Education students, a caveat – these are informal and opinionated definitions!
This glossary is intended for readers who want to quickly get the gist of some piece of teacher-speak. I am not fond of professional lingos which bar the layperson from understanding otherwise reasonably easy concepts, however for professionals they do form a shorthand that saves time and lengthy explanations. I try to use plain language or explain what I can but where I fail, I hope this glossary will compensate.
The list of abbreviations is below the glossary of jargon.
There is more to come, but this is a start. If you find other terms you would like explained, please let me know. There are more detailed posts in this blog which give context to these definitions. If you want to know more than a definition, I urge you to check them out. Some suggest further reading or web sites. I have posted a list of useful and interesting books. For similar web sites see the menu below the tag cloud. From time to time, I add to both. Please let me know if you can improve my definitions or add to my lists.
Accommodations refer to changes made to help the child (usually learning disabled) to learn material at her grade level. Accommodations are also made for very bright children, but in those cases they are done to keep the child engaged and to allow them to learn the skills of learning, struggling, and mastery. These are changes made to the way the subject is taught, practiced and assessed.
For example, a student may be unable to take notes and pay attention to a lesson at the same time, so the teacher might teach using a an overhead projector and give the student either the transparency or a photocopy of it so she can focus on the lesson. A bright child who acquires math concepts quickly may be given fewer exercises for practice and more focussed on problem-solving. A dysgraphic student might be allowed to do an oral exam or be given extra time to complete a written exam.
Please note that accommodations are intended to allow a student to acquire the same knowledge and skills as their classmates where ever possible. Accommodations put in place for assessment because they weren’t put in place during the learning process are a way of cheating a student of working to potential.
A child who is bright and learning disabled may need a variety of accommodations. Many teachers believe that gifted children in regular classrooms must earn their accommodations; this is not true. They no more have to earn enrichment than their ld classmates have to earn help or a physically handicapped child must earn a ramp for her wheelchair. A teacher who waits for improved behaviour or skills or any kind of hoop to be jumped through by the child is cheating that child.
See also modification.
Attention Deficit Disorder
a learning difficulty where a child or adult is unable to select one thing to pay attention to. One parent calls it shiny object syndrome, in that the child may really want to focus on homework but is distracted by his own thoughts “I wonder if Fred will be away tomorrow”, objects such as a blunt pencil he decides needs sharpening or people he wants to watch or speak to. These are all shiny i.e. distracting, objects.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder:
A similar learning difficulty to ADD with the added complication of a need to move often, sometimes constantly. Now the child is not only a distraction to himself but to others.
Diagnosis of both disorders is through checklists completed by people who see the child the most, usually parents and teachers. There is some controversy about giving drugs such as Ritalin to these children. My own observation is that children who really suffer from these disorders are greatly relieved by the effect of the drugs. Many specialists in special education feel that the new focus provided by a drug should be used to teach strategies to deal with ADD or ADHD so the child can learn to cope without drugs.
Depending on the expert these difficulties may be classed as behavioral or learning disorders; it really doesn’t matter so long as the problem is identified accurately and treated properly. With consistent help these children can learn ways to deal with their disorder and improve their behavior if it has created behavioral problems. They do not have to be out of control but they do need sympathetic help to learn appropriate techniques.
Whatever strategy is used, a psychologist and pediatrician must be consulted to discuss the pros and cons of the approaches. In Ontario, the approach to using drugs is conservative and carefully tested. No teacher should suggest using drugs but they are within their purview to advise a parent to consider discussing the possibility of ADD or ADHD with a specialist such as an educational psychologist. Teachers see hundreds of children in the course of their careers and often become good informal diagnosticians based on their experience. Their suggestion to pursue certain concerns is usually well founded.
Maggie Mamen in her book The Pampered Child Syndrome: How to Recognize It, How to Manage It, and How to Avoid It, suggests that some apparent behavioural, psychological or learning difficulties such as ADHD or depression may in fact be the result of children living in a family where the world revolves around them.
Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (CCAT)
A pencil and paper test of cognitive abilities that can be administered, assessed and interpreted by a teacher. The manufacturers are careful not to call the CCAT an intelligence test but do claim that teachers will be able to use it to identify gifted and at-risk students.
for more information, see the publisher’s web site:
Catholic School Board
There are atrong historical reasons for the Catholic school boards. The French Canadians were Catholic and Britain had had a long and sometimes bloody history of conflict between Catholics and Protestants. After Britain took possession of Quebec, it was recognised that the real loyalties of the Quebecois lay with Canada (I mean what was then called Canada), provided they were allowed to keep their laws, religion, language and customs. It is for this reason that there has historically been both Catholic and Francophone boards in Ontario and Quebec. In Quebec, the Anglophone boards were also Protestant.
In 1997 Newfoundland voted in a referendum voted to do away with church run schools. In 2000, Quebec reorganised its schools by language rather than religion. There is ongoing discussion in Ontario about following in Newfoundland and Quebec’s footsteps, especially as the effort to respect both language and religion has resulted in four school boards in some cities. This means a considerable overlap in services and expense in bussing, as many children do not attend a school within walking distance.
Another issue with a publicly funded Catholic school system is that other religious groups are asking, with some reason, why their schools can’t be subsidised, too. The historical argument goes only so far.
Finally, while Catholic schools will accept any child of any religion, teachers must be Catholic. The only occasion when non-Catholic teachers are welcome is when the boards have a shortage of teachers in certain subject areas. This causes some discontent although most teachers are too polite and too professional to make an issue out of it.
For more information see:
see high school
In this particular use it refers to a class of students who are not being taught with other normal students in regular classes (and I won’t define normal or regular). This has a positive connotation as it suggests that all the students with a particular need are brought together to have that need or needs met. The word is particularly popular when referring to classes for children identified as gifted.
In Ontario, this refers to the programme in which students study French every day for forty minutes per day. Normally it starts in grade four and grade nine is the last year in which it is mandatory. Most boards provide French right through to grade 12 and some, like the Ottawa boards start it earlier, in kindergarten or grade one.
For a report from OPSBA discussing the current inadequacy of this programme go to:
Psychological and behavioral problems can vary from diagnosed and treated illnesses to students regularly misbehaving in class to the point of disrupting lessons or work. What falls under the mandate of the health system and what is the concern of the school system varies depending on budgets and governments. In the best of possible worlds schools and mental health workers co-ordinate their efforts in the interests of the children but for the moment, the schools seem to be taking responsibility for sicker children than twenty years ago.
Children with physical disabilities who need physical help usually have an educational assistant to help with things like lifting, toileting and physiotherapy. For the most part, they fit into regular school life with little difficulty once the necessary architectural adaptations have been made.
Students with learning disabilities, by definition, are of average or above average intelligence. They may have difficulties such as dyslexia (difficulty with reading), dysgraphia (difficulty writing by hand) or dyspraxia (poor motor skills)]
Early French Immersion
French Immersion beginning in kindergarten or grade one. It is usually full immersion with theoretically no English spoken for the first year.
Elementary Public School
Usually kindergarten to grade eight but it can also refer to a kindergarten to grade six or five school. Sometimes these schools were set up originally for younger students, sometimes a change in demographics have made a change in school population advisable.
English Language Learner
Usually a student who is learning English as a second language but may also refer to a student whose dialect of English is so different that they need some help in learning the local version of English. ELLs can vary from students of any age who are illiterate in their own languages (often refugees) or whose literacy is in a different alphabet such as Arabic or Chinese to students who have studied English in their home country but need more instruction to allow them to make the most of school.
It is a common error to believe that a child who uses good colloquial English without an accent does not need any more help; in fact it takes five to seven years for an ESL student to approach native like competency.
English as a Second Language
The more familiar description of a student who does not speak the local language as their mother tongue. The new name for such a student is now English Language Learner. See above.
“exceptional pupil” means a pupil whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program by a committee, established under subparagraph iii of paragraph 5 of subsection 11 (1), of the board,
(a) of which the pupil is a resident pupil,
(b) that admits or enrols the pupil other than pursuant to an agreement with another board for the provision of education, or
(c) to which the cost of education in respect of the pupil is payable by the Minister; (“élève en difficulté”)
Please note that the legislation above is little help in understanding what an exceptional student is as it defines an exceptional student as what board’s committee determines it to be. The members of the committee are not independent of the board’s pressure in times of financial crisis, for example, to increase the strength of the criteria for placement in expensive programs.
