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Glossary

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-A-

Ability grouping: Selection or classification of students for schools, classes, or other educational programs based on differences in ability or achievement.

Accountability: Holding governing bodies, districts, schools, and students responsible for student success as well as the efficient and effective use of money and other resources.  Also implies public reporting of measures and results.

Achievement gap: Persistent differences in achievement among different groups of students as indicated by scores on standardized tests, teacher grades, and other data.  Usually refers to disparities in achievement levels of student groups based on race, ethnicity or family income.

Achievement tests: Tests used to measure knowledge, understanding, or skills acquired from academic work.  Results are used to provide information about the strengths and weaknesses of individual students in addition to those of academic programs. They are sometimes used to compare the scores of individual students and schools with others.

ACT: Formerly known as the American College Test, but now known only by its acronym, ACT is one of two major tests used for college admissions. State institutions vary in their preference for the ACT or its competitor, the SAT, also known only by its acronym.

Activity fund: A fund containing monies received and distributed for certain activities within the school district, such as PTA/PTO funds, candy sales, and club or class treasuries.

ADA: See Americans with Disabilities Act

Adequate yearly progress (AYP):  An individual state’s measure of annual progress toward achieving state academic standards. School districts and schools are required to meet this minimum standard under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the law, state standards will be met when all students meet the target for proficiency.  

Advanced placement programs (AP): A series of courses administered by the College Board that high school students can take to earn college credit.  Students must master a generally high level of coursework and pass an accompanying test.

Affirmative action plan: Voluntary or court-imposed plan under which school districts give certain preferences to individuals in a specified minority or under-represented groups when making employment and contracting decisions.

After school programs: see Extended day learning opportunities

Alternative schools:
Schools that are different in one or more ways from traditional public schools, often used to describe schools designed primarily for students who have been unsuccessful in regular schools, either because of disabilities or behavioral/emotional difficulties, but who may be able to achieve in a different setting.

Alignment:
A process to ensure that all district resources are prioritized and allocated according to student achievement goals.  Examples of these resources are curriculum, staffing, staff development, instructional materials, textbooks, technology, and supplemental services.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A federal law that prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in all terms and conditions of employment and requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for disabled applicants and employees, unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would create "undue hardship" for the organization. (Note: ADA can also stand for "average daily attendance.") See also Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Appropriation, line item: Authorization granted by a governing body to make specific expenditures and incur obligations for a specific purpose (such as paying salaries or utilities) that appears as a budget line item.

Aptitude tests:
Tests that are used to predict future performance, as well as tests that are intended to measure abilities that test designers allege have not been developed by formal training.

Arts: See Fine arts.

At risk students: Students or groups that have a higher likelihood of academic failure—broad categories often include those who are not fluent in English; inner-city, low-income, and homeless children; and special needs students with emotional or behavioral difficulties.

Audit: Formal examination and verification of financial accounts. It is also sometimes referred to as a "program examination" or "verification of results."

Average Daily Attendance (ADA): Average of the number of students present at (as opposed to enrolled in) a school during the time it is in session.

Average Daily Membership (ADM): Average of the number of students registered or enrolled (as opposed to attendance) in a school during the time it is in session.

AYP: See "Adequate yearly progress"

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Benchmark:  A detailed description of a specific level of student performance expected of students at particular ages, grades, or development levels.  A set of benchmarks can be used a “checkpoints” to monitor progress toward meeting performance goals within and across grade levels.

Bilingual education: Instruction in which a student's home language is used in addition to English.

Block grants: Federal or state funding distributed in a lump sum ("block") directly to states or localities for the states or localities to administer and direct programs.

Block scheduling:
A way of organizing the school day into blocks of time longer than the typical 50-minute class period.  Students take as many courses as before (sometimes more), but the courses either do not meet everyday or do not run the entire school year.  One block schedule used in some secondary schools, known as 4 x 4, has four 90-minute classes a day with course changes every 45 days.

Bond: Written promise, generally under seal, to pay a specified sum of money ("face value") at a fixed time in the future ("date of maturity") and carrying interest at a fixed rate, usually payable periodically; it is often used by school districts to raise construction money.

Brown v. Board of Education:
The case heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1954 in which racial segregation in public schools was held to be unconstitutional.

