“The goal of the system of education in the USA is to achieve universal literacy and to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote both their individual welfare as well as that of the general public”
The American education system is unlike that in many other countries. It does not have a national system of education. The Office of Education inside the Department of Welfare, Health and Education has only coordinative and advisory functions. Each state makes its own laws for its education system and sets minimum requirements for its schools. Education is primarily the responsibility of state and local government, and so there is little standardization in the curriculum, for example. The actual control of a school system in each state belongs to the Board of Education.
Another subdivision within each state is the local school district, which unites several school of the community. The administrative officer of each school district is the superintendent of schools. The superintendent receives a salary and directly supervises all public schools in his school district. The principal and the teachers of each public school are responsible to the superintendent.
I suppose it’s noticeable that the individual states have great control over what is taught in their schools and over the requirements that a student must meet, and they are also responsible for the funding of schooling. Therefore, there is huge variation regarding courses, subjects, and other activities – it always depends on where the school is located. Still, there are some common points. The American school system is divided into public (common) schools and private schools. In each system are three levels of schools: primary, secondary, and postsecondary. I’d like to speak about the levels of American education a bit later.
Firstly I want to draw your attention to the differences between public and private schools. As I’ve already mentioned all American schools are divided into these ones.
As for public schools – about 85% of American students attend them. Public School refers to schools run by a governmental authority. Public schools are financed by American taxpayers. It means their families don’t pay for the child; money allocated to schools is accumulated from taxes paid by the members of the community. The better off is the community the better are the schools. Tuition to public schools is usually free; though parents are often expected to pay for some expenses as well as for optional programs like sports or music.
As for the private schools, we can notice that just 15% of students attend these ones. Moreover if the family chooses this kind of school for the child it should pay special attendance fees. Many private schools are run by churches or religious orders. In such schools religious teachings are a part of the curriculum. Private schools use the fees they collect as they think best. They also take independent decisions about school curriculum, teachers standards.
Now we know that there are 2 main divisions of schools in US. And I’d like to draw your attention to the next step. As in each division there are three levels of schools. They are primary, secondary and post secondary/higher education. The American education system requires that students complete 12 years of primary and secondary education before university or college. Primary and secondary education together are referred to as "K-12" education, K is for kindergarten, 12 is for twelfth grade. The word “grade” means “a year of education in primary or secondary school”. It sometimes called PK-12 education system. The primary school, referred to as "elementary" or "grade school", usually comprises the grades of kindergarten. The grades in Secondary school are also called “high school”
I want you to take a look at the scheme of the US education system.
There are 3 patterns which prevail in the community:
1) Elementary school (K-5), middle school (6-8), high school (9-12);
- U.S. children enter formal schooling around age 6. This pattern is the most common one. Elementary students are typically in one classroom with the same teacher most of the day.
- After elementary school, students proceed to middle school, where they usually move from class to class each period, with a new teacher and a new mixture of students in every class. Students can select from a wide range of academic classes and elective classes.
- In high school, students in their first year are called freshman, in their second year sophomore, in their third year junior, and in their last and fourth year senior. There is an even greater variety of subjects than before. Students must earn a certain number of credits in order to graduate and be awarded with a High School Diploma – there is no final examination like in many other countries.
2) Elementary school (K-6), junior high school (7-9), senior high school (9-12);
3) Elementary school (K-8), high school (9-12).
Now we are acquainted a little with the US system of education. And we can notice that American education differ from the education system in your own country
As far as we are suppose to be teachers, we know the process of education in Russian schools well. But what about process of education in American schools. The US school calendar begins in August or September and continues through May or June normally. The academic year at most of the schools comprises of two terms or semesters. Some have a three-term calendar known as the "trimester" system while others divide the year into the "quarter" system of four terms, including a summer session which may be optional. In the U.S.A. entry age to compulsory education varies according to the state between 5 and 7 years of age, 6 being the most common; Drawing attention to the elementary school, it’s noticeable that curriculum varies with the organization and educational aims of individual schools and local communities. Promotion from one grade to the next is based on a student’s achievement of specified skills, although a child is required to repeat a year. (Some school districts are returning to testing as a means of determining when a child is ready to move to the next grade)
Elementary schools provide in the fundamental skills of reading, writing and maths, as well as history and geography, crafts, music, science, art and physical education. Elementary students are usually given regular homework.
Like elementary education, secondary education is co-educational. Secondary school students must take ‘core’ curriculum courses for a prescribed number of years or terms, as determined by each state. These generally include English, maths, general science, health, physical education and social studies or social sciences. In addition to mandatory subjects, students choose ‘electives’ (optional subjects), which supplement their future education and career plans. Electives usually comprise around half of a student’s work in grades 9 to 12. Students concentrate on four subjects each quarter.
I suppose it’s interesting to learn that high schools offer a wide range of subjects. Students can choose a programme leading to college/university entrance or a career in business or industry.
I also like to notice the exception of physical education classes, school sport is usually extra-curricular, i.e. takes place outside school hours. Team sports have a high profile at many high schools. Bing ‘on the school team’ is more important to many students than being top of the class. Students who excel at sports are called “jocks” (“jockstraps” - качки) as they thought to be too stupid and lazy to succeed in their academic work. Of course sport stars tend to neglect their school work, but although the jock stereotype doesn’t always true. In some districts schools introduce the rule “no pass – no play”, just those students who pass their courses may participate in after-school sports.
In addition to sports many other school activities take place outside school hours, such as science and nature clubs, musical organizations, art and drama groups, language clubs. Nearly every school has a student-run newspaper and a photographic darkroom is also available.
Upon completion of 12th grade, a student graduates and receives a high school diploma. At high schools there are ceremonies to celebrate graduation complete with caps, gowns, diplomas, and speeches by staff and students. Graduation ceremonies are often called ‘commencement’, because it marks the start of a new stage in a student’s life. Graduations are a time of great celebration. It’s a particular honour for a student to be chosen as the ‘valedictorian’ at the graduation ceremony.