Education in the United States



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Education in the United States

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Education in United States of America

National education budget (2016–17)

Budget

$1.3 trillion (7.2% of GDP) (public and private, all levels)[1]

General details

Primary languages

English

Literacy

Male

100%[2]

Female

100%[2]

Enrollment

Total

81.5 million

Primary

37.9 million1

Secondary

26.1 million (2006–2007)

Post secondary

20.5 million 2

Attainment

Secondary diploma

91%[5][6][7]

Post-secondary diploma

46%[3][4]

1 Includes kindergarten
2 Includes graduate school




Education in the United States




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Education in the United States is provided in publicprivate, and home schools.

State governments set overall educational standards, often mandate standardized tests for K–12 public school systems and supervise, usually through a board of regents, state colleges, and universities. The bulk of the $1.3 trillion in funding comes from state and local governments, with federal funding accounting for only about $200 billion.[1] Private schools are generally free to determine their own curriculum and staffing policies, with voluntary accreditation available through independent regional accreditation authorities, although some state regulation can apply.

In 2013, about 87% of school-age children (those below higher education) attended state funded public schools, about 10% attended tuition- and foundation-funded private schools,[8] and roughly 3% were home-schooled.[9]

By state law, education is compulsory over an age range starting between five and eight and ending somewhere between ages sixteen and eighteen, depending on the state.[10] This requirement can be satisfied in public schools, state-certified private schools, or an approved home school program. In most schools, compulsory education is divided into three levels: elementary schoolmiddle or junior high school, and high school. Children are usually divided by age groups into grades, ranging from kindergarten (5–6-year olds) and first grade for the youngest children, up to twelfth grade (17–18 years old) as the final year of high school.

There are also a large number and wide variety of publicly and privately administered institutions of higher education throughout the country. Post-secondary education, divided into college, as the first tertiary degree, and graduate school, is described in a separate section below. Higher education includes elite private colleges like Harvard UniversityStanford UniversityMIT, and Caltech, large state flagship universities, private liberal arts schools, historically-black colleges and universities, community colleges, and for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix. College enrollment rates in the United States have increased over the long term.[11] At the same time, student loan debt has also risen to $1.5 trillion. According to a report published by the U.S. News & World Report, of the top ten colleges and universities in the world, eight are American (the other two are Oxford and Cambridge, in the United Kingdom).[12]

The United States spends more per student on education than any other country.[13] In 2014, the Pearson/Economist Intelligence Unit rated US education as 14th best in the world. The Programme for International Student Assessment coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of American 15-year-olds as 31st in the world in reading literacy, mathematics, and science with the average American student scoring 487.7, compared with the OECD average of 493.[14][15] In 2014, the country spent 6.2 percent of its GDP on all levels of education – 1.0 percentage points above the OECD average of 5.2 percent.[16] In 2017, 46.4 percent of Americans aged 25 to 64 attained some form of post-secondary education.[3][4] 48 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 attained some form of tertiary education, about 4 percent above the OECD average of 44 percent.[17][18][19] 35 percent of Americans aged 25 and over have achieved a bachelor's degree or higher.[20] The United States ranks 3rd from the bottom among OECD nations in terms of its poverty gap, and 4th from the bottom in terms of poverty rate.[21][22] Jonathan Kozol has described these inequalities in K–12 education in Savage Inequalities and The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.[23]



Contents

  • 1History

    • 1.119th century

    • 1.220th century

    • 1.321st century

  • 2Statistics

    • 2.1Test performance for primary and secondary schools

  • 3Educational stages

    • 3.1Variations

  • 4K–12 education

    • 4.1Grade placement

    • 4.2Preschool and pre-kindergarten

    • 4.3Primary education

    • 4.4Secondary education

      • 4.4.1Tracking (streaming)