Budget, appropriation: A budget characterized by the designation of sums available for specific expenditure items; its adoption automatically authorizes the listed expenditure items.

Budget, capital outlay: Proposed program for financing construction, additions to facilities, or other permanent improvements; it usually contains priorities and a timetable for completion.

Budget, functional: A budget that uses a line-item or traditional format to group proposed expenditures according to general activities or the action performed. Examples of functional categories are administration, instruction, pupil personnel services, operation, and maintenance.

Budget, operating, or general fund budget: A budget that groups proposed expenditures according to certain categories known as the "objects" of the expenditures. On each line of the budget, expenses are listed in exactly the way they are paid out: Examples: "Supplies" would be one object and "utilities" would be another object.

Bullying:
Cruelty and intimidation by teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting, stealing, excluding, ignoring, posting hostile online messages, etc.

Bylaws: Code or collection of rules adopted by a board or other body for regulating its own organization and proceedings; these must not conflict with the statute or charter by which the board is created, but they may go into further detail to carry out the intent of the statute or charter.

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Capital outlay: Expenditure that results in acquiring fixed assets or additions to fixed assets, such as land, buildings, and fixed equipment.

Career education: Education designed to prepare students for lifelong learning, work, and careers; career education includes career awareness, exploration, decision-making, and planning; basic academic skills; basic employability skills; and understandings and applications of the meaning, satisfaction, and productivity of paid and unpaid work.

Carnegie unit: The unit of time spent in a course over a year. Carnegie units are typically used to award credit in secondary schools.  

Certification (teaching): Process by which a state or approved board authorizes a person to teach in public schools; also called licensure.

Character education: Teaching children about basic human values including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, equality, tolerance, and respect.  Problem solving, conflict resolution, and service learning are often integral parts of a comprehensive character education program.

Charter school: A school operating under charter or contract with school districts, state education agencies, or other public institutions designated by groups of parents, teachers, administrators, or other members of the community, and often operating with increased autonomy from outside controls and requirements.

Choice:  see School Choice

Citizen commission or committee: See Committee, advisory.

Classroom aide: See Paraprofessional.

Closed session: See Executive session.

Co-curricular activities: School-sponsored activities or courses for students in addition to required subjects.

Cognitive style: Individual habits for processing information that represent the learner’s typical modes of perceiving, thinking, remembering, and problem solving.

Collective bargaining: The process, usually set by law, used by a group of organized employees and their employer to negotiate a mutually acceptable written work agreement on certain specified subjects.

Committee, advisory: Group chosen to prepare recommendations on an education-related program or issue. Such a committee does not have final decision-making power, rather it offers advice to legally constituted administrative officials.   It is also referred to as a citizen committee or commission.

Committee, standing: A regularly constituted committee of a school board (or a similar body), such as a finance committee or a buildings committee. Members are usually appointed for a specified period of time.

Committee, steering: A committee that is responsible for overall determination (and sometimes implementation) of policies in connection with a project or activity that is to be undertaken. Such a committee is generally representative of the various interest involved in the project or activity and may function on a national, state, or local level.

Common Core of Data (CCD): The data base of public school and school district data annually collected by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. CCD contains fiscal and non-fiscal data about all public schools, public school districts and state education agencies in the United States. The data base includes descriptive information, including school and district name, address, and phone number; information about students and staff, including demographics and enrollments; and fiscal data, including revenues and current expenditures.

Content standards:  Standards that define what students should know and be able to do as a result of instruction. Content standards are specified in various subject areas, such as mathematics and science.

Continuing education: Courses offering educational opportunities at any point in life, often without required prerequisite courses. Courses may be very basic or at interim or postdoctoral levels.

Contracted services: See Privatization.

Corporal punishment: Disciplinary action using physical force; not allowed by law in many states.

Credit hour: A quantitative measure of instructional courses. See Carnegie Unit.

Criterion Referenced assessment: An assessment where an individual’s performance is compared to a specific learning objective or performance standard and not to the performance of other students.  Criterion-referenced assessment tells us how well students are performing on specific goals or standards rather than just how their performance compares to a norm groups of students nationally or locally.

