Education Terms and Abbreviations

  • Education Terms and Abbreviations


    Academic Excellence Indicators System (AEIS): A system of indicators established by the Legislature and adopted by the State Board of Education to help determine the quality of learning on a campus and in a school district. The indicators include passing rates on the state assessment tests, attendance, graduation rates, dropout rates, and scores on college entrance exams. The state will assess district and school performance compared with state-level standards. AEIS is the foundation for a school district’s accountability rating.


    Accountability Ratings: The Accountability Ratings System rates campuses and districts as exemplary, recognized, acceptable, and low performing based on the percentage of students who pass the state assessment instruments and the dropout rate.


    Actual Tax Rate or Nominal Tax Rate: The tax rate adopted by school districts and used to calculate tax bills. (See “Effective Tax Rate.”)


    Alternative Education Program (AEP): The law governing AEPs requires school districts to set up an educational setting for students who engage in certain illegal conduct or for students who violate certain provisions of the school district’s code of conduct. Students assigned to an AEP must be separated from students not included in that program. These programs have come to be called “disciplinary AEPs.” Many school districts have established alternative education programs for dropout prevention and to address the unique needs of the small percentage of students who do not “fit” the traditional secondary schools. All AEPs must provide for students’ educational and behavioral needs. Districts must allocate to an AEP the same expenditure per student that would be allocated to the student’s school if the student was attending the student’s regularly assigned program, including a special education program.


    Alternative Teacher Education Programs: Some institutions of higher education, education service centers, and large school districts have been approved by the State Board for Educator Certification to operate alternative programs of preparation for teachers and administrators. These programs involve university coursework or other professional development experiences, and well as intense mentoring and supervision during the candidate’s first year in the role of educator. In addition, some regional education service centers offer alternative programs of preparation similar to the school-based programs.


    Available School Fund (ASF): Created by the Texas Constitution of 1876, the ASF is made up of earnings from the Permanent School Fund and constitutionally dedicated motor-fuel taxes and other miscellaneous revenue sources. The bulk of ASF revenue is distributed on a per-capita basis to all school districts. A portion provides funding for textbooks and technology.


    Average Daily Attendance (ADA): A method of counting students for the purpose of providing state aid to school districts. Currently, Texas counts students in attendance each day and averages the attendance count over the year.


    Basic Allotment: The basic allotment is the initial or starting number that, after adjustment, is used to calculate foundation program costs and state aid to school districts. Currently, the basic allotment is $2,537 per student.


    Campus or Campus Program Charter: A local school board may grant a charter to parents and teachers of a campus within the district if the board receives a petition signed by the parents of a majority of the students at the campus and a majority of teachers at the campus. The Texas Education Code also permits two or more campuses to form a cooperative charter program. Other charters are home-rule school-district charters and open-enrollment charters.


    Caps: A general term that describes statutory limits on tax rates, revenues, or increases in school district expenditures.


    Chapter 41 District: Refers to Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, which pertains to school districts with property wealth per weighted student in excess of $305,000 in 2003. Chapter 41 districts are subject to wealth reduction provisions.


    Chapter 41 Options: Provides school districts with property wealth in excess of $305,000 per weighted ADA with five options to reduce their property wealth to the $305,000 threshold: (1) district consolidation by board action, (2) detachment and annexation of property by board action, (3) purchase of attendance credits from the state (voter approval required), (4) contract with other districts for educating their students (voter approval required), and (5) tax base consolidation (voter approval required).


    CISD: Consolidated Independent School District.


    Compensatory Education: The state compensatory education allotment provides additional financial support to school districts to teach educationally disadvantaged pupils and under-achieving students. A program of compensatory education should provide additional services and instructional support, beyond the regular program, to help students compensate for academic deficiencies and may include programs for at-risk students. The allotment is based upon the number of students participating in the federal free or reduced-price lunch program.


    Completion Rate: A longitudinal measure that shows the status of students expected to graduate, starting with their first attendance in ninth grade.


    Conforming Textbook List: One of two lists to which the State Board of Education assigns textbooks it adopts. This list includes textbooks that address all of the adopted Texas essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for the subject and grade level and that meet applicable physical specifications. (See “Nonconforming Textbook List.”)


    Cost of Education Index (CEI) or Adjustment: An index the state uses to adjust the basic allotment to account for geographic or other cost differences beyond local school district control. The current index has not been updated since 1990.


