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The Teaching Profession: Education Acronyms to Know

Jordan Catapano

Governmental agencies, including schools and other institutions in the teaching profession, are famous for encapsulating important concepts in odd little acronyms. There are dozens of terms all educators should be aware of, but here are ten important acronyms you are likely to come across in the teaching profession.

IDEA = Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
This major education act was passed in 1990, stemming from an earlier 1975 act, and guarantees the educational rights of students with disabilities. IDEA dictates how public schools across the country provide special education and related services to millions of students. At its core, this act ensures that students with disabilities are granted the same educational opportunities as their peers who do not have disabilities.

FAPE = Free Appropriate Public Education
One of the provisions in IDEA is that all students are to receive a free and appropriate education. This is an educational right for students with disabilities, and it means that schools must provide students with disabilities an education equal to that of non-disabled peers. This requires all schools to include adapted instruction and necessary services to ensure students with disabilities receive the college and career-ready skills necessary for their futures.

IEP = Individualized Education Program/Plan
An individualized education program is a unique document created for each student receiving special education. The document outlines the student’s unique needs as well as the accommodations that will be put in place to help that student learn in the public school setting. An IEP is created by a team and is the product of an evaluation process which ascertains the needs, accommodations, and goals for the student. IEPs are important tools to help all stakeholders ensure that each special education student receives the supports they need to meet their educational goals.

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LRE = Least Restrictive Environment
Like each of the acronyms above, this one relates to special education as well. The least restrictive environment is defined by IDEA as the education environment in which children with disabilities “Are educated with children who are non-disabled” and should only be placed in a separate academic setting if “The severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” This term emphasizes the importance of helping students with disabilities still access learning environments as closely related to their non-disabled peers as possible.

ESSA = Every Student Succeeds Act
Here’s where the government’s acronyms get fun. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed ESEA into law – that’s the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This was the single biggest piece of legislation that promised the federal government’s funding and involvement in education. ESSA – the Every Student Succeeds Act – was signed into law by President Obama in 2015 as the latest version of ESEA. ESEA has been reauthorized by the government eight times since 1965, and ESSA is the latest reauthorization. You might know ESSA’s predecessor, known as NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

Why is ESSA particularly important? Because it shifts a great deal of authority back to the states to decide locally such things as crafting standards and evaluating teachers. Plus, while the law took effect in the summer of 2016, states were allowed an 18-month transition period to comply with the law, so many effects of ESSA may be appearing soon.

ERIC = Education Resources Information Center
Who is ERIC? ERIC is not a who, but a what. It is an online information database where education professionals can find educational research. This database is sponsored by the US Department of Education and serves as a crucial resource for teachers to access the latest research that will help their pedagogy. ERIC is home to more than a million citations of research, and also can provide full-text articles on thousands of searchable topics.

BIP = Behavior Intervention Plan
A Behavior Intervention Plan is exactly as it sounds – a plan for helping a given student control his own behavior and redirect it in a more positive way. BIPs may be part of a student’s IEP or 504 Plan, and they help stakeholders teach and reward positive behaviors. If a student has a recurring detrimental behavior, the IEP team may create a BIP that lists appropriate steps for that student, his or her teachers, and other professionals to take to improve the student’s behavior, often targeting not just the negative behavior but the factors that may cause it.

BoE = Board of Education
Each school is led by a Board of Education, consisting of members from the community who represent the community’s interests for a given district. Board members are typically, though not always, elected by the community. A Board of Education is responsible for everything that happens within its school district, including elements like the hiring of personnel, the managing of finances, and the overseeing of standards. BoE may also refer to each state’s Board of Education, responsible for overseeing education throughout the entire state.

FERPA = Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
This is an important federal law protecting the privacy of each student’s educational records. Generally this law means that only parents and/or eligible students at least 18 years of age may access their school records. Schools cannot share a student’s records with anyone else without consent, except for in a few circumstances such as when a student transfers to another school or with state and local authorities who have warranted legal permission to view such records.

PLN = Professional Learning Network
And now for a non-government term. A Professional Learning Network, or PLN, is a handy way of identifying the fellow educators a given teacher is connected to either in real life or online. A PLN is a customized, personalized set of professionals who help an individual learn and grow in their craft. This might include individuals in a teacher’s department, school, district, at conferences, within education organizations, or via social media. Teachers should develop their own PLN to leverage the ideas, resources, and materials of others.

What other education acronyms are ones that people in the teaching profession ought to know? Add to our list by sharing in a comment 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

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