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Achievement Tests Standardized tests that measure a student in academic subjects (e.g: math and reading). These are typically norm-referenced tests used to compare schools, and states. Such tests measure acquired learning potential (potential is measured by aptitude tests).

Advanced Placement (AP) A scheme whereby students leaving high school can take examinations to gain direct entrance to the second year of a four year course and omit some or all of the first year course work at university.

Alternative Schools 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.

American College Test (ACT) 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. The ACT covers four skills areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning.

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. Some aptitude tests measure a person’s natural ability to learn particular subjects and skills or suitability for certain careers.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder tend to have problems staying on task and focussing on conversation 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.

Auditory discrimination The (brain’s) ability to tell the difference between very similar sounds. People with problems in auditory discrimination have difficulty distinguishing between words that sound alike or differ in a single phoneme. Such words as “tow” and “toll,” and “whim” and “win,” may sound identical to them. An impairment in auditory discrimination can interfere with verbal comprehension and the development of functional reading skills. In addition, a serious weakness in auditory discrimination in the classroom setting can be confused with inattention, as the child appears not to have listened closely.

Auditory Memory The ability to store and retrieve information presented verbally as sounds or in the form of sound symbols, which may involve auditory sequential memory (remembering details in a particular order). Auditory memory relates to the acquisition and use of both expressive and receptive language vocabulary. Expressive vocabulary may partially depend on and ability to recall and retrieve particular words at the appropriate time, whereas receptive vocabulary may constitute a form of auditory recognition, retention and association.

Auditory Perception The ability of the brain to interpret information that enters the body through the ears. Auditory perception is not directly related to auditory acuity or sharpness but to the process by which the brain discriminates sounds from each other and identifies meaningful units of sound.

Auditory Processing The full range of mental activity involved in reacting to auditory stimuli, especially speech sounds, and in considering their meanings in relation to past experience and to their future use.

Auditory Sequential Memory The ability to retain verbally presented information in a particular order. Auditory sequential memory is measured by tests such as digit span and memory for sentences and nonsense syllables. People with auditory sequential memory problems may also have difficulty following a series of instructions. However, such a difficulty may be confused with or coexist with attentional limitations, which may also be manifested by an inability to respond correctly to an ordered series of verbal directions.

Autism A complex developmental disability that generally appears during the first 3 years of life.


Behaviour Modification Use of an approach based on behavioural science to change a person’s way of doing things, specifically, systematic use of rewards, and sometimes punishments, to shape students’ classroom deportment. Such systems usually involve explicit objectives, elaborate record keeping, and visible tracking of progress.

Benchmark A standard for judging a performance. Teachers and students can use benchmarks to determine the quality of a student’s work. Some schools develop benchmarks to tell what students should know by a particular stage of their schooling.

Board of Education Body responsible for education at the national and local level. In the US it is possible to find state boards, country boards, district boards, etc.


Central auditory processing disorders Hearing difficulties due to fundamental deficiencies in cognitive processing as well as to deficits in auditory perceptual processes.

Charter Schools Charter Schools run independently of the traditional public school system but receive public funding, run by groups such as teachers, parents, or foundations. Charter schools are free of many district regulations and are often tailored to community needs.

Child-centred Educational programs designed around the assumed characteristics and needs of the child, rather than of parents, teachers, or society.

Cognitive deficit A perceptual, memory, or conceptual difficulty that interferes with learning.

Cognitive Development The process, which begins at birth, of learning through sensory perception, memory, and observation.

Cognitive Learning The mental processes involved in learning, such as remembering and understanding facts and ideas.

Cohort A particular group of people with something in common.

Cooperative Learning A teaching method in which students of differing abilities work together on an assignment. Each student has a specific responsibility within the group. Students complete assignments together and receive a common grade.

Criterion-Referenced Tests Tests designed to measure how thoroughly a student has learned a particular body of knowledge without regard to how well other students have learned it.

Curriculum The subject matter that teachers and students cover in class.