    • 4.5Grading scale

    • 4.6Standardized testing

    • 4.7Extracurricular activities

    • 4.8Education of students with special needs

    • 4.9Public and private schools

      • 4.9.1Charter schools

      • 4.9.2Home schooling

  • 5Higher education

    • 5.1University

    • 5.2Vocational

    • 5.3Cost

      • 5.3.1Student loan debt

    • 5.4Academic labor and adjunctification

    • 5.5Credential inflation

  • 6Governance and funding

    • 6.1Governance

    • 6.2Funding for K–12 schools

      • 6.2.1Judicial intervention

      • 6.2.2Pensions

    • 6.3Funding for college

  • 7Issues

    • 7.1American education crisis

    • 7.2Affirmative action

    • 7.3Attainment

      • 7.3.1Remedial education in college

      • 7.3.2Gender differences

      • 7.3.3Racial achievement differences

      • 7.3.4International comparison

      • 7.3.5Wider economic impact

    • 7.4Behavior

      • 7.4.1Corporal punishment

      • 7.4.2School safety and security

      • 7.4.3Cheating

    • 7.5Curriculum

      • 7.5.1English in the classroom

        • 7.5.1.1Other languages

      • 7.5.2Evolution in Kansas

      • 7.5.3Sex education

      • 7.5.4Textbook review and adoption

      • 7.5.5Culturally-responsive curriculum

        • 7.5.5.1Gender-sensitive curriculum

        • 7.5.5.2LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum

        • 7.5.5.3Ability-inclusive curriculum

    • 7.6Immigrant students and grade placement

    • 7.7School to prison pipeline

  • 8Reading and writing habits

  • 9See also

  • 10References

  • 11Further reading

    • 11.1Bibliography

    • 11.2History

  • 12External links

    • 12.1Library guides

History[edit]

Main article: History of education in the United States

19th century[edit]

Colonial New England encouraged its towns to support free public schools funded by taxation. In the early 19th century Massachusetts took the lead in education reform and public education with programs designed by Horace Mann that were widely emulated across the North. Teachers were specially trained in normal schools and taught the three Rs (of reading, writing, and arithmetic) and also history and geography. Public education was at the elementary level in most places. After the Civil War (1861–1865), the cities began building high schools. The South was far behind northern standards on every educational measure and gave weak support to its segregated all-black schools. However northern philanthropy and northern churches provided assistance to private black colleges across the South. Religious denominations across the country set up their private colleges. States also opened state universities, but they were quite small until well into the 20th century.

In 1823, the Reverend Samuel Read Hall founded the first normal school, the Columbian School in Concord, Vermont,[24][25] aimed at improving the quality of the burgeoning common school system by producing more qualified teachers.

In the mid-20th century, the rapidly increasing Catholic population led to the formation of parochial schools in the largest cities. Theologically oriented Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Jewish bodies on a smaller scale set up their own parochial schools. There were debates over whether tax money could be used to support them, with the answer typically being no. From about 1876, thirty-nine states passed a constitutional amendment to their state constitutions, called Blaine Amendments after James G. Blaine, one of their chief promoters, forbidding the use of public tax money to fund local parochial schools.

States passed laws to make schooling compulsory between 1852 (Massachusetts) and 1917 (Mississippi). They also used federal funding designated by the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Acts of 1862 and 1890 to set up land grant colleges specializing in agriculture and engineering. By 1870, every state had free elementary schools,[26] albeit only in urban centers. According to a 2018 study in the Economic Journal, states were more likely to adopt compulsory education laws during the Age of Mass Migration (1850–1914) if they hosted more European immigrants with lower exposure to civic values.[27]

Following Reconstruction the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was founded in 1881 as a state college, in Tuskegee, Alabama, to train "Colored Teachers," led by Booker T. Washington, (1856–1915), who was himself a freed slave. His movement spread, leading many other Southern states to establish small colleges for "Colored or Negro" students entitled "A. & M.," ("Agricultural and Mechanical") or "A. & T.," ("Agricultural and Technical"), some of which later developed into state universities. Before the 1940s, there were very few black students at private or state colleges in the North, and almost none in the South.[28]

Responding to the many competing academic philosophies being promoted at the time, an influential working group of educators, known as the Committee of Ten and established in 1892 by the National Education Association, recommended that children should receive twelve years of instruction, consisting of eight years of elementary education (in what were also known as "grammar schools") followed by four years in high school ("freshmen," "sophomores," "juniors," and "seniors").

Gradually by the late 1890s, regional associations of high schools, colleges and universities were being organized to coordinate proper accrediting standards, examinations, and regular surveys of various institutions in order to assure equal treatment in graduation and admissions requirements, as well as course completion and transfer procedures.



20th century[edit]

By 1910, 72 percent of children were attending school. Private schools spread during this time, as well as colleges and – in the rural centers – land grant colleges also. Between 1910 and 1940 the high school movement resulted in a rapid increase in public high school enrollment and graduations. By 1930, 100 percent of children were attending school[citation needed] (excluding children with significant disabilities or medical concerns).[29]

By 1938 there was a movement to bring education to six years of elementary school, four years of junior high school, and four years of high school.[30]

During World War II, enrollment in high schools and colleges plummeted as many high school and college students—and teachers—dropped out to enlist or take war jobs.[31][32][33]

The 1946 National School Lunch Act, which is still in operation, provided low-cost or free school lunch meals to qualified low-income students through subsidies to schools, based on the idea that a "full stomach" during the day supported class attention and studying.