Curriculum:  Plan incorporating a structured series of intended learning outcomes and associated learning experiences—generally organized as a related combination or series of courses.

Cyberschools:  see Online learning.

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Data-driven decision making: Analyzing varied forms of data to identify educational strengths and/or areas needing improvement, plan for and implement improvements in student achievement as well as monitor trends, and use this information to make decisions about the effectiveness of continuation or changes in district practices, curriculum, programs, procedures, and policies.

De facto segregation: Separation (usually racial) that is neither the result of nor created by law but that exists in fact.

Demographic data: Information describing the students and citizens of a school district; usually includes such characteristics as race, age, gender, income, educational level, birth rate, and profession.

Distance learning:  Any learning that occurs remotely from the instructional source, such as online learning, correspondence courses, and audio conferencing. (See also Online learning.)

District/division: Refers to a governmental unit of the state created by the state as the instrument through which the legislature carries out its constitutional mandate to provide for a system of K-12 public education.

Diversity:  Variation within a population of such characteristics as race, religion, gender, cultural background, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.

Dress codes:  Regulations governing personal dress and appearance for students and frequently for school staff.

Drug testing:  Screening for drug use or abuse by the quantitative determination of drug metabolites in the blood, urine, tissue, and other indicators.

Due process (procedural): An orderly, established process or set of procedures (1) for arriving at an impartial and just resolution of a conflict between parties or (2) that must be followed before a person can be deprived of certain legal rights. In its most basic form, it includes the elements of notice and fair hearing.

Due process (substantive): Constitutional guarantee that no person can be arbitrarily deprived of life, liberty, or property. Its essence is protection from arbitrary and unreasonable action.

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Early childhood education: Formal educational activities and/or experiences for children, from birth through the grade 3.

Education policy:  Governing principles that serve as guidelines or rules for decision-making and action in setting and achieving educational objectives.

Educational Testing Service (ETS): Nationwide organization that administers various kinds of educational and psychological tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Entitlements (legislative): Commitments of federal funds in accordance with a formula that requires payments to be made automatically to specified classes of recipients who meet certain eligibility criteria. Funding for entitlement programs goes through the budgetary appropriations process, but the level of funding depends on the original legislation rather than on an annual appropriation. The best-known entitlement program is Social Security.  Many entitlement programs employing formulas are subject to annual appropriations. See also Formula.

Equity:  Fairness or justice, usually referring to the equitable distribution or something valued.  In education, it refers to the fair distribution of funding, technology, facilities, services, and equal educational opportunities for all students.

Ethics, Codes of:  Policy statements of the rules of ethical conduct for public officials in their official capacity.  Codes of ethics for school board members have been promulgated by NSBA, by numerous state school boards associations, and by many individual school districts.

ETS: See Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Executive session: Board meeting that, by law, is not open to the public, usually dealing with personnel matters, negotiations strategy, or legal strategy; also referred to as a closed session.

Ex-officio member: Usually a member of a school board or similar body holding a seat by virtue of holding another elective or appointive office, sometimes by virtue of former membership on the board or group. (Ex officio means "from or because of office" in Latin) The person is usually a nonvoting member.

Extended day learning opportunities:  Extended-day programs—also called “after-school programs”—offer an organized activity or place for children to go after school every day that provides opportunities for them to learn. 

Extracurricular: Activities of students, teams, or clubs that are not considered part of (and, therefore, outside of) the school curriculum.

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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): A federal law requiring employers covered by the act to grant eligible employees up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave a year for on employee's own serious health condition, to care for certain family members with serious health conditions, or following the birth or adoption of a child; employees returning from such leave are entitled to be restored to their some or similar position.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA):
A federal law that gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. 

Finance reform: A change in income/revenue sources or in money management methods, designed to remove inequities or other faults in existing systems.

Fine arts: Curricular subjects that include theatre, dance, music, and visual arts.

Fixed-salary schedule: An established plan for paying salaries to teachers, supervisors, and administrators according to a defined scale of increases that depends on length of service and amount of professional preparation.

Formula: Under certain state and federal programs, this is the method used to divide appropriated funds equitably among jurisdictions. It does so using specified portions derived from criteria such as population, per capita income, or the relative prevalence of the problem intended to be solved.

