Terms You Should Know About Education


The notion that people (e.g., students or teachers) or an organization (e.g., a school, school district, or state department of education) should be held responsible for improving student achievement and should be rewarded or sanctioned for their success or lack of success in doing so.

At-risk Student

A student who may be failing in school based on test scores, attendance, or discipline problems.


A detailed description of a specific level of student achievement expected of students at particular ages, grades, or developmental levels; academic goals set for each grade level.

Community-based Learning

Students, faculty, administrators, and community members working together to create new learning opportunities within communities that are outside of traditional learning institutions.

Controlled Choice

Requires families to choose a school within a community but choices can be restricted so as to ensure the racial, gender, and socioeconomic balance of each school.

Charter Schools

Publicly sponsored schools that are substantially free of direct administrative control by the government, but are held accountable for achieving certain levels of student performance.


A student who, for any reason other than death, leaves school before graduation without transferring to another school/institution.

Intra-district Choice

Allows parents to select among schools within their home districts

Magnet Schools

Public schools that offer specialized programs, often deliberately designed and located so as to attract students to otherwise unpopular areas or schools.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The public education act that President Bush signed into law at the beginning of his first term. It emphasizes standards-based education reform, which supports states setting measurable goals for schools to reach. Some people criticize the bill for encouraging teachers to teach to the tests.

Signed into law by President Bush in 2002, No Child Left Behind sets performance guidelines for all schools and also stipulates what must be included in accountability reports to parents. It mandates annual student testing, includes guidelines for underperforming schools, and requires states to train all teachers and assistants to be "highly qualified".

Standards-Based Education Reform

A method that focuses on achievement standards to improve Americans’ schooling. Stemming from the fear that Americans would soon not be as well-educated as Western Europeans and the Japanese, people began to support this type of education reform which sets clearly measurable goals for literacy and math skills.

Voucher Plans

Federal funds that enable public school students to attend schools of their choice, public or private.

The Nation: Evaluating 'No Child Left Behind'
NSCALL: A User's Guide to Standards-Based Educational Reform
School Wise Press: Glossary of Educational Terms