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Mrs. Brinker: Understanding education buzzwords

Like any field of work, educators often use quite a bit of lingo that can be a confusing to parents at home.

INDIANAPOLIS — Like any field of work, educators can use quite a bit of lingo that can be a bit confusing to parents at home.

Our education expert Jennifer Brinker breaks down some of the frequently-used buzzwords or acronyms in education right now.  


MTSS stands for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. 

Essentially, this is the practice of matching students’ needs to high-quality, research-based instruction, intervention, and enrichment. Schools do universal screenings to identify student needs and present levels of performance. 

Schools then use this information to design instruction and interventions to help students make growth. School staff meets together in teams to discuss student progress or the lack of progress to make improvements


SEL stands for Social and Emotional Learning. 

Schools have taken a much larger role in recent years in teaching skills for emotional wellness. Schools work on teaching kids to recognize their emotions and manage them appropriately. 

This is a huge skill that more and more students are struggling with and so we find ourselves now teaching that in schools more and more.


STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering, and Math. Steam just throws Art into the mix as well. 

The main concept is that these subjects should be taught, often in project-based learning, together instead of singularly. 

Oftentimes, schools will have time built in for STEM and will focus on those skills by maybe building something as a group, doing some robotics or computer programming, again, usually schools have planned some project based activities to teach these skills.

Growth Mindset

More and more schools have focused on a growth mindset, which is really just the idea that we work with kids on setting goals and focusing on achieving anything through hard work instead of just focusing on natural ability. 

Growth mindset also encourages kids to see failures as opportunities for learning and growth instead of impossibilities. 

This goes along with goal-setting, which is now a big part of the classroom.

Final advice

There are so many we didn’t even get to... IEPs, 504s, ELL, RTI. The bottom line is, don’t ever hesitate to ask your child’s school for clarification on what they are talking about. 

Sometimes we forget that everyone doesn’t use this language all the time, but your school staff will be more than happy to help and explain anything that isn’t clear.

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