Foundations, education:
Education foundations are privately operated, nonprofit organizations established to assist public schools.  They qualify as charitable organizations and are designed to augment, supplement, or complement programs and activities currently being provided by the district. 

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Gender bias:
Conscious or unconscious differential treatment, whether in textbooks, classrooms, or the workplace, of females or males based on their sex.

Gifted and Talented Education:
Programs for students with exceptional intellectual, creative and other abilities whose learning characteristics require differentiated educational experiences and/or services.  Eligibility criteria are defined by each state.

Governance:  The policy-making, objective-setting, and exercise of authority in an organization, institution, or agency--includes administrative or management functions to the extent that they relate to the executive of policy and authority.

Grandfather clause: A provision of law exempting certain parties from changed or increased standards of a new law; it is often used in statutes governing certification, contract, and retirement requirements. A clause or provision may be referred to as being "grandfathered-in."

Grant-in-aid: A financial grant, frequently paid periodically, made by a government or agency to assist in a general or special purpose, such as a grant by the federal government or a state to a school district to promote vocational education. It usually requires a preliminary or matching contribution and requires the grant recipient to meet certain criteria. 

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Head Start:  A federal program, established as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty agenda, that provides economically disadvantaged preschoolers with education, nutrition, health, and social services at special centers based in schools and community settings throughout the country.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA):  A federal health insurance-related act that has privacy rule implications for school districts.

Heterogeneous grouping: Organizing students of varying achievement levels or needs in the same classroom (the opposite of homogeneous grouping).   

Homebound instruction: Individual teaching in a child's home by a traveling teacher; it provides for education of students with disabilities who are unable to attend school. See also Home schooling.

Home schooling:  Provision of compulsory education in the home as an alternative to traditional public/private schooling—often motivated by parental desire to exclude their children from the traditional school environment.

Homogeneous grouping:  Organizing students for instruction on the basis of one or more common characteristics.  Most frequently, homogeneous groups are created on the basis of student achievement.

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-I-

IDEA: See Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Inclusion: Educating children with disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate along with children without disabilities. The concept advances the belief that separate schooling, special classes, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services can't be satisfactorily achieved.

Individualized Education Programs (IEP): Educational programs for individual students, each geared to the particular student’s needs and conducted in accordance with a written plan agreed on between the student (and/or parents) and school officials—IEPs were originally conceived for use in educating disabled children and were gradually expanded to include all special needs groups.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): A federal funding statute requiring schools that receive monies under this law to provide a free, appropriate public education to all eligible children with disabilities. See also Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Initiative: In government, a procedure by which a specified number of voters may propose a statute, constitutional amendment, or ordinance; additionally, it is the general right to present a new legislative bill.

In-service training: A general term used to describe efforts to promote employees' professional growth and development while on the job; see also Professional Development.

Intelligence quotient (lQ): A scale unit used in reporting test scores that attempt to measure "general intelligence." It represents a ratio between tested mental age to chronological age. 

Interdisciplinary instruction: An instructional process that combines information from two or more subject areas or creates a team situation that allows teachers from different academic disciplines to cooperatively plan, teach, and evaluate the progress of their students. See also Team teaching.

International Baccalaureate (IB):  A rigorous, pre-university course of study that leads to examinations accepted by more than 100 countries for university admission.   Schools must meet certain criteria to offer IB curriculum and to administer the examination.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS):  General achievement tests, designed to measure how well a student has learned the basic knowledge and  skills that are taught in elementary and middle schools in areas such as reading and mathematics.

IQ: See Intelligence quotient (lQ)

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Language arts: The skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Learning disabilities:  Disorders in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language.  They may show up as problems in listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling, or in the ability to do math, despite at least average intelligence.  The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or physical handicaps, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Learning resource center. A specially designed area containing a wide range of supplies and equipment for use by individual pupils or small groups pursuing independent study. Frequently it provides library books, computer stations, audiovisual equipment and supplies, maps models, and spaces to study, preview films, and hold meetings.

Lesson plan: A teaching outline of the important points of a lesson arranged in the order in which they are to be presented; it may include objectives, points to be made, questions to ask, references to materials, assignments, and evaluation methods or tools.

