Education in the United States is provided mainly

Education in the United States is provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. School attendance is mandatory and nearly universal at the elementary and high school levels (often known outside the United States as the primary and secondary levels). At these levels, school curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards with jurisdiction over school districts. School districts are usually separate from other local jurisdictions, with independent officials and budgets. Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are usually made by state governments.
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.
Students may attend public schools, private schools, or homeschool. 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, and is described in a separate section below.
In the year 2000, there were 76.6 million students enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. Of these, 72 percent aged 12 to 17 were judged academically "on track" for their age (enrolled in school at or above grade level). Of those enrolled in compulsory education, 5.2 million (10.4 percent) were attending private schools. Among the country's adult population, over 85 percent have completed high school and 27 percent have received a bachelor's degree or higher. The average salary for college or university graduates is $45,400, exceeding the national average by more than $10,000, according to a 2002 study by the U.S. Census Bureau.[1]
The country has a reading literacy rate at 98% of the population over age 15,[2] while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding.[3] 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%)[4] and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high.[5] However, a recent study showed that "A slightly higher proportion of American adults qualify as scientifically literate than European or Japanese adults".


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.
In the large cities, there are sometimes upper-class preschools catering to the children of the wealthy. Because some upper-class families see these schools as the first step toward the Ivy League, there are even counselors who specialize in assisting parents and their toddlers through the preschool admissions process.

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.[8]
Most parents send their children to either a public or private institution. According to government data, one-tenth of students are enrolled in private schools. Approximately 85% of students enter the public schools,[1] largely because they are "free" (tax burdens by school districts vary from area to area). Most students attend school for around six hours per day, and usually anywhere from 175 to 185 days per year. Most schools have a summer break period for about two and half months from June through August. This break is much longer than in many other nations. Originally, "summer vacation," as it is colloquially called, allowed students to participate in the harvest period during the summer. However, this is now relatively unnecessary and remains largely by tradition; it also has immense popular support.
Parents may also choose to educate their own children at home; 1.7% of children are educated in this manner.[1] Proponents of home education invoke parental responsibility and the classical liberal arguments for personal freedom from government intrusion. Few proponents advocate that homeschooling should be the dominant educational policy. Most homeschooling advocates are wary of the established educational institutions for various reasons. Some are religious conservatives who see nonreligious education as contrary to their moral or religious systems. Others feel that they can more effectively tailor a curriculum to suit an individual student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, especially those with singular needs or disabilities. Still others feel that the negative social pressures of schools (such as bullying, drugs, crime, and other school-related problems) are detrimental to a child’s proper development. Parents often form groups to help each other in the homeschooling process, and may even assign classes to different parents, similar to public and private schools.
Opposition to homeschooling comes from varied sources, including teachers' organizations and school districts. The National Education Association, the largest labor union in the United States, has been particularly vocal in the past.[9] Opponents' stated concerns fall into several broad categories, including fears of poor academic quality, loss of income for the schools, and religious or social extremism, or lack of socialization with others. At this time, over half of states have oversight into monitoring or measuring the academic progress of home schooled students, with all but ten requiring some form of notification to the state.

Public and Private schools

Unlike most other industrialized countries, the United States does not have a centralized educational system on the national scale.[16] 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.

Lawrence Academy is a private boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts.
All public school systems are required to provide an education free of charge to everyone of school age in their districts. Admission to individual public schools is usually based on residency. To compensate for differences in school quality based on geography, school systems serving large cities and portions of large cities often have "magnet schools" that provide enrollment to a specified number of non-resident students in addition to serving all resident students. This special enrollment is usually decided by lottery with equal numbers of males and females chosen. Some magnet schools cater to gifted students or to students with special interests, such as the sciences or performing arts.[17] Admission to some of these schools is highly competitive and based on an application process.
Private schools in the United States include parochial schools (affiliated with religious denominations), non-profit independent schools, and for-profit private schools. Private schools charge varying rates depending on geographic location, the school's expenses, and the availability of funding from sources, other than tuition. For example, some churches partially subsidize private schools for their members. Some people have argued that when their child attends a private school, they should be able to take the funds that the public school no longer needs and apply that money towards private school tuition in the form of vouchers; this is the basis of the school choice movement.
Private schools have various missions: Some cater to college-bound students seeking a competitive edge in the college admissions process; others are for gifted students, students with learning disabilities or other special needs, or students with specific religious affiliations. Some cater to families seeking a small school, with a nurturing, supportive environment. Unlike public school systems, private schools have no legal obligation to accept any interested student. Admission to some private schools is highly selective. Private schools also have the ability to permanently expel persistently unruly students, a disciplinary option not always legally available to public school systems. Private schools offer the advantages of smaller classes, under twenty students in a typical elementary classroom, for example; a higher teacher/student ratio across the school day, greater individualized attention and in the more competitive schools, expert college placement services. Unless specifically designed to do so, private schools usually cannot offer the services required by students with serious or multiple learning, emotional, or behavioral issues. Although reputed to pay lower salaries than public school systems, private schools often attract teachers by offering high-quality professional development opportunities, including tuition grants for advanced degrees. According to elite private schools themselves, this investment in faculty development helps maintain the high quality program that they offer.
An August 17, 2000 article by the Chicago Sun-Times refers to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic Schools as the largest private school system in the United States.

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