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For the past 37 years Lake Superior State University has published a list of words and phrases that they believe should be banished. These words are banished for misuse, overuse, or "generalized uselessness". This years nominees included ginormous, the new normal, baby bump, and shared sacrifice.

I believe educators should follow suit. There are any number of phrases used in education that should be banished. I have listed my top ten below. Feel free to add your own.

1) Student achievement
Say what you mean - test scores. 
When I attend education conferences and I hear the phrase "student achievement", I will ask the speakers how they measure student achievement. They will usually dance around it a bit, but in the end they will admit standardized tests.
Test scores are not synonymous with student achievement.

2) What's best for kids
This phrase implies that others don't want what is best. Not surprisingly what is allegedly "best for kids" invariably aligns with the speaker's own beliefs. Thus the privatizers, who will make scads of money if schools in poor communities are privatized, are only interested in "what's best for kids". Those of us who have worked for years in those poor communities obviously are not.

3) Data driven
First, data should be one component that informs instruction, but it shouldn't drive instruction. 
Second: Most of the so-called reformers only  want data that supports their agenda. When confronted with data that conflicts with their dogma, they revert to "I want what's best for kids." (See #2)

4) Scientifically based research
Closely aligned with data driven. Those who most often use this term will ignore any research that conflicts with their agenda. To be blunt I can find research that will back just about any educational theory, program or tool. Every sales pitch guarantees that the product is backed by scientifically based research.

5) Rigor
The word du jour for the past couple of years. In my first 40 years I rarely heard it. Now every speaker has to use it at least once, usually multiple times. Enough! Get a thesaurus. 

6) 21st century skills
Don't use this phrase if you push a curriculum that focuses on lower order skills and if you favor the use of multiple choice standardized tests to measure those skills. The absurdity of this approach should be apparent. Idiocy.

7) No excuses
Phrase created by those who also created the problems that education is supposed to cure. The income gap is widening, the working class is being destroyed, health care is becoming a luxury, and our criminal justice system preys on the poor. The folks who created this situation get a pass. But educators? No excuses!! It's your responsibility to fix the problem.

8) All kids can learn, and its companion, All means all
These phrases are used to impose a one size fits all curriculum. Learn what? At what rate? Yes, all kids can learn. But they possess different aptitudes and they learn at different rates.
That kid writes beautifully and is a tremendous musician, but he struggles with math. Tough! Into Algebra II with him. And if he still struggles, take him out of band and put him in a math remediation class too. No excuses! All means all! 
Perhaps I should try this philosophy as a track coach. I will take my champion shot putter and force her to become a distance runner. And if she doesn't run under 13 minutes for the 3200, she won't be able to compete in the throws (after all, anyone can run under 13 minutes). On second thought, I had better not do that. I would be fired within the week. 

9) I respect teachers just not teacher unions. 
Hey Einstein, unions  represent teachers. They are very democratic organizations. If you don't respect their unions, you don't respect teachers. Period.

10) If you do what you've always done, you get the results you've always gotten. 
Often uttered by some young wet-behind-the-ears know-it-all who doesn't have a clue. My personal favorite because my reply always leaves them speechless. I say politely but firmly, "I am quite proud of the results I have gotten. I will be happy to line my results up against  yours. Furthermore, after you have changed countless lives and positively influenced hundreds and hundreds of children, and then someone denigrates your work and your accomplishments, I will guarantee you that you will be much less polite with them than I am being with you."

Originally posted to Don't Panic on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 09:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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