Limited English Proficient (LEP) students:  Students who are reasonably fluent in another language but who have not yet achieved comparable mastery in reading, writing, understanding, or speaking English.  LEP students are often assigned to bilingual education or English-as-a-second-language classes (ESL) classes.  English Language Learners (ELL) is a  current term many use instead of LEP.

Local-site councils/school councils: A group with the delegated authority of shared decision-making at the school-building level that is accountable to the public through the school board.

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Mainstreaming:  The practice of placing students with disabilities into regular classrooms.  The students usually also receive some supplementary assistance and instruction in separate classrooms.  Programs in which students with disabilities spend all or nearly all of their time in regular classrooms are called inclusion or full inclusion programs.

Magnet school: A school that places special emphasis on academic achievement or on a particular field such as science or the arts, designed to attract students on a voluntary basis from all parts of a school district—often used to aid in achieving diversity in the school population.

Master teacher: Someone possessing demonstrated, high-level teaching skills; a master teacher would be selected to serve as a supervising teacher or to lead a team teaching group. Sometimes known as a lead teacher.

Matching funds (legislative): A financial support program (usually a grant) in which the federal government seeks to create an incentive for developing needed programs at the state or local level by offering to "match" state or local funds allocated for the same purpose; private groups and foundations also offer matching funds.

Mediation: An attempt by a neutral party to resolve a dispute out of court by persuading the contending parties to adjust or settle their differences.

Merit pay:  Any of a number of plans to pay teachers and administrators on the basis of their demonstrated competence.  Also known as Pay for Performance.

Multimedia: Combined use of several kinds of media in instructional presentations, such as a combination of videotapes, CD-ROMs, slides, and television.

Multi-age grouping:  The practice of having children of different ages in the same classroom, rather than assigning them to age-graded classrooms.

Multicultural education:  An approach to education that looks beyond a curriculum based on the Western European tradition; it takes into account various cultural, ethnic, racial, and gender history, traditions, and perspectives. 

Multiple intelligences: 
A theory of intelligence developed in the 1980s by Howard Gardner, who defined intelligence broadly as “the capacity to solve problems or fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings.”  Gardner originally identified seven intelligences:  linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  He later suggested the existence of several others, including naturalist, spiritual, and existential.  According to Gardner, these intelligences exist in different proportions in everyone.

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NAEP: See National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP):  A national testing program administered by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education that tests representative samples of 4th, 8th, and 12th grade students in reading, math, science, writing and other subjects.  Known as “the nation’s report card,” NAEP provides data on achievement over time (since 1969) and allows for regional, state-by-state, and some district comparisons of student performance.

National Board Certification: A voluntary nationwide system for certifying accomplished, experienced teachers in specific subject matter areas and student age groupings awarded by the independent, nonprofit National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  Teachers apply for national certification, which complements, but does not replace, state licensing.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB):  This reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) places comprehensive accountability requirements on all states that accept federal education funding, with sanctions for schools and districts that do not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward proficiency in English/language arts and mathematics, or fail to test 95% of all students and all significant subgroups.

Norm-referenced tests:  Tests used to describe an individual’s performance in relation to the performance of others on the same test. 

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Open meeting laws:  All 50 states have passed these laws, often referred to as “sunshine laws,” to require state and local officials to conduct their business in open sessions subject to press and public scrutiny.  These laws prohibit private or closed meetings except in exceptional circumstances, such as sessions to discuss legal, personnel, or contract negotiation issues.

Online learning:  Any learning experience or environment that relies upon the Internet/World Wide Web as the primary delivery mode of interactive communication and presentation.

Opportunity-to-learn standards:  Standards that state the conditions and resources necessary to give all students an equal chance to meet performance standards, for example. qualified teachers, access to rigorous curriculum, and funding.

Outcome-based education: Student-centered, results oriented instructional design created on the basis of students' mastery of prescribed leaning outcomes or academic goals.

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Paraprofessional: Individual not licensed as a teacher who assists teachers in nonteaching tasks, such as clerical work and student supervision. Also referred to as a teacher aide or classroom aide.

Parent-teacher conference: Discussion held among an individual student's parents and teacher(s). Such conferences are frequently organized to include several teachers as a way of providing a school wide perspective on the student's progress.

