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Glossary of Terms

September 4, 2015

Accelerated reading – A commercial reading program including computer-administered metrics and book selection.

Accommodations – Techniques and materials that don’t change the basic curriculum but do make learning a little easier or help kids communicate what they know

Achievement Tests – Measures of acquired knowledge in academic skills, such as reading, math, writing, and science

Advocacy – Recognizing and communicating needs, rights, and interests on behalf of a child; making informed choices

alternative assessment – Use of assessment strategies, such as performance assessment, constructed response items, and portfolios, to replace or supplement assessment by machine-scored multiple-choice tests.

American Federation of Teachers


One of the two large teacher unions (the other is the National Education Association). The AFT represents about 1 million teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, health-care employees, and state and municipal employees. The AFT is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

analogy-based phonics – In this phonics approach, children are taught to use parts of words they have already learned to read and decode words they don’t know. They apply this strategy when the words share similar parts in their spellings, for example, reading screen by analogy to green. Children may be taught a large set of key words for use in reading new words.

analytic phonics – In this phonics approach, children learn to analyze letter-sound relationships in previously learned words. They do not pronounce sounds in isolation.

aptitude tests – Tests that attempt to predict a person’s ability to do something. The most familiar are intelligence tests, which are intended to measure a person’s intellectual abilities. The theory underlying intelligence tests is that each person’s mental ability is relatively stable and can be determined apart from her knowledge of subject matter or other abilities, such as creativity. Some aptitude tests measure a person’s natural ability to learn particular subjects and skills or suitability for certain careers.

Assessment – Process of identifying strengths and needs to assist in educational planning; includes observation, record review, interviews, and tests

Assistive Technology


Any item, piece of equipment, or system that helps kids with disabilities bypass, work around, or compensate for specific learning deficits

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.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


A neurobehavioral disorder that causes an individual to be inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive, or to display a combination of those symptoms

Auditory Discrimination – Ability to identify differences between words and sounds that are similar

Auditory Processing – Among kids with normal hearing, the ability to understand spoken language

Balance Literacy – A reading approach that integrates the best of both whole language (immerse kids in books and they’ll learn to read) and phonetics (children must be taught the explicit rules of language). Both of these approaches have each held sway in past decades

Baseline Assessment – An assessment of a child’s skills and abilities usually made by a teacher within the first seven weeks of starting primary school. It shows teachers what a child can do when starting school and helps them to plan lessons and measure progress. Areas covered include language and literacy, mathematics and personal and social development.

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.

Classroom Management – How a teacher controls the classroom, by promoting good conduct in students through discipline, structure, rules, procedures and so on.

Collaboration – Working in partnership on behalf of a child, e.g., parent and teacher, or special education teacher and general education teacher

Compliance Complaint – Complaint filed with the state department of education or local school district by a person who feels that an educational law has been broken

Decoding – the method or strategy that a person uses to decipher a group of letters into a known word or phrase.

Designated Instruction and Services


Sometimes called related services; specialized instructional, and/or support services identified through an assessment and written on an IEP as necessary for a child to benefit from special education (e.g. speech/ language therapy, vision services, etc.)

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.

Discrepancy – Difference between 2 tests, such as between measures of a child’s intellectual ability and his academic achievement

Due Process – Procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the parent/guardian and the child under federal and state laws and regulations for special education; includes voluntary mediation or a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills


a set of standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills.

Dysarthria – Disorder of fine motor muscles involved in speech; affects ability to pronounce sounds correctly

Dyscalculia – Problems with basic math skills; trouble calculating

Dysgraphia – Difficulty writing legibly with age-appropriate speed

Dyslexia – A language-based learning disability. In addition to reading problems, dyslexia can also involve difficulty with writing, spelling, listening, speaking and math

Dysnomia – Difficulty remembering names or recalling specific words; word-finding problems

Dyspraxia – Difficulty performing and sequencing fine motor movements, such as buttoning

embedded phonics – In this phonics approach, children learn vocabulary through explicit instruction on the letter-sound relationships during the reading of connected text, usually when the teacher notices that a child is struggling to read a particular word. Letter-sound relationships are taught as part of sight word reading. If the sequence of letter-sounds is not prescribed and sequenced, but is determined by whatever words are encountered in text, then the program is not systematic or explicit.