    County Appraisal District (CAD): Each county (some multicounties) has established an appraisal district office that is responsible for maintaining taxable real and personal property records and placing a value on all property for taxation purposes. A chief appraiser, an individual appointed by an appraisal district board of directors, heads the CAD office. The appraisal district board is, in turn, elected by certain taxing entities.


    CSD or CCSD: Common School District or Common Consolidated School District. Generally, very small districts with three-member (CSD) or seven-member boards of trustees that govern district affairs. Taxing authority is held by the county commissioners’ court.


    Debt Service: (See “Interest and Sinking Fund.”)


    Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs: (See “Alternative Education Program.”)


    District-Level Decision-Making Process: The school board annually approves district and campus performance objectives and assures that district and campus plans are mutually supportive and, at a minimum, meet the state’s educational goals. Each district has a district improvement plan that is developed, evaluated, and revised each year by the superintendent, with the assistance of the district-level decision-making committee.


    Dropout: A student is identified as a dropout if he or she is absent without an approved excuse or document transfer and does not return to school by the fall of the following year, or if he or she completes the school year but fails to reenroll the following school year. School districts report the status of all students enrolled in grades 7 through 12 in the district during the prior school year in one of two ways: as being in school or as having left school. The “leaver record” provides 43 possible reasons for leaving school.


    Dropout Rate (Annual): The annual dropout rate is the count of official dropouts summed across all grades (7 through 12) divided by the number of students summed across all grades (7 through 12). The annual dropout rate is different than a longitudinal rate, which compares the number of students who began school together in the seventh grade and who eventually graduate.


    Edgewood v. Meno: The Texas school finance equity lawsuit, formerly know as Edgewood v. Kirby, was filed in 1984 by a group of low-property-wealth school districts (led by Edgewood ISD in San Antonio). At the center of the dispute was what constitutes an efficient system of school finance. In 1995, the Texas Supreme Court defined an efficient system of school finance as one that provides all districts with substantially equal access to operations and facilities funding necessary for the general diffusion of knowledge. The court held that Senate Bill 7, the 1993 school finance law, met this standard.


    Education Service Center (ESC): Twenty intermediate education units located in regions throughout Texas that assist and provide services for local school districts.


    Educator Certification: Every person certified to teach in Texas must hold a bachelor’s degree with coursework in three areas: (1) a broad general education, (2) an academic specialization(s), and (3) teaching knowledge and abilities. The exceptions to the degree requirement are certain career and technology certificates issued on the basis of work experience. Additionally, candidates for certification must demonstrate basic academic skills by passing tests in reading, mathematics, and writing before admission to a teacher-preparation program or must show evidence of these skills on other appropriate alternative assessments.


    Effective Tax Rate: The tax rate that, if applied to the current local tax roll, would raise the same amount of revenue as in the previous year. This rate is an important element of the annual truth-in-taxation process.


    Electronic Textbooks: This term includes certain computer software, interactive videodisc, magnetic media, CD-ROM, computer courseware, on-line services, an electronic medium, or other electronic means.


    Equity: In school finance, the term generally refers to fair or equal distribution of resources for schooling, taking into account student differences and school district characteristics. The standard used by the Texas Supreme Court is a taxpayer equity standard, which means similar revenue for similar tax effort. In other words, the school finance system is to be property wealth neutral: a district’s property tax base should have little or no impact on its ability to generate funding from the Foundation School Program.


    Facilities Funding: The Legislature provides assistance to school districts for facilities construction in two ways. The Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) provides a state partnership with local districts in making debt service payments to retire bonds for construction of new facilities or renovations to existing facilities. Districts receiving aid are guaranteed $35 per pupil per penny of tax effort. Sate aid is limited by appropriations and low-wealth districts have priority in receiving IFA funding. The Existing Debt Allotment provides state assistance to districts for existing debt that is not covered by IFA funding. The state guarantees $35 per unweighted student per penny for up to 12 cents of tax effort. The commissioner of education has extended the tax cap to 29 cents for the 2002-03 school year.