Percentile: A statistical term indicating the ranking of a score on a standardized test. If a student scores in the 50th percentile on a test, for example, that means that half of all persons tested scored higher than that student and half scored lower.

Performance levels: Defined score points on formal assessments; for example, work on an exam, portfolio, or assessment might be evaluated at performance levels such as “advanced, proficient, basic, or below basic.”

Performance standards:  Explicit definitions of what students must do to demonstrate proficiency at a specific level on the content standards.

Phonics: A method of teaching reading that begins by having students learn the sounds of letters or groups of letters and building words from them.

Physical plant: The land, buildings, and improvements of school campuses, athletic fields, and other plots used for the activities of a university, college, or school. The physical plant includes buildings for instruction and administration, libraries, gymnasiums, dormitories, power plants, and all other school-owned buildings, as well as equipment and furniture in the buildings.

Policy: Statement adopted officially by a school board or an administrative agency outlining principles to be followed in specific matters. It usually requires rules or regulations to be formulated for it to be implemented and is broad enough to provide for administrative decisions about the manner in which it will be put in place although its implementation in some manner is mandatory. See Administrative rule/regulation.

Portfolio:  A systematic and organized collection of a student’s work throughout a course or class year.  It can exemplify and document the student’s learning progress, knowledge, and skills, as well as encourage self-reflection.

Preschool education:  Formal educational experiences for children from birth to entrance in kindergarten or grade 1.   See also Early childhood education.

Privatization: Going into the marketplace to hire individuals or companies with special skills or services to help the school system operate such programs as transportation, food service, cleaning services, tutoring, or instruction. Also known as contracted services.

Professional development: In-service training designed to help school employees, especially teachers, add to or strengthen the specialized knowledge and skills they draw upon in the conduct of their profession.

Program examination: See Audit.

Programmed instruction: Educational materials such as texts, computers, and audiovisual aids that are arranged in a logical sequence. A student may, individually or as part of a group, progress at his or her own rate; learning is reinforced by immediate awareness that the student is accurate or that the student is inaccurate and needs help.

Public engagement:  Involving members of the public in understanding public education and also providing for their active participation in decision making.

Pupil/teacher ratio: Average number of pupils per teacher in a school district or school.

Psychomotor skills: Skills developed by individuals that relate to their physical coordination in performing prescribed tasks.

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Quartile: One-quarter range of percentiles; a student with a test placement of 75 or better (out of 100) would be in the first  or top quartile.

Quorum: Minimum number of members required to be present for action to be taken in a legislative body or governing body.

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Reconstitution:  A drastic corrective action for a school whose students have performed poorly over time and have failed to improve.  A reconstitution is marked by the replacement of the majority of the school’s staff as well as its principal.

Referendum: Process of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.

Remedial instruction: Procedure used to teach students whose performance is judged to be below normal in a given subject; remedying below normal performance.

Resolution: Formal expression of opinion or intention, usually by vote of a formal organization such as a legislature, club, or other group.

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Sabbatical/sabbatical teaching year: A leave or absence, with full or partial compensation, to be used for self-improvement following a designated number of consecutive years of service.

SAT:  Formerly known as the Scholastic Assessment Test but now known by its acronym, the SAT is one of two major college admissions tests.  The other is the ACT.

School choice:  The option given to students and their parents to choose public or private schools, alternative programs, or different school systems, sometimes made possible through magnet schools, open enrollment, tax credits, vouchers, or other arrangements.

School Climate:  The sum of the values, cultures, practices, attitudes, relationship patterns,  and organizational structures within a school that create its characteristic environment.  Sometimes referred to as school culture.

School health services:  Services provided for students designed to ensure access and/or referral to primary health care services, foster appropriate use of primary health care services, prevent and control communicable diseases and other health problems, provide emergency care for illness or injury, and provide educational and counseling opportunities for promoting and maintaining individual, family, and community health.

Service learning: The incorporation of active community service requirements into a structured curriculum that emphasizes the connections between service experiences, citizenship values, and academic learning.  In some school districts it is a mandatory requirement for graduation.

Site-based (or school-based) management: A school management system in which certain authority is reallocated from a centralized organizational structure to its decentralized components - the individual schools. Site-based management usually preserves the role of the building principal in the organizational hierarchy.  See also Local-site councils.

