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A B C D E F G H I L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z | Table of Contents
Assigning students to classes based on their past achievement or presumed ability to learn (also known as homogeneous grouping). Grouping students according to their actual progress in a particular school subject is different from grouping them according to assumptions about their ability to learn the subject—although the results may be quite similar. And grouping them by subject is different from tracking, which strictly speaking refers to placing them in the same groups for all their classes based on their general ability to learn. Students may also be grouped within classes, but intraclass grouping permits more flexibility so is less controversial.
Whether students should or should not be grouped by ability is a persistent issue in education. Advocates say it is unrealistic to expect teachers to provide for the great range of differences in student backgrounds and abilities, and that a certain amount of grouping is better for students. Critics contend, citing research, that when students are grouped by ability, those in lower tracks are usually taught poorly and don't get exposed to "high-status" knowledge.
The view that sex and family-life education courses should teach that sexual intercourse is always inappropriate for young unmarried people. Advocates say it is self-defeating for educators to say, "You shouldn't, but if you do…." Instead, they say, adults must communicate an unambiguous message that sex outside marriage is wrong. Opponents of the abstinence only position, which is sometimes required by law, say it ignores the reality of widespread sexual activity and deprives young people of information they should have, especially with the current threat of AIDS.
The responsibility of an agency to its sponsors and clientele for accomplishing its mission with prudent use of resources. In education, accountability is currently thought to require measurable proof that teachers, schools, districts, and states are teaching students efficiently and well, usually in the form of student success rates on various tests.
In recent years, most accountability programs have involved adoption of state curriculum standards and required state tests based on the standards. Many political leaders and educators support this approach, believing that it brings clarity of focus and is improving achievement. Others argue that, because standardized tests cannot possibly measure all the important goals of schooling, accountability systems should be more flexible and use other types of information, such as dropout rates and samples of student work.
Official recognition that an individual or institution meets required standards. Accreditation of teachers is usually referred to as licensing or certification.
Schools are accredited in two ways: by voluntary regional accrediting associations (such as the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement), and by state governments, which are legally responsible for public education. Most high schools seek and receive accreditation by their regional association so that their graduates will be accepted by institutions of higher education. However, that form of accreditation does not necessarily ensure recognition by the state. In recent years, some states have begun to refuse state accreditation to schools with unacceptably low scores on state standards tests.
Persistent differences in achievement among different types of students as indicated by scores on standardized tests, teacher grades, and other data. The gaps most frequently referred to are those between whites and minority groups, especially African-Americans and Hispanics.
Tests used to measure how much a student has learned in various school subjects. Most students take several standardized achievement tests, such as the California Achievement Tests and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. These norm-referenced, multiple-choice tests are intended to measure students' achievement in the basic subjects found in most school districts' curriculum and textbooks. Results are used to compare the scores of individual students and schools with others—those in the area, across the state, and throughout the United States.
Systematic investigation by teachers of some aspect of their work in order to improve their effectiveness. Involves identifying a question or problem and then collecting and analyzing relevant data. (Differs from conventional research because in this case the participants are studying an aspect of their own work and they intend to use the results themselves.) For example, a teacher might decide to give students different assignments according to their assessed learning styles. If the teacher maintained records comparing student work before and after the change, he would be doing action research. If several educators worked together on such a project, it would be considered collaborative action research.
Any situation in which students learn by moving around and doing things, rather than sitting at their desks reading, filling out worksheets, or listening to a teacher. Active learning is based on the premise that if students are not active, they are neither fully engaged nor learning as much as they could. Some educators restrict the term to mean activities outside of school, such as voluntary community service, but others would say that acting out a Shakespeare play in the classroom is active learning.
See average daily attendance.
See definition for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
College-level courses offered by high schools to students who are above average in academic standing. Most colleges will award college credit to students who pass one of the nationally standardized AP tests. Passing AP tests can save students time and tuition on entry-level college courses.
