From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Education in the United States is provided mainly by
government, with control and funding coming from three levels:
local. At the elementary and secondary school levels,
curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through
school boards with jurisdiction over
school districts. School districts are usually separate from
other local jurisdictions in terms of officials and budgets.
Educational standards and
standardized testing decisions are usually made by state
People are required to attend school until the age of 16-18
depending on the state. Many more states now require people to
attend school until the age of 18. Some states have exemptions
for those 14-18. Students may attend
home schools. In most public and private schools, education
is divided into three levels:
junior high school, and
senior high school. Grade levels in each vary from area to
The United Nations assigned an Education Index of 99.9 to the
United States, ranking it number 1 in the world, a position it
shares with about 20 other nations.
76.6 million students were enrolled in K16 study. 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
graduates is $45,400, exceeding the national average by more
than $10,000, according to a 2002 study by the U.S. Census
The country has a reading
literacy rate at 98% of the population over age 15,
while ranking below average in science and mathematics
The poor performance has pushed public and private efforts such
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
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 U.S. uses
ordinal numbers for naming grades, unlike Canada, Australia,
and England where
cardinal numbers are preferred. Thus, when asked what grade
they are in, typical American children are more likely to say
"fourth grade" rather than "Grade 4." Typical ages and grade
groupings in public and private schools may be found through the
U.S. Department of Education.
 Many different variations
exist across the country.
Questions about grading scales surface on ISED-L, the
Independent School Educators List, from time to time. Although
grading scales usually differ from school to school, the grade
scale which seems to be most common is this one:
There are no mandatory public
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
Ivy League, there are even counselors who specialize in
assisting parents and their toddlers through the preschool
Elementary and secondary education
- See also:
Elementary education in the United States and
Secondary education in the United States
compulsory for all people in the United States, but the age
range for which school attendance is required varies from state
to state. Most people begin elementary education with
first grade (usually five to seven years old) and finish
secondary education with
twelfth grade (usually eighteen years old). Typically,
mandatory education starts with first grade and many times in
kindergarten. Some states allow students to leave school at age
16 with parental permission, before finishing high school; other
states require students to stay in school until age 18.
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,
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.
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.
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.
Many students in the
United States use
Elementary school, also known as grade school or
grammar school, is a school of the first six grades
(sometimes, first eight grades), where basic subjects are
taught. Sometimes it includes kindergarten as well. Elementary
school provides a common daily routine for all students except
the most disadvantaged (those having singular needs or
disabilities). Students do not choose a course structure and
often remain in one or two classrooms throughout the school day,
with the exceptions of
physical education ("P.E." or "gym"),
Typically, curriculum within public elementary education is
determined by individual
school districts. The school district selects curriculum
guides and textbooks that are reflective of a state's learning
standards and benchmarks for a given grade level.
Learning Standards are the goals by which states and school
districts must meet AYP or adequate yearly progress as
No Child Left Behind. 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 in how
teaching and learning takes place. Some states and/or school
districts impose more top-down mandates than others. In many
schools, teachers play a significant role in curriculum design
and there are few top-down mandates. Curricular decisions within
private schools are made differently than in public schools and
in most cases without consideration for NCLB.
Public Elementary School teachers typically instruct between
twenty and thirty students of diverse learning needs. A typical
classroom will include children with identified special needs as
listed in Individuals with Disabilities Act
to those that are cognitively, athletically or artistically
gifted. 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 identify enrichment
for textbooks. Many school districts post information about the
curriculum and supplemental materials on websites for public
 Teachers receive a book to give to the students for each
subject and brief overviews of what they are expected to teach.
In general, a student learns basic
arithmetic and sometimes rudimentary algebra in
mathematics, English proficiency (such as basic
vocabulary), and fundamentals of other subjects. Learning
standards are identified for all areas of curriculum by
individual States, including those for math, social studies,
science, physical development, the fine arts as well as reading.