The definition used to be that an exceptional student was one who had difficulty learning in a regular classroom or created difficulties for other students learning in the regular classroom. As placement in a regular classroom is now the default placement for all exceptional students, the definition in Ontario needed some finessing.
Francophone Catholic School Board
A school board for children who are francophone or whose parents are francophone and where only Catholic teachers are hired. See Catholic school board for more information about origins.
Francophone School Board
A school board for children who are francophone or whose parents are francophone. See Catholic school board for more information about origins.
The process of teaching French by surrounding the learner, in this case the child, with French. This is theoretically sound except that no child in a French Immersion program is surrounded by French. The child is surrounded by a class full of children who usually speak English as a first language and who are all at roughly the same stage of learning French. It is entirely possible that their teacher is not a native speaker of French; he may have a strong English accent and make some second language errors.
Recess, lunch hours and nutrition breaks all happen in English as does discipline and most interactions with other staff in the school.
French as a Second Language
This refers to French being taught to someone who does not speak French as their mother tongue i.e. at home. There are many ways of doing this, not all of them effective. See French Immersion, Core French and Grade nine French.
Many experts in this field are uncomfortable with the word gifted; an alternative word would be the academically talented. Certainly if you are familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, it would become clear that students selected for gifted programmes are strong in only two* of nine intelligences. The ninea are:
1. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
2. Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)
*3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart) academic
4. Existential Intelligence
5. Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart”
6. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
*7. Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart) academic
8. Intra-personal Intelligence (Self Smart”)
9. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)
aFrom: Overview of the Multiple Intelligences Theory. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and Thomas Armstrong.com
There are many ways of defining giftedness; the most common is to delineate those students who fall into roughly the top two percentile in academic ability as measured by an intelligence test. Some of the tests are paper and pencil tests that can be administered by any teacher, others need an educational psychologist who is trained to administer them.
Many school boards can no longer afford to use the tests administered by psychologists. When parents are unhappy that their child did not get into a programme, they can either lump it or find the $1,500 minimum necessary to have their child tested privately. A second testing often does the trick, however not every parent can afford to pay outside the school.
Other jurisdictions use the fifth or even the tenth percentile as a cut off. There are some that regard gifted programming as elitist and do no testing. These are more likely to accelerate a student when pushed.
Sometimes the teachers and even parents complete a checklist that is used with the IQ test results to decide if the child is suitable for gifted programming.
Joseph Renzulli proposes a very different way of identifying gifted students. He suggests that giftedness is shown at the intersection of above average ability, creativity and task commitment. At some point or another, this includes most students, so Renzulli proposes a different, revolving door form of enriching students. See The Schoolwide Enrichment Model for more information.
Grade Nine French
A course without standards.
No matter whether a student enters a grade nine French class having never heard a French word in his life or having been raised in a bilingual household, he stands an excellent chance of not only passing but doing well in the course. This is in spite of the fact that almost every student in Ottawa starts studying French in kindergarten and gets a minimum of 40 minutes a day, five days a week.
Why? Good question. For some explanations see Core French above and for others, ask your local high school modern languages head. Explain you understand about low ability students needing a different standard, but what about the rest? Some reckon that students who have never had French should be allowed to pass grade nine French, but we wouldn’t do that for a student who had never had math, nor would we put a student in advanced Spanish who had no knowledge of Spanish. Why would we do it in this case just because they need the credit to pass? After all, they have four years to catch up and the school could have a catch up class.
In France and other countries in Europe, certain standards have been set for language. For an explanation of the standard for French go to: http://www.ciep.fr/en/delfdalf/index.php
Rumour has it that it may be coming to a school near you.
Students with learning disabilities, by definition, are of average or above average intelligence. They may have difficulties such as dyslexia (difficulty with reading), dysgraphia (difficulty writing by hand) or dyspraxia (poor motor skills).
