Personalized Competency Glossary

Affinity Diagram

A tool used to gather and sort information as part of the decision-making process.

Assessment (Learner Improvement Cycle)

The term “assessment” means the first step in the Learner Improvement Cycle. Learners are assessed on material they are about to learn (pre-assessment) or material they have already begun to learn (formative assessment), or should have learned (summative assessment). These results are used to plan future learning. Examples are quizzes, tests, projects, presentations.

Assign (Empower)

In the context of an activity or assessment, within Empower you can ‘Assign’ one of these to a group of students or individual students. This will ‘Activate’ the activity or assessment, which is to say the student will be able to access it from the Student Portal.

Auto-promotion-AP (Empower)

Represented in Empower as AP, it may also be helpful to think of this as “Assumed Proficiency.” This is a summative score that can be given in Empower to represent that a student is assumed to be proficient on a particular learning target. For example, a student who is proficient in an algebra target, can be safely assumed to know how to count to 100. The teacher may not verify that by making them count, but will backfill targets with an AP score.


The term "benchmark" refers to measurement according to specified standards in order to compare it with and improve one's own process or product.

Change Process

The term “change process ” refers to the process of utilizing the skills and abilities to navigate and adapt to change for improvement.

Class (Empower)

A set of students that meet with a specific teacher or teachers at a specific time and at a specific location. The term "class" in Empower specifically refers to such a set of learners which is officially created by site administration. As opposed to a "group" which is created by a user.


The term ” collaboration” refers to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.


The term ‘collegiality” refers to how stakeholders work together and share ideas in order to achieve the shared vision.

Content Area Levels

The term "content area levels" refers to all content areas and levels that have been established from synthesized stakeholder input. Each area holds a learning progression of standards that describe what students will need to know and be able to do to demonstrate competency in a given content area.

Continuous Improvement

The term "continuous improvement" refers to formal processes designed to appraise current practice and results to reveal improvements. These processes include: systematic and systemic feedback, evaluation, and benchmarking cycles.


The acronym “CRIS” refers to a process to Clarify, Reflect, Impact and Share

Clarify the task

Reflect and record individually

Impact on your class and school

Share within your group

Critical Concepts

The term “Critical Concepts” refers to a focused set of content for each K–12 grade level to be a guaranteed and viable curriculum for learning in one year’s time. This content for each grade level was derived from 1) a wide range of sources and standards documents (Common Core); (2) was informed by blueprint data from standardized tests; 3) used an objective process to identify individual content elements and group them into measurement topics. (From The Critical Concepts, by Julia Simms)

Cycle Time

The term "cycle time" refers to the time required to fulfill commitments or to complete tasks. "Cycle time" refers to the amount of time it takes to deploy an action. In order to improve processes shortening cycle times can increase performance.

Data-driven Dialogue


The term "deployment" refers to the extent to which developed tools, plans, processes and/or approaches are implemented.


The term "development" refers to strategic designs of tools, plans, processes and/or products. The designs often include input from stakeholders and use plan, do, check, adjust (PDCA) cycles to ensure measurement and refinement for maximum benefit of all stakeholders.

Developmental Level (Empower)

In Empower Standards are scaffolded over progressing levels of difficulty creating a progression of learning. These levels are in concept similar to the idea of grade levels which breaks learning up into expected age appropriate sections.


The term “differentiation” refers to a “teacher's reacting responsively to a learner's needs” A teacher can differentiate content. Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and skills related to the subject, as well as materials that represent those elements. A teacher can differentiate process. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of, understand, and “own” the key facts, concepts, generalizations, and skills of the subject. A teacher can also differentiate products. We use the term products to refer to the items a student can use to demonstrate what he or she has come to know, understand, and be able to do as the result of an extended period of study.”

from Understanding Differentiated Instruction by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Susan Demirsky Allan

Elevator Speech

The term “elevator speech” refers to a clear, brief message or “commercial” about a topic. It communicates what the topic is about, how the topic can be a benefit. It's typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator.


The name “Empower” is a digital platform for the company, Empower Learning, LLC. The friendly user interface weaves social media through the 21st century learning management features, allowing educators to interact and collaborate with each other and learners. All users, including administrators and parent, can know in real time what learning a student or class has achieved and where their needs are. Organized, personalized learning sets up learners for success!

