Glossary of Education Terms


The ABC's of common school terms, phrases, and acronyms


Accommodation: An accommodation is a change or adaptation that helps a student overcome or work with their disability. The content that the child is expected to learn does not change with an accommodation. These supports and services assist a student with accessing the general curriculum and demonstrating learning.

Achievement Gap: An education achievement gap is the difference in academic performance or graduation rates between groups of students, and may be influenced by a wide variety of societal factors. For example, white students from the class of 2020 averaged a math score of 547 on the SAT while Latino or Hispanic students averaged 478.  Whether an achievement gap is widening or closing over time can play an important role in education policy. Today, many educators are concerned about Black-white academic achievement gaps widening due to COVID-19-related shutdowns. 

Adaptive Behavior: In special education, adaptive behavior refers to an individual’s ability to act socially appropriate and personally responsible. Educators generally measure this by identifying how well the individual manages in their own environment.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): Schools, districts, and states are held accountable for student performance through the No Child Left Behind Act; however, each state has the freedom to define adequate yearly progress.  This measure tracks the progress a school is making towards the goal of having all students proficient. State assessments in reading/language arts and math are a big factor in adequate yearly progress.

Advanced Placement (AP) Program: The Advanced Placement (AP) program gives high school students the opportunity to take college-level work. AP classes can be a rewarding experience for students looking for a challenge. Plus, by taking AP exams, students can earn credit accepted at many colleges and universities. You can search prospective colleges at the College Board to learn more about what AP courses they award credit for. 

Alternative School: Alternative schools are places of learning for students who have experienced challenges in traditional classrooms. Alternative schools may have a smaller student to staff ratio; they may be able to offer specialized services that meet students’ behavioral needs. In the Stanwood-Camano School District, we have alternative schools at Church Creek Campus — home to Lincoln Hill High and Lincoln Academy

American with Disabilities Act (ADA): The American with Disabilities Act is a law enacted in 1990 that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. This law protects people with disabilities at work, school, and in public places.

Annual Action Plan (AAP): Each school engages in a series of reflective activities aimed at determining what academic goals are for students and the instructional efforts staff will focus on next school year. These plans guide the work we do at the school level and ensure we are also meeting the community goals outlined in our District Strategic Plan.

Assessment: Assessments are ways of collecting information about a student’s strengths, needs, and interests. People generally think of assessments as tests. But, they can also include observation, record review, and talking with the student and/or parents.

Bullying: Bullying is negative actions which are intentional, repeated, negative, show a lack of empathy, and a power imbalance. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include an “imbalance of power” (ie. physical strength, access to embarrassing information, popularity, etc) and “repetition” (bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.)


Career and Technical Education (CTE): Career and technical education is learning that focuses on equipping students for skill-based careers that are in high-demand, such as engineering, manufacturing, or health science. Career and technical education is characterized by hands-on learning and real work experience so that students can more readily complete certifications and confidently enter the workforce. We offer a robust CTE program at Stanwood High.

Curriculum: A curriculum refers to planned instructional material (such as lessons, practice work, tests, and experiences) and knowledge goals. Terms such as scope (what content will be covered) and sequence (what order the content is covered in) often describe curriculum.


Differentiated Instruction: Differentiated instruction is a method of teaching that focuses on creating varied experiences that meet the different learning levels and needs of students in a class. Some of the goals of differentiated instruction are to acknowledge the diversity of student learners, regularly assess students’ needs and progress, and offer them choices and customized learning experiences. Differentiated instruction is one of the most popular learning approaches. 

Dual-language Program: In a dual-language program, students receive a significant amount of their weekly instruction in a partner language (a language other than English). That partner language could be Spanish, French, German, or another language. Dual language programs are designed to help students become bilingual or maintain a second language, to help students gain confidence, and to immerse students in a second culture. 


English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learners (ELL): Like it sounds, English as a Second Language (ESL) refers to programs that help students who are non-native English-speakers learn English. English Language Learners (ELL) is a term that is often used to refer to students in these programs. 


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law regulating the management of student records and disclosure of information from those records.

504 Plan: A 504 plan helps a child who meets the criteria for a disability (under the Rehabilitation Act) that interferes with accessing their education. The 504 plan outlines accommodations and modifications that the student needs to ensure academic success and their ability to access their learning environment. Generally, a 504 plan is not as involved as an Individualized Education Plan. The main difference between a 504 plan and an IEP is the provision of specially designed instruction; students with a 504 plan learn alongside their peers rather than receiving individualized special education instruction.

