, reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Source: ED


Nation’s Report Card™
The Nation’s Report Card is a printed summary report of academic achievement of elementary and secondary students issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It is also a separate, dedicated Web site of the same name. The primary audience is the American public.

Since 1969, assessments have been conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, U.S. history, geography, civics, the arts, and other subjects. NAEP collects and reports information on student performance at the national, state, and local levels.
Source: ED

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
An independent benchmark, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what American students know and can do in various subject areas. Since 1969, The National Center for Education Statistics has conducted NAEP assessments in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, geography, civics, and the arts.
Source: ED

National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)
NACSA is a Chicago-based reform organization working to improve the policies and practices of the organizations responsible for authorizing charter schools. NACSA works with authorizers through grant-making (Fund for Authorizing Excellence), member services, its annual Leadership Conference, and direct services.
Source: NACSA

National Center for Education Research (NCER)
The National Center for Education Research (NCER) supports rigorous research that addresses the nation’s most pressing education needs, from early childhood to adult education. NCER research examines the effectiveness of educational programs, practices, and policies, including the application of technology to instruction and assessment. The goal of NCER research programs is to provide scientific evidence of what works, for whom, and under what conditions.
Source: ED

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries.
Source: ED

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is a global leader and authority in mathematics education. Its members include mathematics teachers, supervisors, and others interested in mathematics education. The NCTM provides guidance and resources for developing and implementing mathematics curriculum, instruction, and assessment that are consistent with research in the field and focused on increasing student learning. The NCTM publishes “Principles and Standards for School Mathematics,” which defines expected outcomes for different grades levels. Many states and school districts use the NCTM Standards to develop their own state standards and curriculum requirements. State adopted textbooks in mathematics must align to the NCTM standards. Its national convention is held annually in April in a major city.
Source: NCTM

No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
Public Law 107-110. President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law on January 8, 2002. NCLB was the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since ESEA was enacted in 1965, and it redefined the federal role in K-12 education. It is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.
Source: ED

Norm-Referenced Assessment
A norm-referenced assessment is one in which an individual or group’s performance is compared with a larger group. Usually the larger group is representative of a cross-section of all U.S. students.
Source: EdSource


Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education enforces the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools. The OCR prohibits specific discriminatory activities, such as the assignment of students with disabilities to segregated classes or facilities (In elementary and secondary schools, students with disabilities may be assigned to separate facilities or courses only when such placement is necessary to provide them equal educational opportunity and when the separate facilities and services are comparable to other facilities and services.). See Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
Source: EdSource

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
At the federal level, this executive agency recommends budgetary matters to the President of the United States and prepares the budget for review by Congress. OMB works with other federal agencies and the President’s cabinet to develop and monitor fiscal programs.

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
OSERS is an agency of the executive branch within the Department of Education committed to improving results and outcomes for people with disabilities of all ages. The agency provides a wide array of supports to parents and individuals, school districts and states in three main areas: special education, vocational rehabilitation and research. OSERS also provides funds to programs that offer information and technical assistance to parents of infants, toddlers and children with disabilities, as well as members of the learning community who serve these individuals.
Source: ED

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
OSEP aims to improve results for children with disabilities (ages birth through 21) by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts. OSEP is charged with assuring that the various states comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Source: ED

Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)
The Office of Vocational and Adult Education administers and coordinates programs that are related to adult education and literacy, career and technical education, and community colleges.
Source: ED


Percentile Rank
The percentile rank is a metric for comparing a given child, class, school, or district to a state or national norm in a norm-referenced assessment. For example, a percentile rank of 60 would signify performance equal to or greater than 60% of the larger sample.
Source: EdSource

Phonics is a teaching method for reading that focuses on letter-sound relationships. Phonics instruction teaches children the relationship between the letters (graphemes) of written language and the individual sound (phonemes) of spoken language. Phonics instruction follows a planned sequence of letter-sound relationships. Effective programs provide opportunities for children to use what they are learning about letters to read words, sentences, and stories. Phonics is one of the five essential components of reading instruction as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.
Source: ED

Portfolio Assessment
A collection of various samples of a student’s work that is used for evaluation purposes. A student portfolio can include writing samples, examples of how the student solved mathematical problems, results of scientific experiments, and so on. The evaluation of this work, typically done by a classroom teacher, can be conducted systematically based on established content and performance standards.
Source: EdSource

Portfolio District
Portfolio districts represent a new trend in education reform. In portfolio districts, decision making is decentralized giving the school itself more autonomy. The goal of this strategy is to create more high quality schools regardless of provider (e.g., traditional, charter, nonprofit, magnet), to give schools autonomy over staffing and funding, and to hold all schools accountable for performance. Managers or principals at the local schools may design programs, hire teachers, buy materials and technology, choose vendors, and own or lease their own property. Rather than being a decision-making center, the district office keeps longitudinal data on students, assesses schools based on student performance, distributes money to schools (usually on a per pupil basis), recruits educators, and manages student enrollment for schools that do not use neighborhood boundaries. For more information, go to the Center on Reinventing Public Education website.