 While the concept of State Learning standards has been
around for some time,
No Child Left Behind has mandated standards exist at the
Elementary School teachers are trained with emphases on human
cognitive and psychological development and the principles of
curriculum development and instruction earning either a
Bachelors or Masters Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary
Education. The teaching of
social studies and
science are often underdeveloped in some elementary school
programs and some attribute this to the fact that elementary
school teachers are trained as generalists. However, teachers
attribute this to the priority placed on developing reading,
writing and math proficiency in the elementary grades and the
amount of time needed to do so. Reading, writing and math
proficiency greatly affect performance in social studies,
science and other content areas. Certification standards for
teachers are determined by individual States, with individual
colleges and universities determining the rigor of the college
education provided for future teachers. Some states require
content area tests as well as instructional skills tests to be
certified as a teacher within that state.
Social studies may include key events, documents,
understandings, and concepts in
world history and geography and, in some programs, state or
local history and geography; science varies widely. Most
States have predetermined the number of minutes that will be
taught within a given content area. As
No Child Left Behind focuses on reading and math as primary
targets for improvement, other instructional areas have received
 There is much discussion within educational circles
about the justification and impact of singularly focusing on
reading and math as tested areas for improvement.
Junior and senior high school
Leonia Middle School, in
Leonia, New Jersey
Junior high school is any school intermediate between
elementary school and senior high school. It usually includes
grades seven and eight, and sometimes six or nine. The term
"Middle School" has supplanted "Junior High School" in the last
twenty years because educators no longer wanted intermediate
education to be based on a high school model, believing it to be
inappropriate. In some locations, intermediate school includes
grade nine only, allowing students to adjust to a high school
environment. However, the goal of middle schools in recent years
has been to address the unique educational and developmental
needs of early adolescents, therefore middle schools have
attempted to create a learning environment that is different
from elementary school and different from high school. At this
time, students begin to enroll in class schedules where they
take classes from several teachers in a given day, unlike in
elementary school where most classes are taught by the same
teacher. The classes are usually a strict set of
social science courses, interspersed with a
technology class. Many schools now require a world language
course. Every grade from kindergarten through ninth grade
usually includes a mandatory
physical education (P.E.) class. Student-chosen courses,
electives, are generally limited to only one or two classes.
Starting in ninth grade, grades become part of a student’s
official transcript. Future employers or colleges may want to
see steady improvement in grades and a good attendance record on
the official transcript. Therefore, students are encouraged to
take much more responsibility for their education.
Great Neck South High School, in
Senior high school is a school attended after middle school
or junior high school. High school is often used instead of
senior high school and distinguished from junior high school.
Basic curricular structure
Generally, at the
secondary school level, students take a broad variety of
classes without special emphasis in any particular subject.
Cirricula vary widely in quality and rigidity; for example, some
states consider 70 (on a 100-point scale) to be a passing grade,
while others consider it to be as low as 60 or as high as 75.
The following are the typical minimum course sequences
that one must take in order to obtain a high school diploma;
they are not indicative of the necessary minimum courses or
course rigor required for attending college in the United
- Science (usually three years minimum, including biology,
- Mathematics (usually three years minimum, including
algebra, geometry, algebra II, and/or
- English (four years)
- Social Science (various history, government, and
economics courses, always including American history)
- Physical education (at least one year)
Many states require a "health" course in which students learn
birth control. Anti-drug use programs are also usually part
of health courses. Foreign language and some form of art
education are also a mandatory part of the curriculum in some
Many secondary schools offer a wide variety of elective
courses, although the availability of such courses depends upon
each particular school's financial resources and desired
Common types of electives include:
Visual arts (drawing,
Performing Arts (drama,
Technology education ("Shop";
track and field,
Foreign languages (French,
Spanish are common;
Japanese are less common)
Additional options for gifted students
Presidential Scholars with
Not all schools require the same rigor of
course work. Most senior high, junior high, and elementary
"gifted" classes for motivated and gifted students, where
the quality of education is usually higher and more demanding.
There are also
magnet schools that may have competitive entrance
If funds are available, a high school may provide
Advanced Placement or
International Baccalaureate courses, which are special forms
of honors classes. AP or IB courses are usually taken during the
11th or 12th grade of high school, either as a replacement for a
typical required course (e.g., taking AP U.S. History as a
replacement for standard U.S. History), a continuation of a
subject (e.g., taking AP Biology in the 12th grade even though
one already took Biology in the 9th grade), or a completely new
field of study (e.g., AP Economics or AP Computer Science).
