Glossary

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  • 504 plan^

    A plan that lists the accommodations a school will provide, such as audiobooks, note-taking aids or extended time to complete tests, so that a student with a disability has equal access to the general education curriculum.

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  • accommodations^

    A tool or procedure that provides equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities.

  • ADHD^

    Short for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. A condition characterized by symptoms that include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. But not all of these need to be present for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD.

  • assistive technology^

    Any device or software that makes it easier to complete everyday tasks. For example, an app that lets you dictate a message into your phone instead of having to type the words can be considered assistive technology.

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  • charter schools^

    Charter schools are public schools that are governed by their “charter” (or agreement) with an authorizing agency. Charter schools receive public dollars but are not required to follow all the same rules as traditional public schools. For example, charter schools may have longer school days or longer school years and may have different hiring standards for teachers. Charter schools are not usually part of the public school district, so parents must choose to send their child to a charter school instead of a local public school. However, federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities do apply to charter schools.

  • competency-based education^

    Competency-based education (CBE) is a system of personalized learning where students master specific knowledge and skills at their own pace. CBE is different from traditional education because students’ pace and progress are determined by how quickly they master the competencies, not by the length of time they spend in a certain classroom or grade level.

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  • dyscalculia^

    A specific learning disability in math. Children with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding number-related concepts or using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

  • dysgraphia^

    A specific learning disability in writing. Children with dysgraphia may have difficulty writing legibly and at age-appropriate speed. Many children with dysgraphia also struggle to put their thoughts down on paper. This is sometimes called a disorder of written expression.

  • dyslexia^

    A specific learning disability in reading. Children with dyslexia may have difficulty in reading, spelling and performing other skills related to the use of printed language.

  • dyspraxia^

    Sometimes called developmental coordination disorder. Children with dyspraxia may have difficulty planning and performing tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, tying shoelaces or using buttons or zippers.

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  • educational savings accounts^

    In an education savings account program, states set aside money for each participating child who may use the funds while attending private school or while being homeschooled. The money can be used for approved expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, transportation, or some kinds of therapy services.

  • Executive function deficits^

    Difficulty with mental skills or cognitive processes needed to accomplish tasks. Children with executive function deficits often have trouble planning ahead, prioritizing, monitoring their own behavior, starting activities, and shifting from one task to another.

  • executive functions^

    The ability to organize cognitive processes. This includes the ability to plan ahead, prioritize, stop and start activities, shift from one activity to another activity and monitor one’s own behavior.

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  • IEP^

    Short for Individualized Education Program. A plan that details the support and services (such as speech therapy or multisensory reading instruction) a school will provide to meet the individual needs of a student with a disability who qualifies for special education.

  • Individualized Education Program^

    A plan that details the support and services (such as speech therapy or multisensory reading instruction) a school will provide to meet the individual needs of a student with a disability who qualifies for special education. Often referred to as IEP.

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  • learning disabilities^

    Disorders that result in learning challenges that are not caused by low intelligence, problems with hearing or vision or lack of educational opportunity. Many children with learning disabilities have difficulties in particular skill areas, such as reading or math. These children may also have trouble paying attention and getting along with their peers. Often referred to as LD.

  • learning disability^

    Disorders that result in learning challenges that are not caused by low intelligence, problems with hearing or vision or lack of educational opportunity. Many children with learning disabilities have difficulties in particular skill areas, such as reading or math. These children may also have trouble paying attention and getting along with their peers. Often referred to as LD.

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  • magnet schools^

    Magnet schools are public schools that offer specialized courses or curriculum (such as STEM, the arts, or other career paths). Magnet schools exist outside of school “zones” or boundaries and can set standards for admissions. Students must apply or enter a lottery for enrollment. However, federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities do apply to magnet schools.

  • modifications^

    A change in what a student is taught or expected to learn. This term is used in Individualized Education Programs and 504 plans and is often paired with accommodations, which are changes that allow a student to more fully participate in learning.

  • multi-tier system of supports^

    A multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) is a decision-making framework that uses data-based progress monitoring to respond to students’ needs by providing evidence-based interventions that increase in intensity from tier to tier. MTSS covers academic as well as social and emotional supports.

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  • Nonverbal learning disabilities^

    Difficulty recognizing and responding to unspoken or non-literal communication. Children with NVLD may have trouble understanding body language or sarcasm. They may also have weaknesses in such areas as abstract reasoning and physical coordination. Sometimes abbreviated as NLD.

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  • personalized learning^

    When personalized, learning aligns with each student’s interests, needs and skills, and takes place in an engaging environment where students gain a better understanding of their strengths. Personalized learning enables students to learn at their own pace and to receive support in challenge areas. Personalized learning can take place online or offline. Technology can be helpful but is not required.

  • positive behavioral interventions and supports^

    A schoolwide approach that is designed to create a social culture and systems of support that make misbehavior less attractive, and that rewards desired behaviors.

  • private schools^

    Independent schools that charge tuition and are not part of the public school system. Civil rights laws offer limited protections for children with disabilities who attend private schools.

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  • response to intervention^

    A comprehensive, multi-step process that closely monitors how the student is responding to different types of services and instruction. Often referred to as RTI.

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  • school vouchers^

    Voucher programs allow parents to use public funding—which would have been used by their local district to educate their child at a public school—to help pay tuition at a private school of their choice.

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  • transition plan^

    A plan developed by the IEP team to help teens with a disability set and reach goals for the transition from high school into adulthood. Sometimes referred to as an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP).

  • twice-exceptional^

    A description many educators use for students who have outstanding talents in some academic areas and significant learning difficulties in other areas. Sometimes referred to as “2e students,” twice-exceptional learners may qualify for gifted programs as well as special education services.

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  • Universal Design for Learning^

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that is designed to create an environment where diverse learners can be successful. These principles provide multiple ways for information to be presented and for students to engage with the material and demonstrate what they know.

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  • virtual schools^

    Virtual schools offer education through the Internet rather than inside a school building. Virtual schools offer online lessons and use technology to connect students to teachers. Some virtual schools are private schools. The virtual schools that are public schools must follow federal laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities.

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