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This glossary is intended to offer simple explanations of what are sometimes complex issues in education.
 

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In every profession there are terms, phrases, and abbreviations that are common knowledge only to insiders. For the rest of us, the lingo can be very confusing. This glossary is intended to offer simple explanations of what are sometimes complex issues in education. It is far from complete but may help you better understand important trends and topics. Bear in mind that the meaning of many of these terms may vary, even from school district to school district.

  • Scope and Sequence
    A Scope and Sequence chart lists the various skills and concepts that should be presented to children (scope) and sets forth a specific and logical sequence for presenting them (sequence). Designed to make learning new material easy and comprehensive, these charts are made with great care and thought. Occasionally this framework is broad, reaching from kindergarten to the 5th grade, or it can be very narrow, such as outlining how a teacher would present the steps for writing an essay.
     
  • Sequencing
    Sequencing refers to the order of events. On many standardized tests, children are asked to retell a story in the correct order that the events happened. Or, they may be asked to read a passage and interpret instructions to perform them in the right sequence. Children often score poorly on these parts of the tests. (See Inference.)
     
  • Sight Words
    In traditional Sight Word reading instruction, children were not taught phonics, the sounds of letters, at all. Instead, they were taught to memorize the way words looked and to say the correct word when they came to it. Thus, a child seeing the word "good" would just have to remember it, rather than make the phonetic sounds to figure it out. In modern reading instruction, most teachers use a combination of sight words and phonics to teach the skill of decoding unfamiliar words. Now "sight words" are those that the child must memorize because they do not fit the traditional rules for sounding them out using phonetic rules. 
     
  • Special Education
    The term "special education" is interchangeable with the term "exceptional education." Both refer to children enrolled in classes beyond the regular classroom. Special education students can be in classes for giftedness, speech, language, deaf education, specific learning disabilities, physical handicaps, emotional handicaps, autism, etc. 
     
  • Special Needs
    This term means different things in different states, but generally a child with special needs has a learning difficulty or handicap that must be dealt with in the school setting. Special needs children can require anything from wheelchairs and interpreters for the deaf to a pullout program in which they learn English. (See Special Education, Bilingual Education.)
     
  • Standardized Tests
    Standardized tests are those that are given across a district, state, or nation. They have been prepared by professionals, field-tested, and piloted in many classrooms. Standardized tests are usually norm-referenced tests, but they can be alternative assessments or criterion-referenced tests. They differ greatly from teacher-created tests in that they are purchased by the district for comparison purposes, given only once a year, sent away for scoring and reporting purposes, used to measure student readiness for the next grade, usually quite lengthy, and given in a very formal setting. Usually standardized tests are timed.
     
  • Standards
    Almost every group associated with education has a concept of what children should know and be able to do at a particular grade level. Several groups have made guidelines for writers of textbooks and standardized assessments, curriculum planners, administrators, teacher evaluators, and many others. Generally speaking, the "standards" are the list around which any school district or teacher has chosen to build their curriculum. National associations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTE) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have listed what they think children should be taught. Most local and state departments of education have also created a list of standards. These are the guidelines for most state-sponsored high-stakes tests.

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