How to eduspeak like a pro

You, too, can talk like an “educator.” The Washington Post explains.

At many schools, 6-year-olds don’t compare books anymore — they make “text-to-text connections.” Misbehaving students face not detention but the “alternative instruction room,” or “reinforcement room,” or “reflection room.” Children who once read now practice “SSR,” or “sustained silent reading.”

And in Maryland, high schoolers write “extended constructed responses” — the essay, in a simpler time.

“Multiple choice” is now “selected response.” ESL (English as a second language) became LEP (limited English-proficient) students and then ELL (English language learners) and now just EL (English learners). “In some schools, homeroom has become advisory or Achievement Time or even Time to Care.”

I remember when our high school library was renamed the Instructional Materials Center, soon known redundantly as the IMC Center. Guidance became the Pupil Personnel Services Center.

Robert Maeder, 17, a senior at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, finds the terms demeaning — especially “learning cottage,” instead of “classroom trailer,” and “assessment” for test.

“It’s like renaming a prison ‘The Happy Fun Place,’ ” Maeder said. “Tests should be called tests. ‘Brief constructed response’ — you just wonder why they don’t say ‘paragraph.’ It doesn’t really serve any purpose renaming them.”

Educators complain that parents aren’t involved in their children’s education, but how can parents be involved if they can’t tell an outcome-based authentic assessment from a criterion-referenced assessment?

About Joanne


  1. I’m beginning to feel like I went to school in a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie.

  2. Joanne, half of what you quoted is incomprehensible, and I’m in the classroom every day! I honestly can’t even keep track of the difference between ESL, ELL, LEP, EFL or the other bajillion acronyms inscribed on those oh-so-frequent district updates.

  3. Hmmm…kind of like higher academia. Make the jargon so thick, it’s a barrier to entry and info, and your job is secure for life!

    Except outsiders, when encountering this persiflage, have a nasty habit of looking at actual results. And they notice people aren’t getting anything useful done.

    Anyway, I’m glad I can homeschool.

  4. I love the “learning cottage” — it’s so homelike! Almost like homeschooling!


  5. I’m in college. For a second degree in education, so I’ve had about 50 different profs so far, all told. Every last one of them gave us “tests” except one I have now. In her class we get “assessed”. She’s an educationa/developmental psychiatrist. *sigh*
    They are, needless to say, group efforts that are “rich in contectual context and contextual content.

  6. If I may be permitted to swim slightly against the current here, please keep in mind that this jargon doesn’t come from the classroom. Many of the testing-related phrases are from the volumes of the US Department of Education while others are created by college-level “researchers” and the ever-poplular consultants who use the new terms to distinguish their work from others. District-level administrators then toss them into letters, press releases and presentations. The teachers I work with are just as confused about many of theses phrases as the parents of their students.

    One “new” term I would defend, however, is assessment. Test has become wedded to a paper-and-pencil-books-closed-no-talking activity that a different term is needed. Despite the feelings of some, there are other ways to determine student learning.

    Please don’t take out the flame throwers. 🙂

  7. Gee, in the Army we had tests that involved shouting, running, shooting, choking, crying, explosions, eating, sleeping and ran for 110 hours. Why would the word test imply pencils, paper and silence? The Army is pretty bad at strange words and acronyms. How about sap, ICM or EUSAREUR? But even we could not mess with test.

  8. “Test has become wedded to a paper-and-pencil-books-closed-no-talking activity that a different term is needed.”

    Sure, students will be caught off guard for a while… but given enough time, ‘assessment’ will become just as wedded to a paper-and-pencil-books-closed-no-talking activity. Then someone will be complaining about the negative connotations associated with ‘assessment’ and how we desparately need to call them something different.

    Simply changing the name never changes attitudes toward anything.

    For example, I remember when my elementary school started calling it ‘special’ education. Did the students stop making fun of it? No. They just started making fun of the word ‘special’ instead. So then the school started calling it ‘resource learning.’ Same result.

  9. Jargon it itself isn’t a problem. The problem is that one of the uses of jargon is to exclude outsiders. Many educationists see parents as outsiders, whose only contribution to their children’s education should be doing what the pros tell them to. So as quickly as the motivated and egaged parents learn the jargon, it no longer excludes them, and has to be changed. It’s the dizzying rate of change in jargon that’s the peoblem.

  10. I was thinking about what I was going to say, but Bruce H. beat me to it. Edu-speak and jargon also drives a wedge between parent and child.

    I remember well in the early 70’s when my father almost lost his mind trying to help me with the “new math.” He originally was a teacher, so this would have been a no-brainer for him. Instead he gave up all involvement in my education and let the “experts” handle it. Interestingly enough, he could do all basic math calculations through his seventies, while I am math-phobic to this day.

    I’m sorry they were intimidated by the schools. It cost me quite a bit. But I learned from their mistakes and I refuse to let the same thing happen to my children.

  11. Although I speak Edu-jargon fluently, I don’t use it with parents. The only place I use it is in graduate school. Edu-jargon is the stuff that people in the publish-or-perish rat race come up with to keep their jobs. Tim’s right. It ain’t the classroom teacher making that crap up.

    I remember once using the word “exam” in one of my classes. A student moaned and groaned and told me to NOT call it that. I asked the student what I should call it, and the student said “test.” The student couldn’t tell me the differene between an exam and a test, but was absolutely convinced that an exam was much, much worse. Priceless.

  12. I have to admit. I hate eduspeak. It just breaks down communication and isn’t very constructive.

  13. Steve Gibson, a Montgomery County community superintendent (de-jargoned: he oversees a group of schools), defends some of the changes. From “multiple choice” to “selected response”: “When I grew up, oftentimes it was ‘multiple guess,’ and we don’t want kids guessing, but selecting their response.”

    Does he really think they’ll never start saying “selected guess”?

    What a disgusting waste of time and money.

    Hasn’t somebody written a random eduspeak generator?

  14. “My hope is that we’re creating language for kids that is more explicit and to the point than it is confusing.”

    The end is near.

  15. I would like to chain all these educracts to a one-volume edition of Plato for a good long SSR and then give them a cumulative learning assessment exercise. Arise, O Socrates, and defend us we pray against the sophists, who no longer content to prey on rich men’s sons now drain the public treasury.

  16. It’s less the jargon I object to, than the slogans and sneers.

    “Drill and Kill” instead of “practice”, especially w.r.t. mathematics.

    “Predictable” and “authentic” texts. Not “stories” or “storybooks.”

    By the way, I actually _did_ attend a one-room school on the Kansas Prairie, in 1963. At that point in the BabyBoom, the needed TWO teachers for the 30 students, grades 1 thru 8. We had a vinyl partition dividing the room, with 1-4 on one side and 5-8 on the other.

    It turned out to be a pretty good way of doing things…

  17. “Learning cottage”…good god. When I was in junior high in, oh, 1983, it wasn’t even a “classroom trailer”. We just called it the “portable”, even though it never moved. 🙂

    SSR is a term that was used when I was in school, but I haven’t heard any of the others before. Scary scary scary.

  18. My 6th grade son has SSR. Am I cynical to guess its real meaning is “Sit down, Shut up, and Read”?

  19. SSR stands for sustained silent reading. But I think Two Tone’s translation also is valid.

  20. Two Tone, there are days when it means just that!

  21. Mitch Ruth says:

    I loved the “learning cottages” of my school days, we just called them Prefabs.

    He He He… I gave a “formative assessment” the other day to my middle school students. When they asked what it was, I said that it was to help me find out if what I was teaching was “sticking” to them or if I had to go back and review everything.
    Best test scores I’ve had in a while….

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