Some prefer to call it a learning difficulty or even a learning difference. An argument for using the words learning difference is that the student can learn but needs to use different methods from those used in the regular classroom or needs more time than usually allowed.
Every student’s learning disability is different; this is why each student will need an IEP.
Grades 9 to 12 in the public school boards and 7 to 12 in the Catholic school boards. I don’t know why.
Identification, Placement and Review Committee
How a Parent or Teacher’s Concern Goes from Observation to the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC)
When a teacher’s observations of a student lead her to question whether the child is exceptional and in need of special services or programs, the law requires her to draw the attention of child’s parents, her principal and LST to the child. Usually the LST then sees that the necessary testing is done to assess the child; if the results of the testing justifies the teacher’s concerns, the LST arranges for an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) to be established to consider the child’s needs and strengths. The parents are allowed and invited to attend IPRCs. They may bring information to the meeting, express an opinion, veto or agree to their child’s placement.
The range of issues that fall within the purview of the IPRC is wide. It could be loosely defined as anything that makes it difficult for a child to learn in a regular classroom or for her classmates to learn when she is there.
Default Placement for ALL Exceptional Children is the Regular Classroom
Ontario law explicitly states that a regular classroom is the default placement for all exceptional children. Where any child is placed in a special education class such as a congregated gifted class or a behavioral unit, a written reason must be given. No reason needs to be given for placing a child in a regular classroom. This regulation was put in place in 2005.
In theory the decisions of identification and placement are made at the committee level. In practice, the testing has already been done, analysed and summarized and, in most cases, the ministry has predetermined the child’s placement by insisting that the regular classroom be the first option considered. In less time than it takes to pour coffee, most parents have heard the whole story and nothing is left but the signatures. In fact, if the folk from the school have done their job right, the parents already know everything there is to know and are simply hearing a review.
1. IPRCs are intended to identify if a child has an exceptionality that needs more attention than is normally given in a regular classroom
- if she does, place her appropriately and outline her needs
- and if this a second or later IPRC, review the child’s progress and placement to decide if any changes need to be made.
4. Parents have the right to initiate an IPRC.
5. Teachers may initiate an IPRC.
6. Parents are allowed and invited to attend the IPRC.
7. Teachers may attend an IPRC but are not always invited (usually due to time constraints)
8. Parents have the right to appeal the decision of an IPRC.
9. A school board must have a pamphlet describing the whole process to give to parents.
10. If for any reason they don’t, the Ministry of Education gives an excellent summary at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/hilites.html
11. The statement of the student’s needs and strengths in the IPRC form the basis of the Individual Education Plan
Individual Education Program
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a Flexible, Living Document
The student’s teacher, with help if necessary from the school’s specialists, creates the Individual Education Plan (IEP) from the IPRC’s conclusions. The IEP is a work in progress, subject to revision each term and as the child progresses. What it does, besides reiterating the child’s strengths and needs, is to describe in broad strokes what accommodations or modifications the child’s teacher(s) plans to put into place to assist the student. Accommodations refer to changes made to assist the child to learn material at her grade level; modifications involve a change in grade level. The accommodations or modifications can affect the program, material, technology or methods. This sounds simple and scientific but it is neither.
The IEP is scientific only in that it is a hypothesis based on good information that will be tested by the child and her teacher. The recommendations of the educational testers are a good place to start, but the teacher and student need to collaborate to find the right balance that will work for the individual. This is a bit like a psychiatrist finding the right cocktail of drugs for someone with severe depression. There are a lot of antidepressants out there, but some will make some people sicker, some will be too much and others might work but at the price of horrific side effects. A psychiatrist might spend a year trying different doses and combinations of drugs before finding one that works. And yet the diagnosis was so simple.
The truth of the matter is that it is in the child’s best interests to make the least change necessary for her to learn at the rate of her classmates, if that is possible. However, if the student’s confidence has been badly shaken, perhaps more support than is strictly necessary might be called for. Not only that, but children grow and change; just as one design begins to work well, it often appears that the IEP will need changing again as the student faces a new challenge or wants to try handling school without a certain accommodation.