Free and Reduced Lunch: This program provides a federally reimbursable meal or snack served to a qualified child when the family of the child's income is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the U.S. federal poverty threshold. Visit our website to learn more and to apply.



Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying (HIB): Any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act that physically harms a student or damages the student's property; has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's education; is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school. To report Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying, please visit our HIB website.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA): The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is a federal law that ensures the confidentiality and security of an individual’s protected health information.

Highly Qualified Teachers: The federal definition of a highly qualified teacher is one who meets all of the following criteria: fully certified and/or licensed by the state; holds at least a bachelor degree from a four-year institution; and demonstrates competence in each core academic subject area in which he or she teaches.


Inclusion: Inclusion refers to a student with disabilities being given instruction and the opportunity to learn alongside their peers in the mainstream classroom.  Inclusion models vary widely between districts and schools, but can include co-teaching and team-teaching.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed to make sure that students with disabilities receive a free, appropriate public education that meets their needs. 

Individualized Education Program (IEP): An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal roadmap for what individualized supports and services a child with disabilities will receive to help them learn and succeed in school. IEPs are free for eligible children in public schools. An IEP is reviewed annually to make changes in services and supports. An IEP is more involved and specialized than a 504 plan. 




Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Least restrictive environment (LRE) is a legal requirement under IDEA that a student with a disability should be given the opportunity to receive instruction with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. 

Levy: When it comes to education, a levy refers to the amount of property tax dollars a school district collects to operate or to develop its property. When a district needs money beyond that received from the state and federal government, it may ask residents to vote on a levy. 


Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS): Multi-tiered systems of support is a framework for enhancing the implementation of evidence-based practices to achieve important outcomes for every student. The MTSS framework builds on a public health approach that focuses on organizing the efforts of adults within systems to be more effective. MTSS helps to ensure students benefit from nurturing environments and equitable access to instruction and supports that are differentiated to meet their unique needs.


Neighborhood School: A neighborhood school typically refers to the public school nearest you or assigned to you by your school district’s boundaries. A neighborhood school may be in walking distance; if not, you will normally be able to receive free transportation to it. 






School Board: Our School Board consists of five community members who are either elected or appointed to represent and make decisions about the Stanwood-Camano School District. Rather than politicians, board of education members are usually simply community leaders, parents, or retired school leaders or education professionals interested in making a difference. 

Social-emotional Learning (SEL): Beyond teaching the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, social-emotional learning (SEL) focuses on equipping students with emotional and interpersonal skills. SEL is defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning as the development of “knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” 

Special Education: Special education is a term used by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to refer to specially designed instruction to increase a student’s chances for success. Special education typically involves the development of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to ensure students’ learning needs are being accommodated. 

Specially-Designed Instruction (SDI): Specially-designed instruction is instruction that has been adapted in content or delivery method to address specific learning needs of a student with a disability.  What SDI looks like for a student is defined by their Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team and is intended to supplement the instruction that occurs in the general education setting.

STEM or STEAM: STEM or STEAM education is learning focused on innovation and active learning through the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. STEM and STEAM education often takes a hands-on approach. Also, it often focuses on subjects’ connections to each other, such as connections between science and technology.

Student Support Team: This team of professionals and parents meet to discuss any problems a student is having in their general education classroom. The team’s goal is to identify ways to assist the child to help them master skills they’re having difficulty with.


Title I: Title I is a federal program that provides extra funding to schools with high percentages of low-income children. Schools can use Title I funding for curriculum, instructional activities, counseling, parental involvement, or an increase in staff. Parental involvement is an important factor in Title I funding. A school receiving Title I funding must implement programs and activities that promote parent involvement.

Title II: Title II is a federal law aimed at supporting the development of teachers and school leaders, particularly those who teach low-income or minority students. Through Title II, schools can receive federal funds to use for teacher training, so that students receive more effective classroom instruction.

Title IX: Title IX is a civil rights law with the goal of protecting students from discrimination based on sex. Any K-12 school that receives federal funding must follow regulations set out in Title IX to prevent such discrimination. That’s true whether the school is public or private.

Transition Plan: A transition plan is specific to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – once a student turns 16 it must have goals and a plan addressing how he or she will transition to life outside of high school.