A way of organizing schools so that all students have an adult advisor who knows them well and sees them frequently. Although most schools have trained counselors, the counselors work with hundreds of students and cannot see any one student very often. To make advisory groups as small as possible, schools ask staff members who are not classroom teachers—sometimes including the principal, the librarian, or others—to serve as advisors. Most schools schedule periods of time, sometimes daily, for advisory groups to meet for group and individual activities.
Schooling that helps students deal in a positive way with their emotions and values is sometimes called affective to distinguish it from cognitive learning, which is concerned with facts and ideas. Programs designed to help students handle their emotions, which might at one time have been termed affective education, are now more frequently called social and emotional learning.
See the American Federation of Teachers.
The effort to ensure that what teachers teach is in accord with what the curriculum says will be taught and what is assessed on official tests. If students are not taught the intended content—because of inadequate learning materials, inadequate teacher preparation, or other reasons—or if official tests assess knowledge and skills different from those taught, test scores will obviously be lower than they otherwise would be. For this reason, schools and school districts often devote considerable attention to alignment. In general, this is a desirable practice. However, alignment can be destructive if the process is driven by tests that themselves are inadequate, and if educators feel obligated to teach only what the tests measure.
Use of assessment strategies, such as performance assessment, constructed response items, and portfolios, to replace or supplement assessment by machine-scored multiple-choice tests.
Sometimes called block scheduling, alternative scheduling is a way of organizing the school day, usually in secondary schools, into blocks of time longer than the typical 50-minute class period. Students take as many courses as before (sometimes more), but the courses do not run the entire school year. One alternative schedule used in some secondary schools, known as 4 × 4 (four by four), has four 90-minute classes a day with course changes every 45 days (four times a school year). Students and teachers have fewer classes to prepare for and experience fewer interruptions in the school day. Longer blocks of time allow for more complex learning activities, such as complicated science experiments.
Schools that differ in one or more ways from conventional public schools. Alternative schools may reflect a particular teaching philosophy, such as individualization, or a specific focus, such as science and technology. Alternative schools may also operate under different governing principles than conventional schools and be run by organizations other than local school boards.
The term alternative schools is often used to describe schools that are designed primarily for students who have been unsuccessful in regular schools, either because of disabilities or because of behavioral or emotional difficulties. However, some proponents argue against establishing "last chance" or "remedial" schools in which the students are seen as a problem to be fixed. They say a better approach is to alter the program and environment to create a positive match with each student.
Although some school districts continue to operate alternative schools established a few years ago, those districts starting new unconventional schools these days often characterize them as charter schools.
A way for individuals to become classroom teachers without completing an undergraduate or graduate program in teacher education. Alternative certification takes into account an individual's background and experience and usually requires some professional training in the first years of teaching. Alternative certification is most common in urban school systems that have difficulty hiring enough regularly qualified teachers. For example, Teach for America recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in needy urban schools. Advocates point out that such programs provide a way for bright, idealistic young people to make a needed and worthy contribution. Critics say teaching requires extensive preparation and that such shortcuts undermine efforts to make teaching a true profession.
The ACT is one of the two commonly used tests designed to assess high school students' general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. Some states or institutions require or prefer the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) for college entrance, some the American College Test. The ACT covers four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. More than 1 million college-bound high school students take the ACT each year.
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.
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.
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Measuring the learning and performance of students or teachers. Different types of assessment instruments include achievement tests, minimum competency tests, developmental screening tests, aptitude tests, observation instruments, performance tasks, and authentic assessments.
The effectiveness of a particular approach to assessment depends on its suitability for the intended purpose. For instance, multiple-choice, true-or-false, and fill-in-the-blank tests can be used to assess basic skills or to find out what students remember. To assess other abilities, performance tasks may be more appropriate.
Performance assessments require students to perform a task, such as serving a volleyball, solving a particular type of mathematics problem, or writing a short business letter to inquire about a product. Sometimes the task may be designed to assess the student's ability to apply knowledge learned in school. For example, a student might be asked to determine what types of plants could be grown in various soil samples by measuring their pH levels.
