Buzzwords in Secondary Education

Teachers and administrators often make use of language and definitions that are unique to their profession. Describing everything from classroom methods to reform efforts, this jargon can confuse those outside of the field. Here are some buzzwords in common use today within secondary education.

By Douglas Fehlen

high school middle school secondary education buzzwords jargon issues trends

21st century skills

A term used to describe a grouping of skills important to students' ultimate personal and economic success in today's world. Among the points of focus: developing digital literacy, communication, problem solving and collaboration skills.

Authentic assessment

This form of assessment often incorporates real world projects that students complete to demonstrate knowledge of classroom concepts. Grades for these hands-on activities are typically based on rubrics (see below).

Blue Ribbon School

'Blue Ribbon School' is a designation of the U.S. Department of Education bestowed on schools that 'are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students.'

Cooperative learning

This classroom practice features groups of students working together to complete academic tasks. This form of collaboration is increasingly being supplemented with the use of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools.

Differentiating instruction

Designed to provide teaching appropriate for individual needs, this education strategy factors learners' multiple intelligences, learning styles and academic strengths into instructional decision making.

lLarning styles

Learning styles are simply different approaches to learning. Students often excel in one or more areas of cognition. Educators use information on these strengths to create lessons that allow learners to process new material efficiently.

high school middle school secondary education buzzwords jargon issues trends

Multiple intelligences

Developed by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, multiple intelligence are 'different ways of being smart.' Designations include interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, musical, logic-mathematical, visual-spatial, naturalist and bodily-kinesthetic.

No Child Left Behind

Passed in 2001, this controversial accountability legislation is designed to improve school performance. The standards-based education reforms require that schools use research-based materials and teaching strategies in the classroom and standardized testing for assessment.

Portfolio assessment

Portfolios bring together a collection of student work on a given subject or concept. Teachers examine this compilation of work to gauge students' mastery of concepts and assess grades based on a rubric.

Project-based learning

This type of learning provides students with questions or problems they must answer or solve. Designed to incorporate unit concepts, the instructional strategy allows learners to explore topics in depth while taking on real-world issues.

Race to the Top Fund

The Race to the Top Fund, a program of the U.S. Department of Education, offers grants to states and school districts 'leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform.'


Projects and papers typically cannot be assessed in the straightforward manner of objective tests. Rubrics outline educators' criteria for grading that can be used on these forms of subjective student work.

Learn more secondary education buzzwords by checking out these top education policy blogs.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?