Free Appropriate Public Education


Entitles a public school child with a disability to an educational program and related services to meet her unique educational needs at no cost to the parents; based on IEP; under public supervision and meets state standards

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 bachelors degree; and has demonstrated subject area competence in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches.

Identified – A child that has been deemed exceptional and may be gifted or have (among others) a learning disability, autism or a mild intellectual disability. Kids need to be identified to receive additional support like an in-class assistant or a spot in a special program.

inclusion – The practice of placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms. Also known as mainstreaming.

Individualized Education Program


A written plan created to meet the unique educational needs of a child with a disability, who requires special education services to benefit from the general education program, 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.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act


Federal law that provides for special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities

Informed Consent – Agreement in writing from parents that they have been informed and understand implications of special education evaluation and program decisions; permission is voluntary and may be withdrawn

Initial Sounds Fluency


Assesses a child’s skill to identify and produce the initial sound of a given word

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.

Intelligence Quotient


Score used to indicate general cognitive ability; average range of intelligence, which includes 84 percent of the population, is 85 to 115

intervention – The term refers to funds that schools get for students who are not learning at grade level. They can be used to fund before-school or afterschool programs or to pay for materials and instructors

Kinesthetic Learner – A child who learns best through hands-on experience – whether that means manipulating an object, performing a task or observing a practical demonstration. These are kids who like to move and do. Children can also be auditory or visual learners.

language arts – Another term for English curriculum. The focus is on reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills.

Learning Disability


A neurobiological disorder which affects the way a person of average to above average intelligence receives, processes, or expresses information. LD impacts ones ability to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, or math

Least Restrictive Environment


to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from The regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved.

magnet school – A school that focuses on a particular discipline, such as science, mathematics, arts, or computer science. It is designed to recruit students from other parts of the school district

mainstreaming – The practice of placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms; also known as inclusion.

manipulatives – Three-dimensional teaching aids and visuals that teachers use to help students understand concepts. Common in math, typical tools include counting beads or bars, base ten blocks, shapes, fraction parts, and rulers.

Modification – Modifications are changes in the delivery, content, or instructional level of a subject or test. They result in changed or lowered expectations and create a different standard for kids with disabilities than for those without disabilities

Multidisciplinary Team


Professionals with different training and expertise; may include, but not limited to, any combination of the following public school personnel  general education teacher, special education teacher, administrator, school psychologist, speech and language therapist, counselor  and the parent

Multiple Intelligences – The theory that simple IQ is only part of the story when it comes to intelligence, and that there are in fact eight “intelligences” – including spatial intelligence (being “picture smart”) and interpersonal intelligence (being “people smart”).

No Child Left Behind (legal definition)


The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted on January 8, 2002. NCLB focuses on accountability for all schools, local control, and options for parents. The legislation requires schools to use research-based curricula and instructional techniques that have been proven to work in classrooms across the United States.NCLB aims to help teachers by providing a way for them to gain information about each child’s academic ability through yearly testing in the areas of reading and math in grades 3-8 and 10-12. Assessments provide information about each child’s strengths and weaknesses, thus aiding in the development of lesson plans and instruction geared for each child to have success. No Child Left Behind provides resources to schools and teachers to help in the education of students. States can apply to qualify for “Reading First” funds.NCLB also aims to help parents. Parents are given information about their child’s and schools’ progress in the area of reading and math each year in grades 3-8 and 10-12. In the 2007-08 school year science will also be assessed. School districts must provide parents with the academic achievement of a child on these yearly assessments, as well as an easy to read report card documenting student achievement in the school.

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”.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 – now called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The act governs the allocation of federal funds to local school divisions, including Title I (to improve basic programs and reading skills), Title II (to support professional and paraprofessional training and technology), Title III (English language acquisition), Title IV (safe and drug-free schools), Title V (innovative programs), and Title X (homeless education). NCLB includes guidelines on school performance goals, assessments, reporting, staff qualifications, and parent involvement.

