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Education Jargon

There are so many methods and acronyms in the teaching profession, teachers seem to need a whole slew of alphabet soup to describe their jobs. The following is a list of education-related jargon and lingo (and even some buzzwords).

This is a pretty funny education jargon generator to mess with. See if you can translate what’s actually being said.

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse or promote or disapprove any of these techniques or terms. I am only providing a list of words with a link that I feel does well at explaining the basic idea. Feel free to suggest more terms for this list: I hope it continues to grow. Additionally, this is a mostly U.S.-based list; I’m unfamiliar with other countries’ terminologies.


  • 1:1 initiative — refers to 1 laptop per student in a school.
  • 21st Century Learning Skills — buzzword, nebulous term mostly used by politicians to “foster change” in schools without clear, measurable goals.
  • 504 Plan — academic adjustments under the Rehabilitation Act, 1973. Often stems from a physical/health need (see IDEA, IEP).


  • AACT — American Association for Chemistry Teachers (see AAPT, NABT)
  • AAPT — American Association for Physics Teachers (see AACT, NABT)
  • ASCD — Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Resource for teachers’ professional development.
  • Authentic Learning — schoolwork connected to real-life problems, ideally to make it more interesting and more applicable to the student.
  • AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — aimed at (especially) underrepresented groups, including minorities, low SES, (etc.) for college preparation
  • Backwards design — teachers start with eventual goals and determine necessary steps to get there (see UbD).
  • Bell work — a short assignment at the beginning of the class, usually to re-cap material from the previous class.
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy — invented by Benjamin Bloom in 1956 (recently updated), used to describe levels of cognitive thinking.
  • BYOD — Bring Your Own Device (e.g., computer, phone, tablet, etc.) for classroom work.
  • CER – method generally used in science classes for students to support their hypotheses: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning
  • Charter school — privately-run school financed with public school monies (see Public school, Private school, Magnet school).
  • Classroom management — how a teacher maintains order.
  • Collaborative learning — students work together.
  • Collaborative teaching — teachers work together, often across subjects (English+history, math+science, etc.).
  • CCSS — Common Core State Standards, covers math and language arts.
  • DIBELS — Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills — a way of evaluating the literacy skills of elementary-aged students.
  • Differentiated instruction — Teacher modifies curricula based on student abilities, disabilities, cultures, etc., within a single class (see Explicit instruction).
  • ELL — English Language Learner (term preferred over ESL).
  • ESEA — Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 1965 (NCLB was the first major “update” of this legislation).
  • ESL — English as a Second Language (see ELL).
  • ESSA — Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), successor to NCLB
  • Exit exam — high-stakes test given to determine whether student is allowed to finish entire course. Often used to determine whether student is allowed to graduate.
  • Exit ticket — short assignment for student to answer before leaving the classroom. Often formative for the teacher’s next class.
  • Explicit instruction — also called “direct instruction”. Teacher tells students exactly what to do and how.


  • Federal Title Programs — (see individual Titles below)
  • Formative assessment — a pre-test. An evaluation completed by student to determine current student understanding and tweak teaching practices accordingly (see Summative assessment).
  • FAPE — Free and Appropriate Public Education. Refers to educational services schools must provide in order for disabled students to be educated in public schools.
  • Flipped classroom — students watch video instruction at home, then do “homework” while at school with teacher present.
  • GED — General Educational Development test, now run by Pearson.
  • Graphic organizer — a way to visually organize data, notes, sketches, etc.
  • Grit – coined by Angela Duckworth, describes a kind of determination for success in work/school (although especially when used in the school context, be careful to acknowledge the challenges that many kids have before walking in the door)
  • Hands-on — used mostly for sciences, but seen as too general and falling out of favor.
  • HQ — Highly-Qualified, from NCLB. Refers to teachers and their training for a state-issued teaching license.
  • IDEA — Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1975 (originally called Education for all Handicapped Children Act). Basically establishes current special education services in schools
  • IEP — Individualized Education Program, for special education instruction, mostly stemming from academic abilities (see IDEA, 504 Plan).
  • IN or INB — Interactive Notebooks.
  • Inquiry-based — students investigate problems or attempt labs with the goal of determining overarching ideas from doing work. Mostly used for sciences, but now starting in other subject areas.
  • ISTE — International System for Technology in Education
  • Learning styles — a debunked system
  • LEP — Limited English Proficient. Term from Title IV of Civil Rights Act, 1964.
  • Literacy — ability to read, write, and converse in a particular language (e.g., English) or subject (e.g., math, dance).
  • LMS — Learning Management System, usually an online program to keep track of homework, class discussions, and so on. Includes Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, PowerSchool, etc.