Most postsecondary institutions take AP or IB exam results
into consideration in the admissions process. Because AP and IB
courses are intended to be the equivalent of the first year of
college courses, postsecondary institutions may grant unit
credit which enables students to graduate early. Other
institutions use examinations for placement purposes only:
students are exempted from introductory course work but may not
receive credit towards a concentration, degree, or core
requirement. Institutions vary in the selection of examinations
they accept and the scores they require to grant credit or
placement, with more elite institutions tending to accept fewer
examinations and requiring higher scoring. The lack of AP, IB,
and other advanced courses in impoverished inner-city high
schools is often seen as a major cause of the greatly differing
levels of postsecondary education these graduates go on to
receive, compared with both public and private schools in
Also, in states with well-developed
community college systems, there are often mechanisms by
which gifted students may seek permission from their school
district to attend community college courses full time during
the summer, and during weekends and evenings during the school
year. The units earned this way can often be transferred to
one's university, and can facilitate early graduation.
Early college entrance programs are a step further, with
students enrolling as freshmen at a younger-than-traditional
football games in the
United States are major events for the school
and often the community.
A major characteristic of American schools is the high
priority given to sports, clubs and activities by the community,
the parents, the schools and the students themselves. Many
elementary, junior high, and senior high students participate in
extracurricular activity. Extracurricular activity is
educational activities not falling within the scope of the
regular curriculum but under the supervision of the school.
These activities can extend to large amounts of time outside the
normal school day; homeschooled students, however, are not
normally allowed to participate. Student participation in
bands, and spirit groups can amount to hours of practices
and performances. Most
states have organizations which develop rules for
competition between groups. These organizations are usually
forced to implement time limits on hours practiced as a
prerequisite for participation. Many schools also have
non-varsity sports teams, however these are usually afforded
less resources and attention. The idea of having sports teams
associated with high schools is relatively unique to the United
States in comparison with other countries.
Sports programs and their related games, especially
basketball, are major events for American students and for
larger schools can be a major source of funds for
school districts. Schools may sell "spirit" shirts to wear
to games; school stadiums and gymnasiums are often filled to
capacity, even for non-sporting competitions.
North Mesquite High School band performs at a
marching band competition, one of many types of
extracurricular activities engaged in by American
High school athletic competitions often generate intense
interest in the community. Inner city schools serving poor
students are heavily scouted by college and even professional
coaches, with national attention given to which colleges
outstanding high school students choose to attend. State high
school championship tournaments football and basketball attract
high levels of public interest.
In addition to sports, numerous non-athletic extracurricular
activities are available in American schools, both public and
private. Activities include musical groups, marching bands,
student government, school newspapers, science fairs, debate
teams, and clubs focused on an academic area, such as the
- See also:
Test (student assessment)
No Child Left Behind Act, all American states must
test students in public schools statewide to ensure that
they are achieving the desired level of minimum education,
such as on the
Regents Examinations in
New York or the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment
(PSSA); students being educated at home or in private schools
are not included. The Act also requires that students and
schools show "adequate yearly progress." This means they must
show some improvement each year.
Although these tests may have revealed the results of student
learning, they may have little value to help strengthen the
students' academic weakness. For example, in most states, the
results of the testing would not be known until six months
later. At that time, the students have been promoted to the next
grade or entering a new school. The students are not given a
chance to review the questions and their own answers but their
percentile of the test results are compared with their own
peers. To address this situation many
school districts have implemented MAP. Measures of Academic
Progress (MAP) tests are state-aligned computerized adaptive
assessments that measure the instructional level of each
student's growth over time.
This reasearch based testing allows elementary school
teachers to have on going access to student progress. Teachers
using this system can identify strengths and weaknessess of
individual students and remediate where necessary. When a
student fails to make adequate yearly progress,
No Child Left Behind mandates remediation through summer
school and/or tutoring be made available to a given student.
During high school, students (usually in
11th grade) may take one or more standardized
tests depending on their postsecondary education preferences
and their local graduation requirements. In theory, these tests
evaluate the overall level of knowledge and learning aptitude of
the students. The
ACT are the most common standardized tests that students
take when applying to
college. A student may take the SAT, ACT, or both depending
upon the college the student plans to apply to for admission.