Direct Instruction Instruction in which the teacher explains the intended purpose and presents the content in a clear, orderly way. Contrasts with inductive, discovery, or constructive teaching, in which students are led, by means of investigation or discussion, to develop their ideas.

Distance Learning Using technology to help the teacher and student in different locations communicate with one another.

Dyscalculia Mathematics disability; a learning disability in which mathematics is the only or the most severely involved subject area. A mathematics disability that begins in the fourth grade may be secondary to a reading disability. Mathematics errors, such as misreading operational signs (addition for subtraction) or reversing numerical order, may reflect either a mathematics or a reading problem. Difficulty with mathematics often reflects right-brain impairment.

Dysgraphia Difficulty on producing handwriting because of disease of or injury to the brain.

Dyslexia A condition that hampers reading ability. Characteristics of dyslexia may include transposing letters and numbers when reading and writing; confusing hand dominance; difficulty tracking the order of time, months, or seasons; hyperactivity; and difficulty with physical coordination and balance. The cause of dyslexia is unknown.


English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes or support programs for students whose native language is not English.


Grade Point Average (GPA) This is a measure of the average academic progress and merit based on the number of credit hours taken divided by the number of points given for each letter grade of achievement in the classes.


Immersion Education A program that teaches children to speak, read, and write in a second language by surrounding them with conversation and instruction in that language and little else.

Inclusion A process whereby students who are in the special education program enroll in general education classes. The students are officially included on the general education roster are graded by the general education teacher, while continuing to receive support from the special education teacher.

Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) The test is a three hour admission test for entrance into Grades 5-12. It consists of carefully constructed and standardized verbal and quantitative reasoning tests that measure a student’s capability for learning, reading comprehension, and mathematics. It provides specific information about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in those areas.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) In Ontario, an IEP is a written plan created for a student with special needs by his/her teacher, 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.

Interdisciplinary Method A teaching method in which teachers of core academic subjects work together and plan instruction based on a particular theme.

International Baccalaureate (IB) International Baccalaureate, a rigorous pre-university course of study that leads to examinations accepted by more than 100 countries for university admission. In the Diploma Programme, candidates for IB diplomas study languages, sciences, mathematics, and humanities in the final two years of secondary schooling. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) now also offers the Middle Years Programme for students ages 11-16 and the Primary Years Programme for students ages 3-12.

IQ Shortened term for “intelligence quotient.” It is supposed to reflect a person’s mental capabilities, but these tests have become more controversial in recent years.


Language Arts Another term for English class. The focus is on reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills.


Magnet School A school in the United States that has as its focus a particular discipline, such as science, mathematics, arts, or computer science. Its special focus is designed to recruit students from other parts of the school district.

Mainstreaming The practice of placing students with educational and/or physical disabilities in general education classes. This helps special education and general education students learn to function socially and academically together.

Middle Schools Schools for students in the early adolescent years between elementary and high school. Most middle schools include grades 5 through 8 or 6 through 8.

Multi sensory approach An instructional approach that uses a combination of several senses, and the Fernald-Keller method. Instruction which incorporates the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) during presentations and practice.


Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) A national organization of parents, teachers, and other interested persons with chapters in schools. PTAs are normally parent dominated and rely entirely on voluntary participation. The PTA offers assistance to schools in many different areas.

Pedagogy A fancy word for teaching and instruction.

Phonemic awareness Phonemic awareness is the awareness of the sounds (phonemes) that make up spoken words. Such awareness does not appear when young children learn to talk; the ability is not necessary for speaking and understanding spoken language. However, phonemic awareness is important for learning to read. In alphabetic languages, letters (and letter clusters) represent phonemes, and in order to learn the correspondences between letters and sounds, one must have some understanding of the notion that words are made up of phonemes. This insight is not always easily achieved. Phonemes are abstract units, and when one pronounces a word one does not produce a series of discrete phonemes; rather, phonemes are folded into one another and are pronounced as a blend. Although most young children have no difficulty segmenting words into syllables, many find it very difficult to segment at the phoneme level. Indeed, both illiterate adults and adults who are literate in a language like Chinese, whose orthography does not represent phonemes with letters, also find segmenting words into phonemes difficult.

