Terms teachers use when kids struggle in school

If your child is struggling with learning, you may want to talk to the school about getting her extra support. When you meet, you may hear some unfamiliar educational terms. This mini-glossary can help you stay on top of the discussion.

504 plan is a blueprint or plan for how a child will have access to education at school. Typically, it has accommodations the school has agreed to provide to the student under civil rights law. A 504 plan may also have services and supports for a student, but typically not as many as an IEP. Learn more about 504 plans, and see a sample 504 plan for a child with ADHD.

Accommodation is a change in classroom techniques, materials, or environment. Accommodations help students work around their challenges. But even when they use accommodations, students still have to learn the same content as other kids. See examples of accommodations for kids with learning and thinking differences.

Age equivalent score is a student’s raw test score expressed as the age of kids with the same typical score. For instance, if a student scored 30 on a test, and that’s the typical score of an 8-year-old, then the student’s age equivalent score is 8.0.

Assistive technology (AT) is any kind of device, equipment, or software that helps a student work around her difficulties. Learn about AT that can help with reading, writing, and math.

Behavior intervention plan (BIP) is a plan for how the school will address a student’s behavior issues. It describes the target behavior, goals, and interventions to help the student. Read more about how BIPs work.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of standards for what students are expected to know in reading and math at the end of each grade. Many states now use CCSS and have standardized tests aligned to them.

Differentiated instruction is when teachers tailor instruction to meet individual students’ needs. Learn more about differentiated instruction.

Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is a process to identify what causes a student’s behavior issues. It’s a team effort that includes parents, teachers, and professionals. The FBA process includes creating a BIP with strategies that can help with behavior. Read about what to expect during an FBA.

Grade equivalent scores is a student’s raw test score expressed as the grade level of kids with similar scores. For instance, if a student scored 75 on a test, and that’s the average score of a fourth grader, then the student’s grade equivalent score is 4.0.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a blueprint or plan for a student’s services experience at school. Learn more about IEPs, the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan, and how a student can qualify for an IEP.

IEP goals are what a child may be expected to achieve by the end of the year. They’re listed in the IEP. See how to tell if IEP goals are SMART.

IEP team is a group of people who work together to create a student’s IEP. There are several required members. These include a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, a school representative, an expert who can interpret evaluation results, and parents. Find out who else is on the IEP team.

Modifications are changes in what’s taught to or expected from a student. The student may have a shorter or simpler assignment or may not be expected to learn as much as her peers. Learn about the difference between accommodations and modifications.

Multisensory instruction is teaching that engages more than one sense at a time. For example, a teacher may have a child use his finger to trace spelling words in sand or shaving cream. Multisensory instruction can be more effective than instruction that only uses one sense. Check out examples of multisensory techniques for reading and math.

Percentile rank (percentiles) refers to the percentage of students of the same age or grade that perform lower than the student. For example, if a student scores at the 5th percentile, that means that 5 percent of students score lower than him and 95 percent score higher.

Portfolio assessment is when a student is evaluated on a collection of his work, such as projects and writing samples. This can be an alternative to traditional grading or standardized testing.

Progress monitoring is a method for teachers to track and measure a student’s progress. One common approach, called curriculum-based measurement, focuses on periodic tests in basic skill areas like reading, spelling or math. Learn how progress monitoring works.

Psycho-educational evaluation is a process schools use for making decisions about a child’s eligibility for special education. This is sometimes called a comprehensive educational evaluation. Teachers may refer to it as an “evaluation” for short. You can also choose to have a private evaluation outside of school.

Remedial education or instruction is an approach that addresses a student’s weaknesses in basic, foundational skills. Remedial programs try to help kids catch up in reading, writing, math and other subjects. Learn how remedial education differs from other educational approaches.

Response to intervention (RTI) is a process that provides extra help to struggling students. It involves adjusting instruction to meet a child’s needs and then monitoring the child’s progress. Read more about RTI.

Screening is a way to determine if a child has possible signs of a learning or thinking difference. It may include observation, interviews, a brief written test and a review of school and health records. But it’s typically not as extensive as a full evaluation. See how early screening relates to evaluation.

Specific learning disability (SLD) is a condition that causes difficulty with certain areas of learning, like reading, writing or math. Learning differences like , , and are SLDs. See common myths about learning differences.

Standardized norm-referenced tests are a type of standardized test used in evaluations. These tests compare a student’s performance with that of students of the same age or grade who have also taken the tests.

Standards-based education describes what children should know or be able to perform each year of their education. This approach is reflected in federal education law. Learn why today most IEPs are standards-based.

Understanding terms educators use can make it easier to communicate with your child’s school. Getting to know legal jargon can be helpful, too. Explore terms lawyers use, as well as terms to know about your child’s legal rights. You can also take a look at IEP terms to know.


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