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Educational Terms Defined

Glossary of Terms

Accountability:  the notion that people (e.g., teachers, administrators) or an organization (e.g., a school, school district, state department of education) are held responsible for improving student achievement

Alignment: the degree to which assessments, curriculum, instruction, instructional materials, professional development, and accountability systems reflect and reinforce the educational program's objectives and standards

Assessment: the measurement of knowledge, skills and beliefs to determine the level of student achievement in a particular content area (e.g., performance-based assessments, written exams, quizzes)

Benchmark: a description of a specific level of student achievement expected of students at particular ages, grades, developmental levels, or during a specific point in the school year

Benchmark Assessment: interim assessments administered periodically to measure students’ mastery of standards-based curriculum objectives

Best Practice: a technique or methodology that has been proven to reliably lead to a desired result through research and experience

Big Idea: key generalization or enduring understanding that students will take with them after the completion of a learning unit

Blueprint for Reading Achievement: Connecticut document that is based upon the consensus of the Early Reading Success Panel members which provides a general overview of basic research findings about reading, including the nature of skilled reading, the competencies important in reading achievement, and the components of a comprehensive, high-quality curriculum of reading instruction.  The Blueprint also include competencies required for reading success for children in kindergarten through Grade 3.

Beyond the Blueprint: Connecticut document that builds upon theBlueprint for Reading Achievement by providing guidance on the teaching of reading to students in grades four through twelve, as well as across content areas

Cause Data: information based on actions of the adults

Common Assessments: a broad term for assessments that are given routinely to all students in a grade and/or content area and that are the same for all students in a grade or course.  Common assessments may be summative or formative.

Common Core: a group of standards for learning K-12 that have been adopted by several states. These standards provide a consistent guide to what students are expected to learn. For more information on Common Core, click here.  

Common Formative Assessments (CFA): assessments that are the same across a grade level and/or content area, are used to inform and adjust instruction, and are not used to evaluate student progress for a grade

Curriculum: guaranteed course of study and learning objectives that integrates standards, instructional strategies, materials, and assessments to ensure that all students are able to achieve standards

Curriculum-based Measures (CBMs): measures for ongoing monitoring of students’ progress through a curriculum 

Curriculum Framework:  The Connecticut framework for a content area or developmental level (i.e. early childhood) provides the guidelines for PK–12 student learning.

Cut Points: cutoff scores on common benchmark assessments; cut points specify the score at or below which students would be considered for interventions

Data-Driven Decision Making (DDDM): a process by which district leaders, school leaders, teachers and parents review cause and effect data to determine strengths and prioritize areas in need of improvement to inform instruction, curriculum and policy decisions to positively impact student achievement 

Data Teams: teams of educators that participate in collaborative, structured, scheduled meetings which focus on the effectiveness of teaching as determined by student achievement.  Data Teams adhere to continuous improvement cycles, analyze trends, and determine strategies to facilitate analysis that results in action.  Data Teams can occur at the state, district, school, and instructional level.  

Data Team Leader: educator who is responsible for leading the data team.  Responsibilities may include facilitating meetings, communicating work to the larger community, focusing discussions around data, challenging assumptions, establishing meeting agendas, meeting monthly with principal and other Data Team leaders, and championing the work of data-driven decision making.

Decision Rules: clear, specific guidelines for making data-driven decisions (e.g., at least 80% of students should be meeting academic benchmarks for the core curriculum to be considered effective)

Differentiated Instruction (DI): an approach to teaching that emphasizes ways to meet the differing needs and learning styles of students within the general education setting, for example, through the use of flexible small groups, different instructional materials, or different ways of presenting the same content

District Data Team (DDT): team of central office educators, with teacher, administrator and support staff representation, who meet monthly to monitor the implementation and efficacy of district improvement plans, and analyze disaggregated benchmark data from all schools in the district to make curriculum and policy decisions  

District Reference Group (DRG): classification system in which districts that have public school students with similar socioeconomic status and need are grouped together.  Grouping like districts together is useful in order to make legitimate comparisons among districts

Effect Data: student achievement results from various measurements

Effective Teaching Strategies (ETS): nine categories of research-based instructional strategies that were identified to be most effective in a meta-analysis conducted by Marzano, Pickering & Pollock (2001).  They include: identifying similarities and difference, summarizing and note taking, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, homework and practice, nonlinguistic representations, cooperative learning, setting objectives and providing feedback, generating and testing hypotheses, cues questions and advance organizers (Connecticut has added a tenth strategy, non-fiction writing, based on the research of Douglas Reeves).

Essential Question: open-ended questions with emotive force that invite students into the learning process and establish a learning goal of being able to answer the essential question with a big idea at the end of an instructional unit

Fidelity of Implementation: use and delivery of curricula, instructional strategies, behavioral systems, and interventions in the manner they were designed and intended to be used (e.g., adhering to the treatment time and key features required for a particular intervention)

Formative Assessment: process used by teachers to determine how to adjust instruction in response to student needs, and by students to adjust learning strategies.  Formative assessments are used to inform and adjust instruction, and are not used to evaluate student progress for a grade. 

Grade Level Expectations (GLE): a description of what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade level

Goal Line: graphically, this is the line connecting the student’s baseline performance to a data point representing the long-range goal (also referred to as an aimline)

Holistic Accountability: a system that includes not only academic achievement scores, but also specific information on curriculum, teaching and leadership practices.  It includes a balance of quantitative and qualitative indicators focuses on the progress of individual students.  Holistic accountability includes Tier I, II and III Indicators (Douglas Reeves, 2004).

