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.
Not all children — or adults — learn the same way. For example, some people must write their grocery list down, while others can memorize it by repeating it over and over again; still others can visualize the pantry or refrigerator while they're at the store and recall what they need to buy. These learning styles are tactile, auditory, and visual. Good teachers provide a variety of learning methods. For example, to teach the multiplication tables, she might provide flash cards for visual learners, sing the tables out loud for auditory learners, and write them over and over again or use manipulatives for tactile learners.
LEP stands for Limited English Proficient. It is an alternative term for ESOL classes (but is not the same as Bilingual Education).
Children being "mainstreamed" usually spend the majority of their time in a classroom designed to meet the needs of their specific disabilities. Mainstreaming takes place when these children join the rest of the student body for lunch, dismissal, assemblies, and classes in which they can participate. Mainstreaming is quite often done for art, music, physical education, and computer classes, but can also be accomplished if the child can function in any regular class. Physically impaired children can be mainstreamed in a computer class but perhaps not as easily into a physical education class. (See Inclusion)
In hands-on learning, the teacher provides a variety of objects for the child to hold and use to demonstrate concepts. Examples of manipulatives might include pattern blocks, unifix cubes, circles cut to show fractional parts, and science equipment such as magnets, test tubes, solar system models, gears, or plants.
Norm-referenced tests produce scores that are intended to compare children at similar ages and grade levels. When a teacher or parent receives notice that their child's score on a norm-referenced test is an 80, that means that this child performed better than 80 percent of the children who took the test and poorer than 20 percent of the children who took the test. Examples of this kind of test are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test, and the California Test of Basic Skills. (See Criterion-Referenced Test.)
Open-ended activities are all of those problems and projects for which there is no one correct answer, or if there is a correct answer, there are many ways to find it. An example of an open-ended activity might be for a teacher to instruct the students to choose a topic, take a survey, and create a graph to illustrate their findings. This is open-ended because the child is free to choose any topic, design a survey that will produce data, and create any kind of graph to show the results. Each child can complete very different projects and still get an "A" grade.