Do You Know Your ABCs? (of Education Policy)

In honor of back to school, we here at the Center for Education and Workforce thought we’d dust off our Education-ary publication to review some the ‘ABCs’ of education policy. Created in 2010, this publication serves as a good resource for those who want a quick and easy reference to learn what all of those education policy terms and acronyms mean. While the list below is by no means comprehensive, we thought this is a good start to clear some of the cobwebs that may have formed in our heads due to long days at the pool or at the beach with the kids. For a full list of terms, visit our Education-ary online.

"A" is for Accountability

Holding key individuals and groups responsible for student achievement through the systematic collection, analysis, use, and reporting of valid and reliable information.

"B" is for Benchmark

A detailed description of a specific level of performance expected of students at particular ages, grades, or developmental levels. As standards against which performance can be measured, benchmarks are often used as checkpoints to monitor student progress in meeting performance goals within and across grade levels.

"C" is for Career Cluster

A term used in career and technical education referring to a grouping of careers that share a significant number of knowledge and skills requirements. Students take courses common to these careers prior to reaching the end of their desired program.

"D" is for Disaggregated Data

Data that is analyzed and reported by subgroups of students. For instance, rather than reporting the overall achievement of all students, disaggregated data might present student achievement scores by gender, race, age, and language proficiency.

"E" is for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The foremost federal education law that describes federal requirements for the nation’s public schools, most of which receive some form of aid under the statute. First enacted in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson, ESEA is revised every five to seven years. The original Act authorized Title I, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Title VII programs. The latest revision, passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law by the Bush administration in 2002, is known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

"F" is for Formative Assessment

An evaluation tool used to guide and monitor the progress of student learning during instruction. Formative assessments diagnose skill and knowledge gaps, measure progress, and evaluate instruction.

"G" is for Grade Inflation

An increase in students’ grades without an accompanying increase in their academic achievement.

"H" is for Head Start

A federally sponsored comprehensive child development program serving children from birth to age five, pregnant women, and their families. Established in 1965, Head Start and Early Head Start are intended to foster the healthy development of low-income children to help them succeed in school. Head Start grantee and delegate agencies offer a range of individualized services in the areas of education and early childhood development, dental and mental health, nutrition, and parent involvement.

"I" is for Independent School

A private school that is not part of a school system and is funded by tuition and private grants. It must hold a nonprofit status and be accredited by a state or regional education association.

"J" is for Junior College

A two-year postsecondary school whose main purpose is to provide academic, vocational, and professional education.

"K" is for K-12 education

A term for the sum of primary and secondary education.

"L" is for Longitudinal Data Systems

The means by which a state may track a single student’s achievement history across multiple years, across different schools and school districts, and possibly into college or the workforce.

"M" is for Merit Pay

Any of a number of plans to pay teachers based on their demonstrated competence in teaching, rather than on their number of years in the profession. Also referred to as performance pay.

"N" is for National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

A national testing program administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education and referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.” Since 1969, NAEP tests have been administered periodically in reading, math, science, writing, history, and geography. The primary NAEP assessment allows for regional and state-by-state comparisons of the reading and mathematics attainment of 4th and 8th grade students.

"O" is for Out-of-Field Teaching

A practice in which teachers are assigned to teach subjects outside of their training or certification area.

"P" is for Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K)

A class or program preceding kindergarten for children usually from three to four years old. Also known as preschool and nursery school.

"Q" is for the 'Quotient' in Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

A measure of the intelligence of an individual derived from results obtained from specially designed tests. The quotient is traditionally derived by dividing an individual's mental age by his chronological age and multiplying the result by 100.

"R" is for Retention

End-of-year policy that prevents the promotion of students with failing grades to the next grade level.

"S" is for Standards

Specific criteria for what students are expected to learn and be able to do.

"T" is for Title I

Part of ESEA, this is the largest federal aid program for elementary and secondary schools. The Title I program provides money to school systems based on the number of low-income families in each district. Support may be awarded for school-wide programs or for targeted assistance programs.

"U" is for U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education is a cabinet level department of the United States. Created by the Department of Education Organization Act, signed into law by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the Department of Education identifies major issues in education and shifts national interest to them. The Department creates federal education policy and administers, distributes, and monitors funding. Additionally, the Department gathers data and oversees research on American schools.

"V" is for Voucher

A state allocation of money given to parents to allow their children to attend a school of the parents’ choice, either public or private.

"W" is for Work-Based Learning

Education opportunities that reinforce core curriculum subjects through internships, apprenticeships, or other programs that place the student in a real-life work environment.

"X" is for Xi

Fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. (Okay, I’m reaching here)

"Y" is for Year-Round Schooling

A modified school calendar that offers short breaks throughout the academic year, rather than the traditional summer vacation. Schools may use a year-round schedule for a variety of reasons, including staggering schedules to relieve crowding. Others believe that shorter gaps between schooling will help students better retain material.

"Z" is for Zero Tolerance

Policies that mandate predetermined consequences or punishments for a specific offense regardless of the circumstances surrounding it.