Most competitive schools also require two or three
SAT Subject Tests, (formerly known as SAT IIs), which are
shorter exams that focus strictly on a particular subject
matter. However, all these tests serve little to no purpose for
students who do not move on to postsecondary education, so they
can usually be skipped without affecting one's ability to
Education of students with special
In the United States, education for children identified with
disabilities is structured to adhere as closely as possible to
the same experience received by their typically developing
peers. This is perhaps one one of the more unique concepts of
education within the United States of America. Within the
Federal law, all children are entitled to a free and
appropriate public education, FAPE, as mandated in the
Individuals with Disabilities Act IDEA. Blind and deaf
students usually have separate classes in which they spend most
of their day, but may sit in on normal classes with guides or
People identified with special needs such as
borderline mental retardation are required to attend the
same amount of time as other students. Federal law requires that
states ensure that all school districts provide services to meet
the individual needs of students with disabilities
Students must be placed in the
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This means that school
districts must meet with the parents to develop an
Individualized Educational Plan that determines best
placement for their child. School districts that fail to provide
an appropriate placement for children identified with special
needs can be taken to due process wherein parents may legally
and formally submit their grievances and demand appropriate
services for their child.
Some children with developmental delays and other
disabilities are placed in self contained classrooms. These
special education classrooms are provided for children who do
not benefit educationally, socially or emotionally from a
standard classroom placement. These classes, commonly known as
special education or special ed, are taught by
teachers with training in adapting curriculum to meet the needs
of children identified with special needs. Depending on the
degree and severity of mental impairment, social/emotional or
physical disabilities, students with special needs may
participate in regular education classes with typically
developing peers classes as much as the child might benefit from
such a placement. When a child with special needs is placed in a
regular classroom for all or part of his educational experience,
Special Education Teachers are responsible for providing
adaptive supports and modifications to allow for the child to
learn within that environment. This educational setting is known
inclusion. All adaptations and modifications should be
relevant to the child's disability and appropriate to the
identified disability. The level of inclusion that is provided
varies greatly within different
school districts. Children receiving Special Education
services are entitled by law to an annual review of yearly
progress as well as an evaluation every three years to determine
the needs for continued services. Parents who have specific
desires for their child's education must act as advocates to
assure their child's best interests are being met.
In order to more clearly determine students as disabled, the
federal government defined thirteen categories of disabilities.
mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic
impairment, other health impairment, serious emotional
disturbance, specific learning disability, speech or language
impairment, traumatic brain injury, and
visual impairment. Sometimes these students are able to
attend special sessions during the day to supplement regular
class time; here they often receive extra instruction or perform
easier work. The goal of these programs, however, is to try to
bring everyone up to the same standard and provide equal
opportunity to those students who are challenged. The federal
government supports the standards developed in the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.
The law mandates that schools must accommodate students with
disabilities as defined by the act, and specifies methods for
funding the sometimes large costs of providing them with the
necessary facilities. Larger districts are often able to provide
more adequate and quality care for those with special needs.
- See also:
Public and Private schools
Unlike most other industrialized countries, the United States
does not have a centralized educational system on the national
K-12 students in most areas have a choice between free
public schools and
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 very low 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
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, 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 boys and girls chosen. Some magnet schools
cater to gifted students or to students with special interests,
such as the sciences or performing arts.
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. This investment in faculty development helps maintain
the high quality program that elite private schools claim to
United States Department of Education released a statement
recently detailing the average cost per pupil in public and
private schools and found that the average public school cost
USD$7,200 per student while the average private school cost
per pupil was just USD$3,500. The Department of Education also
stated that less than 25% of private schools are considered
"elite," costing more than $10,000 a year. In contrast, private
East Asia average around USD$1,400 per year.
College and University
- See also:
Universities in the United States
Post-secondary education in the United States is known as
university and commonly consists of four years of study at
an institution of higher learning. Like high school, the four
undergraduate grades are commonly called freshman, sophomore,
junior, and senior years (alternately called first year, second
year, etc.). Students traditionally apply to receive admission
into college, with varying difficulties of entrance. Schools
differ in their competitiveness and reputation; generally, the
most prestigious schools are private, rather than public.
