Back to Federal P-12 Policy & Funding

Glossary: Federal P-12 Policy and Funding

Photo credit: sirawut/Adobe Stock

Back to Federal P-12 Policy & Funding

A few of the terms below are phrases. A few are acronyms. Some might think they’re all jargon. But you might see them kicking around when federal education policy and funding are discussed.


This is a federal requirement that there be comparable spending between schools with relatively large shares of disadvantaged students (e.g. Title I schools) and non-Title I schools. If that sounds straightforward, it isn’t. That’s because of teacher salaries. If districts can demonstrate that teachers at the two types of schools are all on the same salary schedule, rather than paid comparable salaries, the federal comparability requirement is considered met.

This issue has grabbed attention occasionally and attracts arguments about local control and equity.


Rookies will sometimes refer to the U.S. Department of Education as “DOE.” But savvy veterans/pedantic bores refer to the department as “ED.” It’s spoken aloud like the name, as in “Ed Sheeran.” DOE is the insider term for the Department of Energy.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect students’ educational data from being improperly disclosed.


This one gets used all the time by the feds and others. It stands for “local education agency,” but usually means an old fashioned school district. Sometimes it also refers to charter schools that function, for federal purposes, as their own district.


The National Assessment of Educational Progress, familiarly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” is a set of periodically administered tests that provide a snapshot of student achievement and trends over time.

The best known are the federally funded tests every two years in math and reading for a representative sample of students in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades. Other subjects tested periodically include science, civics, writing and arts. The biennial math and reading results are often used and misused by partisans of different educational philosophies and ideologies to show why something they like or don’t like is or isn’t working.

A puckish term for misusing NAEP results is “misNAEPery.” (For more on NAEP, see our “Word on the Beat: NAEP” blog post.)

Supplement, Not Supplant 

The idea behind this requirement is that federal aid should truly benefit disadvantaged and other groups of students, instead of being used as part of a budgetary shell game by districts.

Title I and federal special education dollars are required to supplement state and local spending on district programs, not replace it while districts move those state and local dollars elsewhere.

Updated March 2021.