Glossary of education terms

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Education policy in the U.S.
Public education in the U.S.
School choice in the U.S.
Charter schools in the U.S.
Higher education in the U.S.
State public education information
Higher education by state
Glossary of education terms
Education statistics
See also
The following is a glossary of the terms used in both the School Board Elections project and the Education Policy project. Each term on this page includes a brief definition. For more information, click on a term for a more in-depth page on the subject.

Note: If the term is not clickable, an expanded page has not yet been created. Both Ballotpedia and Policypedia staff are working on building those term pages on a regular basis.


Education reform terms

  • Academic Earth: A website repository of free online college-level courses provided by prominent colleges and universities.
  • Achievement gap: A significant disparity in academic performance between two large groups of students; for example, between high-income students and low-income students.
  • Academic performance: The measurement of student achievement across various academic subjects. Teachers and education officials typically measure achievement using classroom performance, graduation rates and results from standardized tests.
  • Blended learning: A formal education program that incorporates both online or web-based components and traditional teaching methods.
  • Brick-and-mortar education: Refers to education that occurs at a physical school, as opposed to a virtual or cyber-school environment.
  • Charter schools: A school that is publicly-funded but operates independently.
  • College and career ready: Terms that can be used to describe either students or educational programs. If students are considered college-ready or career-ready, it means they are believed to be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will be essential for success in college or a career. Educational programs focusing on college readiness or career readiness offer learning opportunities to better prepare students for college or careers after high school.
  • Common Core: The Common Core State Standards Initiative, or Common Core, is an education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and Mathematics that should be met by the end of each grade level.
  • Core curriculum: Not to be confused with Common Core, core curriculum is a standardized curriculum used by colleges in attempts to impart a specific set of skills or knowledge to all of its students.
  • Dual enrollment: A term used to describe the process by which a student is simultaneously enrolled in two distinct education programs.
  • Homeschooling: The education of children at home instead of in a public setting. They are most often taught by parents or tutors.
  • Immersion learning: Refers to any education approach that teaches by placing a student directly in an environment.
  • Individual Education Plan (IEP): A specific education plan that is tailored to the needs of a student with a disability. It describes how the student learns most effectively, formulates goals for the student and considers their ability in relation to general curriculum.
  • Liberal education: Refers to the study of liberal arts, a set of knowledge and skills that emphasizes high levels of thought and open-mindedness.
  • Magnet schools: Sometimes called theme-based schools, are public schools of choice that use a specialized subject area or innovative learning approach to attract students from more diverse backgrounds.
  • Online learning: Sometimes referred to as e-learning, online learning is a type of education that is delivered over the internet.
  • Progressive education: Refers to the movement in education reform during the late 19th century and early 20th century, led by John Dewey, which sought to reform society through education.
  • School choice: Refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they assigned.
  • School vouchers: Also known as opportunity scholarships, school vouchers are government-funded scholarships which allow public school students to attend private schools.
  • Standardized test: A form or test that requires the student to answer the same questions and is scored in a consistent manner, making it possible to compare the student with a large population of other students. Common standardized tests include the ACT (American College Testing) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test).
  • Teacher merit pay: Teacher merit pay or teacher pay for performance refers to any system in which compensation is partly based on an evaluation of the employee's job performance, as distinct from seniority.

Education policy legislation

  • Blaine Amendment: Refers to the constitutional amendment proposed on December 14, 1875 by Rep. James G. Blaine in reaction to efforts by religious groups, mainly the Catholic Church, to establish parochial schools with public funding.
  • No Child Left Behind Act: Federal legislation enacted in 2001 requiring states to develop standardized tests and to give these assessments to all students at certain designated grade levels in order to receive federal funding.
  • Parent trigger laws: Laws that permit parents of students in local schools to initiate serious changes in school operations.

School district terms

  • School board: A board of education, board of directors, school board or school committee is the title given to the governing body of a school district.
    • At-large representation: School board members who serve at-large are elected by all voters within the school district's residency boundaries. Every resident may vote in every school board election. In some districts, board members who are elected at-large hold seats that represent specific schools or geographic areas within the district.
    • District representation: School board members who serve by district are elected by voters who live within distinct geographic areas within the school district. Only residents who live in a particular geographic area may vote in the school board election for that area, and they may not vote in the school board elections in other areas. In some districts, board members who are elected by district hold seats that represent the school district as a whole.
  • School budget: The amount of money allotted to a district in a given year, usually broken down into specific expenses. This may include and is not limited to student and staff expenses, construction and debt service.
  • School district: A geographical unit for the local administration of elementary or secondary schools.
    • Consolidated school district: A consolidated or reorganized school district indicates that it was formed from two or more districts.
    • Elementary school district: An elementary school district educates students who are at lower grade or age levels.
    • Intermediate school district: An intermediate school district is a government agency usually organized at the county or multi-county level that assists local school districts in providing programs and services.
    • Joint school district: A joint school district denotes that the district includes territory from more than one county. A joint state school district means that the district includes territory from more than one state.
    • Secondary school district: A secondary school district educates students who are at higher grade or age levels. These are also known as high school districts.
    • Unified school district: A unified school district is a district that provides both elementary and secondary education services and instruction.
  • Superintendent: A superintendent, chief education officer or chief executive officer is the head administrative official of a school district. They provide administrative oversight of the students, public schools and educational services within their district.

See also

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