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updated: 10/29/2010 1:48 PM

Confused by the alphabet soup? Here are some basic terms

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Daily Herald Report

No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The landmark 2001 federal legislation that requires schools to meet a rising bar on standardized assessments each year or face academic sanctions, such as having to file a school improvement plan or offer a choice of schools. While the legislation has been praised for bringing more accountability to education, it has also been criticized for not doing a good enough job of recognizing incremental progress. The provisions of the act are set to expire in 2014.

Adequate yearly progress (AYP): Under state and federal No Child Left Behind guidelines, a school is considered to have made adequate yearly progress if a defined percentage of students meets or exceeds state standards in reading and math that year. In 2010, 77.5 percent of students had to meet or exceed standards for a school to make adequate yearly progress. The bar rises by 7.5 percentage points every year.

Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT): A standardized test taken by all Illinois public school students in grades three through eight. The test measures students' comprehension of key concepts at each grade level. Unlike the Prairie State Achievement Exam, the ISAT does not measure how students did relative to their peers. Illinois is working with more than 20 states to create a replacement for the ISAT that will test students' ability to apply their knowledge, rather than their memorization skills.

Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE): A standardized test taken by high school juniors in Illinois. The PSAE consists of three parts: the ACT, a college-entrance exam taken by many juniors across the Midwest; a science assessment; and WorkKeys, a computer-based test of reading a math skills. Scores on the PSAE are measured against other students, so they tend to be lower than scores on the ISAT.

Subgroup: A group of students within the entire student body, as defined by No Child Left Behind. Subgroups include students of particular ethnic backgrounds (e.g. black, Hispanic, Asian), as well as Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and students with disabilities (IEP). NCLB requires that every subgroup including students with disabilities must hit the same threshold that the entire student body must meet (77.5 percent in 2010). A subgroup must have at least 45 students to be counted on a school's report card.

Safe harbor: A provision of No Child Left Behind that allows schools to make adequate yearly progress by reducing by 10 percent the number of students who are not meeting state standards in each subgroup. Safe harbor cannot be used for the "ALL" subgroup, the group that includes students from all backgrounds.

Source: Illinois State Board of Education