    Foundation School Program (FSP): A program for the financial support of a basic instructional program for all school children. Money to support the program comes from the Permanent School Fund, Available School Fund, Foundation School Fund, state general revenue, and local property taxes. The state establishes a foundation level and sets, for each district, a calculated contribution level called the local fund assignment (LFA). The greater a district’s property wealth, the higher the LFA. State aid makes up the difference between the LFA and the foundation level. (See also “Local Fund Assignment.”) Currently, the FSP described in the Texas Education Code consists of three parts or tiers. The first tier provides funding for a basic program. The second tier provides a guaranteed-yield system so that school districts have substantially equal access to revenue sufficient to support an accredited program. The third tier equalizes debt service requirements for existing facilities debt.


    Foundation School Program Tax Rate: This is the rate used in calculating state aid to school districts. It is calculated by dividing actual collections by the prior year’s taxable value determined by the state property tax division of the state comptroller’s office.


    Guaranteed Yield: A school finance plan in which the state specifies a revenue yield that it will guarantee in terms of revenue per student per penny of local tax effort. The districts adopt tax rates and levy taxes. The state makes up the difference between what each district levies locally per student and the guaranteed yield per student. High-wealth districts may raise all of their guaranteed-yield revenue from local tax sources. In Texas, this is commonly known as Tier 2 in the Foundation School Program. In 2002-03, the guarantee is $27.14 per weighted student.


    Home-Rule School District Charters: The Texas Education Code permits a school district to adopt a home-rule school-district charter and break free from many state rules and regulations. Home-rule school districts must maintain satisfactory performance on the statewide accountability system. The concept is patterned after home-rule municipalities in Texas. Other charter programs include open-enrollment charters and campus, or campus program charters. To date, no Texas school district has gone through the home-rule charter process.


    Independent School District (ISD): The Texas constitution permits the state Legislature to create school districts. Each district operates its schools and taxes property within the district to support, in part, the schools. The term independent refers to the fact that the school district is not a part of city or county government and has independent budgeting and taxing authority. In some states, cities or townships operate or fund schools in addition to providing other government services. ISDs are governed by locally elected boards of trustees.


    Individual Education Plan (IEP): A document required by federal law that details the special education requirements for each disabled student and explains how the school intends to address the student’s needs. An IEP is intended to help ensure that disabled students have equal access to public education in the least restrictive environment.


    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The 1997 IDEA strengthens academic expectations and accountability for the nation’s 5.4 million children with disabilities.


    Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA): Since 1997, the IFA has provided funds to school districts to help pay for debt service. The mechanism for computing the state and local share of the IFA payment is a guaranteed-yield formula. Low-wealth school districts and school districts not already participating in the IFA program have priority in receiving IFA funding for construction or lease purchase of new instructional facilities.


    Interest and Sinking Fund (I&S) Tax: Also called the debt service tax. A tax levied by school districts to pay for bonded indebtedness, usually for construction of facilities, and other capital needs.


    Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP): In counties with populations greater than 125,000, the juvenile board must develop a juvenile justice AEP approved by the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. In these larger counties, students who engage in conduct requiring expulsion under Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code must be placed in a JJAEP.


    Local Fund Assignment (LFA): The portion of the foundation program allotment required to be paid by school districts using the local property tax. The greater the property wealth of the district, the higher the LFA and the lower the amount of the state aid the district will receive. (See also “Foundation School Program.”)


    Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Tax: A local school district property tax rate that raises revenue to be used for any legal purpose to operate and maintain the district’s schools.


    Municipal School District (MSD): A school district whose boundaries correspond precisely to city limits and whose governance is shaped in part by city officials.


    Nonconforming Textbook List: One of two lists to which the State Board of Education assigns textbooks it adopts. This list must include textbooks that address at least half of the adopted Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for the subject and grade level and meet applicable physical specifications. (See “Conforming Textbook List.”)


    Open-Enrollment Charters: Open-enrollment charter schools may be established by private nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, and other governmental entities that apply to the State Board of Education. The law authorizes the State Board to approve up to 215 open-enrollment charter schools. Law also provides for creation of college or university charter schools at “public senior colleges and universities.” There is no limit on the number of these charter schools that may be granted. Other Texas charter programs include home-rule school-district charters and campus or campus program charters.


    Permanent School Fund (PSF): A perpetual trust fund created by the Texas constitution in 1876. PSF earnings go into the Available School Fund, which the state apportions on a per-capita basis to districts for students enrolled in Texas public schools after funding state textbook purchases. PSF investments include U. S. Treasury bonds, Texas municipal bonds, school district building bonds, and securities. The State Board of Education administers the Fund under constitutional and statutory requirements.