Nonsense Word Fluency


Assesses a child’s knowledge of letter-sound correspondences as well their ability to blend letters together to form unfamiliar “nonsense” (e.g., fik, lig, etc.) words

norm-referenced assessment – An assessment 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 US students.

onset – consonants preceding the vowel

onset-rime phonics instruction – In this phonics approach, children learn to break monosyllabic words into their onsets (consonants preceding the vowel) and rimes (vowel and following consonants). They read each part separately and then blend the parts to say the whole word.

Oral Reading Fluency


Assesses a child’s skill of reading connected text in grade-level material word

Out-of-level Testing – When a student who is in one grade is assessed using a level of a test developed for students in another grade. Below-grade-level testing is generally what is meant when the term out-of-level testing is used.

Parent Teacher Association


A national organization of parents, teachers, and other interested persons that has chapters in schools. They rely entirely on voluntary participation and offer assistance to schools in many different areas.

percentile ranks – One way to compare a given child, class, school, or district to a national norm.

Personal Progress Plan


A tailor-made educational program for a student who is struggling. An IEP aims to mould the curriculum to a child’s strengths and needs. Also known as a n Individual Education Plan (IEP).

phoneme addition – In this activity, children make a new word by adding a phoneme to an existing word. (Teacher: What word do you have if you add /s/ to the beginning of park? Children: spark.)

phoneme blending – In this activity, children learn to listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes, and then combine the phonemes to form a word. (Teacher: What word is /b/ /i/ /g/? Children: /b/ /i/ /g/ is big.)

phoneme categorization – In this activity, children recognize the word in a set of three or four words that has the “odd” sound. (Teacher: Which word doesn’t belong? bun, bus, rug. Children: Rug does not belong. It doesn’t begin with a /b/.)

phoneme deletion – In this activity, children learn to recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from another word. (Teacher: What is smile without the /s/? Children: Smile without the /s/ is mile.)

phoneme identity – In this activity, children learn to recognize the same sounds in different words. (Teacher: What sound is the same in fix, fall, and fun? Children: The first sound, /f/, is the same.)

phoneme isolation – In this activity, children learn to recognize and identify individual sounds in a word. (Teacher: What is the first sound in van? Children: The first sound in van is /v/.)

phoneme segmentation – In this activity, children break a word into its separate sounds, saying each sound as they tap out or count it. (Teacher: How many sounds are in grab? Children: /g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds.)

phoneme substitution – In this activity, children substitute one phoneme for another to make a new word. (Teacher: The word is bug. Change /g/ to /n/. What’s the new word? Children: bun.)

phonemes – Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that change the meanings of spoken words. For example, if you change the first phoneme in bat from /b/ to /p/, the word bat changes to pat. English has about 41-44 phonemes. A few words, such as a or oh, have only one phoneme. Most words have more than one phoneme. The word if has two phonemes /i/ and /f/.

Phonemic awareness – Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show us they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word (“/c/ /a/ /t/ – cat.”)

Phonemic Awareness Literacy Screening


a screening assessment developed by the University of Virginia that is used primarily in grades K-3 in the Fall and Spring of each school year.

Phonemic Segmentation Fluency


Assesses a child’s skill to produce the individual sounds within a given word

phonics – Phonics is a form of instruction to cultivate the understanding and use of the alphabetic principle, that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds in spoken language) and graphemes, the letters that represent those sounds in written language and that this information can be used to read or decode words.

phonics through spelling – In this phonics approach, children learn to segment words into phonemes and to make words by writing letters for phonemes.

Phonological awareness – Phonological awareness covers a range of understandings related to the sounds of words and word parts, including identifying and manipulating larger parts of spoken language such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes. It also includes phonemic awareness as well as other aspects of spoken language such as rhyming and syllabication.

portfolio – A collection of various samples of a students work throughout the school year that can include writing samples, examples of math problems, and results of science experiments

Primary Language – Language that the child first learned, or the language that’s spoken in the home

Procedural Safeguards – Legal requirements that ensure parents and kids will be treated fairly and equally in the decision-making process about special education

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.