The 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas made racial desegregation of public elementary and high schools mandatory, although white families often attempted to avoid desegregation by sending their children to private secular or religious schools.[34][35][36] In the years following this decision, the number of Black teachers rose in the North but dropped in the South.[37]

In 1965, the far-reaching Elementary and Secondary Education Act ('ESEA'), passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, provided funds for primary and secondary education ('Title I funding'). Title VI explicitly forbade the establishment of a national curriculum.[38] Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 created the Pell Grant program which provides financial support to students from low-income families to access higher education.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act established funding for special education in schools.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 made standardized testing a requirement. The Higher Education Amendments of 1972 made changes to the Pell Grants. The 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities. The 1983 National Commission on Excellence in Education report, famously titled A Nation at Risk, touched off a wave of local, state, and federal reform efforts, but by 1990 the country still spent only 2 percent of its budget on education, compared with 30 percent on support for the elderly.[39] In 1990, the EHA was replaced with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which placed more focus on students as individuals, and also provided for more post-high school transition services.

21st century[edit]

The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, passed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress provided federal aid to the states in exchange for measures to penalize schools that were not meeting the goals as measured by standardized state exams in mathematics and language skills.[40][41][42] In the same year, the U.S. Supreme Court diluted some of the century-old "Blaine" laws upheld an Ohio law allowing aid to parochial schools under specific circumstances.[43] The 2006 Commission on the Future of Higher Education evaluated higher education. In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed legislation replacing No Child Left Behind with the Every Student Succeeds Act.[44]

The Great Recession of 2008–09 caused a sharp decline in tax revenues in all cities and states. The response was to cut education budgets. Obama's $800 billion stimulus package included $100 billion for public schools, which every state used to protect its education budget. In terms of sponsoring innovation, however, Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan pursued K-12 education reform through the Race to the Top grant program. With over $15 billion of grants at stake, 34 states quickly revised their education laws according to the proposals of advanced educational reformers. In the competition, points were awarded for allowing charter schools to multiply, for compensating teachers on a merit basis including student test scores, and for adopting higher educational standards. There were incentives for states to establish college and career-ready standards, which in practice meant adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiative that had been developed on a bipartisan basis by the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The criteria were not mandatory, they were incentives to improve opportunities to get a grant. Most states revised their laws accordingly, even though they realized it was unlikely they would win a highly competitive new grant. Race to the Top had strong bipartisan support, with centrist elements from both parties. It was opposed by the left wing of the Democratic Party, and by the right wing of the Republican Party, and criticized for centralizing too much power in Washington. Complaints also came from middle-class families, who were annoyed at the increasing emphasis on teaching to the test, rather than encouraging teachers to show creativity and stimulating students' imagination.[45][46]

In the 2010s, student loan debt became recognized as a social problem.[47][48][49][50][51]

Statistics[edit]

In 2000, 76.6 million students had enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. Of these, 72 percent aged 12 to 17 were considered academically "on track" for their age, i.e. enrolled in at or above grade level. Of those enrolled elementary and secondary schools, 5.2 million (10.4 percent) were attending private schools.[citation needed]

Over 85 percent of the adult population have completed high school and 27 percent have received a bachelor's degree or higher. The average salary for college or university graduates is greater than $51,000, exceeding the national average of those without a high school diploma by more than $23,000, according to a 2005 study by the U.S. Census Bureau.[52] The 2010 unemployment rate for high school graduates was 10.8%; the rate for college graduates was 4.9%. [53]

The country has a reading literacy rate of 99% of the population over age 15,[54] while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding compared to other developed countries.[55] In 2014, a record high of 82% of high school seniors graduated, although one of the reasons for that success might be a decline in academic standards.[56]

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[which?] developed countries (35%)[57] and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high.[58] A 2000s (decade) study by Jon Miller of Michigan State University concluded that "A slightly higher proportion of American adults qualify as scientifically literate than European or Japanese adults".[59]

In 2006, there were roughly 600,000 homeless students in the United States, but after the Great Recession this number more than doubled to approximately 1.36 million.[60] The Institute for Child Poverty and Homelessness keeps track of state by state levels of child homelessness.[61]



Test performance for primary and secondary schools[edit]

The test scores of students attending U.S. public schools are lower than student scores in schools of other developed countries, in the areas of reading, math, and science.[62]

Out of 21 industrialized countries, U.S. 12th graders ranked 19th in math, 16th in science, and last in advanced physics.

