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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: jargon

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October 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Jargon round III: Child-centered, phonemic awareness, equity, IEP

Our jargon expert today is Charles Duerr, a former Bellevue elementary teacher who now coaches first-year teachers. He holds the prestigious national board certification, and, like our previous jargon-definers, is a contributor to the Stories from Schools blog, sponsored by the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession.

Duerr tackled a few more of the tempestuous terms you listed earlier on this blog. See his definitions below.


Charles Duerr

For any other potential definers out there, here are a few other words we’d still like described in plain-spoken language. They are: Alignment, benchmarking, value-added, rubric.  Send a one- or two-sentence definition to, and we may feature it in a future Education Lab post.

Now to Duerr’s definitions:

Phonemic awareness: An early education skill, the knowledge of the sounds that letters and groups of letters make. It is assessed by reading nonsense words: Plub, crin, swar

Child-centered/brain-based/learner centered: Separate but overlapping approaches to teaching that consider the emotional health, developmental stages, and learning styles of students.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, Charles Duerr, jargon

September 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Round II: Another top teacher explains more of jargon you hate


Spencer Olmsted

In our quest to illuminate some of the education jargon you’ve said confuses and confounds you, today we offer plain-spoken definitions of five more terms, provided by National Board Certified teacher Spencer Olmsted from Olympia. Thanks, Spencer!

He follows Mark Gardner, a Camas high-school teacher (also nationally certified) who tackled three terms last week.

Both Olmsted and Gardner write for the Stories from School blog, a project of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, a Washington nonprofit.

Olmsted teaches fifth grade in Olympia. His full bio is below.

He chose to define manipulatives, formative assessment, constructivist, scaffolding and number sentence.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, jargon, Spencer Olmsted

September 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

What does data-driven mean? Maybe not what you think

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Mark Gardner

A few weeks back, we asked you to tell us what education jargon frustrates, exasperates or confuses you — and we got a long list, everything from alignment to value-added.

Then we asked some of our state’s most talented educators  ones who have earned the prestigious National Board Certification  to come up with some plain-spoken definitions.

Today, we feature responses from one of them: Mark Gardner, a high school English teacher from the Camas School District in southwest Washington and a blogger for Stories from School, a project of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, a nonprofit dedicated to building a strong teaching force in Washington state.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, jargon, Mark Gardner

August 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tell us: What’s the most vexing education jargon you’ve heard?

With summer in full swing, it’s time to have little fun on the Ed Lab blog. As an education blog, we offer a bit of educational fun.

All you have to do is help us define education jargon in plain English.

Submit a term you don’t understand — or don’t fully understand — by typing it into the form below. We’re looking for terms that frustrate, exasperate or confuse you — or all three. Terms that you would like to ban forever. Terms that might as well be written in Martian — if they were Greek, they would be easier to understand.

Here are a few possibilities: Authentic assessment, child-centered, competency-based, alignment, critical thinking, differentiated instruction, mastery learning, constructivist, inquiry, direct instruction, developmentally appropriate, benchmarks, criterion-reference test, formative assessment, phonemic awareness, rubric, teacher leadership, research-based, best practices, stakeholders.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: jargon, your voices