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Public Education Terms Defined: Pt 1

As parents, we have all probably heard some education terms used during back to school events, principal meetings, teacher conferences, etc and we weren’t quite sure what they meant. No worries, here are some terms provided by the Department of Education along with their definitions to help keep you in the know!

1. Achievement gap

The difference in the performance between each ESEA subgroup (as defined in this document) within a participating LEA or school and the statewide average performance of the LEA’s or tate’s highest achieving subgroups in reading/language arts and mathematics as measured by the assessments required under the ESEA.

2. College and career-ready graduation requirements

Minimum high school graduation expectations (e.g., completion of a minimum course of study, content mastery, proficiency on college- and career-ready assessments, etc.) that include rigorous, robust, and well-rounded curriculum aligned with college- and career-ready standards (as defined in this document) that cover a wide range of academic and technical knowledge and skills to ensure that students leave high school ready for college and careers.

3. College- and career-ready standards

Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the post-secondary level.

4. College enrollment

The enrollment in college of students who graduate from high school consistent with 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1) and who enroll in an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act, P.L. 105-244, 20 U.S.C. 1001) within 16 months of graduation.

Core educational assurance areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and

  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

5. Digital learning content

Learning materials and resources that can be displayed on a digital device and shared electronically with other users. Digital learning content includes both open and or commercial content. In order to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, any digital learning content used by grantees must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use screen readers. For additional information regarding their application to technology, please refer to and

6. Educators

All education professionals and paraprofessionals working in participating schools (as defined in this document), including principals or other heads of a school, teachers, other professional instructional staff (e.g. staff involved in curriculum development, staff development, or operating library, media and computer centers), pupil support services staff (e.g. guidance counselors, nurses, speech pathologists, etc.), other administrators (e.g. assistant principals, discipline specialists.), and paraprofessionals (e.g. assistant teachers, instructional aides).

7. Graduation rate

The four-year or extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as defined by 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1).

8. High-needs students

Students at risk of educational failure or otherwise in need of special assistance and support, such as students who are living in poverty, who attend high-minority schools (as defined in the Race to the Top application), who are far below grade level, who have left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who are homeless, who are in foster care, who have been incarcerated, who have disabilities, or who are English learners.

9. Interoperable data system

System that uses common, established structure such that data can easily flow from one system to another and in which data are in a non-proprietary, open format.

10. Local educational agency

As defined in ESEA, a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.

11. Low-performing schools

Schools that are in the bottom 10 percent of performance in the State, or who have significant achievement gaps, based on student academic performance in reading/language arts and mathematics on the assessments required under the ESEA or graduation rates (as defined in this document).

12. Metadata about content alignment

Information about how digital learning content assesses, teaches, and depends on (requires) common content standards such as State academic standards.

13. On-track indicator

A measure, available at a time sufficiently early to allow for intervention, of a single student characteristic (e.g., number of days absent, number of discipline referrals, number of credits earned), or a composite of multiple characteristics, that is both predictive of student success (e.g., students demonstrating the measure graduate at an 80 percent rate) and comprehensive of students who succeed (e.g., of all graduates, 90 percent demonstrated the indicator). Using multiple indicators that are collectively comprehensive but vary by student characteristics may be an appropriate alternative to a single indicator that applies to all students.

14. Participating schools

Schools that are identified by the LEA or consortium and choose to work with the LEA to implement the LEA(s)’ Race to the Top plan, either in a specific grade span or subject area or in the entire school.

15. Participating students

Students enrolled in a participating school (as defined in this document), grades, or subject areas and directly served by a Race to the Top District plan.

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