Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year
September 26th, 2012
04:17 AM ET

Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own.  We’ve compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year.  It’s by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education’s priorities as we start a new school year.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core – a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government.  According to the Common Core website: “These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.”  Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a “nationalized curriculum” and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.

Flipped classes – Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help?  What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their “homework” in class with the help of their teacher?  That’s the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay.  When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher.  Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping.  But some say the practice doesn’t work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.

Gamification – is “the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren’t traditionally games,” according to For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it’s unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old “chalk and talk” method doesn’t work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?

MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course – Imagine the ability to take a course online, with all the resources you need right there, all free, or at very low cost – as an education “event.” Less than a year ago, when Stanford University announced it would offer a free artificial intelligence course online, 58,000 people signed up. This summer, Coursera, a young company created by two Stanford University computer scientists, announced partnerships with some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Princeton, Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins to offer MOOCs. MIT and Harvard have committed more than $60 million to edX. Udacity has partnered with 20 companies on its STEM and vocational courses. Generally, MOOC courses do not offer credit; instead students can receive a certificate of accomplishment.  The courses are made up of “chunked” quizzes, assignments and lecture videos. Some are calling this a “seismic shift” in higher education. It could drastically change the college experience as we know it, though there are concerns about the MOOC as a sustainable business model.

School choice – The different educational options available to parents and students and the extent to which they can take advantage of these options.  School choice is not a new term, but one that will continue to drive the education conversation this school year, especially around election time. It’s a concept that is politically popular, though some opponents question the fairness of vouchers and some point out mixed reviews on charter schools and student achievement.  For most students, their school is determined by their address.  School choice advocates prefer that parents, not ZIP codes, determine what school their children will attend. Among the current educational options available in different districts are magnet schools, charter schools, private schools (with vouchers in some places), open enrollment (where students can attend any school within a district) and homeschooling.  As a result of school choice legislation in some states, some parents are enrolling their children in online classes, while others are opting for “blended learning” – a combination of online and classroom instruction.

Join the discussion:  What terms do you think will define education in the 2012-2013 academic year?  You can post your comments below.

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Filed under: Common Core State Standards • Flipped classes • Gamification • MOOC • Policy • Practice • School choice
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Dr Tom

    There are proven ways to evaluate student progress and tests are only a part of it. But this can't be done unless the teachers and their supervisors are properly trained. Most schools do not have properly trained supervisors or principals. But supervisors who have been properly trained and have administration support can train teachers in how to do this. Of course, this is all hard work and may even take some money. Someone has to decide if our kids and the future of the nation is worth it.

    September 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  2. Don F.

    Oh my, the latest round of faddish jargon and gimmicks, destined to be over hyped to parents and students as the great solution and discarded in a year or two as passe.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Don F.

      The concept of flipped classes is interesting - instruction at home over telemedia and school becomes a giant study hall staffed with ed-techs and not teachers. Great for the budget. Someone put it right "Most of this amounts to teachers not teaching."

      September 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  3. Jim

    Teacher bashing is on high... Makes me sick. When the Chicago teachers struck, most comments were fire them all, anyone can teach! I see a comparison with the NFL refs... Everyone's crying for the real refs to come back after the fill-in refs debacle. Imagine firing all teachers in Chicago and getting fill-ins... They'd be crying for the real teachers to come back... Come on people, let the teachers teach. They are the trained professionals.

    September 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • James Hawk III

      I think the Chicago teachers wanted too much money, but they were spot on where teacher evaluations were concerned. This may be the only time I ever agree with Rahm Emmanuel, too–unless he's a big fan of Thai food or something like that. Evaluating purely on the basis of student tests scores puts too much outcome in the hands of the students, who can conspire to push teachers out. It also guarantees that teachers of lower-echelon or ESE students will never get correct evaluations without skewing the scores every which way–at which point, you're better off just having the local administrators at the school do the reviews. That's how it works in the business world–I get reviewed by the people I report to. Why wouldn't teachers be allowed the same process? It's madness to do it any other way.

      September 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • guarg

      Actually, part of the problem was that the union was protecting non teachers. a large portion of the city's teaching pool are 'cadre' and not trained teachers. They have an issue finding highly qualified staff due to an out dated racial hiring quota imposed by a judge in the 70's.

      September 27, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  4. phoenician1