Evaluation (Learner Improvement Cycle)

The term “evaluation” refers to the second step in the Learner Improvement Cycle when a learner works with a teacher to determine if the assessment was fair AND to show what a learner knows and is able to do.

Evaluation Criteria

The term "evaluation criteria" refers to an established set of standards and indicators by which organizations measure performance. Examples include: Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program, International Organization for Standardization (ISO 9000), and Six Sigma Criteria.


The term “evidence” refers to the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.


The term “feedback” refers to information about reactions to person's performance of a task used as a basis for improvement.

Filter (Empower)

Various tools within Empower provide ‘Filters’ or options that can be selected to manipulate/control reporting outputs.


The term “flowchart” refers to a tool that shows the work path or sequence of activities that comprise a process. It is used to obtain clarity concerning process flow and to communicate the process to others.

Focus Goal Areas

The term "focus goal areas" refers to the identification of three to seven areas determined from synthesized stakeholder input. These focus areas are succinct key elements that drive the shared vision of the organization. Focus areas are communicated and revisited according to established cycle times. Example areas include: cultural development, basic skills, school-to-life transition, accountability, character education, technology, etc.

Focus Areas (Empower)

This is the primary subject area that will be addressed in a class or group and is set when a user creates the class or group. It is used to preselect the default content area that will be displayed when opening the Target Browser and other tools within Empower for a given class or group. It does NOT prevent other content areas from being used in a class or group. It is only the primary content area that will be the focus of instruction.

Formative Assessments

The term "formative assessments" refers to measurement of student performance on standards in a variety of ways. Formative assessments are used to give students feedback on their progress to reach competency on a specific standard. A variety of formative assessments are used to provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and application of skills. These assessment types include skills-based, analytical, self-, and peer- assessments.

Goal Dashboard (Empower)

This tool allows administrators and teachers to see at a glance how grade levels, teachers, and students are doing in regard to set learning goals. It will quickly bring attention to problems and gaps in learning.

Gradebook (Empower)

This is the tool by which teachers can enter scores for student progress on Standards and Evidences.

Group leaders(Empower)

Group Leaders have the ability to assign, score, and monitor learning within a grouping of students.


The term “grouping” means to cluster learners together for a specific purpose. Heterogeneous grouping means that learners with diverse needs and abilities work together. Homogeneous grouping means that learners with similar needs and abilities are grouped together.

Grouping and Regrouping (Empower)

If we are allowing students to work at their own pace and we desire to meet the students at the point of their need will need to identify subgroups of needs within a class or group. This will allow us to cluster needs so we can quickly understand what needs to be taught and to whom. There are multiple tools within Empower that automate grouping of students based on need to save teachers a great deal of time.

Individual Learning Plan (ILP)

The term "Individual Learning Plan" refers to a student-driven goal-setting process (called plan, do, check, adjust or PDCA) that is written and used by students, teachers, and parents. Goals are tied to local standards, internal assessments, and the report card.


The term "input" refers to contributions to the education system. Examples of contributions include: what students should know and be able to do, satisfaction with report card formats, and assessment of student performance on local standards. Input may be gathered through various strategies: community and staff meetings, surveys, and interviews.


The term "instruction" refers to the collection of strategies, processes, and tools used with students to facilitate learning. Instruction is aligned to standards and modified based on individual student needs, interests, and feedback. Instruction includes a continuum of experiences from direct skills-based instruction to real-life application of skills and knowledge.

Joint Work

The term “joint work” refers to a work prepared by two or more individuals, with the intention that their contributions be merged into a single work.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

The term 'Key Performance Indicator" refers to quantifiable measurement, agreed to beforehand, that reflect the critical success factors of an organization. KPIs help an organization define and measure progress toward organizational goals. Once an organization has analyzed its mission, identified all its stakeholders, and defined its goals, it needs a way to measure progress toward those goals. Key performance indicators are those measurements.


The acronym “LACI” means Learn, Application, Challenges, Improvement used to provide reflection and metacognition of new concepts.


The term "leadership" refers to the degree to which an organization has the capacity to utilize and develop the strengths and potential of each stakeholder to achieve superior performance in the shared vision.


The term “learner” refers to a person who is self-directed and active in the process of learning. Learner=student=pupil


The term “Learning” refers to the fourth step in the Learner Improvement Cycle. Learning is a change in behavior, thought or attitude based on experience until competency or better is achieved. Learning is supported by the facilitation of resources such as the teacher, text, video, peers, etc.

Learning Facilitators (Empower)

The term “learning facilitator” is a newly coined term for a teacher. It takes into account a new role of a teacher not as the “sage on the stage” by the “guide on the side”.

Learning Targets

The term “learning target” means statement of what is being learned, why it is important and how learners are going to achieve that learning. It is associated with the standard.

Lesson Plan Format

Dr. Madeline Hunter’s research showed effective teachers have a methodology when planning and presenting a lesson. Hunter found that no matter what the teacher’s style, grade level, subject matter, or economic background of the students a properly taught lesson contained eight elements that enhanced and maximized learning:

Anticipatory Set & Objective and Purpose & Input-Anticipatory set is defined as a shot activity or prompt that focuses the students‟ attention before the actual lesson begins. Students learn more effectively when they know what they are supposed to be learning and why. Input includes the vocabulary, skills and concepts the teacher will impart to the students, the information the students need to know in order to be successful.

Modeling- (I do) & Checking for Understanding-The teacher shows a graphic or demonstrates in a concrete way exactly what the finished product looks like. It is important to make sure the students understand what was presented. One way this can be done is by asking the students questions.

Guided practice- (We do) The students practice the new learning under direct teacher supervision.

Independent practice (You do)-The teacher releases students to practice on their own based on learning that has occurred during the previous steps.

Closure- At the end of each lesson, the teacher reviews or wraps up the lesson by posing a question for the class.

Linear score

The term “linear score” refers to the basic assumption that student learning occurs in equal steps or increments. If the assessments are spaced equally apart then the line representing the growth in true score will be a straight line gradually getting higher.

Maximum Achievable Score (MAS)- (Empower) MAS=Goal score

A properly designed activity or quiz should target a specific level of learning within the Rubric/Scoring Guide of a standard. Maybe an activity is designed to only assess the foundational learning of a Standard and within the activity a student is not given the opportunity to show the more complex requirements of the Standard. In this case the Maximum level of learning that could be demonstrated through the activity might be a 2.0. This is important for students, parents, and teachers to know so it is transparent to all if the student met the intended level of learning for the activity.

Measurement Topics

The term “measurement topic” is the set of standards that relate to one another.

The specific set of skills within a strand.

Math← Content area: Algebra ←Strand: Functions and Equations←Measurement Topic

Mental Models

Senge 1990- “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior.”

Moral Purpose

The term "moral purpose" refers to making a positive difference in the lives of stakeholder groups and society as a whole by: intense commitment to betterment, paying attention to process and product, treating others fairly, and being morally diligent in decision-making.


The term "organization" refers to a school, group of schools, non-profit, or business, inclusive of all staff.


The term “outcomes” refers to something that follows as a result or consequence

Parent (Guardian) Portal (Empower)

The term “parent portal” means the space in Empower where parents can monitor their child’s progress.

Parking Lot

The term “parking lot” refers to a tool for feedback that includes four sections:+ plus, ∆ delta, ? Questions, and Ideas.


The acronym “PDCA” refers to a goal-setting tool that uses a four-step cycle for continuous improvement in a system.


The term “pedagogy” refers to the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of teaching and how these influence student learning. Pedagogy informs teacher actions, judgments, and teaching strategies by taking into consideration theories of learning, understandings of students and their needs, and the backgrounds and interests of individual students.


The term "performance" refers to the manner in which predetermined objectives or key performance indicators (KPIs) are achieved.

Performance Task

The term "performance task" refers to learning activities that are driven by standards and require application of knowledge and skills. They are assessed by specific criteria that mirror the task and the standards. The tasks may range from brief activities, to long-term complex projects.

Personalized Competency-based Design

The term "Personalized Competency-based Design" refers to an education system where: students are placed in developmentally appropriate content area levels, and receive instruction along a continuum of experiences from direct skills-based instruction to real-life application of skills and knowledge, progress is based upon students' demonstration of competency on assessments (not time or age), report cards reflect progress towards competency of individual standards at content area levels.

Personalized Competency-based Instructional Model

The term "Personalized Competency-based Instructional Model" refers to a formal instructional approach along a continuum of experiences from direct skills-based instruction to real-life application of skills and knowledge. This approach includes systematic tools, processes, and lesson and unit planning templates that assist staff with delivery and communication. The associated tools, processes, and templates are input driven, which allow for significant and consistent opportunities for student contributions in the Assessment, Evaluation, Planning and Learning of the Learner Improvement Cycle.