Authentic assessments are performance assessments that are not artificial or contrived. Educators who want assessments to be more authentic worry that most school tests are necessarily contrived. Writing a letter to an imaginary company only to demonstrate to the teacher that you know how is different from writing a letter to a real person or company in order to achieve a real purpose. One way to make an assessment more authentic is to have students choose the particular task they will use to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, a student might choose to demonstrate her understanding of a unit in chemistry by developing a model that illustrates the problems associated with oil spills.
Students who have a higher than average probability of dropping out or failing school. Broad categories usually include inner-city, low-income, and homeless children; those not fluent in English; and special-needs students with emotional or behavioral difficulties. Substance abuse, juvenile crime, unemployment, poverty, and lack of adult support are thought to increase a youth's risk factor.
The term came into use following the 1983 report of the Commission on Excellence, which declared America's public schools to be "at risk." Educators responded that the real problem was society's neglect of certain students.
Some advocates question use of the term "at risk," arguing that it may affect the way teachers, administrators, and peers view the student. But they agree that such students need special attention and support, including caring adults who challenge them with high expectations.
Children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder tend to have problems staying on task and focusing on conversations or activities. ADD children may be impulsive, easily distracted (e.g., by someone talking in another room or by a passing car), full of unfocused energy, fidgety, and restless.
Many people with ADD are also hyperactive and may move rapidly from one task to another without completing any of them. Hyperactivity, a disorder of the central nervous system, makes it difficult for affected children to control their motor activities. More than half of students with learning disabilities exhibit behaviors associated with attention problems but do not necessarily have ADD.
According to the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association, ADHD is a "diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic behaviors over a period of time. The most common core features include: distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks); impulsivity (impaired impulse control and delay of gratification); and hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness). In order to meet diagnostic criteria these behaviors must be excessive, long-term, and pervasive. The behaviors must appear before age 7, and continue for at least 6 months. A crucial consideration is that the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person's life, such as school, home, work, or social settings. These criteria set ADHD apart from the 'normal' distractibility and impulsive behavior of childhood, or the effects of the hectic and overstressed lifestyle prevalent in our society."
Source: Quote from Fact Sheet on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD), 1998, Highland Park, IL: National Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Copyright 1998 by Peter Jaksa. Retrieved February 18, 2002, from http://add.org/content/abc/factsheet.htm
Assessment that measures realistically the knowledge and skills needed for success in adult life. The term is often used as the equivalent of performance assessment, which, rather than asking students to choose a response to a multiple-choice test item, involves having students perform a task, such as serving a volleyball, solving a particular type of mathematics problem, or writing a short business letter. There is a distinction, however.
Specifically, authentic assessments are performance assessments that are not artificial or contrived. Most school tests are necessarily contrived. Writing a letter to an imaginary company only to demonstrate to the teacher that you know how is different from writing a letter to a real person or company in order to achieve a real purpose. One way to make an assessment more authentic is to have students choose the particular task they will use to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, a student might choose to demonstrate her understanding of a unit in chemistry by developing a model that illustrates the problems associated with oil spills.
Schooling related to real-life situations—the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens, consumers, or professionals. Advocates complain that what is taught in school has little relationship to anything people do in the world outside of school; efforts to make learning more authentic are intended to overcome that problem. Authentic learning situations require teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to organize and prioritize the tasks needed to complete the project. Students should know what is expected before beginning their work. Consultation with others, including the instructor, is encouraged. The goal is to produce a high-quality solution to a real problem, not to see how much the student can remember.
Based on counts taken on predetermined dates during the school year, average daily attendance is a factor used by state and federal departments of education to determine how much money schools are to receive.
This document contains some material that was previously published in The Language of Learning: A Guide to Educational Terms, edited by J. Lynn McBrien and Ronald Brandt, 1997, ASCD.
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