Social promotion: Moving a student to the next higher grade level even if he or she has not attained the expected level of academic achievement in the current grade level.

Special education: Specially designed instruction provided, at no cost to parents, to meet the individualized needs of children with disabilities.  Also refers generally to educational programs and services for disabled and/or gifted individuals who have intellectually, physically, emotionally, or socially different characteristics from those who can be taught through conventional methods or materials.

Sponsor (legislative): A legislator who submits a bill to the legislature or who joins with a group of legislators in supporting and submitting a bill.

Standardized test: Assessment instrument administered, under similar controlled circumstances, to many individuals.

Standards:  The broadest family of terms referring to statements of expectations for student learning, including content standards, performance standards, benchmarks, and opportunity-to-learn standards.

Strategic planning:  Process of continuous planning for change, which assesses an organization’s or program’s internal and external environment, analyzes the implications or relevant trends, and identifies effective strategies for achieving a desired future state.

Student rights:  The guarantee of protection of students against improper institutional actions or decisions in such areas as academic freedom, due process, disclosure of records, discrimination, or violation of civil liberties or citizenship rights.

Student teacher: College student assigned to a school through a teacher education program to observe and to do directed teaching under the supervision of a certified teacher.

Study circles: A model for community engagement. A series of small groups of citizens meet in homes, churches, community centers, businesses, and schools to discuss and weigh the costs and consequences for several choices associated with a particular issue.

Support staff: Employees who provide administrative, technical, and logistical support to a school or education program.

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Takeover:  A controversial accountability measure in which a state legislature, a state board of education or a federal court charges the state department of education or another designated entity (such as a mayor) with managing a school district.  The level of state control and local influence in takeovers varies from state to state.

Tangible property: Something that has physical existence and an intrinsic value, such as real estate or automobiles. Compare Intangible property.

Tax base: Assessed value of local real estate that a school district may tax for yearly operational monies.

Tax levy: Total sum to be raised by a tax; or the legislative measure by which an annual or general tax is imposed.

Tax rate: The amount of tax paid for each increment (usually $100) of assessed value of property.

Teacher aide: See Paraprofessional.

Team teaching: Two or more teachers cooperatively planning, teaching, and evaluating the progress of their students. See also Interdisciplinary Instruction.

Tenure: Guaranteed job security, in some states granted by law to teachers after a specified number of years of satisfactory service; it cannot be rescinded except for specified reasons.

Title I:  A federally funded program designed to improve the academic achievement of poor and disadvantaged children in elementary and secondary schools.  It originated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and is now encompassed by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  Funds from Title I are used to provide educational services to students who are educationally disadvantaged or at risk of failing to meet state standards.
   
Title IX [of the Education Amendments of 1972]: A provision of federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally assisted education programs and extracurricular activities.

Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]:  A provision of federal law protecting people from  discrimination,  exclusion from participation, or denial of  benefits from any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Education on the basis of their race, color, or national origin. 

Tracking: Practice of grouping students in curricular paths by achievement levels, for example, college preparatory or vocational. See also Homogeneous grouping.

Transcript: Official copy of a student's academic record; also the official copy of verbatim proceedings of a meeting or hearing.

Tuition tax credits and deductions:  Programs that provide taxpayers, mostly parents, with a discount from their tax obligations for the tuition they pay to send a child to a private K-12 school. 

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Unfunded mandates: Federal legislative and regulatory provisions that require school district compliance but do not provide funding to cover the costs of carrying them out.

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Values education: Transmission of values, such as respect for others, civility, empathy, and fairness. Also known as character education or ethics education.

Virtual schools: see Online learning.

Vocational education: Technical education for various trades or occupations that often results in trade certification.

Voucher plan: A plan to allocate and distribute education monies directly to parents to pay the cost of their children's education in a public or private school of their choice.

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Whole language approach: An instructional strategy that emphasizes reading for meaning and the wholeness of words and text to a greater extent than the process of  breaking down of words into sound-letter patterns. See also Phonics.

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Year-round education:  A modified school calendar that gives students short breaks throughout the year, instead of a traditional three-month summer break.

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