    Public Education Grant (PEG) Program: In 1995, legislation passed to permit students in low-performing schools to attend another public school in the student’s home district or in another district. The amount of the public education grant is the total state and local funding per student for the student’s home district. The receiving district may accept or reject the student and may not charge the student tuition.


    Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS): A data management system that includes information on student demographics, performance, school district budgets, teacher salaries, etc. The information for PEIMS is transmitted from local school districts to the Texas Education Agency by the education service centers.


    Public Information Act (PIA): PIA defines public information as information collected, assembled, or maintained under law or in connection with a governmental body’s transaction of official business. PIA provides that public information must be made available to the public upon request during the normal business hours of the district, unless an exception applies that allows or requires that the information not be made public.


    Rollback: Rollback is a taxpayer relief mechanism that allows local voters to contravene the school board’s maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate if it exceeds a certain level. If the school board adopts and M&O tax rate that exceeds the rollback tax rate, the district must call an election so voters can determine whether to ratify the adopted tax rate. The rollback rate is equal to the tax rate that would provide the same local taxes and state aid per weighted average daily attendance as was available the previous year plus $0.06.


    School Board Authority: Statute gives local school boards the exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools. Powers and duties not specifically delegated to the Texas Education Agency or the State Board of Education are reserved for local trustees.


    State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC): SBEC is a quasi-independent body that gives educators more authority to govern the standards of their profession. SBEC regulates and oversees all aspects of the certification, continuing education, and standards of conduct of public school educators. As a state agency, SBEC is responsible for certification testing, accountability programs for educator preparation programs, and certification of teachers and administrators.


    State Board of Education (SBOE): A 15-member body elected by general election (staggered, four-year terms) from various regions statewide to provide leadership and to adopt rules and policies for public education in the state. The board’s primary responsibility is to manage the Permanent School Fund.


    Teacher Retirement System (TRS): TRS delivers retirement and related benefits authorized by law for members and their beneficiaries.


    Technology Allotment: This allotment is part of the state textbook fund and can be used to purchase electronic textbooks or technological equipment that contributes to student learning or teacher training. The allotment is $30. per ADA.


    Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF): Created by the Legislature in 1995, the TIF has funded schools, libraries, and hospitals with $1.5 billion for distance learning and information sharing.


    Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS): TAKS replaces the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), a criterion-referenced test used in Texas schools for 12 years. TAKS began in spring 2003, with tests in reading in grades 3 through 9; language arts in grades 10 and 11; writing in grades 4 and 7, science in grades 5, 10, and 11; social studies in grades, 8, 10, and 11; and mathematics in grades 3 through 11. The 11th grade exit-level test will assess English III, algebra I, geometry, biology, integrated chemistry and physics, early American and U. S. history, world geography, and world history. TAKS will be a more challenging examination for Texas students, according to the results of field tests.


    Texas Education Agency (TEA): The administrative and regulatory unit for the Texas public education system managed by the commissioner of education. TEA is responsible for implementing public education policies as established by the Legislature, State Board of Education, and commissioner of education.


    Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS): Subject-specific state learning objectives adopted by the State Board of Education. The state’s academic tests [See Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)] are aligned with the TEKS.


    Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA): TOMA makes school board meetings to discuss and decide public business accessible. The TOMA decision requires governmental entities to provide prior public notice of what is to be discussed and where and when specifically authorized by law. Civil and criminal penalties can result when a board violates provisions of this act.


    University Interscholastic League (UIL): The governing organization for most public school extracurricular activities operated through The University of Texas at Austin. Rulemaking authority for the UIL lies with its members and the State Board of Education.


    Vouchers: The use of taxpayer funds for private school education. Legislation was introduced during the 76th Legislative Session (1999) to implement a pilot program for certain students. Although the legislation failed, this issue may be an important one during the 78th Legislative Session in 2003.


    Wealth: In school finance, the wealth of a district is measured in taxable value of property per weighted ADA.


    Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA): In Texas, students with special educational needs are weighted for funding purposes to help recognize the additional costs of educating those students. Weighted programs include special education, career and technology, bilingual, gifted and talented, and compensatory education. A weighted student count is used to distribute guaranteed-yield funding and establish Chapter 41 thresholds.


    Zero Tolerance: This concept that student misbehavior in class will not be allowed was passed by the 1995 Legislature. It empowered teachers to remove from class students who disrupt the learning process.