  • Magnet school — public school with particular focus (e.g., fine arts, STEM, etc.) (see Public school, Private school, Charter school).
  • Manipulatives — models or artifacts for students to handle, especially in math.
  • Mindset — coined by Carol Dweck to describe beliefs about one’s own abilities and whether they can be changed (“growth mindset”) or not (“fixed mindset”). This has been grossly misused to mean any praise/optimism.
  • Modeling Instruction — whole system that uses student-generated systems (under teacher guidance) to explain science concepts and connectivity.
  • MOOC — Massive Open Online Course.
  • Merit pay — (see VAM). Part of a teacher’s monetary compensation is based on how well their students scored on standardized tests.
  • Montessori — created by Maria Montessori, characterized by mixed-age classes, blocks of structured and unstructured time, and working at own pace through materials.
  • NABT — National Association for Biology Teachers (see AACT, AAPT)
  • NAEP — National Assessment of Educational Progress. Test given every two years to randomly-chosen students in U.S. public and private schools (see TIMSS and PISA).
  • NEA — National Education Association.
  • NBCT — National Board Certified Teacher.
  • NCLB — No Child Left Behind Act, 2001.
  • NCTM — National Council for Teaching Mathematics
  • NGSS — Next Generation Science Standards, sometimes seen as the science analog of CCSS.
  • NSTA — National Science Teachers Association.
  • PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, but usually refers to the set of standardized tests the organization created. Tests are aligned to Common Core standards (see Regents’ Exams, SBAC).
  • PBL — Project Based Learning.
  • PBIS — Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. A management method including social-emotional learning to boost academic performance.
  • PD — Professional Development.
  • Jean Piaget — studied how children learn, with respect to psychological, cognitive, and emotional issues.
  • PISA — Programme for International Student Assessment. Test given to students in a number of countries (see TIMSS, NAEP).
  • PLN — Personal Learning Network. Often refers to in-person colleagues, Twitter, or blog networks.
  • Private school — school paid for with private monies (see Public school, Magnet school, Charter school).
  • PLtW — Project Lead the Way.
  • Public school — in the U.S.; called State School in other countries. Schools funded through tax monies for any students to attend (see Private school, Magnet school, Charter school).


  • Regents’ Exams — NY State exit exams for high school (see PARCC, SBAC).
  • Rigor — giving students appropriately challenging materials. Has been misused to mean “high standards”.
  • RTTT — Race To The Top, 2010. Federal funds for states willing to change structures of educational systems.
  • SBAC — Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but SBA usually refers to the set of standardized tests the organization created. Tests are aligned to Common Core standards (see Regents’ Exams, PARCC).
  • SBG — Standards Based Grading (sometimes called Standards Based Learning, SBL).
  • SEL — Social and Emotional Learning. Students learn to manage their own emotions and feelings in order to respond appropriately to others.
  • SLO — Student Learning Objective, i.e., what students are supposed to be learning on a daily- or weekly-basis (does that really need an initialism?)
  • Socratic method — Socrates’ questioning led students to find their own conclusions.
  • STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.
  • STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
  • Summative assessment — evaluation completed at the end of a unit to determine student’s performance (see Formative assessment).
  • TFA — Teach for America, alternative method to enter teaching profession (instead of university work).
  • Think, Pair, Share — instruction method.
  • TIMSS — Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Test given to students in a number of countries (see PISA, NAEP).
  • Title I — from ESEA, 1965, providing education funding for “disadvantaged” students.
  • Title IX — 1972, anti-sex-discrimination legislation, for schools receiving federal funds.
  • UbD — Understanding by Design (see Backwards Design)
  • VAM — Value Added Model (see Merit Pay). Part of teachers’ salaries are augmented based on how their students score on standardized tests (which makes no statistical sense)
  • Waldorf — created by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, emphasizes creative and imaginative play, as well as empathic, physical, anthroposophy, and analytical thinking.
  • Webquest — guided activity for students to obtain information while on the web.

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: What are the most significant professional responsibilities for teachers? – EDFN 351 Portfolio

  2. Pingback: Demystifying Education Jargon, For Teachers | Shady Oak Primary School

  3. Pingback: What's "Rigor"? Education Jargon Demystified For Parents | Shady Oak Primary School

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