Educational stages[edit]



Formal education in the U.S. is divided into a number of distinct educational stages. Most children enter the public education system around ages five or six. Children are assigned into year groups known as grades.

The American school year traditionally begins at the end of August or early in September, after a traditional summer vacation or break. Children customarily advance together from one grade to the next as a single cohort or "class" upon reaching the end of each school year in late May or early June.



Depending upon their circumstances, children may begin school in pre-kindergartenkindergarten or first grade. Students normally attend 12 grades of study over 12 calendar years of primary/elementary and secondary education before graduating and earning a diploma that makes them eligible for admission to higher education. Education is mandatory until age 16 (18 in some states).


General level (or category)

Level

Age

Preschool

Pre-kindergarten

3–5

Compulsory education

Elementary
school

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







6th grade

11–12

Junior high
school

7th grade

12–13

8th grade

13–14

High
school




Freshman/9th grade

14–15

Senior high
school

Sophomore/10th grade

15–16

Junior/11th grade

16–17

Senior/12th grade

17–18

Higher education

College
(University)

Undergraduate
school

First year: "freshman year"

18–19

Second year: "sophomore year"

19–20

Third year: "junior year"

20–21

Fourth year: "senior year"

21–22

Graduate school
(with various degrees and curricular partitions thereof)

Ages vary

Continuing education

Vocational school

Ages vary

Adult education
In the U.S., ordinal numbers (e.g., first grade) are used for identifying grades. Typical ages and grade groupings in contemporary, public and private schools may be found through the U.S. Department of Education. Generally there are three stages: elementary school (K–5th/6th grade), middle school (6th/7th–8th grades) and high school (9th–12th grades).[63]

Diagram of education in the United States

There is considerable variability in the exact arrangement of grades, as the following table indicates.

Variations[edit]

In K–12 education, sometimes students who receive failing grades are held back a year and repeat coursework in the hope of earning satisfactory scores on the second try.

High school graduates sometimes take a gap year before the first year of college, for travel, work, public service, or independent learning.

Many undergraduate college programs now commonly are five-year programs. This is especially common in technical fields, such as engineering. The five-year period often includes one or more periods of internship with an employer in the chosen field.

Of students who were freshmen in 2005 seeking bachelor's degrees at public institutions, 32% took four years, 12% took five years, 6% took six years, and 43% did not graduate within six years. The numbers for private non-profit institutions were 52% in four, 10% in five, 4% in six, and 35% failing to graduate.[64]

Some undergraduate institutions offer an accelerated three-year bachelor's degree, or a combined five-year bachelor's and master's degrees.

Many graduate students do not start professional schools immediately after finishing undergraduate studies, but work for a time while saving up money or deciding on a career direction.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 1999–2000, 73% of people attending institutions of higher education were non-traditional students.[65]

K–12 education[edit]

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. Some states allow students to leave school between 14–17 with parental permission, before finishing high school; other states require students to stay in school until age 18.[66] Public (free) education is typically from kindergarten to grade 12 (frequently abbreviated K–12).

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,[67] largely because they are tax-subsidized (tax burdens by school districts vary from area to area). School districts are usually separate from other local jurisdictions, with independent officials and budgets.

There are more than 14,000 school districts in the country,[68] and more than $500 billion is spent each year on public primary and secondary education.[68] Most states require that their school districts within the state teach for 180 days a year.[69] In 2010, there were 3,823,142 teachers in public, charter, private, and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. They taught a total of 55,203,000 students, who attended one of 132,656 schools [70]Most children begin elementary education with kindergarten (usually five to six years old) and finish secondary education with twelfth grade (usually 17–18 years old). In some cases, pupils may be promoted beyond the next regular grade. Parents may also choose to educate their own children at home; 1.7% of children are educated in this manner.[67][clarification needed]

Around 3 million students between the ages of 16 and 24 drop out of high school each year, a rate of 6.6 percent as of 2012.[citation needed] In the United States, 75 percent of crimes are committed by high school dropouts. Around 60 percent of black dropouts end up spending time incarcerated.[71] The incarceration rate for African-American male high school dropouts was about 50 times the national average as of 2010.[72]

