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If you are new to education, have been out of the game for a while, or have recently moved to a more progressive district, you may feel like you have been immersed in a foreign language. This is the first in a series of three articles to help you with some of the most common terms and acronyms used in education circles today.


ADA (Average Daily Attendance) - School funding is based upon student attendance. Each state has its own process for calculating and submitting ADA.


Blended Learning & Flipped Classroom - Blended learning involves a combination of virtual (online) learning and face-to-face teaching. 

Flipped classroom is a type of blended learning in which students are provided instruction online to review at home before returning to class (could be a video, a recorded lecture, notes, resources, etc.); time in class is used to apply learning (work on assignments/projects/assessments and engage in activities) allowing time for support from teachers and peers as needed. There are also opportunities for tutoring and remediation.


Block Schedule - In block scheduling, rather than having 6-8 shorter class periods daily, classes are twice as long but meet fewer times. There are many different models. Some alternate every other day, some have shorter class periods that meet daily along with longer periods that alternate, some have shortened grading period terms with only 3 or 4 blocks of longer periods meeting daily, and some have one day a week in which students attend all classes for shorter class periods.


BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - Students are allowed or expected to bring a device from home for educational use, and the school has the bandwidth/infrastructure to support them


Charter School & Private School - Like public schools, charter schools are federally funded and free to students, but unlike public schools that are led by publicly elected boards, charter schools are independently run by either non-profit organizations or for-profit companies that can provide additional funding. Charter schools must still abide by the same state and federal academic standards and assessments as public schools. They cannot discriminate based upon race, gender, or disability but may have limited spaces and require an application (unlike public schools that must make room for all students within the district).


Private Schools are not federally funded but receive funding from a combination of tuition, grants, donations, and endowments. In some states, they may also receive vouchers for state funding. Private schools are not regulated by state standards of curriculum and assessment and may offer religious education. They can also be very selective in their enrollment and are not required to offer equal educational opportunities to all students regardless of their abilities.


Cumulative File (Cume File) - A student’s cume folder contains records that have been kept throughout their educational career. It must be kept in a secure location. It usually has the following in it: a copy of the student’s birth certificate, social security number, immunization record, health history, school picture, assessment records, transfer information, and if applicable special education or 504 documentation, home language survey, custody information, and discipline records.


FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) - Federally-protected unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks with health benefits. This is available for an extended illness, recovery from an injury or surgical procedure, caring for a sick dependent, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, or caring for a military service member with a serious injury or illness (this last reason can be up to 26 weeks).


GPA (Grade Point Average) - This is a universal scale that calculates success and achievement in courses (usually a 4.0 scale in which 4.0=A, 3.0=B, 2.0=C).


Listserv - A listserv is basically a group email tailored to specific interests. Upon signing up for a listserv, you will begin receiving emails about that specific topic. These often lead to dialogues and collaboration as well. There are listservs for practically every topic imaginable.


LMS (Learning Management System) - This is the broad term for educational software applications. They can be used to deliver content and assessments and to track data among other things. Common examples are Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classroom, Schoology, APEX, BUZZ, and Moodle.


Makerspace - A makerspace is a lab where students have access to the tools and equipment needed to discover, build, and create. Students are free to collaborate with peers and get guidance from adult monitors or facilitators. It can be in the library or in a classroom. It may include anything from 3D printers to sewing machines to LEGOS to soldering irons.


One-to-One (1:1) - 1:1 generally refers to schools that provide some sort of device to each student (tablet, iPad, laptop, Chromebook, etc.).


Paraprofessional (Paraeducator) - These are hourly employees that fill the positions that do not require a teaching certificate. This can include teacher aides, secretaries, library aides, attendance clerks, substitutes, janitorial and maintenance workers, and cafeteria and food service employees, among many other roles.


PD  (Professional Development) - This broad term encompasses any type of training that can be used to support or develop educators in their profession. It could be anything from a one-hour training led by a member of the campus or an online seminar to a conference or college coursework. Teachers are expected to keep track of the number of professional development hours they complete each year as school districts and states have varying requirements regarding professional development.


PLC & PLN  (Professional Learning Community & Professional Learning Network) - These two buzzwords are both types of collaborative groups meant to provide support and aid in the development of educators. PLCs are generally face-to-face and organized within a campus or district-wide community. There is a structured published framework for PLCs, but the term is used rather broadly for groups of teachers led by teachers to plan, collaborate, learn, share resources, set goals, and brainstorm. Many schools make time within the schedule for PLCs to meet regularly. 

A PLN is on-line collaboration, usually via social media. Educators are connecting with others from around the world, including other teachers, leaders in the field of education, authors, innovators, and education reformists.


PTA & PTO (Parent Teacher Association & Parent Teacher Organization) - PTO is a generic term for a school’s parent organization. PTA refers to a parent organization that is affiliated with the state and national PTA and requires participants to pay dues.


Summative Evaluation - This is a formal, professional evaluation performed by an administrator that uses data collected throughout the year in the form of short walkthroughs, extended classroom observations, parent/student/colleague interactions, and lesson plans. States and districts have adopted a variety of evaluation tools and requirements.


Synchronous & Asynchronous Learning -  These terms are used mostly in relation to virtual instruction. Synchronous learning/teaching takes place in real-time. Students must log in and participate at predetermined times in order to receive instruction, participate, and be counted present.

Asynchronous learning/teaching allows students to log in at their convenience to receive instruction and complete assignments. 


Title 1 - Title 1 schools have student populations with disproportionate levels of low-socioeconomic students and receive federal funds that must be used to improve the educational opportunities of disadvantaged students.


Virtual Learning - Virtual learning is when all education is delivered through an online platform.


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