    I'm married to a teacher with 25+ years of experience, and so I have a different take on teachers than most. They can sometimes have a 'bunker mentality' – Us vs. Them. But it's because most people don't understand teaching, and what teachers are being asked to do. If you're like most two-income families, your children's teachers spend more time with your kids than you do, and that means like it or not, teachers are raising your kids for you. So imagine trying to teach right and wrong without appearing to put any person or group down as bad or wrong, and without referring to traditional moral standards like religious books. Imagine trying to discipline children without the ability to use most of the effective methods to enforce that discipline. Imagine trying to treat every kid in a class as 'special' or 'gifted' or 'better', because what parent doesn't think one of those labels applies to their child? Now imagine trying to do all of that with cameras and or observers and or reporters (some only three feet tall) watching your every move, with an eye towards 'helping' you 'improve' the way you teach. And after all that, let's let strangers who don't understand (or often value) what you do decide what your income should be, and peg your job evaluations to what your customers think of you (NOT how well you actually do your job). Don't get me wrong, there are teachers who are overpaid, and there are teachers who shouldn't be teaching. But that's no more true about teachers than it is about virtually any other field. Look at the young people around you today. How well has the current system of tying teachers' hands while forcing them to try and do the raising that stay-at-home parents used to do worked out in YOUR personal world? Do they have a good work ethic? How about their morals–would you trust them with your money, or your daughter, or your unlocked house for a couple of days? What about their judgement–would you lend them your car? These teachers are SHAPING OUR FUTURE through the thinking and the morals and the examples they instill in this nation's young people–and we are failing to value what they do, and thinking that we know better then they how to educate the young. Would you let me, a stranger, decide how you had to perform your job, and how much you should get paid to do it? Then why do you think that deal is a good one for teachers?

    September 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Don F.

      Have you seen it from the parent's side??

      You wrote: " If you're like most two-income families, your children's teachers spend more time with your kids than you do, and that means like it or not, teachers are raising your kids for you." If this be true why over the course of 27 years was there a growing expectation that I a parent take on more of traditional teaching responsibility even to the point of grading portfolios, and doing basic writing instruction, even to the point of explaining to my children why assignments were wrong or were not complete-able because the word problems lacked sufficient information to compute whatever needed to be computed. Or how about the middle grade English assignment of "rewrite for tomorrow" without a single editorial comment. On the other hand the continual barrage of we want you kids to sell candy, we want your kids to sell magazines, we want your kids to sell candles, we want your kids to do community service, we want your kids to visit places of work - all of which carry the expectation that parents will manage the arrangements, transportation, accounting and not one iota of this has any curricular value except in a negative way by taking time out of the school day and shifting the focus of teachers and administration away from academics. I've seen more than one principal bury themselves in nonessential trivial junk activities instead of managing their school.

      September 26, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  5. PlayingTeacher

    Most of this amounts to teachers not teaching. Yep, heard all about Common Core at high school and middle school curriculum nights this fall. The kids are supposed to talk to each other to learn anything. Books are not a "curriculum," they are a "resource." Honors physics teacher: "We have books but we don't use them. I don't want my students reading about velocity; they need to talk to each other to figure it out on a graph." AP calc teacher: "Shy kids are not going to do well in this class; the students need to talk to each other to figure out how to solve problems." What does my kid do? Well, either we parents teach him (good thing we are both engineers), or he types his problems in on various web pages and studies the solutions. I have heard some teachers say they feel sorry for the students, but they are being forced to teach this way, "Good thing you are already a Junior and only have to deal with this for two years. I feel sorry for the middle school kids." If parents are also not good teachers, their kids will suffer.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Marcie

      You are absolutely right. I spend 2-3 hrs every day re-teaching my kids so they can do their homework, and thank God for the Internet, or we would sometimes be totally lost. But it isn't because the teachers do not teach, but because they have to race through the material so that it is "covered" by the time the achievement tests come around. I used to love school as a child, but I hate, hate, hate it as a parent.

      September 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
      • Don F.

        I totally agree on the educational work load being transferred to parents. If I and my wife were not professionals our kids would have been severely disadvantaged. I did science and math and socialsciences, my wife covered english and project coordination. I do disagree about it being because of teaching overload when a fourth grade teacher chooses to focus on teaching fractals instead of mastery of arithmetic facts the issue is not curriculum overload.

        September 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Teri

    Flipping is pretty much how I learned and it is a far better method. It gives kids the opportunity to figure things out themselves and the pride that comes with it when they do. Yes, it can lead to frustration for some at first, but eventually they get it and once they do, there is no stopping them. We didn't have computers or videos, just some worksheets and the textbook that we took home. This method can work, even in areas where kids don't have a lot of technology at home.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  7. OPKansas

    About the Common Core...Kansas adopted the standards this year and from what I've seen some of them are a joke. My middle-schooler took a Social Studies test and was graded not on her written answers to the questions, but on whether or not she could find the page in the text that contained the answer. She studied, knew the material, took the test without opening the book (open book by the way), got all the answers correct. Handed in the test then had to go back through the test to look for the answers in the text because the teacher ONLY was looking to see if she could find the correct page. Does something seem off here?

    September 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Teri

      That is absurd. That's almost as bad as having the grade for your journalism class be based on how many ads you can sell for the school paper. And, yes, this is true.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • L. Phelan

      You can't blame this on Common Core. Social Studies is not part of the Common Core. The CCSS cover Math and English Language Arts.

      September 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Miss D'Addario

      I don't LOVE the Common Core, however, Social Studies is not included in the Common Core Standards.

      Blame that one on a bad teacher.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  8. FreeReally

    Flipped classes just sound like another way for teachers to not have to perform the duties they are hired for. It also assumes students have a computer at home available for this.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • CB

      That is because, it seems imo, you have failed to do any additional research on the idea and already branded it from a one-paragraph description.

