Education jargon: What ‘no excuses’ and other terms really mean

The Washington Post has a fun look at what some of the more recent jargon used by corporate education reformers actually means.

In many states teacher evaluations will now include the results of value-added assessments.

Meaning: Teachers will be judged in part by comparing students’ current test scores to those of the previous year. To what extent the teacher is responsible for the gains—or lack thereof—is debatable.

Our newly published reading program is research-based.

Meaning: Perhaps only one study supports the program’s methods, and that may be a study conducted by the author or publisher. Another possibility is that the program only superficially follows the methodology found effective by many studies.

We should be educating the whole child.

Meaning: The writer disapproves of current educational reforms that minimize social, moral, physical, and imaginative learning in favor of a sole focus on academic learning.

All schools in America should be showing high student achievement.

Meaning: Achievement means only improved test scores, which could be the result of intensive test preparation, student sub-group manipulation, or cheating. Moreover, achievement and learning are not synonymous.

The new Common Core Standards are more rigorous than state standards.

Meaning: The CCSS are more difficult than those of most states, but not necessarily more appropriate for the designated grade levels or more in line with college or workplace expectations.

We are a “ no excuses ” school!

Meaning: The school has a strict set of rules and practices for teachers and students. Those who cannot or will not comply are asked to leave. The system is impractical for large public schools where total conformity cannot be enforced.

A team of experts has reviewed the new standards and found them appropriate for children of this age.

Meaning: The experts selected were college professors, think tank members, and private sector consultants who may never have taught children or spent any time observing in classrooms. Very likely, no practicing teachers were considered “expert” enough to be included in the team.

We need to reform our failing schools .

Meaning: A school’s principal and teachers are to blame for students’ low test scores. They need to be removed or the school should be closed.

States should closely monitor and limit the proliferation of for-profit schools.

Meaning: You can’t trust schools run by businesses.

The Department of Education has given many states NCLB waivers.

Meaning: The DOE has allowed some states to substitute their own plans for school improvement for the requirements of NCLB, as long as those plans are just as demanding or even more so.