Common Educational Terms: A Glossary

Are you confused when you hear educational jargon? Whether you read news articles on education, discuss your child’s progress with a teacher, or even read our blog posts, it’s almost impossible to avoid these educational words. Just like medical jargon or jargon used in law, these words are necessary to discuss education. To keep you from getting lost in this jargon, we compiled a list of common educational words that may have you confused.


Achievement Test: a standardized test that assess students’ already developed skill or knowledge. These tests measure the knowledge and skill level that students should have achieved in their current grade level.

Analysis: a type of thinking where students are expected to examine piece(s) of information in detail—breaking information in parts, identifying motives or causes, making inferences, and finding inferences to support ideas

Aptitude Test: a standardized test that predicts a student’s ability to succeed on an academic level by evaluating their current abilities and forecasting them from there

Assessment: the evaluation of student learning, which can be either formative (during the unit) or summative (end of unit)

Authentic Learning: learning that relates concepts or information to the real world


Best Practices: methods that have proven, through research, to be effective

Benchmark: the specific piece of knowledge or skill that a standard calls for, usually separated by grade (also called a performance standard)

Bloom’s Taxonomy: a hierarchy of learning objectives that teachers use. The classes are Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Synthesizing (creating), and Evaluating with the highest level thinking being Analyzing, Synthesizing, and Evaluating


Charter School: a name for a school that is publicly funded, but it is operated privately. These schools use tax-payer money, but are exempted from the same rules as public schools.

Collaborative Learning: when a group (of two students or more) tries to learn a concept together (with the help of each other)

College Admissions Test: a standardized test (an aptitude test) that measures a student’s ability to succeed in college (SAT and ACT) by measuring their knowledge in different areas (writing, comprehension, math, etc.)

College and Career Readiness: a high-school graduate has the skills and knowledge needed to qualify for a job after high school or college without remediation

Common Core Standards: an outline of what students should learn (learning objectives) in math and English (English Language Arts—ELA) in each grade level. These are general benchmarks of what students should know and be able to do after each grade.

Comprehension: Reading comprehension is the student’s ability to read and understand a text

Context Clues: a method in which a reader defines the general meaning of an unknown word from other words or sentences around it

Curriculum: how the standards are taught through lessons, material, and methods

Critical Thinking: thinking that uses logic and reasoning to come to a rational, well thought out conclusion. It uses the higher-order thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy (Analyzing, Synthesizing, and Evaluating).


Differentiated Instruction: the teacher provides instruction that caters to the individual needs of the students


Enrichment: anything that goes above the academic performance standards to challenge students

Enrichment Program: a program that provides extra activities to challenge students beyond their current abilities

ELL: (English Language Learners) students whose first language is not English

ESL: (English as a Second Language) it is an educational approach in which ELL students are instructed in English, but they are given proper accommodations and modifications.


Fluency (Reading or Math): In reading, it is the ability to read so that words are recognized quickly (almost automatically). In math, it is the ability to recall basic math facts quickly (almost automatically).

Formative Assessment: An assessment that is taken in the middle of the unit or while the concept is still being taught to help the teacher gauge the students’ level of understanding


Gifted and Talented: Students who display high performance in any of the areas: specific academic fields, creativity, leadership, or the arts.

Graphic Organizer: a visual display that shows relationships between ideas


Hands-On Activities: activities that relate to academic concepts but are interactive and practical for students


Individualized Education Program (IEP): a written statement that outlines the education program (learning goals, accommodations, modifications) designed to help the child’s individual needs. It is written by the key school staff and the child’s parents.




Lead Teacher: a teacher who has experience and leaderships skills to serve as a resource for parents, students, and other teachers


Magnet School: a public school that has a specialized area of study (the arts, sciences, etc.)


Numericals: mathematical drills that help increase students’ math fluency



PARCC: a standardized test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career). The participating states are ColoradoDistrict of ColumbiaIllinoisMarylandMassachusettsNew JerseyNew Mexico, and Rhode Island.

Phonics: the sound of letters and the sound of a group of letters

Project-Based Learning: an approach to learning that is centered around the student. It involves having the student be directly involved with a complex problem, so he or she can investigate the problem further using higher-order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)

Prose Constructed Response (PCR): a written response to passage(s). This is used in the PARCC test (a standardized test).



Remedial Education: designed to assist students to achieve basic academic skills such as literacy and numeracy

Restate the Question: use words from the question in your answer to the question

Rubric: a document that has certain criteria to grade writings, projects, presentations, etc.


SBAC: (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) a standardized test used in the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

Scaffolding: a teaching method that enables students to eventually solve problems alone; the teacher gives support or provides resources and takes away assistance little-by-little until the student can do something by him or herself.

Sight Words: words that beginning readers should learn so that they recognize them automatically

Standardized Tests: a test that requires the same standard for all test-takers. The questions are the same, and the grading process is the same. This allows for comparison of scores to give individual test-takers results on their relative performance. The following are common forms of a standardized test: achievement tests, aptitude tests, college-admissions tests, and psychological tests (IQ tests or any test administered by a trained professional).

STEM/STEAM: Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics or Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics

Summative Assessment: an end of unit assessment that measures the knowledge and skill the student acquired from that unit

Support: evidence from readings or research that is used in written responses—could be quotations, historical facts, reasoning, specific examples, expert opinions, etc.

Syllabus: a layout of future lessons and assignments


Textual Evidence: support from readings that is used in essays







Do you have any more educational terms that you need defined? Let us know in the comments, and we can add to this. We can even elaborate on these terms with blog posts if you’re still confused.


Author: Becky Adams, English Program Manager, MathWizard, Inc.



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