Education Terms Glossary

Are you a bit perplexed by some of the words and acronyms used in education today? We're here to help with this glossary of education terms.

ThThe education world has its own language, and some of the terms and acronyms used in that world can get a little confusing.

Do you at times find yourself unfamiliar with some of the words your kid’s school throws around? You’re not alone. There are plenty of terms that can confuse even the most informed parent.

That’s why Metro Parent assembled this glossary of education terms for parents in southeast Michigan. Consider it your cheat sheet when it comes to stay up on the latest lingo.

What terms did we miss? Surely there are a few! Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the mix.

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams

A College Board-sponsored exam designed to evaluate high school students in corresponding Advanced Placement courses. If a student receives a score of 3 or higher (the test is on a 1 to 5 scale), he or she may earn college credit.

Application School

These schools require an application for enrollment. Parents should be sure to ask if a school is an application school or an open-enrollment school. Any school considered an open-enrollment school cannot administer tests to students as a pre-enrollment requirement. Private schools can test for enrollment purposes.

Assistive Technology

Equipment that helps kids with special needs learn, grow and conquer their limitations in the classroom, ranging from versatile button switches and whiteboards to spell-checkers.


This test is a multiple choice-style, national college admissions exam. Students are tested in English, math, reading, science – and writing depending on the exam needed. Students receive scores up to 36.

Assertive Discipline/Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

A program in which a plan of positive behavioral intervention is laid out for a child whose actions disrupt the learning of himself or other children.

Assistive Technology

Equipment that helps kids with special needs learn, grow and conquer their limitations in the classroom, and ranging from versatile button switches to whiteboards to spell checkers.

Block Scheduling

A type of class schedule in which students have fewer, but longer classes per day. For example, instead of having six classes in a day, students might have three or four longer periods.

Blue Ribbon School

Established in 1982, the Michigan Blue Ribbon Exemplary School Program recognized schools that demonstrate a strong commitment to educational excellence and significant academic improvement over five years. In 2009, the program was terminated due to state funding issues. However, schools that were awarded the Blue Ribbon still bear that distinction.

Career and Technical Centers

These are schools that focus on teaching students about vocational trades, such as automotive repair, carpentry or culinary arts, for example.

Certificate of Completion (CoC)

A certificate given to students who finish high school and who had Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or were on an alternative curriculum route. A CoC is not a high school diploma, which is awarded to those who have met the Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements for graduation.


Staff members or administrators possess a state and/or national teaching certificate, statement, professional recognition or license in a given area.

Charter Schools

Tax-supported schools established by a charter between a granting body (such as a school board) and an outside group (such as teachers and parents), which operates the school without most local and state educational regulations so as to achieve set goals. (Find a list of southeast Michigan charter schools here).

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD)

Children with ADHD are eligible for special education services or accommodations within the regular classroom when needed, and adults with ADHD may be eligible for accommodations in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Common Core

A national educational initiative that details proficiency for K-12 students in core subjects by the end of each grade. The goal is to establish consistent educational standards across all states.

Cooperative Education Program

A program that results from a written, voluntary agreement between two or more local districts to provide educational programs for pupils.

Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS)

A pediatrician and/or early learning and care program may refer a child for CEIS within a local school district if there are concerns the child may need some type of educational services upon entering preschool or kindergarten.


Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment is when a high school student enrolls in college classes to earn college credit while still attending high school.

English-Language Learner (ELL)

A term for a student whose primary language is not English but is learning the language. Also referred to as ESL, or English as a Second Language.

Extended School Year (ESY)

A school might market or describe itself as being ESY to promote the fact that it doesn’t follow a traditional September to June school year. Many ESY schools offer programming year round with quarterly weeklong breaks.

Grade Level Content Expectations (GLCEs)

Mandates the existence of a set of skills that each student should obtain throughout the course of one grade.

Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP)

An early childhood education program funded by the state of Michigan. The program is designed to serve families living in low-income households. Families must make 100-250 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify. The federal poverty level is currently $24,300 for a family of four. Children must be 4 years old by Nov. 1 of the current school year to be in the program. Children living in families who make 250 percent of the federal poverty limit must have other risk factors to attend.

Great Start to Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)

A rating system designed by Michigan’s early childhood experts and organizations for evaluating the quality of the state’s early childhood education centers and programs. The ratings range from one to five stars, and rate centers based on factors such as environment, curriculum and staff qualifications. These ratings go a step further than Michigan’s licensing standards by giving programs more points based on these factors being higher quality.

Head Start

A federally funded early childhood program for children living in low-income households at or below the federal poverty level. This also applies to families who are homeless, have children in foster care or are receiving Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Children must be 3-5 years old to attend this program. There is also an Early Head Start program that serves pregnant women with infants and toddlers.

Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)

A written, instructional education plan developed according to the individual need of the specific pupil. Particularly helpful for children with special needs.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

A federal law put in place to ensure those birth-21 years with disabilities receive the services they need.

Local Education Agency (LEA)

Schools not operating under a traditional school district are considered their own LEAs as they are governed by an authorizing body and not under the authority of a district-wide governing body such as an elected school board.


Means students stay with the same teacher throughout multiple grades rather than changing teachers every year.

Magnet Schools

Public schools that have a complete educational program, but have specialized courses or curricula in some focus (example: arts or science) that draw students like a “magnet.”


Placing a special education student in a general education classroom for part or all of the school day.


Educational toys that children use to understand abstract concepts in math and science. Common manipulatives include blocks, puzzles and cards.

Michigan Green School

Started as the brainchild of Hartland Consolidated School District teachers and students and approved by the legislature and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006, the Michigan Green Schools organization assists all Michigan schools in implementing programs that protect the environment. By completing a number of activities, schools earn points toward official Michigan Green School status. Schools that choose to go above the requirements can earn bonus points toward an Emerald or Evergreen award.

Michigan Merit Curriculum (High School Graduation Requirements)

A more rigorous set of standards that teens must meet, this was passed into law in 2006 and first affected students graduating in 2011. High school students must now take a minimum of 18 specific credits, which as of 2016, also includes two credits of a world language.


Michigan Merit Exam (MME)

This exam taken by 11th and 12th grade students is composed of the SAT, WorkKeys, and the science and social studies M-STEP. This replaced the MEAP for high school students in 2007. Students who did well were once eligible for the Michigan Promise Scholarship, earning up to $4,000 toward college tuition – but not anymore, due to funding cuts.


Replaced the 44-year-old MEAP test, which measured the previous state standards. As of September 2016, for the 2016-17 school year, it assesses English and math in grades 3-8, science in grades 4 and 7 and social studies in grades 5 and 8. It also includes the Michigan Merit Examination (see above) in 11th grade, which consists of a college entrance exam, a WorkKeys assessment and M-STEP assessments in science and social studies.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

A test that provides results on the levels of proficiency among various populations of students. The NAEP results are based upon representative samples of students at grades 4, 8 and 12 and long-term trend assessments of students at ages 9, 13 or 17.


A teacher’s aide/assistant who helps out with students during the school day.

Parochial Schools

Parochial school (also known as a faith school or a sect school) is a type of private school that engages in religious education in addition to conventional education. Parochial schools are typically grammar schools or high schools run by churches or parishes.

Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Tests (PSAT)

A practice test for students planning on taking the Standardized Achievement Test (SAT). The PSAT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills and writing skills. It also qualifies students who score exceptionally well for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Private Schools

Private schools, or independent schools, are not administered by local, state or national government. They retain the right to select their student body and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition rather than with public (state) funds.

Response to Intevention (RTI)

The RTI process is a multiple-step approach to providing services and interventions to students who struggle with learning. The progress students make at each stage of intervention is closely monitored and may be included in a student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Schools can also create RTIs for students who don’t necessarily qualify for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services, but may need assistance in developing a learning plan to meet their specific needs.

Schools of Choice

A public school that opens its enrollment to students who, by law, live in the same intermediate school district or directly next to the school’s intermediate school district. Parents can choose to enroll their children in a school of choice at no cost. The funds that would have gone to the child’s home school are redirected to the school of choice. Not all public schools participate as schools of choice, and those that do may limit enrollment to certain grades only.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504)

Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature of severity of the disability.


A college entrance exam by The College Board that replaced the Michigan Merit Exam’s (MME) ACT requirement for Michigan students. It consists of reading, writing/language and math sections – plus an optional essay. This test is scored on a scale of 400-1600 points (without essay) and there’s no penalty for guessing. Learn more about the changes that were made here in Michigan regarding the SAT in 2016 in our February 2016 issueFind an SAT prep class in metro Detroit for your student.

Standardized Test

A test administered and scored under uniform conditions.

S.T.E.A.M. Education

Acronym representing the subjects in the original S.T.E.M. educational acronym (see below), but with the addition of art.

S.T.E.M. Education

Acronym representing science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.

Title 1

This part of the country’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (reauthorized in December 2015 as Every Student Succeeds Act) is meant to aid disadvantaged students and give all students a high-quality education. Title I dollars may be used in a school with a high number of children living in poverty to improve and assist where needed, or they can be allocated for targeted assistance to help failing or struggling students.

Waldorf Schools

Waldorf schools use a holistic approach to education based on the philosophies of Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner, who believed that when children relate what they learn to their own experience, they become more interested, and what they learn becomes their own.

Are there any words or terms that are missing from this list, or you have heard but aren’t sure of what it means? Comment and share with us!

This post is updated regularly. 

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.


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