States do not require reporting from their school districts to allow analysis of efficiency of return on investment. The Center for American Progress commends Florida and Texas as the only two states that provide annual school-level productivity evaluations which report to the public how well school funds are being spent at the local level. This allows for comparison of school districts within a state.[73] In 2010, American students rank 17th in the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that this is due to focusing on the low end of performers. All of the recent gains have been made, deliberately, at the low end of the socioeconomic scale and among the lowest achievers. The country has been outrun, the study says, by other nations because the US has not done enough to encourage the highest achievers.[74]

About half of the states encourage schools to make their students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag daily.[75]

Teachers worked from about 35 to 46 hours a week, in a survey taken in 1993.[76] In 2011, American teachers worked 1,097 hours in the classroom, the most for any industrialized nation measured by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. They spend 1,913 hours a year on their work, just below the national average of 1,932 hours for all workers.[77] In 2011, the average annual salary of a preK–12 teacher was $55,040.[78][better source needed]

Transporting students to and from school is a major concern for most school districts. School buses provide the largest mass transit program in the country, 8.8 billion trips per year. Non-school transit buses give 5.2 billion trips annually. 440,000 yellow school buses carry over 24 million students to and from schools.[79] In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that forced busing of students may be ordered to achieve racial desegregation.[80] This ruling resulted in a white flight from the inner cities which largely diluted the intent of the order. This flight had other, non-educational ramifications as well. Integration took place in most schools though de facto segregation often determined the composition of the student body. By the 1990s, most areas of the country had been released from mandatory busing.

School start times are computed with busing in mind. There are often three start times: for elementary, for middle/junior high school, and for high school. One school district computed its cost per bus (without the driver) at $20,575 annually. It assumed a model where the average driver drove 80 miles per day. A driver was presumed to cost $.62 per mile (1.6 km). Elementary schools started at 7:30, middle schools/junior high school started at 8:30, and high schools at 8:15.

While elementary school started earlier, they also finish earlier, at 2:30, middle schools at 3:30 and high schools at 3:20.[81] All school districts establish their own times and means of transportation within guidelines set by their own state.

Grade placement[edit]

Schools use several methods to determine grade placement. One method involves placing students in a grade based on a child's birthday. Cut off dates based on the child's birthday determine placement in either a higher or lower grade level. For example, if the school's cut off date is September 1, and an incoming student's birthday is August 2, then this student would be placed in a higher grade level.[82] If the student is in high school, this could mean that the student gets placed as a junior instead of a sophomore because of their birthday. If the student's birthday falls after the cut off date, such as November 1, then s/he would be placed in the lower grade, which in this example, would be a sophomore.



Preschool and pre-kindergarten[edit]

Main article: Pre-kindergarten

Preschool refers to non-compulsory classroom-based early-childhood education. Pre-kindergarten (also called Pre-K or PK) is the preschool year immediately before Kindergarten. Preschool education may be delivered through a preschool. The Head Start program, the federally funded early childhood education program for low-income children and their families founded in 1965 prepares children, especially those of a disadvantaged population, to better succeed in school. However, limited seats are available to students aspiring to take part in the Head Start program. Many community-based programs, commercial enterprises, non-profit organizations, faith communities, and independent childcare providers offer preschool education. Preschool may be general or may have a particular focus, such as arts education, religious education, sports training, or foreign language learning, along with providing general education.[citation needed] In the United States, Preschool and Pre-K programs are not required, however they are encouraged by educators. Only 69 percent of 4-year-old American children are enrolled in early childhood development programs. Preschool age ranges anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years old. Pre-Kindergarten age ranges from 4 to 5 years old.[83] Pre-kindergarten is focused on preparing kindergarten readiness, which includes activities of deeper learning and more structured skill building. The curriculum for the day will consist of music, art, pretend play, science, reading, math, and other social activities. Both preschool as well as pre-k programs emphasize on inquiry base learning, however pre-k dives deeper into preparing kindergarten readiness.[84]



Primary education[edit]

Main article: Primary education in the United States
A teacher and her students in an elementary school classroom

Historically, in the United States, local public control (and private alternatives) have allowed for some variation in the organization of schools. Elementary school includes kindergarten through sixth grade (or sometimes, to fourth gradefifth grade or eighth grade). Basic subjects are taught in elementary school, and students often remain in one classroom throughout the school day, except for specialized programs, such as physical educationlibrarymusic, and art classes. There are (as of 2001) about 3.6 million children in each grade in the United States.[85]

Typically, the curriculum in public elementary education is determined by individual school districts or county school system. The school district selects curriculum guides and textbooks that reflect a state's learning standards and benchmarks for a given grade level. The most recent curriculum that has been adopted by most states is Common Core.[86] Learning Standards are the goals by which states and school districts must meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) as mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This description of school governance is simplistic at best, however, and school systems vary widely not only in the way curricular decisions are made but also in how teaching and learning take place. Some states or school districts impose more top-down mandates than others. In others, teachers play a significant role in curriculum design and there are few top-down mandates. Curricular decisions within private schools are often made differently from in public schools, and in most cases without consideration of NCLB.

