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Common Core, PARCC: The New Ed Glossary

Jordan Catapano

People are quick to notice two truths about education: It’s always changing, and it’s always staying the same. On the one hand, new technology, initiatives, and methodologies alter the educational landscape. On the other, teachers note that yesterday’s trends become tomorrow’s trends, too. So in education we often feel like there’s something new we’re adapting to while simultaneously recognizing that these new ideas feel sinisterly familiar.

And so, in 2015, we encounter a series of terms that have recently ascended in education. But you’ll also likely note that, despite the sheen of newness, some of what’s on this list feels like a relatively old idea, too. Take a look at these ten terms that weren’t around ten years ago and let us know what you think.

1. Common Core State Standards (CCSS): Love them or hate them, the Common Core State Standards Initiative has been adopted in some form in 46 states. Instead of each state relying on their own independent set of standards, the CCSS help states all work towards the same standards and share a common set of comparisons, techniques, and language. And of course, along with the CCSS comes …

2. PARCC Testing: The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a “consortium of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.” This computer-based test is closely aligned with the CCSS and designed to assess if students in grades K-12 and their states are on the right track to college and career readiness.

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3. PLC: A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is not, you’ll notice, a new idea. In fact, its origins stem from the 1960s when researchers noted that teacher collaboration was an essential ingredient to school success. This term has resurfaced to prominence in the last decade thanks to a number of proponents emphasizing the importance of education professionals sharing time with one another to enhance student success.

4. PLN: Here’s one more acronym for you – the Personal Learning Network (or professional learning network). Thanks to the new communication and sharing technology we have, teachers can entirely customize their professional networks through digital mediums. Instead of being restricted to learning from colleagues in the same building, classes, conferences, and journals, teachers can expand their professional network to include hundreds – even thousands – of fellow education enthusiasts across the globe.

5. Digital Citizenship: We know what it means to be a good citizen in our communities, but what about being a good citizen in our online communities? As teachers develop their PLNs, they learn how to navigate the digital culture of online interactions. Just as important is student digital citizenship; it is imperative that students are learning how to properly project their online presence through websites and social media while avoiding negative experiences.

6. Flipped Classroom: A flipped classroom typically involves some kind of technological communication that allows students to view lessons on their own time and then allocates class time to group activities and applications. There’s no correct way to implement a flipped classroom, but the core idea suggests that students can acquire information prior to class, and then spend class discussing, clarifying, and engaging with the material. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams – two teachers who began recording their lectures for students in 2007 – became instrumental in demonstrating how a flipped classroom operates. Sal Khan’s “Khan Academy” is perhaps the most ubiquitously known component of flipped education.

7. Gamification: Like other terms on this list, gamifying something is not new. But the ascendency of the term helps us solidify and develop the concept. Gamification involves turning learning into some form of a game, competition, or rewards opportunity. Humans often thrive when trying to beat a score or outpace an opponent, so why not turn mastering concepts into some kind of competitive endeavor? Proponents show how student interest, engagement, and outcomes can increase dramatically when content is gamified.

8. MOOC: This stands for Massive Open Online Course. Thanks to the proliferation of digital communication technologies, anyone can share just about anything online. In education, individual teachers or entire organizations can provide courses for free online. Depending on the design of the MOOC, often anyone can access these courses for free, any time.

9. Grit: Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth proposes that grit – the ability to “stick with it” – is perhaps the best predictor of long-term success. Perhaps this term is just a catchy way of rephrasing perseverance, mindset, or resilience, but it’s an easy way to remember that it’s not wealth, health, region, or IQ that ensures success: it’s that feeling in a person that makes them not give up.

10. STEM: OK, again, not a new term. But STEM – or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – has gained traction in the last decade as an educational focus. The government has created special grants and incentives for STEM schools and teacher training, hoping that the United States continues to remain competitive in these fields far into the future. Although the humanities and fine arts get the short end of the stick in these programs, schools with a STEM focus are dedicated to developing students’ strengths these targeted scientific areas.

What Does This Mean for Education?

Education is rife with buzzwords, trendy methods, and rebranding the old as the new. Other runner-up terms include BYOD (bring your own device), digital natives, close reading, college and career readiness, learning management system, and project-based learning. In some ways, education is absolutely changing. But despite the occasional new term, in many ways concepts in education are remaining very much the same as well.

Perhaps the most noteworthy, truly new concepts relate to new technologies that we’re implementing in the classroom. The Flipped Classroom, for example, could hardly have existed without increased abilities to record and post lectures and content online. MOOCs, digital citizenship, and PLNs similarly are rising to prominence because we now have brand new tools that we didn’t have before. If anything, technology continues to emerge and offers new opportunities to integrate it into our educational landscape alongside those old, familiar concepts.

What else is “new” in education that wasn’t around ten years ago? Tell us your favorite buzzwords, concepts, and initiatives in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.