Primary Language
A student’s first language or the language spoken at home.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)
In project-based learning, students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. PBL encourages students answer the question or solve the problem through a collaborative process of investigation over an extended period of time resulting in a product, presentation, or performance. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st century skills (such as collaboration, communication, and critical thinking). Projects often are used to investigate authentic issues and topics including those found outside of school.
Source: Buck Institute for Education

Promise Neighborhoods Program
This federal program was established to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed urban and rural neighborhoods. The program provides funding to be used for curriculum, professional development, planning, technical infrastructure, school building products, and school supplies. Those eligible for funds include (1) nonprofit organizations, which may include faith-based nonprofit organizations, (2) institutions of higher education, and (3) Indian tribes.
Source: ED


Reading First
Reading First is a new, national initiative aimed at helping every child in every state become a successful reader.

Recompete (or Recompetition)
Known as recompetition, this grant-making process aims to move funds away from Head Start and Early Head Start providers found to be deficient during government audits and redirect the grants to new providers that appear to meet higher standards. The plan would force the lowest-performing 25% of audited providers in any given year—using assessment factors like program quality, financial management, and operational efficiency—to compete for on-going funding. Authorized under the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007.

Recovery Fund
Recovery funds were authorized to eligible states and local agencies through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Act aimed to stimulate the economy in the short-term and to invest wisely, using these funds to improve schools and raise student achievement. Four principles guide distribution and use of recovery funds: (1) spend quickly to save and create jobs, (2) improve student achievement through school improvement and reform, (3) ensure transparency, accountability, and reporting, and (4) invest one-time ARRA funds thoughtfully for long-term sustainability. ED administers 21 recovery programs under ARRA.
Source: ED

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
This law says that no qualified person shall, on the basis of a disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives or benefits from federal financial assistance. The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) enforces this law for all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.
Source: EdSource

Response to Intervention (RtI or RTI)
Response to intervention (RtI) is a process that schools can use to help children who are struggling academically or behaviorally. RtI focuses on (1) early intervention, (2) frequent progress measurement, and (3) increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions. RtI aims to prevent some students from being identified as having learning disabilities by providing intervention as concerns emerge. It is believed that students who do not show a response to effective interventions are likely (or, more likely than students who respond) to have biologically-based learning disabilities and to be in need of special education.
Source: IRA

Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP)
This is a federal program designed to help small, rural districts use federal resources more effectively. It consists of two separate programs–the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools (RLIS) program.

The SRSA program enables qualifying districts to transfer and combine certain federal formula grants giving the districts greater latitude in spending the funds for student achievement. The RLIS program authorizes formula grant awards to state educational agencies. REAP is authorized under Part B of Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Source: ED


School Accountability Report Card (SARC)
Each school produces this annual disclosure report for parents and the public to present student achievement, test scores, teacher credentials, dropout rates, class sizes, resources, and more. The SARC is required by state and federal law.
Source: EdSource

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
The acronym STEM refers to the fields of study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In recent years, having a workforce well-versed in STEM fields has often been cited as a pivotal factor in the competitive global economic standing of the United States as a whole. The need to prepare and encourage K-12 students to undertake further study and careers in STEM fields—and the capacity of schools and colleges to help more students of all backgrounds do so—has gained prominence in education policy discussions.
Source: EdSource

A sequestration is an across-the-board spending reduction of nonexempt, mandatory programs to offset an increase in the federal deficit.

Sheltered English Immersion
This instructional approach uses classes that are composed entirely of students learning English. Students are taught using methods that make academic instruction in English understandable. In some schools, students may be clustered in a mainstream classroom.
Source: EdSource

Special Education
Special education is instruction specifically for students with emotional, learning, or physical disabilities. Federal law requires that all children with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate education according to an individualized education program (IEP) from infancy until 21 years of age.
Source: EdSource

Specific Learning Disability
A specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities

Standardized Test
A standardized test 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, though sometimes accommodations on time limits and instructions are made for students with disabilities.
Source: EdSource

Educational standards define the knowledge and skills students should possess at critical points in their educational career. If the frameworks are the vision statements, the standards are the bullet points describing the big curriculum ideas that should be covered in a particular area. They are the key notions in an area that are believed to be valuable for students to learn.

Standards-Based Curriculum
A standards-based curriculum is a series of intended learning targets in a core academic content area that identify what students should know and be able to do at each grade level, rather than focusing on what content needs to be covered.

