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Ever sit in a parent-teacher conference and find yourself a bit lost because of some of the terminology your child’s teacher is nonchalantly tossing around?  Or, perhaps you are a first-year teacher in need of a crash course of all the ‘stuff’ you studied in your teacher preparation program.  Better yet, maybe you’ve been teaching forever and all of the commonly used acronyms are beginning to form an alphabet  soup in your brain.

Regardless, the face of education is transforming without avail, and it’s important to stay ‘in the know’ with the lingo.  So, step aside Webster!  Here is a list of the most frequently used acronyms circulating through elementary schools today, written in a user-friendly way.

1)       DRA:  This stands for Diagnostic Reading Assessment.  It is a reading test that asks children to read a new text out loud to their teacher.  Teachers mark notes based on the student’s ability to read it accurately, at a good pace, and with understanding.  Knowing this level helps teachers drive instruction, and can help parents find ‘good fit’ books for their kids to read at home.  (DRA Book List)

2)      IEP:  This means Individualized Education Program.  An IEP is a document that allows teachers, parents, principals, and specialists to work together in creating a plan to better reach a child with special needs.

3)      NCLB:  This refers to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It is an education reform based on the idea that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve student results.  It aims for every student to reach proficiency or better in reading and math by the 2013–2014 school year.  Many states have recently been granted waivers for these requirements.

4)      AYP:  This stands for Adequate Yearly Progress.  AYP is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts, and schools must reach each year, under the NCLB Act.  States use standardized tests to measure AYP, and again, many states have waived these requirements.

5)      ESL: This means English as a Second Language.  ESL students receive support within the school to help meet their language acquisition goals.

6)      GATE:  This refers to Gifted and Talented Education.  Students are screened and identified as high potential learners in the early grades, and then receive special instruction to meet their learning needs.  Gifted students may attend special schools, or participate in gifted-cluster classes that have both gifted students and students of mixed ability levels.

7)      SST:  This stands for Student Support Team.  It is a special group within the school that uses a specific process to address the learning/behavioral issues of struggling students.

8)      PAC: This means Parent Advisory Committee.   PAC is a parent/teacher group at the school level that offers input on relevant school matters.  The purpose is to represent the collective view of parents of children who attend the school.

9)      DARE: This refers to Drug Abuse Resistance Education.  The DARE program aims to teach kids to avoid involvement with drugs, gangs, and violence.

10)   SPED:  This refers to the Special Education program, which works to address students’ individual differences and needs. Students with special needs may be placed in self-contained, regular ed., or part-time inclusion classrooms.

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