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.
Although the criteria differ from state to state and district to district, children with an IQ over 130 are usually identified as gifted. These students are often placed in special education or resource room classes to further challenge their superior learning abilities and to help develop their special talents.
The term "grade level" usually refers to a mix of the child's chronological age and academic material. Educators and researchers have teamed up to determine what is expected of a child of a certain age in a certain grade in school. Thus, we expect a child on "grade level" at kindergarten to be learning letters and letter sounds that go with them; we expect a child on "grade level" at 4th grade to be able to write a five-paragraph report.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are those skills that require us to use our largest muscles for grand motions such as walking, running, or throwing a ball. These usually develop long before the child has fine motor skills.
Hands-on activities are those in which the child actually manipulates objects, creates a model, or performs an experiment. A child using paper and pencil learning might just memorize multiplication facts; a child in a hands-on environment would create rows of tiles or cubes showing three items four times and counting that there were 12 cubes. A child in a hands-on environment would actually create an electrical circuit instead of reading about it in a textbook. (Also see Manipulatives.)
Many states have now chosen to test students at specific grade levels to see if they are meeting the standards they have set forth for their children. These standardized tests are referred to as "high-stakes" tests if they determine such things as school funding, school vouchers, student retention or graduation, teacher salaries, or bonuses of school budgets. (See Assessment, Criterion-Referenced Test, and Norm-Referenced Test.)