Public elementary school teachers typically instruct between twenty and thirty students. A typical classroom will include children with a range of learning needs or abilities, from those identified as having special needs of the kinds listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Act IDEA to those that are cognitively, athletically or artistically disabled. At times, an individual school district identifies areas of need within the curriculum. Teachers and advisory administrators form committees to develop supplemental materials to support learning for diverse learners and to identify enrichment for textbooks. There are special education teachers working with the identified students. Many school districts post information about the curriculum and supplemental materials on websites for public access.[87]

In general, a student learns basic arithmetic and sometimes rudimentary algebra in mathematics, English proficiency (such as basic grammarspelling, and vocabulary), and fundamentals of other subjects. Learning standards are identified for all areas of a curriculum by individual States, including those for mathematics, social studies, science, physical development, the fine arts, and reading.[86] While the concept of State Learning standards has been around for some time, No Child Left Behind has mandated that standards exist at the State level.

Secondary education[edit]
A high-school senior (twelfth grade) classroom in Calhan, Colorado

Main article: Secondary education in the United States

Secondary education is often divided into two phases, middle/junior high school and high school. Students are usually given more independence, moving to different classrooms for different subjects, and being allowed to choose some of their class subjects (electives).[citation needed]

"Middle school" (or "junior high school") has a variable range between districts. It usually includes seventh and eighth grades and occasionally also includes one or more of the sixth, ninth, and very occasionally fifth grades as well. High school (occasionally senior high school) includes grades 9 through 12. Students in these grades are commonly referred to as freshmen (grade 9), sophomores (grade 10), juniors (grade 11) and seniors (grade 12). At the high school level, students generally take a broad variety of classes without specializing in any particular subject, with the exception of vocational schools. Students are generally required to take a broad range of mandatory subjects, but may choose additional subjects ("electives") to fill out their required hours of learning. High school grades normally are included in a student's official transcript, e.g. for college admission.[citation needed]

Each state sets minimum requirements for how many years of various mandatory subjects are required; these requirements vary widely, but generally include 2–4 years of each of: Science, Mathematics, English, Social sciences, Physical education; some years of a foreign language and some form of art education are often also required, as is a health curriculum in which students learn about anatomynutritionfirst aidsexualitydrug awareness, and birth control. In many cases, however, options are provided for students to "test out" of this requirement or complete independent study to meet it.[citation needed]

Many high schools provide Honors, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. These are special forms of honors classes where the curriculum is more challenging and lessons more aggressively paced than standard courses. Honors, AP or IB courses are usually taken during the 11th or 12th grade of high school, but may be taken as early as 9th grade.

Some international schools offer international school leaving qualifications, to be studied for and awarded instead of or alongside of the high school diploma, Honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate. Regular honors courses are more intense and faster paced than typical college preparatory courses.[citation needed] AP and IB on the other hand, are college-level classes.[citation needed]



Tracking (streaming)[edit]

See also: Tracking (education)

Tracking is the practice of dividing students at the primary or secondary school level into classes on the basis of ability or achievement. One common use is to offer different curricula for students preparing for college and for those preparing for direct entry into technical schools or the workplace.[citation needed]



Grading scale[edit]

In schools in the United States children are assessed throughout the school year by their teachers, and report cards are issued to parents at varying intervals. Generally the scores for individual assignments and tests are recorded for each student in a grade book, along with the maximum number of points for each assignment. End-of-term or -year evaluations are most frequently given in the form of a letter grade on an A-F scale, whereby A is the best possible grade and F is a failing grade (most schools do not include the letter E in the assessment scale), or a numeric percentage. The Waldorf schools,[88][89] most democratic schools,[90] and some other private schools, give (often extensive) verbal characterizations of student progress rather than letter or number grades. Some school districts allow flexibility in grading scales at the Student information system level, allowing custom letters or symbols to be used (though transcripts must use traditional A-F letters)
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