Your Guide to Education Lingo

Your Guide to Education Lingo
The SHARE Team August 24, 2018

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Educational terminology can be overwhelming with so many acronyms and buzzwords to remember. So we’ve created a must-know list of education lingo for your reference.

1:1: One laptop or device for each student in a class or school. For more on this, check out 8 Strategies to Manage the 21st Century Classroom.

21st-Century Skills: A blanket term for skills of the future. “The term ‘21st-century skills’ is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world,” according to Education Week.

504 Plan: A plan for services, accommodations, and access for a student with a disability. A 504 plan is different from an IEP, which qualifies a student for special education services (see IEP below). Students with a 504 cannot also have an IEP, and a 504 plan transfers to college.

ADD/ADHD: Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Check out Psychology Today’s article, which explains both of them in detail.


  • Formative: Evaluates student learning at the beginning or during a unit. Provides information for the teacher and learner about what needs to be covered/adjusted. There are many helpful formative assessment tools to check for understanding and alter your teaching to better guide students in their learning.
  • Summative: Evaluates student learning at the end of a unit. This could be a final exam or essay, but there are also many benefits to providing alternative summative assessments.

Backward Design: Designing curriculum backward by starting with the outcomes, assessments, and goals first. For more on this, check out How to Make Student Assessments Useful and Productive.

BYOD: Bring your own device, which comes with pros and cons.

CCLS: Common Core Learning Standards, used in over 41 states.

Charter School: A school that is privately run, operates independently of the state school system, and receives public school funding. For more information, learn about the charter school debate and read this interview with three charter experts.

Classroom Management: How an educator runs their classroom with regard to behavior and routines. Check out our 5 tips for better classroom management.

Co-Teaching/Collaborative Teaching/Team Teaching: When teams work together either in content teams or as co-teachers in the same classroom.

Design Thinking: The Design Thinking process, from Stanford University, involves five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. In classrooms, students can learn to solve problems, invent, and create solutions by using the same process as the world’s inventors and thinkers.

ELL: English Language Learner. There are many strategies and best practices to utilize when teaching ELLs.

ESL/ESOL: English as a Second Language/English for Speakers of Other Languages. ESOL instructional strategies can be utilized to effectively teach this student group.

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.

Flipped Classroom: Vanderbilt University explains the flipped classroom as learning where “students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates.”

Growth Mindset: Dr. Carol Dweck invented the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to explain the beliefs people have about their ability to learn and grow. Students with a growth mindset believe that they can improve through hard work, thrive on challenge, and see failure as an opportunity to do better. For teachers, there are many ways you can build a growth mindset.

GT/G&T: Gifted and Talented. Here’s a brief history of Gifted and Talented education.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1975

IEP: Individualized Education Plan — a personalized document that is developed for an individual student who needs access to special education services.

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education

IT: Instructional Technology. Technology is often used to address different issues and needs in education.

LMS: Learning Management System — software used by schools to track grades, deliver curriculum, offer or evaluate courses, etc.

LOTE: Languages Other Than English. You can learn more by reading about inclusion in the LOTE classroom.

Makerspaces: Makerspaces encourage students to try, fail, and try again — just as the world’s most amazing innovators do in their labs and studios every day. Makerspaces range from elaborate fabrication shops to small carts full of craft supplies. Read more about Makerspaces here.

Metacognition: Thinking about thinking, or reflecting upon one’s learning experience. This method of self-awareness helps students learn how to reflect upon their learning process. Metacognition can be done through writing, reflection exercises, vlogging, or even through meditation.

MOOC: Massive Open Online Courses are online courses open to anyone.

NAEP: The National Assessment of Educational Progress is an assessment measuring American students’ progress in different subjects. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, the NAEP has been around since 1969.

NCLB: The No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 and was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. It bolstered the federal government’s role in ensuring that schools are demonstrating academic progress. It demanded that schools boost performance for underrepresented groups like ELLs, special education students, and minorities, and states/schools could lose their Title 1 funding if they did not participate.

NEA: National Education Association

NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards, essentially the science arm of the Common Core Learning Standards.

Open Source: A movement to provide education materials online for free. Check out this resource roundup.

PARCC: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a group of states and other groups that utilize a set of K-12 standards and CCLS-aligned standardized exams (owned by Pearson) in math and English.

PBL: Project-Based Learning, where students learn through a long-term project; or Problem-Based Learning, where students learn through solving a problem or question.

PD/PL: Professional Development or Professional Learning

PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment. Tests are given to 15-year-old students in a number of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries on mathematics, science, reading, financial literacy, and collaborative problem-solving. First done in 2000 and repeated every 3 years, the PISA tests serve as an evaluative comparison of education by country.

PLN/PLC: A Personal Learning Network or Professional Learning Community commonly refers to your work colleagues or education connections made on social media or through organizations.

Race to the Top/RTTT/R2T: A “$4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is the largest-ever federal competitive investment in school reform. It will reward states for past accomplishments, create incentives for future improvements, and challenge states to create comprehensive strategies for addressing the four central areas of reform that will drive school improvement,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Scaffolding: An instruction method where a teacher models or offers supports and then steps back to allow students to try it on their own. “For example, in teaching a child to ride a bike, the training wheels serve as one scaffold. The adult running alongside the bike serves as another. In other words, the adult handles the harder parts temporarily, while allowing the child to try out the easier parts,” according to Guided Instruction by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.

SEL: Social-Emotional Learning — According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Read more about SEL here.

Standards-Based Grading: A grading system where a subject is broken down into smaller goals and learning is assessed through each smaller target. Example: “I can find the central idea in a work of fiction.”

STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Read more about the importance of art and humanities in STEAM.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Learn about the history of STEM.

TESOL/TESL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Teaching English as a Second Language.

Title 1: Federal funding provided to schools with high percentages of low-income students to help learners meet educational standards.

UDL: Universal Design for Learning is a method for learning and teaching that incorporates brain science to provide flexibility and the removal of obstacles so that all learners can succeed.

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