      Some potential benefits are:
      *Parents/Grandparents (typically) can't help with the homework...but they can learn how WITH their kids – together watching the instructional videos.

      *Homework becomes watching tv and videos that kids already do and guardians can easily monitor.

      *Teachers become facilitators instead of lecturers in the class. The idea is kids would be on-task, WORKING, instead of listening to instructions.

      *Success in differentiated classrooms. "Advanced" kids can continue to work on the assignment while the teacher independently help others understand. Many classes have combined students with varying skills and abilities.

      *It allows the teacher to correct mistakes WITH THE STUDENTS, instead of waiting the next day to grade a paper.

      It has it's downsides, obviously. But there is still proven potential that can be used and addressed.
      Ya know, some people once argued against Distance-Learning and Online courses, also.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  9. John Blackadder

    MOOCs are like Britain's extremely successful Open University, which has offered degree-awarded courses for three decades.
    The Open University has migrated from a TV-delivered teaching method to Internet delivery, with electronic (low-cost) course-ware and textbooks. It has brought education to many people and has a broad curriculum.
    The advantage of the Open university approach is that the courses are available on-demand, so the working student can fit them in.
    Our government should consider a National Open University, using the British model as a template. It would be a much better use of funds than supporting marginal brick and mortar facilities. It would decrease the pressure on our existing state universities and colleges, while opening up advanced education to many more people.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  10. joeymom

    More and more, my college-level students expect my classes to be Sesame Street-like entertainment venues, rather than classes. Asking them to write an essay is like asking them to slay a bear with a butterknife. Maybe if we backed off on the standardized testing and flashy games, we could actually focus on education.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Lahdee Dah

      Good luck with that! Education reform is being driven by business interests at the state level. There is little thought given to depth of understanding, critical analysis skill development, or anything that does not resemble a sound bite. Public high schools are doing what they can to hold on to academic rigor and student accountability, but as usual, education is a political football this season. Teacher vilification all around!

      September 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
      • joeymom

        Excellent point. Standardized tests, as they are currently designed and administered, is sound-byte data. Easily misinterpreted, and misses the whole picture.

        September 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Vinster

      I agree completely. While there's probably nothing wrong with students expecting not to die of boredom, getting rid of the standardized tests and letting TEACHERS (not untrained legislators) actually TEACH would do a lot for getting the US back on track. Probably won't happen, but it's a good dream.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Don F.

      Lets go back to the beginning. The current standardized testing craze was driven by the need for proper assessment of student progress in the absence on any meaningful way consistent from one classroom to another. When a first grader with a consistent B in reading is promoted to second grade and can not read and there has been no discussion of this issue with the parents there is a very real problem:

      In a building with 24 teachers there is likely 24 methods of grading using 24 different scales most of which will need some form of conversion to the unit that will be reported on the report card. At the end of the day parents have no idea of where their kid stands relative to a set of curriculum expectations if even they exist and can be communicated - which often they can't. It is as though the teaching profession has deliberately conspired to keep students and parents confused about where they stand. In this kind of situation the only answer is some form of standardized measurement brought in from the outside.

      If the teaching profession finds standardized truly abhorrent, develop and implement a strategy that restores the public's faith in the grades it gives by making those grades a meaningful measurement of a students mastery of skills and information. It has been thirty or more years now that this crisis has been developing yet the profession has done nothing to stop it.

      September 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
      • SickofItAll

        Don, the teaching profession is not allowed to make the decisions, legislators are. These are people who have no classroom experience and little knowledge of the science behind the learning process. They assume because they went to school that they know how to "fix"our system of education. I go to the dentist, but that does not mean I know how to give someone a root canal.

        September 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
      • ccccc

        You realize teachers have no say in what is taught, and in some places how it is taught. most of what you complain about is based off administartion guidlines, which are driven by parents and politicians.

        September 27, 2012 at 8:13 am |
      • Don F.

        The reason legislatures are getting involved is because the public is unhappy with the current state of affairs and see no movement within the profession to fix it. In my experience, which may be different than yours, the legislature is not micromanaging the classroom, and I see very little influence by administrators on what takes place there and so far as I know neither has any imput on methods. No teacher I know has complained that they have been told by either legislatures or principals that they had to run their classroom in a particular way. I have seen too many instances where teachers have abandoned curriculum to chase their own whim - the fractal example I gave was one of them. And that case was highlighted by the system as "innovation". I also know that the variety of expectations and the variety of grading methodology and other examples of general chaos in the school (building by building across multiple districts) that the type of micro management by legislators or superintendents or even principals is not taking place or there would much more uniformity of curriculum and methods.

        September 27, 2012 at 8:54 am |
      • joeymom

        Actually, there is a perfectly good way to evaluate students without standardized testing. It is called "goal evaluation", and it takes into account what is reasonable for a child to gain in a year, appropriate child development, and general standards for a grade level. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of work, we don't give teachers now the time, compensation, or flexibility to do this, and all too often the idea of "high achievement" is determined by people who have no clue what is reasonable or appropriate. If parents want to know how their kids are doing in school, get yourself into your child's classrooms, engage your child when you are home with them, and discuss your observations with your child's teacher.

        September 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm |