Arizona Literacy & Learning Center

Improving Literacy in Arizona Since 1987

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Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

504 Modification Plan
An individual learning plan that modifies what the student is expected to demonstrate due to a disability. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination due to disability by recipients of federal financial assistance. A 504 Modification Plan may include changes in instructional level, content, and performance criteria, may include changes in test format and includes alternate assessments. This plan is part of regular education.

Accommodation (For Students With Disabilities)
Techniques and materials that allow individuals with LD to complete school or work tasks with greater ease and effectiveness. Examples include spellcheckers, tape recorders, and expanded time for completing assignments.

The ability to recognize words correctly.

Age Equivalent Score
In a norm-referenced assessment, individual student’s scores are reported relative to those of the norming population. This can be done in a variety of ways, but one way is to report the average age of people who received the same score as the individual child. Thus, an individual child’s score is described as being the same as students that are younger, the same age, or older than that student (e.g. a 9 year old student my receive the same score that an average 13 year old student does, suggesting that this student is quite advanced).

Alphabetic Principle
The basic idea that written language is a code in which letters represent the sounds in spoken words.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
A federal law that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Assessment is a broad term used to describe the gathering of information about student performance in a particular area. See also formative assessment and summative assessment.

Assistive Technology
Equipment that enhances the ability of students and employees to be more efficient and successful.

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Any of a range of behavioral disorders in children characterized by symptoms that include poor concentration, an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty in paying attention, and impulsivity. A person can be predominantly inattentive (often referred to as ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of these two.

Auditory Processing
Ability to detect differences in sounds; detecting the differences between the noises made by a cat and dog, detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters “m” and “n.”

Auditory Memory
Ability to retain information which has been presented orally; may be short term memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before; long term memory, such as recalling information presented more than a minute before; or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper order.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
A disorder that occurs when the ear and the brain do not coordinate fully. An APD is a physical hearing impairment, but one which does not show up as a hearing loss on routine screenings or an audiogram. Instead, it affects the hearing system beyond the ear, whose job it is to separate a meaningful message from non-essential background sound and deliver that information with good clarity to the intellectual centers of the brain (the central nervous system).

Common Core Standards
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a coherent progression of learning expectations in English language arts and mathematics designed to prepare K–12 students for college and career success. The CCSS communicate what is expected of students at each grade level, putting students, parents, teachers, and school administrators on the same page, working toward shared goals. Arizona has adopted the Common Core State Standards.

The ability to translate a word from print to speech, usually by employing knowledge of sound-symbol correspondences. It is also the act of deciphering a new word by sounding it out.

Developmental Aphasia
A severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to brain injury rather than because of a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.

A severe difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

A severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.

A language-based disability that affects both oral and written language. It may also be referred to as reading disability, reading difference, or reading disorder. (See Dyslexia page)

Executive Function
The ability to organize cognitive processes. This includes the ability to plan ahead, prioritize, stop and start activities, shift from one activity to another activity, and to monitor one’s own behavior.

Expressive Language
The aspect of spoken language that includes speaking and the aspect of written language that includes composing or writing.

The ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
A requirement of IDEA; all disabled children must receive special education services and related services at no cost.

Graphic Organizers
Text, diagram or other pictorial device that summarizes and illustrates interrelationships among concepts in a text. Graphic organizers are often known as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters.

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
An evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner, who is not employed by the school district at the public’s expense.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)
A plan outlining special education and related services specifically designed to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the law that guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education

Learning Disability (LD)
A disorder that affects people’s ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. It may also be referred to as a learning disorder or a learning difference.

Listening Comprehension
Understanding speech and the ability to comprehend the text read aloud.

Move On When Reading
Arizona is one of the states that passed third-grade retention legislation in May, 2010 called “Move on When Reading.” A.R.S. §15-701 requires that a pupil not be promoted from the third grade if the pupil obtains a score on the reading portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test, (AIMS) (or a successor test) demonstrating that the pupil’s reading falls far below the third grade level. While retention policies are receiving a lot of attention due to a push to improve 3rd-grade reading, early identification and intervention are more likely to improve student performance. What we have learned from states like New York and Florida is to not just repeat the same 3rd-grade curriculum; we have to do something different. Schools must develop early identification systems and target struggling readers for intervention. The interventions need to be grounded in a theoretical framework for how reading skills are acquired, based on neuroscience findings, and evidence from effective education programs. Interventions need to address the five components of the reading process, explicitly instruct students in the structure of language, provide opportunity to practice, and monitor students frequently. Mary Wennersten, ADE

Multisensory Structured Language Education
An educational approach that uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile cues simultaneously to enhance memory and learning. Links are consistently made between the visual (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (what we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.

Nonverbal Learning Disability
A neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain. Reception of nonverbal or performance-based information governed by this hemisphere is impaired in varying degrees, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative, and holistic processing functions.

Norm-Referenced Assessment
A type of assessment that compares an individual child’s score against the scores of other children who have previously taken the same assessment. With a norm-referenced assessment, the child’s raw score can be converted into a comparative score such as a percentile rank or a standard score.

Oral Language Difficulties
A person with oral language difficulties may exhibit poor vocabulary, listening comprehension, or grammatical abilities for his or her age.

Orthographic Knowledge
The understanding that the sounds in a language are represented by written or printed symbols.

A multisensory approach to remediating dyslexia created by Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuro-psychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)
Arizona is one of the states that passed third-grade retention legislation in May, 2010 called “Move on When Reading.” A.R.S. §15-701 requires that a pupil not be promoted from the third grade if the pupil obtains a score on the reading portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test, (AIMS). The PARCC will replace AIMS in 2014.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
The category of special education services for students with delays or deviance in their social/language/motor and/or cognitive development.

The smallest unit of speech that serves to distinguish one utterance from another in a language.

Phonemic Awareness
The ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show us they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word (/c/ /a/ /t/ – cat.)

Phonics is a form of instruction to cultivate the understanding and use of the alphabetic principle. It emphasizes the predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds in spoken language) and graphemes (the letters that represent those sounds in written language) and shows how this information can be used to read or decode words.

Print Awareness
Basic knowledge about print and how it is typically organized on a page. For example, print conveys meaning, print is read left to right, and words are separated by spaces.

Readability refers to the level of difficulty in a written passage. This depends on factors such as length of words, length of sentences, grammatical complexity and word frequency.

Reading Disability
Another term for dyslexia, sometimes referred to as reading disorder or reading difference.

Receptive Language
The aspect of spoken language that includes listening, and the aspect of written language that includes reading.

Response to Intervention (RtI)
Response to Intervention is a process whereby schools document a child’s response to evidence-based intervention using a tiered approach. In contrast to the discrepancy criterion model, RTI provides early intervention for students experiencing difficulty learning to read. RTI was authorized for use in December 2004 as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Sight Words
Words that a reader recognizes without having to sound them out. Some sight words are “irregular,” or have letter-sound relationships that are uncommon. Some examples of sight words are you, are, have and said.

Special Education
Services offered to children who possess one or more of the following disabilities: specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
The official term used in federal legislation to refer to difficulty in certain areas of learning, rather than in all areas of learning. Synonymous with learning disabilities.

Speech Impaired (SI)
A category of special education services for students who have difficulty with speech sounds in their native language.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)
An expert who can help children and adolescents who have language disorders to understand and give directions, ask and answer questions, convey ideas, and improve the language skills that lead to better academic performance. An SLP can also counsel individuals and families to understand and deal with speech and language disorders.

A part of a word that contains a vowel or, in spoken language, a vowel sound (e-vent, news-pa-per).

Text Comprehension
The reason for reading: understanding what is read by reading actively (making sense from text) and with purpose (for learning, understanding, or enjoyment).

Vocabulary refers to the words a reader knows. Listening vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when hearing them in oral speech. Speaking vocabulary refers to the words we use when we speak. Reading vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when seeing them in print. Writing vocabulary refers to the words we use in writing.

Word Attack
Word attack is an aspect of reading instruction that includes intentional strategies for learning to decode, sight read, and recognize written words.

Working Memory
The ability to store and manage information in one’s mind for a short period of time. In one test of working memory a person listens to random numbers and then repeats them. The average adult can hold 7 numbers in their working memory. Working memory is sometimes called Short-term memory

These terms and definitions were collected from the following sources: Dr. Jean Lokerson, ERIC Digest; Southwest Educational Laboratory (SEDL); Dr. Linda Wilmshurst and Dr. Alan Brue, A Parent’s Guide to Special Education, American Management Association, 2005; The Partnership for Reading; Learning Disabilities Council; Dr. Don Deshler, University of Kansas. International Dyslexia Association
*Source: Common Core State Standards. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010.