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  Wikipedia: Education in the United States

Wikipedia: Education in the United States
Education in the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Education in the United States is highly decentralised with funding and curriculum decisions taking place mostly at the local level through school boards. Educational standards are generally set by state agencies. The Federal government through the United States Department of Education is involved with funding programs.

School Grades

Primary education and secondary education in the United States together are sometimes referred to as K-12 (kindergarten through twelfth grade). It should be noted that practice can vary from this general picture.

Level / Grade, Age (Years old)

  • Pre-School, Nursery School, or Head Start; Under 5
  • Elementary School In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Elementary School or Grammar School included grades one through eight, high school included grades nine through twelve.
    • Kindergarten 5-6
    • 1st Grade 6-7
    • 2nd Grade 7-8
    • 3rd Grade 8-9
    • 4th Grade 9-10
    • 5th Grade 10-11
  • Middle school (also called Junior High School)
    • 6th Grade 11-12 (not always. Some Elementary Schools include 6th grade as their highest grade.)
    • 7th Grade 12-13
    • 8th Grade 13-14
  • High school
    • 9th Grade (Freshman year) 14-15
    • 10th Grade (Sophomore year) 15-16
    • 11th Grade (Junior year) 16-17
    • 12th Grade (Senior year) 17-18

"Middle school" or "Junior high school" may refer to schools that begin in 7th grade and end in either 8th or 9th grade, where 6th grade is the final grade in elementary school, and in the case ending in 9th grade, only grades 10, 11, and 12 are in high school. The term "junior high school" and the arrangement beginning with 7th grade is now much less common.

"High school" runs from grades 9 through 12.

  • College or University Undergraduate grades are also called Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years.
    • Undergraduate
      • College or university
        • Four years leading to a a Bachelor or Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.
      • Community college
        • Lower division, two years leading to an Associate of Arts (AA) degree.
        • Upper division, two years leading to B.A. or B.S.
    • Postgraduate
      • One to three years leading to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degree.
      • Four or more years leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree or two or more years after earning a Masters.

Contemporary issues in the United States

Major educational issues in the United States center on curriculum, funding, and control.

Curriculum issues

  • What type of school works best.
  • How to teach reading: phonics vs. whole language
  • Evolution: whether to teach evolution as a historical truth, or simply present evidence and how it supports various theories.
  • sex education: how much to teach about sexual intercourse, and at what age; is purpose to reduce disease and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or what?
  • "Diversity" and hate speech: to what extent may students be required to tolerate or even approve of repugnant people and practices?
  • Dumbing down of curriculum: high school graduates often at 6th to 8th grade levels in 3 R's.


Each state government provides free schools for residents, funded by taxes (often on real estate).

  • Vouchers: have voucher programs helped students learn better? Or do they damage public education? What are the trends?
  • Spending: is there any correlation between per-pupil spending and student achievement?
  • Class size: does hiring more teachers to reduce the teacher-student ratio have any correlation with student achievement?
  • Current trends in US: building more prisons than schools. Samuel Clemens' thoughts on the matter:
Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.- Speech 11/23/1900

At the college and university level, funding becomes a major tangle, as the US Government offers partial subsidies for education at accredited universities through federal financial aid and student loans. However, there is very little standardization as to how funding can be applied, often leading to a great deal of confusion regarding what steps to take.


There are some facts. In U.S. law parents have the ultimate responsibility for, and authority over their children's education. The crucial tests of this legal doctrine occurred in attempts to sue public school officials for malpractice, in cases where, for example, illiterate young people graduated from high-school. The U.S. Supreme Court (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)) defined the proper goal for education as "literacy and self-sufficiency," that is, an educated, not a socialized child was recognized as the essential goal for the U.S.'s democratic republic. This decision is now interpreted as court recognition that parents have a fundamental right to choose the method to achieve literacy and self-sufficiency, that is to educate their children.


Expansion of American education during the late 1800s

In 1870, only 2% of 17 year olds graduated from high school. By 1900, however, 31 states required 8-14 year olds to attend school. As a result, by 1910, 72 percent of American children attended school and half of the nation's children attended one-room schools. Lessons consisted of students reading aloud from their texts such as the
McGuffey Readers, and emphasis was placed on rote memorization. Teachers often used physical punishments, such as hitting students on the knuckles with birch switches, for incorrect answers. Because the public schools focused on assimilation, many immigrants, who resisted Americanization, sent their children to private religious schoools.

Higher Education

Between 1880 and 1885, more than 150 new colleges and universities were opened in America. Philantrhopists endowed these institutions. Leland Stanford, one of The Big Four, for example, established Stanford University in 1885.

See also


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona