A BEKA CURRICULUM: Based on the A Beka Books published by Pensacola Christian College, this strongly traditional approach to education uses the Bible as the foundation for all other learning. History, science, math and English are presented from a conservative and Christian point of view.
ACHIEVEMENT TESTS: Multiple-choice tests used to measure how much a student has learned in key subjects. Results are "norm-referenced" so they can be used to compare the scores of individual students and schools with others _ those in the area, across the state and throughout the United States. More than a dozen commercially developed tests are on the market. Pinellas public schools use the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, while Catholic schools here rely on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Many schools, however, are moving toward more comprehensive student assessments that include writing essays, solving problems and performing tasks such as reading aloud and taking dictation.
ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) PROGRAM: College-level courses offered by many high schools to students who are above average in academic standing. If a student passes a standardized AP test, most colleges will award credit for the equivalent college course.
BLOCK SCHEDULING: Concentrates the school day into fewer but longer classes, usually four 90-minute blocks versus the traditional six or seven 50-minute classes. The longer blocks allow students to complete in-depth study of each subject, usually in a semester rather than a year. As a result, students can take more courses in a year, but can fall behind more quickly if they miss school. It is sometimes called 4-by-4 scheduling. A number of Pinellas County high schools, including Largo and Seminole high schools, have moved to this approach.
CAREER ACADEMY: A high school program in which teams of instructors teach students academic and vocational skills, relating the two wherever possible to add relevance and meaning to course work. A math class in the construction academy, for instance, could focus on measurement skills for carpentry. Pinellas has three career academies: architectural design and construction at Dunedin High; transportation at Northeast High; and agricultural science at Tarpon Springs High. They are open to all students in Pinellas.
COOPERATIVE LEARNING: A teaching strategy designed to imitate real-life learning and problem solving by combining teamwork with individual and group accountability. Cooperative learning allows students to acquire both knowledge and social skills. Bay Point elementary and middle schools use this approach.
FUNDAMENTAL SCHOOLS: Schools that stress structure, discipline, parental involvement and a more traditional approach to education. Students are held to higher standards of dress, conduct and homework, while parents are required to attend PTA and other meetings. If children or their parents fail to meet expectations, the children can be sent to their zoned school. Applicants are usually selected by lottery. Parents must provide their own transportation.
GIFTED: In the past, giftedness has been measured by IQ tests, and people who scored in the upper 2 percent of the population were considered gifted. Some people measure giftedness or talent not by intelligence, but by consistently excellent performance. To qualify for the gifted program in Pinellas public schools, students must be screened first by their teachers and meet a minimum IQ standard. Students who do not meet the minimum IQ standards are admitted if they have a strong potential for success.
IMAST (INTEGRATED MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY): A science program for gifted seventh- and eighth-grade students in Pinellas public schools. Among other requirements, students must qualify for the gifted program to be eligible. Call 588-6037.
INTEGRATED LANGUAGE ARTS: A way of teaching phonics, grammar, handwriting, spelling and other language skills together rather than as separate subjects. Students spend their instructional time reading, writing, listening and speaking about a particular theme; teachers help them learn skills naturally, as they are needed.
INTEGRATION APPROACH: A way to give focus and meaning to a variety of subjects by tying them together through a major theme. For instance, a rain forest theme in elementary school may have children calculating lost acreage in math class, studying the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle in science, and reading literature set in the Amazon jungle for language arts.
INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB): A rigorous, pre-university course of study that leads to examinations accepted by more than 70 countries for university admission. Candidates for IB diplomas study languages, sciences, mathematics and humanities in the final two years of secondary schooling.
MAGNET SCHOOLS: Schools that offer extras beyond the basic curriculum in the areas of arts, science and technology, or challenges for the gifted. Established to draw white students to once predominantly black schools. Those who are not already assigned to the school must apply. Applicants are usually selected by lottery.
MANIPULATIVES: Learning materials that students can work with physically to help them understand abstract ideas. An abacus is a math manipulative.
MEGSSS (MATHEMATICS EDUCATION FOR GIFTED SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS): A program in Pinellas public schools for gifted middle school students who are mathematically talented. Among other requirements, students must qualify for the gifted program to be eligible. Call 588-6037.
NORM-REFERENCED TESTS: Standardized tests designed to measure how a student's performance compares with the scores of other students in a carefully selected sample or "norming group." Scores are often reported in terms of whether the student is performing at, above or below grade level or by percentiles or other measures that show whether the student is performing above or below the average of the sampled students.
PHONICS: The relationship between the basic sounds of a language and the way those sounds are represented by letters. Many people see phonics as a method of teaching reading that begins with the study of individual letter sounds (44 in English), progressing to words that contain those sounds and then to reading the words in stories. Phonics is opposite in theory and technique from the whole language approach to reading. But many teachers say they are teaching phonics when they teach sound-letter correspondence as part of an integrated language arts program.
SELF-CONTAINED CLASSROOM: This usually applies to kindergarten classes where one class of pupils has its own room and one teacher and an aide. In an open or "pod" classroom, several classes of pupils and a team of teachers share a larger space.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Generally refers to students who require additional instructional aids and a separate classroom, specially trained teachers or innovative technology. Students may be recommended for special education because of learning disabilities, developmental disorders, physical impairments and other special needs.
TECH PREP: Programs of study that help prepare students for careers by teaching them computer and technology skills, plus a background in math and science. Most tech-prep courses include two years of training in high school and two years in a community or technical college. Although this educational alternative is intended to prepare students for good jobs without a college degree, many students who enter these programs continue their education in a four-year college or university.
WHOLE LANGUAGE: A technique of teaching reading beginning with reading whole texts before examining words and individual letter sounds. Advocates believe it instills a love of reading more than does a strictly phonetic approach, which begins with drilling and memorizing the basic vowel and consonant sounds. Studies indicate that whole-language practices work well with students who are visual learners.
_ Sources: The Language of Learning, by J. Lynn McBrien and Ronald S. Brandt (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Va., 1997); Pinellas school district officials and brochures.