Understanding the U.S. Educational System
Before we summarize Understanding the U.S. Educational System, we want to list some things that your fiance, spouse or sponsor should be doing for you, if you have K-2 or IR-2/CR-2 children coming, to prepare for school in the United States. This is because we feel that it is very important.
Before you arrive in the U.S. with your children, your sponsor would be wonderful if he or she helped with preparing things on this end for your children to go to school. These things can include:
- Informing the school that the children are coming and going to enroll.
- Keep the school updated on when they will arrive and when their first day of school will be.
- Getting a school calendar to send to you.
- Getting the paperwork necessary to enroll the children in school.
- Helping you complete all of the enrollment papers
- Finding out what the children need for vaccinations. In fact, the necessary vaccinations varies State by State. Therefore, find out the particulars from the local school or the State’s Health Department.
- Finally, have some school clothes ready for them.
Summary of U.S. Educational System
This section summarizes the different levels of education in the U.S. School system. Children either go to Private Schools or Public Schools. Unlike private schools where you have to pay tuition, public schools are free.
In detail, here is the list of levels of schools and typical ages:
- Preschool (3 years old)
- Pre-K (4 years old)
- Kindergarten (5 years old)
- Elementary School (Typically, 6 years old to 10/11 years old)
- Middle School or Junior High School (Typically, 10/11 years old to 13/14 years old)
- High School (Typically 14 – 18 years old)
- Under Graduate College
- Graduate College
In order to be eligible for admission to kindergarten in the U.S. educational system, the child must be 5 years of age by a specific date/month.
Following is a summary of a typical Elementary School in the U.S. educational system:
- Normally there is a school bus service available. However, parents residing within 2 miles of the school, usually pick-up and drop their children on their own.
- Children typically do not receive much home work. Most of it is completed in the school itself, and very little is given for home. More homework may start from 4th grade onward.
- The examination system is also very relaxed. Tests and weekly quiz are conducted on regular basis, but no grades are given. The child’s performance in the exam is usually categorized as “Excellent”, “Good”, “Satisfactory”, and “Need Improvement”. In some places alphabetic grades like A, B, C, D might start in 4th grade.
- Unless there is an extreme exception a child is not failed in elementary school.
- Normally, elementary students stay with one group of classmates and one main teacher during the day. However different teachers may take classes in art, music and physical education.
- In public school, there is typically a federally subsidized hot lunch and in most cases breakfast too.
6th to 8th grade in the U.S. educational system is “Middle school”.
In few schools 5th grade or 9th grade may also be included in the Middle School. On the other hand in some places only 7th and 8th grade constitute the Middle School. These rules vary from school to school.
- The admission criterion is based on the records in the previous grades.
- In some places there may be assessment tests for admissions.
- Normally, there is a school bus service available. However, students residing within 2 miles zone need to come to school on their own.
- Children do get a lot of homework in middle school.
- Tests are normally on an every 3 months, or 6 months basis. Final exams are typically at the end of the year. There are regular quizzes conducted for each subject. Grades are given according to the performance.
- Students are provided with private lockers in the school. For this purpose, they keep their stuff in the lockers as they change classes throughout the day.
- A middle school student usually has to change classes in every 45 minutes.
- Lunch duration varies from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
9th to 12th grade in the U.S. educational system is the High School.
These 4 years of education are more commonly known as:
- 9th Grade is the Freshman Year.
- 10th Grade is the Sophomore Year.
- 11th Grade is the Junior Year.
- 12th Grade is the Senior Year High School.
- Admission criteria is based on the prior grade record and performances.
- Generally a school bus only pick up kids outside the 2 miles of the school zone. Therefore, the others come to school on their own.
- High school students get a lot of homework.
- Tests are conducted in every 3 months, or 6 months basis. Final exams are typically at the end of the year. Typically , there are regular quizes for each subject. Grades are given according to the performance.
- Also, there are also trade school within most school that support students wanting to go into trades.
- Students are provided with private lockers in the school to keep their stuff.
- Lunch duration varies from 30 min to 1 hour.
- In order to get admission in any college after high school, the student has to give ACT or SAT assessment test.
- Students start to look at colleges in their Junior year and apply to colleges in their Senior year.
General Things to Know
Public schools are found all over the USA. In fact, the school that you attend usually depends on the location where you live. For example, certain areas are assigned to certain schools.
Public schools offer free education and books. However, there is typically a fee for activities such as picnics etc. Lunch is also provided by the school at very low rates. Middle and high school students typically take their books home. In some places, for example, elementary school kids leave their books in the school itself. In that case, print material is brought home as home work.
Students have to participate in the regular school fund raising programs.
Typically, public schools usually do not require uniforms, but usually have a dress code.
Private school education is comparatively expensive. They charge a very high tuition fee and there are many additional charges.
There are many types of private schools. For example there are religious, alternative learning and other private schools.
Private schools , in general, require the students to wear a certain uniform.
Usually, there is no bus system for private schools. Therefore, the parents and students get to school on their own.
The U.S. Educational system’s school opening day varies from state to state, but usually in late August or early September near the U.S. Labor Day holiday. The school year usually runs through the middle of June of the next year.
There is usually a vacation and semester break between Christmas and New Years. There is also usually a winter break in February and spring break in April for a week each.
The student’s performance by the U.S. educational system is grades are either A, B, C, D, or F for each subject.
90 to 100
80 to 90
70 to 80
60 to 70
We will discuss post secondary school in a later post.