So when I suggest the creation and implementation of an IEP is not scientific, I am saying that while it is based on research, best practices and careful assessment of the student’s strengths and needs, the IEP still approximates what might work. Implementing it successfully requires professional judgment and flexibility and not blindly following the plan.
The IEP and the Report Card
The student’s report card will indicate that she has an IEP. This is especially important if she is working below or above grade level in any subject area, but it also indicates that accommodations are in place. Until recently academically talented children were not allowed to work above grade level; now, under certain circumstances, they may be accelerated in a subject area – or even a grade should it be deemed necessary. But that is another hornet’s nest.
The IEP is Private
A copy of the IEP is put in the student’s file, also known as the Ontario Student Record. How soon it gets there depends on how high a priority a teacher gives to filing, as only teachers or specific school staff (or parents under the supervision of the school) may see the OSR. It used to be that only teachers could keep the attendance record, but that has changed. Maybe filing will one day be removed from teachers’ hands, too. At least from elementary teachers’ hands, secondary teachers do not file. Since the child’s parents also have a copy of the IEP anyone who has a right to see the report card will also have the right to see the IEP for clarification.
1.The IEP is developed from the child’s needs and strengths as stated in the IPRC
2.It is usually developed by the teacher but she may enlist the help of other teachers, the LST, the principal or the student as appropriate.
3.The IEP is a plan but not carved in stone; it can be changed if it is not effective.
4.The plan is private but its existence is not.
5.The existence of the IEP will be noted on the child’s report card and how it should be taken into consideration in reading the report, if applicable. An IEP may have a slight or major impact on the quality and assessment of a student’s work.
6.The IEP is often (but not always) relevant for only one or two subjects if the issue is a learning disability.
7.Things take time. An IEP will not automatically turn things around and that is frustrating for every one. Add large helpings of patience, feedback and positive support to the student , teacher and parent.
How well one does on an intelligence test. Also a good predictor of how well one might do in school. Intelligence tests have a long and awkward history; they have been used to prove every prejudice one might think of and a few more. Many people are aware that there are cultural biases in even the best IQ tests but some are unaware as to how subtle they can be.
When my children, aged six and eight returned to Canada after four years in France, they spoke English fluently and with an excellent vocabularies. They understood the concept of borders, different languages, different money and customs but knew nothing about hockey or the Inuit or camping or canoeing. You can see how a mass administered cognitive abilities test might be problematic for them.
All this to say: take IQ scores with a large grain of salt.
for more information about the history of IQ see:
Mismeasure Of Man by Stephen Gould (Hardcover – Jun 26 1996)
International Baccalaureate Programme
Technically, this programme covers only grades 11 and 12, however most schools offer a stream in earlier grades in high school to prepare the students for the “bac”.
Among other things the bac now requires is a foreign language, a major essay and the study of a broad range of courses. This means that in those two years they will be studying both a foreign language and math and science.
The advantage to the IB programme is that it is recognised everywhere. It is often followed by children of diplomats and other people whose work requires them to move from one country to another. It provides consistency in the last two years of their education and before then they know what skills and knowledge they need to acquire.
For more information see the web sites set up by the International Baccalaureate programme itself and several other groups which have useful comments to make.
Late (French) Immersion
French Immersion programme that starts in grade seven. The main difference between the late and early programmes is that the high school French teachers note that the late immersion students make fewer errors whereas the early immersion students have reinforced each other’s errors and poor pronunciation over the years.
Learning Support Teacher
An LST or Learning Support Teacher deals with children who have Individual Education Plans (please see IEP). His job is to help the classroom teacher develop lessons, teach and assess them so the children in her class who need educational support can participate fully. He may sometimes teach within the class or provide assistance to working students. He may also take a small group of students and provide differentiated instruction at some points in the day or week.
He also assists with the paperwork, arranging testing and the formalities of special education, such as the writing of IEPs, participating and following up on In School Team Meetings and IPRCs. He may provide additional contact with parents.
He often provides professional support to teachers, especially in areas where they may want a quick overview of a child’s needs. We all learn about students with special needs in university, but ten years later, technology or research may have created better ways of teaching them. Even if it hasn’t, who couldn’t use a refresher now and then.
