A Vocabulary Lesson For Discussing Education Reform

If you are going to involve yourself in the ed debates, there are some basic terms that you will need to know. The following is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will help you make sense of what you read about the subject as well as allowing you to sound smart at your next cocktail party (should the topic of education reform come up).


You might think that a “high-achieving student” would be one with accomplishments in many disciplines. Maybe she’s the yearbook editor, several leads in the school production of Into the Woods, holder of the school weaselball scoring record, and the top student in wood shop. Maybe she has shown smarts and skills that make her the envy of her classmates. Maybe she is a junior Rhodes Scholar. All of this may be how you define “high-achieving student,” and you would be incorrect.

A high-achieving student is one who gets a high score on the Big Standardized Test.

This applies to all uses of the word “achievement.” If your school is trying a program to raise student achievement, that just means they’re trying to get BS Test scores up. If they are advertising that their students have outstanding achievement, that just means the school posted high test scores. And if your administrators reject a program or idea for your school by saying, “That won’t have a positive impact on student achievement,” what they mean is “As far as we know, that won’t get test scores any higher.”


An effective teacher is one whose students post high achievements. That’s it. See above.

College- and Career-Ready:

Once upon a time Bill Clinton and Bill Gates and George Bush and Barrack Obama tried to get US schools to adopt some national-level standards. They were called the Common Core, and instead of the means of paving the way for Superman, they turned out to be kryptonite. Some Republican hopefuls thought they would be a useful political platform, and were shocked when the folks on the right had a major conniption. Some Democrats were also shocked to discover that many fans of public education and the teaching profession were also not terribly fond of the Common Core.