Several events inspired me to write this blog post.
A couple of months ago, I was at a PAGE (Parent Advocates for Gifted Education) meeting and we were talking to a group of teachers in the area. As we discussed ideas - and as the conversation progressed between parents and teachers - several parents stressed that to properly advocate (in any way), the parent needs to know the language of the educators and the schools. To be successful, the line of communication between educator and parent must be clear. But unfortunately, a lot of the time, it is not very clear at all.
Ironically, not too long after the PAGE meeting, I was talking with a school administrator. Out of curiousity, I asked him about his thoughts over a school issue. As this administrator spoke, he attempted to answer my questions. 15 minutes passed; I almost felt my eyes roll up in my head. During those minutes, I understood very little. The answers were vague. It was all educator speak - words I did not know and concepts that evaded me.
In hindsight, I should have looked him straight in the eye and said, "HUH?". But I didn't.
On a recent blog from Randy Hollenbeck, one of the commentors complained about this very issue - the disconnect between educator speak and normal everyday English (and the lack of making this information more known to parents).
It may always be difficult to promote programs like STEM programs, if parents and community members do not know what STEM means - or how important it is.
From a perspective of an extremely curious mom in Cudahy, below is a start to my glossary. I cannot guarantee complete accuracy or expertise on any term (I am no expert), nor will I guarantee that I have covered everything (I haven't). But this is a start. These are the terms that have, over the years, turned my head sideways and caused me to find meaning to. Feel free to correct me or add to any of these terms.
Accelerated Reader (AR). A self-paced computer-assisted reading program. Students read books and then take computerized multiple-choice tests to measure their comprehension of the books. I speak with bias and pride when I say this: my oldest son is the king of AR.
Cluster Grouping. Refers to the placement of students in groups based on ability or presumed ability as determined by teacher assessment, tests, and information provided by students and parents. This was what what done when I was in grade school. I didn't know it had a name.
Differentiation or Differentiated Instruction. Refers to the varying teaching methods teachers use to meet different learning needs of a child based on learning styles, learning levels, and interests. This teaching system differs from using a textbook with all students on the same page at the same time. All Cudahy elementary classroom teachers should be using this method of teaching.
Digital or virtual learning. A learning strategy using computer and Internet technology. From what I know about this (which is very little), we are starting to use virtual classes in the high school. Virtual classes give students the opportunity to take and get credit for a class that may normally never be offered in high school (for example, an unusual foreign language or an advanced math course).
Early Childhood Education. Refers to education programs for young students ages 3 to 6. From living in Cudahy and being familiar with the schools, "Early Childhood" to me means the program offered to young children to meet various disability needs - to prepare them for grade school (from speech, behavior, cognitive delays to autism or down syndrome).
IEP (Individual Education Program). An IEP is the program required by federal law for all students with identified disabilities. The IEP is developed by a committee of educators who know the child and the parents who determine what services and teaching methods will best meet learning needs. There are books and books on this subject.
Mainstreaming. The process of placing students with disabilities in a regular classroom. I believe most public schools do this. Our school district does.
MAP Tests. A MAP test is a computer-based test that the school district uses to measure what students have learned in math, reading, and writing throughout the year. MAP tests are a tool that teachers use to determine how much a student already knows and how much they are learning. At any time, parents can see MAP test scores for their child. Just ask your child's teacher for them. I do on occasion.
PLC (Professional Learning Community). Refers to the staff development approach used by schools focused on improving teaching and learning, continuous staff learning, sharing new ideas, and acting on new learning. PLC is a concept that I still find confusing. What I understand of it is - it is a model that our educators use to make themselves better at their jobs.
RTI (Response to Intervention). RTI is a method of providing levels of assessment and instruction to determine learning needs of struggling students. Educators use RTI to provide appropriate instruction and intervention, observe students for learning progress, and provide more intense intervention as needed. The purpose of RTI (a term used all the time with educators and administrators) is to identify children's needs early, provide appropriate instruction, and prevent the need for special education. I believe that this method (RTI) should also be used for advanced learners - as well as struggling students.
SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education). Refers to a state legislative initiative in Wisconsin to improve academic achievement for students living in poverty. The mechanism used to reach this goal is to reduce student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade to 15 to 1. Along with class size reduction, schools that participate in SAGE are expected to implement a curriculum with a rigorous academic focus, regularly engage in professional development, and develop before- and after-school programming with activities for both students and community members. Honestly, I don't know as much about SAGE as I should. I do know - according to what I'm told - it costs quite a bit to maintain SAGE at specific schools in a school district. The schools in Cudahy who currently still have SAGE are Lincoln Elementary and Park View. Last year, the school board voted to remove SAGE from Kosciuszko School. General Mitchell and J.E. Jones, because of having less poverty in their surrounding areas, do not have SAGE.
School of Promise Award. This is a recognition given by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The state gives this award to schools that serve families in poverty and have high achievement. Park View School has received this award continuously over the years. I do remember Lincoln getting this award at one point as well, but it's been awhile.
STEM Education. The fields of science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics. STEM Education programs provide students with hands-on skills and oppurtunities to succeed in technical, science, and engineering careers.
Title I. Title 1 is a federal program that provides additional funding for schools with high percentages of children on the free school lunch program. Title I provides extra instructional and educational services to support students identified as failing or most at risk of failing the state’s challenging performance standards in mathematics, reading, and writing.
WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination). The WKCE is that horrible once a year multiple-choice pencil test that the kids (grades 3-12 I think) take each fall. The WKCE is a state-wide test used to measure student achievement. Oh I remember these tests from childhood. To this day, I cringe when I see kids, heads down, filling in holes with their black #2 pencils. It takes me back in time to the days when I did the same thing.