Personalized Learning

The term “personalized learning” refers to “Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible" INACOL

Personalized Mastery

An approach to learning is where the entire educational system is organized around engaging students in 21st century skills‚ in a learner-centered environment,working at their instructional levels and advancing only when they have demonstrated proficiency. by Rich DeLorenzo

Planning (Learner Improvement Cycle)

The term “planning” refers to the process of a teacher and learner collaborating on the educational goals, outcomes and strategies for a learner to achieve competency. This planning results in the learner creating goals and a PDCA document.


The term “portfolio” means a collection of work produced by learners that demonstrates their learning toward their goals and standards. A portfolio can be hard-copy or digital.


The term “powerlaw” is a calculation of the concept that learning begins with rather large increases but those increases get smaller and smaller as the learner develops greater levels of expertise. To calculate the Power Law Score, Empower weights the later evidences more than earlier scores.

Proficiency Scales Also known as “Scales”

The term “proficiency scales” refers to the articulation of learning progressions and can inform how teachers plan lessons and assessments. A proficiency scale, in simplest terms, represents a progression of learning goals with three levels of difficulty: (a) the learning target/standard (level 3.0) content; (b) the simpler (level 2.0) content and vocabulary; and (c) the more complex (level 4.0) content.


The term “proficient” means to demonstrate competency on standard.

Progress Report (Empower)

A periodic report that can be printed and sent home to parents that communicates a students progress in learning for a given time span. Within Empower there are multiple reports to choose from to communicate student learning.

Recording and Reporting

The term “recording and reporting” refers to the processes and tools to document and communicate student progress on standards. This is accomplished through paper-pencil methods or a digital platform.


The term "relationships" refers to interactions between two or more people. Relationships are developed through positive and satisfying interactions.


The term "results" refers to outputs and outcomes achieved by the organization. Results are evaluated on the basis of current performance; performance relative to appropriate comparisons; the rate, breadth, and importance of performance improvements; and the relationship of results measures to key organizational performance requirements.

Revision (Empower)

A formal change to the standards in the Target Browser. Revision is often referred to as more formal than simple, real-time edits done in the Standard’s Editor tool. Large revisions can be worked on over a period of time in the Manage Revisions tool and then published when they’re ready. This also enables the revisions to be more easily populated to other schools and districts who may want the latest versions of your work.


The term “rigor” refers to extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.


In educational terminology, “rubric” means a scoring guide used to evaluate the quality of students' constructed responses. A scoring rubric is an attempt to communicate expectations of quality around a task. In many cases, scoring rubrics are used to delineate consistent criteria for grading.

Scoring (Empower)

Scoring in Empower is based on ‘what’ a student knows, not on how ‘accurate’ a student can perform. Accuracy is expressed using a percentage and can pinpoint how well a student did on a series of questions but it can not explicitly tell us what a student knows. We would have to know exactly what standards and what level of learning within the standards each assessment was designed to address before we could make any sense of what 100% on an assessment meant. Since answering the question ‘WHAT does the student know now?’ is the essential question we are always trying to answer within Empower we need a better way to monitor student learning. We do this by establishing exactly what Standard(s) and what level of learning each assessment is designed to address based on the Standards ‘Scoring guide’ or ‘Rubric’ which describes what the early stages of learning look like all the way to the advanced stages of learning for a single Standard. When we enter a score we are entering a numeric value that represents a stage of learning the student achieved. For instance maybe a student was able to demonstrate they know the foundational aspects of a standard such as vocabulary but they couldn’t apply the concepts that the vocabulary terms address. The Scoring Scale would inform us that understanding the vocabulary equates to a ‘2.0’ not yet being able to apply the concepts that equate to a ‘3.0’. We would score the Standard for the student at a 2.0. Now when we are wanting to understand what this student needs to learn next we can plainly see they are at the foundational level of learning for the standard and we need to bring them up to the mastery level.


Shared Vision

The term "shared vision" refers to a commonly held set of beliefs or goals generated by all stakeholder groups that describes the future state of the organization. The vision describes where the organization is headed, what it intends to be, or how it wishes to be perceived in the future. Shared vision drives all aspects of organizational decision-making, measurements, and improvements. A mission statement and focus areas are established from these shared beliefs and goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals

The term “SMART goals” refers to goals set with the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound.