Standards-Referenced Test
This test is based on specific learning objectives developed by local or state departments for a particular subject in particular grade level. A student’s achievement is compared to the objectives and not to the performance of other students. Also known as standards-based assessment.

State Education Agency
This agency is responsible for the supervision of a state’s public elementary and secondary schools; e.g., the California Department of Education (CDE).
Source: EdSource

Structured English Immersion Program
The goal of this program is acquisition of English language skills so that the ELL student can succeed in an English-only mainstream classroom. All instruction in an immersion strategy program is in English. Teachers have specialized training in meeting the needs of ELL students, possessing either a bilingual education or ESL teaching credential and/or training, and strong receptive skills in the students’ primary language.
Source: ED

Student Achievement
For tested grades and subjects, student achievement is a student’s score on the state’s assessments under the ESEA and, as appropriate, other measures of student learning provided they are rigorous and comparable across classrooms.

For non-tested grades and subjects, student achievement uses alternative measures of student learning and performance such as student scores on pre-tests and end-of-course tests, student performance on English language proficiency assessments, and other measures of student achievement that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms.
Source: ED

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires that 95 percent of all students AND 95 percent of all subgroups participate in testing for a school or district to meet its academic yearly progress (AYP). A subgroup may be defined by the state based on student ethnicity or socio-economic status and usually identifies special education students and English language learners.

Summative Assessment
This assessment is the gathering of information at the conclusion of a course, program, or undergraduate career to improve learning or to meet accountability demands. When used for improvement, summative assessments impact the next cohort of students taking the course or program.

Examples include:

  • examining student final exams in a course to see if certain specific areas of the curriculum were understood less well than others.
  • analyzing senior projects for the ability to integrate across disciplines.

Source: ED

Supplement Not Supplant
At its most basic level, Title I’s Supplement Provision requires states and districts to use Title I funds to add to (supplement), rather than replace (supplant), the state and local funds they spend on education. In other words, Title I funds are not meant to substitute for state or local funds, but rather provide an additional layer of support. Thus, states and districts are required to demonstrate that Title I funds are used to purchase extra services, staff, programs, or materials the state or district would not normally provide.

Supplementary Education Services (SES)
Supplemental educational services are free academic assistance and tutoring programs in subjects such as language arts, reading, and mathematics. SES programs are provided to eligible students by many educational organizations including community-based organizations, religious groups, and for-profit education companies. These services are offered after school, on weekends, in schools, in program provider centers, and at students’ homes. A PDF document to guide users and vendors for SES programs can be found at here.
Source: ED


Teacher Quality
To ensure that every classroom has a highly qualified teacher, states and districts around the country are using innovative programs to address immediate and long-term needs, including alternative recruitment strategies, new approaches to professional development, financial incentive programs, partnerships with local universities, and much more.
Source: ED

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

Title I, Part A
The first section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Title I refers to programs aimed at America’s most disadvantaged students. Title I, Part A provides assistance to improve the teaching and learning of children in high-poverty schools to enable those children to meet challenging State academic content and performance standards. Title I reaches about 12.5 million students enrolled in both public and private schools.
Source: ED

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
This series of international assessments measures the mathematics and science achievement of fourth- and eighth-grade students. The goal of the study is to improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science globally. Data was first collected in 1995 and every four years thereafter. TIMSS will next collect data in 2015. TIMSS provides reliable and timely data on mathematics and science achievement of U.S. students compared to that of students in other countries. The TIMSS Report is frequently cited in both educational and popular press.
Source: ED

A turnaround is the change of a persistently low-performing school (as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act) to a school of success. The goal of the Race to the Top funding program is to turn around low-performing schools

Turnaround Leader
A turnaround lead is someone who can successfully lead the turnaround of persistently low-achieving public schools. A turnaround leader may be a principal, superintendent, or someone recruited from outside education, such as nonprofit and health organizations, the military, or the private sector. Research is ongoing as to the characteristics of turnaround leaders, how to import leadership talent into the education sector successfully, and the types of support and training leaders need to succeed in the school turnaround setting.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
UDL is the design of instructional materials and activities to make the curriculum equally accessible and appropriately challenging for individuals of differing ability, background, and learning styles. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.


Permission from the U.S. Department of Education to set aside some requirements of No Child Left Behind (also known as ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) upon the request of a state.

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)
This clearinghouse was established in 2002 by ED’s Institute of Education Sciences to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education.
Source: ED

Whole-School Reform (WSR)
Whole-school (or comprehensive school) reform covers a diverse set of nationwide and local programs that have in common the assumption that, to bring about measurable improvement, school reform must embrace the whole school. Whole-school reform models require schools to reexamine and change all parts of school life, from attitudes and culture to leadership, parent and community involvement, curriculum, facilities, and financing. Since 1997, many schools have implemented whole-school reform models with support from $150 million in federal funding from the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Act (CSRD).
Source: CEPM