Public Law 94-142

PL 94-142

the federal law that mandates basic standards for special education; provides some federal funds for special education; amended in 1990 by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Pupil Records – Personal information about the child that is kept by the school system and is available for review by legal guardians and others directly involved in her education

Purchase Order


A document submitted to a vendor which requests materials or services at a price indicated on the PO. The issuance of a PO establishes an encumbrance in the accounting system.

Referral – Written request for assessment to see if the child is a “child with a disability” who needs special education and related services to benefit from her general education program

Resiliency – Ability to pursue personal goals and bounce back from challenges

Resource Specialist Program


Students receiving special education instruction can be pulled out of the regular education classroom for special assistance during specific periods of the day or week and are taught by credentialed resource specialists

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.

Retention – The practice of having a student repeat a certain grade-level (year) in school; also called grade retention

rime – vowel and following consonants

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).

Schools Information and Management System


A computer package to assist schools in managing information on pupils, staff and resources.

scientifically based research – Research that involves the application of rigorous, systemic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to educational activities and programs.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act – Federal civil rights law requiring school programs and buildings to be accessible to children with disabilities; protects from discrimination

Self-Advocacy – Child’s ability to explain specific learning needs and seek necessary assistance or accommodations

Sight Vocabulary – A learning-to-read term for words that a child will not have to decode but will recognize immediately on sight, due to repeated exposure.

socioeconomicallly disadvantaged – Students whose parents do not have a high school diploma or who participate in the federally funded free/reduced price meal program because of low family income.

Special Day Class


Students in Special Day Classes (SDC) are enrolled in self-contained special education classes. They are assigned to these classes by their IEP eligibility and receive support from the Special Day Class teacher and the support staff

Special Education


Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of eligible kids whose educational needs can’t be met through modification of the regular instructional program; provides for a range of options for services, such as pull out programs, special day classes; available to kids enrolled in public schools

staff development days – Days set aside in the school calendar for teacher training. School is not generally held on these days.

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.

Standardized Achievement Test II


This was formerly know as the Achievement Tests and was renamed the SAT II: Subject Tests. They are administered by the College Board and widely used as a college entrance exam. Students may take the test more than once, but only the highest score is reported at the year of graduation.

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 conditionsincluding instructions, time limits, and scoring rubricsare the same for all students, though sometimes accommodations on time limits and instructions are made for disabled students.

Strands – Broad curriculum areas within a given subject. For instance, an arts program could include strands like dance, drama, music and visual art.

student teacher – A teacher in training who is in the last semester of a teacher education program. Student teachers work with a regular teacher who supervises their practice teaching.

synthetic phonics – In this instructional approach, children learn how to convert letters or letter combinations into a sequence of sounds, and then how to blend the sounds together to form recognizable words.

systematic and explicit phonics instruction – The most effective way to teach phonics. A program is systematic if the plan of instruction includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence. Explicit means the programs provide teachers with precise directions for the teaching of these relationships.

Team teaching – A teaching 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.

tenure – A system of due process and employment guarantee for teachers. After serving a three-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.

Title 1 – A federal program that provides funds to improve the academic achievement for educationally disadvantaged students who score below the 50th percentile on standardized tests, including the children of migrant workers.

Title II A – Increases student achievement by elevating teacher and principal quality through recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies. The program uses scientifically based professional development interventions and holds schools accountable for improvements in student academic performance.

Title II D – Improves student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. It is also designated to assist every student in becoming technologically literate by the end of eighth grade and to encourage the effective integration of technology resources and systems with teacher training and professional development.

Title III – Provides language instruction assistance for limited English proficient and immigration students so they may meet the Standards of Learning for all students.

Title IV – Supports programs to prevent violence in and around schools; prevent the illegal use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco by young people; and foster a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports academic achievement.

Title IX – part of a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any aspect of the educational program.

Title V – Supports state and local efforts to implement promising education reform programs, provide a continuing source of innovation and educational improvement, help meet the special education needs of at-risk and high-need students, and support programs to improve school, student, and teacher performance.

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.

Transition – Process of preparing kids to function in future environments and emphasizing movement from one educational program to another, such as from elementary school to middle school, or from school to work

whole language – A teaching method that focuses on reading for meaning in context.

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