The term "stakeholder" refers to a person or group within or outside a school system, which can impact or be affected by student success. Stakeholders may include but are not limited to the following people or organizations: students, tribal councils, families, teachers, classified staff, administration, parents, community members, businesses, colleges, universities and legislators.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

The phrase “Standard Operating Procedure” refers to a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.


The term "standards" refers to clearly stated and rigorous descriptions of what learners should know and be able to do. Standards are developed based on stakeholder input collected. They are aligned to or contain state standards.

Standard=target=learning target=competency

Starting Point (Empower)

Standards are organized into a progression of learning through topics and levels. The primary question we are asking from a data standpoint is “What does the student know now?” When a student is first entered into the system, Empower does not know the answer to this question. Through pre-assessments or other means we need to establish the ‘Starting Point’ of where a students abilities are through the topics and levels of Standards.


The term “strand” refers to skill and knowledge sets within a content area.

Math←Content area: Algebra←Strand

Strategic Planning

The term "strategic planning" refers to a systematic method used by an organization to anticipate and adapt to expected changes. Strategic plans are aligned to the mission statement, use focus areas as broad goals, as well as, identify key objectives and key performance indicators under the focus areas, and have well-developed associated action plans.


The term ”student” refers to a person whose input into his/her learning is outside of him/herself.

Student Focus

The term "student focus" refers to approaches that individualize instruction and enhance student engagement in the learning process and environment. Example student outputs are: class goals, personal education plans, analytical assessments designs, instructor and classroom environment evaluations, and self-assessment scores.

Summative Assessments

The term "summative assessments" refers to measurement of student performance on standards in a variety of ways. Summative assessments are used to move students from one playlist or content area level to the next on a developmental report card.


The term "systematic" refers to approaches that are well-ordered, repeatable, and use data and information so learning is possible. The approaches are systematic if they build in the opportunity for evaluation, improvement, and sharing, thereby permitting a gain in maturity.


The term "systemic" refers to affecting or involving an entire system. Systemic education improvement models include input mechanisms and delivery processes for students, classified and certified staff, parents, community members, businesses, and post secondary institutions.

Target browser (Empower)

A visual representation of the Standards where users can explore the learning expectations and related information including descriptions, rubric definitions, student progress, lists and associated content.


A formative activity.


The branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms; systematics. Marzano's Taxonomy: Retrieval, Comprehension, Analysis, Knowledge Utilization, Cognition, Self-System Thinking

Teacher Verification Report-TVR (Empower)

A tool which suggests overall course scores and let’s educators change or verify those scores before committing them to the learners’ permanent records.


The term "tools" refers to a mechanism that grants a mechanical or mental advantage in completing a task. Tool use in education improvement models enhances development, deployment, evaluation, and refinement of practices and processes. Deployment of tools is systematic and systemic where appropriate.

Trend line (Empower)

When a students learning is charted (plotting evidence scores over time) a Trend line, based on one of three learning models, helps us understand the students actual achieved level of learning. This is important to determine an Overall Standard score from a sample of student evidences.

True Score (Empower)

In the Marzano True Score Estimator, Empower provides three different methods of calculating a student's present summative score. The difference between these calculations is how they take into account (or don't) when the evidence scores were received and what the expected score (MAS) was.

The term” true score” is a calculation after having drawn trend lines for each of the three methods, Empower next checks the difference between the predicted scores on those lines against the actual observed scores the student received. The method with the least total difference between prediction and observation is said to be the most accurate method of prediction in this case and is thus recommended (in green) as the True Score.

A teacher can click on that score to sync the Standard Score with the suggestion, or they can make their own determination. This tool simply provides research-backed, evidence-based suggestions for a summative score.

True Sharing

The term”true sharing” means each person in a collaboration brings their best information to share with the other.

Understanding by Design(UbD)

Understanding by Design, or UbD, is an educational planning approach. UbD is an example of backward design, the practice of looking at the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction. UbD focuses on teaching to achieve understanding. (by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins Understanding by Design (1998), published by the ASCD)

Unpacking standards

A process used with learners to put standards or benchmarks into learner friendly language.

Update Overall (UO) (Empower)

When the UO button is activated in the evidence gradebook, any evidence scores given will also enter a matching summative score on the same standard.

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