Public and Private schools Education

Education in the United States is provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. The age for beginning school is mandated by state law and therefore varies slightly from state to state, but in general children are required to begin school with a one-year Kindergarten class during the year in which they turn 4 or 5. They are required to continue attending school until the age of 16 to 18, depending on the state, with a growing number of states now requiring school attendance until the age of 18. Some states have exemptions for those 14-18.
In the U.S. the first year of compulsory schooling begins with children at the age of five or six. Children are then placed in year groups known as grades, beginning with first grade and culminating in twelfth grade. The U.S. uses ordinal numbers for naming grades, unlike Canada and Australia where cardinal numbers are preferred. Thus, when asked what grade they are in, typical American children are more likely to say "first grade" rather than "Grade 1". Typical ages and grade groupings in public and private schools may be found through the U.S. Department of Education.
There are no mandatory public prekindergarten or crèche programs in the United States. The federal government funds the Head Start preschool program for children of low-income families, but most families are on their own with regard to finding a preschool or childcare.
Public and Private schools
Unlike most other industrialized countries, the United States does not have a centralized educational system on the national scale. Thus, K-12 students in most areas have a choice between free tax-funded public schools, or privately-funded, private schools.
Public school systems are supported by a combination of local, state, and federal government funding. Because a large portion of school revenues come from local property taxes, public schools vary widely in the resources they have available per student. Class size also varies significantly from one district to another. Generally, schools in more affluent areas are more highly regarded; it is this fact that is often blamed for what some perceive as lack of social mobility in America. Curriculum decisions in public schools are made largely at the local and state levels; the federal government has limited influence. In most districts a locally elected school board runs schools. The school board appoints an official called the superintendent of schools to manage the schools in the district. The largest public school system in the United States is in New York City, where more than one million students are taught in 1,200 separate public schools. Because of its immense size - there are more students in the system than residents in eight US states - the New York City public school system is nationally influential in determining standards and materials like text books.
Elementary and secondary education
Schooling is compulsory for all children in the United States, but the age range for which school attendance is required varies from state to state. Most children begin elementary education with kindergarten (usually five to six years old) and finish secondary education with twelfth grade (usually eighteen years old). In some cases, pupils may be promoted beyond the next regular grade. Some states allow students to leave school at age 16 or 17 with parental permission, before finishing high school; other states require students to stay in school until age 18.
Students may attend public schools, private schools, or home school. In most public and private schools, education is divided into three levels: elementary school, junior high school (also often called middle school), and senior high school. In almost all schools at these levels, children are divided by age groups into grades, ranging from Kindergarten (followed by first grade) for the youngest children in elementary school, up to twelfth grade, which is the final year of high school. The exact age range of students in these grade levels varies slightly from area to area.
Post-secondary education, better known as "college" or "university" in the United States, is generally governed separately from the elementary and high school system.
The country has a reading literacy rate at 98% of the population over age 15, while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding. The poor performance has pushed public and private efforts such as the No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, the ratio of college-educated adults entering the workforce to general population (33%) is slightly below the mean of other developed countries (35%) and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high. However, a recent study showed that "A slightly higher proportion of American adults qualify as scientifically literate than European or Japanese adults".
The doors of U.S. educational institutions are open to all qualified students from around the world. The United States is proud of an educational system that attracts students and scholars from across the globe. In the words of President Bush, "We … encourage international students to take part in our educational system. ....The relationships that are formed between individuals from different countries, as part of international education programs and exchanges ...foster goodwill that develops into vibrant, mutually beneficial partnerships among nations."
International students and their dependents contribute nearly $13 billion to the U.S. economy each academic year. Not only do international students bring unique social, cultural, and academic perspectives and valuable insights to U.S. campuses; they also share their experiences about the institution they attend with colleagues back home and can serve as valuable friends and allies in the future. Most university administrators and American students would agree that international students provide educational benefits to American students and institutions that are priceless.
The Educational Information and Resources Branch supports more than 450 Education USA advising centers, which actively promote U.S. higher education in 8 regions and 170 countries around the world and assist roughly 25 million prospective international students each year in person, by telephone, through e-mail, and on the Internet. These centers, while representing U.S. higher education as a whole, can be a valuable source of information and, ultimately, students for U.S. campuses that recruit international students.

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