What proportion of time an LST spends on which area depends on his character and talents, the character of the school and his colleagues. A good LST may be baking with students in the morning, wrestling with IEPS for an hour, answering the questions of a worried parent, hunting the system for a good placement for a child with unusual needs, measuring a bathroom to determine whether it is wheelchair friendly and observing in the back of a classroom trying to assess how he can help three or four students who have become especially disruptive.
Middle (French) Immersion
French Immersion which starts in grade four or five. The theory behind a start at this age is that the student will have learned to read and write in his or her first language and will apply the both the formally acquired understanding of language structure and the informally acquired knowledge to learning French.
A school with only grade seven and eight students. Or grade six, seven and eight students. Or grade seven, eight and nine students. I believe the idea is to isolate the early adolescents from the young’uns. Personally, I would prefer to see these kids still in the elementary system but given some real responsibility for those young’uns. However, the current philosophy is that we can’t trust anybody but trained teachers to take any responsibility for any child. This is a shame as most people do respond to responsibility and trust. It is part of the learning experience.
Modifications to a student’s school work mean that there is a change in grade level. The change can be either up or down a grade or two. It is often a couple of grades; when a child is behind a grade level, there is still some hope that they can be caught up, especially if it is only in one area.
While schools regularly modify a child’s program so she is working a grade level or two below her peer group, there is considerable reluctance to modify for the gifted child. It is true that most school work can be taught in depth without changing grade level. The one exception, however, is math. A student who is truly interested and talented in math should be allowed to progress as quickly as she can. Everything should be done to ensure she fully understands the concepts and is not just plugging numbers into formulas; there should be an emphasis on problem-solving. As few elementary school teachers have much formal training in math, the board math consultant may need to be involved in designing and monitoring programming for these students.
See also accommodations.
Ontario Student Record
File in which a student’s records are kept. These are mainly report cards, records of recent suspensions, assessments other than report cards (often one is done in kindergarten), record of hours spent studying French and a photo of the child for that year. Elementary teachers usually record the hours of French, put in the photos and weed out records of suspensions or psychological assessments unless directed otherwise by the school principal. This is not done by high school teachers.
Teachers in grade eight love to look at the progression of photos from junior kindergarten, but they are one of the few people to see it as the file is private. Parents may see the OSR provided a member of the school teaching staff is present in case explanations of educational jargon are required.
See high school
In this particular use it refers to a class of students who are not being taught with other normal students in regular classes (and I won’t define normal or regular). This has a negative connotation due to the use of the word in the era before the active movement for civil rights and is therefore used to prejudice the reader or the listener against the situation being describe. See Congregated
SES or Socio-Economic Status
Broadly speaking, socio-economic status is the class a person or family is in as measured by money, livelihood, education and sometimes other factors. Often high economic status goes hand in hand with high social status, however a successful drug dealer may have limited social status. On the other hand, a poor graduate student will have a reasonably high social status due to education and perceived future ability to make money. People working as religious or community leaders may have little money and high economic status. Immigrants may have high social status within their community but be struggling financially as they try to make their way in a new country.
The reason teachers are interested is that students from lower SES families (so much more PC than saying poor) are considered at risk. There is some debate as to whether the bar should be set a tad lower for these students – or set as high as for higher SES students with more help being given. Help such as breakfast programs, homework clubs and peer tutoring can make a difference.
The interesting thing about breakfast clubs is that many students benefit; the athletes who left home early for practice are grateful for a second breakfast before school starts, other students slip in to work on homework and get some informal help and students who have a long trip to school are also glad of a second breakfast. I suspect that homework clubs and peer tutoring would also help the rest of the students.
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
This is an intelligence test administered one on one, usually by a psychologist who has been trained to administer and interpret the test. The raw results are never given to a parent or teacher but usually reported orally and then in a written report. Both reports discuss the child’s relative strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect schoolwork.
At least one educational psychologist of my acquaintance feels that this is not a particularly effective test of IQ or giftedness but is useful in assessing learning disabilities.
For more information:
These definitions are not guaranteed to be textbook accurate so if you are an education student, double check these terms with a more authoritative resource.
There is more to come, but this is a start. If you find other terms you would like explained, please let me know.