Phonics An instructional strategy used to teach reading. It helps beginning readers by teaching them letter-sound relationships and having them ‘sound out’ words.

Phonological awareness Awareness of the constituent sounds of words in learning to read and spell. Note: The constituents of words can be distinguished in three ways: by syllables; by onsets and rimes; and, by phonemes.

Phonological perception Auditory perception applies to speech sounds, as in listening.


Reading Recovery An individualized reading-skills program for student who are having difficulty learning to read. Teachers are trained in a year-long course that emphasizes a whole-language approach (reading within context rather than phonics) and integrates reading, writing, and listening techniques. Students who don’t improve are eligible to receive 30 minutes of one-on-one instruction daily for up to 20 weeks.

Receptive language The receipt of a message aurally or visually.

Recess An interlude between sessions where pupils can relax and play games outside of the school buildings.

Remedial Education Education intended to remedy a situation, that is, to teach students what they should already have learned.

Resource specialists Specially credentialed teachers who work with special education students by assisting them in regular classes or pulling them out of class for extra help.

Resource room A room in which students needing help with their work may go during regular class time. The resource room teacher may have special education and / or bilingual credentials. The teacher may provide one-on-one instruction or teach a subject to the students as a group.


Scholastic Achievement Tests (SAT) Formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is one of the two alternative standardized tests commonly used by institutions of higher education as a primary basis for evaluating a student’s application for admission (the other is ACT). Requiring three hours to take, the test has seven sections, three verbal, three mathematics, and a non-scored ‘equating’ section used either to try out new questions or to set the scoring scale.

Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) It is an admission test that measures the student’s verbal, math, and reading comprehension. It has become the common and preferred admission standard for independent schools.

Standard Assessment Tasks These tests are used for the National Curriculum Assessment in the United Kingdom.

Sequential processing The manipulation of processing of stimuli one at a time, with each idea linearly and temporally related to the preceding stimulus. Both verbal and nonverbal information may be processed sequentially when the order of the stimuli is necessary for extracting meaning or problem solving. Sequential processing is related to a variety of school-oriented tasks including memorization of number facts, applying stepwise mathematical procedures, phonics, spelling, grammatical relationships and rules, chronology of historical events, and following directions.

Sixth Form Colleges It is post-secondary schooling either resulting from GCSEs or doing A levels.

Special Education Special instruction for students with educational or physical disabilities tailored to each student’s needs and learning style.

Staff or Professional Development Days Days set aside in the school calendar for teacher training, parents usually have to find day care.

Student Teacher Students who are in their last semester of a teacher education program. Student teachers work with a regular teacher who supervises their practice teaching.


Team Teaching A teaching method in which two or more teachers teach the same subjects or theme. For example, one teacher may be responsible for teaching number skills while another teacher focuses on geometry. The teachers may alternate teaching the entire group or divide the group into sections or classes that rotate between the teachers.


Visual memory The retention, recall, or recognition of things seen. Note: In reading and writing, visual memory is helpful in learning letter forms and their sequence in words.

Visual-motor skills Skills requiring a specified degree of visual-motor coordination, usually tested by having a person copy a design.

Visual-perceptual motor (VPM) function The ability to interpret and integrate information obtained through the eyes in such a way that a motor act can be performed based upon that information. VPM ability can be tested by having the child copy geometric forms and designs.

Vocational Education Schooling at the high school level that allows students to spend a part of the school day attending traditional classes and the rest of the day learning a trade (i.e. auto repair or cosmetology). Students may also train at real work sites.


Whole Language A philosophy and teaching method that focuses on reading for meaning in context. Teachers may give phonics lessons to individual students (as needed), but the majority of reading lessons emphasize teaching students to look at the wholeness of words and text.


Year-Round Education A modified school calendar that gives students short breaks throughout the school year, instead of a traditional three-month summer break. Year-round calendars may vary.

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