Horizontal Data Team: team of educators that are responsible for data analysis and instructional/curricular decision-making for a particular grade level

Instructional Data Team: team of educators that are responsible for data analysis and instructional/curricular decision-making for a particular grade level (horizontal team) or content area across grade levels (vertical team); they include school leaders, specialists, and behavioral/mental health personnel.  Common formative assessment data and samples of student work are analyzed to identify strengths and weaknesses in student learning and determine what adult actions and instructional strategies will best address students and learning objectives.  The team reconvenes to analyze the effectiveness of the selected strategies as determined by common summative assessments.

Looking at Student Work (LASW): the collaborative analysis of student work by educators, using a structured protocol, to inform instruction; it is an integral component of the Data Team process.

Local Norms: average patterns of performance defined in relation to a local population, such as that of a school or district

Model for Curriculum: The Connecticut model for curriculum provides guidance for district curriculum development by including instructional resources aligned with the GLE’s. These resources could include sample learning activities, lesson plans, literacy and technology applications, etc. 

National Norms: average patterns of performance defined in relation to a national population

Pacing Guide:  The Connecticut pacing guide provides sequenced GLEs over the four quarters of a school year. 

Performance-based Assessment (PBA): an assessment of student learning that calls for a demonstration and/or application of learned content that is integrated into lessons

Priority Standard: learning standard that a school district has determined to be of particular importance for the students based on what has been collaboratively determined based on data and professional judgment to be important in life, school and on the state assessment.  Priority standards are standards that endure over time, give students leverage in other content areas and prepare them for the next grade.  Priority standards are revisited on an annual basis so that revisions can be made as new data are available (also known as a Power Standard).

Professional Learning Community (PLC): collegial group of educators who are united in their commitment to continuous adult and student learning, work and learn collaboratively to realize a common mission, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision making

Progress Monitoring: regularly using data to track students’ progress toward a goal, or a school or district’s progress toward a goal for increased student achievement 

Reciprocal Accountability:  “If the district (or state) is to hold schools accountable for producing specific outcomes frothier students, the district (or state) has the responsibility to provide those schools with the resources (human, material and intellectual) and the conditions necessary to produce those outcomes” (Elmore in Hess, 2006, p.119)

Response to Intervention (RtI): please see Scientific Research-Based Interventions 

Results Indicators: describes the specific behaviors (both student and adult) that the Data Team expects to see as a result of implementing agreed-upon strategies.  Results indicators help Data Teams to determine whether or not the strategies, if implemented with fidelity, are working prior to a summative assessment so that mid-course corrections can be made. 

Rubric: scoring guide composed of set criteria and related levels of proficiency that is used to evaluate a student's performance, product, or project

School Climate:  The nature of the interrelationships among the people in the school community physically, emotionally and intellectually; how the people within the school community treat one another (adult to adult interactions, adult and student interactions and student to students interactions) through their actions, verbal and non-verbal exchanges, tone of voice and the use/abuse of inherent power advantages.

School Data Team: team of school educators, including the principal, teacher representatives, and behavioral/mental support staff, who meet monthly to monitor the implementation and efficacy of the school improvement plan, and monitor the progress of Instructional Data Teams to make curriculum and policy decisions

Scientific Research-Based Interventions (SRBI): the use of educational practices, which have been validated through research as effective, for improved student outcomes.  Educational practices that are implemented in a school or district which, through data analysis, demonstrate effectiveness (also known as Response to Intervention).

Slope: a student’s rate of improvement.  Slope is determined by how the student is responding to the intervention.

SMART Goal: a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, time-bound 

Smarter Balanced Assessment: new statewide test for students. The Smarter Balanced Assessment replaces the Connecticut Mastery Test (SMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT). 

Summative Assessment: assessments that are employed mainly to assess cumulative student learning at a particular point in time (e.g., the Connecticut Mastery Test, the Connecticut Academic Performance Test)

Teacher Support/Intervention Teams: teams of educators that are responsible for data analysis and decision-making in Tier II and Tier III and that may overlap with data teams; they include certain core members (e.g., the school principal, the school psychologist) as well as other members that may rotate on and off the team depending on the needs of the student under consideration (e.g., special educators, reading/language arts consultants or coaches)

Tier I Indicator: specific indicators used to determine whether state and district learning expectations have been achieved as evidenced by student “effect” data 

Tier II Indicator: specific actions taken by adults to “cause” student achievement outcomes (e.g., 100% of faculty, student support staff and administrators will participate in the data team process)

Tier III Indicator: narrative analysis of relationship between Tiers I and II; this can include conclusions, questions raised, next steps, etc. 

Tier I in Scientific Research-Based Intervention: the general education core curriculum, instruction, and social/behavioral supports for all students, with adequate differentiation of instruction

Tier II in Scientific Research-Based Intervention: short-term interventions for struggling students who have not responded adequately to the Tier I core curriculum and differentiation of instruction; it is part of the general education system

Tier III in Scientific Research-Based Intervention: more intensive or individualized short-term interventions for students who fail to respond adequately to the Tier I core curriculum and differentiation of instruction; it is part of the general education system

Trendline: the single line of best fit when the student’s successive scores during intervention are plotted on a graph; the slope of the trendline shows the student’s rate of improvement 

Unwrapped Standard: a standard that has been analyzed by educators so that it is clear what students need to know and be able to do once they have attained proficiency

Vertical Data Team: team of teachers who teach the same content in different grade levels who are responsible for data analysis and instructional/curricular decision-making with regards to a specific content area

EdSight ( is CSDE’s data portal that provides detailed information about schools and districts and offers information on key performance measures that make up Connecticut’s Next Generation Accountability System.