Admissions criteria involve the rigor and grades earned in high
school courses taken, the students
GPA, class ranking, and standardized
test scores (Such as the SAT or the ACT tests). Most
colleges also consider more subjective factors such as a
commitment to extracurricular activities, a personal essay, and
an interview. While numerical factors rarely ever are absolute
required values, each college usually has a rough threshold
below which admission is unlikely.
The Stata Center for Computer, Information and
Intelligence Sciences at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in
Once admitted, students engage in undergraduate study,
which consists of satisfying university and class requirements
to achieve a
bachelor's degree in a field of concentration known as a
major. (Some students enroll in
double majors or "minor" in another field of study.) The
most common method consists of four years of study leading to a
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), a
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), or sometimes (but rarely)
another bachelor's degree such as
Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.),
Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.),
Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.,) or
Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) Five-Year Professional
Architecture programs offer the
Bachelor of Architecture Degree (B.Arch.)
Unlike in the British model, degrees in law and medicine are
not offered at the undergraduate level and are completed as
graduate study after earning a bachelor's degree. Neither field
specifies or prefers any undergraduate major, though medicine
has set prerequisite courses that must be taken before
Some students choose to attend a community college for two
years prior to further study at another college or university.
In most states, community colleges are operated either by a
division of the state university or by local special districts
subject to guidance from a state agency. Community colleges may
award Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree
after two years. Those seeking to continue their education may
transfer to a four-year college or university (after applying
through a similar admissions process as those applying directly
to the four-year institution, see
articulation). Some community colleges have automatic
enrollment agreements with a local four-year college, where the
community college provides the first two years of study and the
university provides the remaining years of study, sometimes all
on one campus. The community college awards the associate's
degree, and the university awards the bachelor's and master's
Homer statue at the
University of Virginia
Graduate study, conducted after obtaining an initial
degree and sometimes after several years of professional work,
leads to a more advanced degree such as a
master's degree, which could be a
Master of Arts (MA),
Master of Science (MS),
Master of Business Administration (MBA), or other less
common master's degrees such as
Master of Education (MEd), and
Master of Fine Arts (MFA). After additional years of study
and sometimes in conjunction with the completion of a master's
degree, students may earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
or other doctoral degree, such as
Doctor of Arts,
Doctor of Education,
Doctor of Theology,
Doctor of Medicine,
Doctor of Pharmacy,
Doctor of Physical Therapy, or
Doctor of Jurisprudence. Some programs, such as medicine,
have formal apprenticeship procedures post-graduation like
residency and internship which must be completed after
graduation and before one is considered to be fully trained.
Other professional programs like law and business have no formal
apprenticeship requirements after graduation (although law
school graduates must take the
bar exam in order to legally practice law in nearly all
Entrance into graduate programs usually depends upon a
student's undergraduate academic performance or professional
experience as well as their score on a standardized entrance
exam like the
GRE (graduate schools in general), the
(business), or the
(medicine). Many graduate and law schools do not require
experience after earning a bachelor's degree to enter their
programs; however, business school candidates are usually
required to gain a few years of professional work experience
before applying. Only 8.9 percent of students ever receive
postgraduate degrees, and most, after obtaining their bachelor's
degree, proceed directly into the workforce.
The vast majority of students (up to 70 percent) lack the
financial resources to pay tuition up front and must rely on
student loans and
scholarships from their university, the federal government,
or a private lender. All but a few charity institutions charge
all students tuition, although scholarships (both merit-based
and need-based) are widely available. Generally, private
universities charge much higher tuition than their public
counterparts, which rely on state funds to make up the
difference. Because each state supports its own university
system with state taxes, most public universities charge much
higher rates for out-of-state students. Private universities are
generally considered to be of higher quality than public
universities, although there are many exceptions.
The courtyard of
Balch Hall at
Annual undergraduate tuition varies widely from state to
state, and many additional fees apply. A typical year's tuition
at a public university (for residents of the state) is about
$5,000. Tuition for public school students from outside the
state is generally comparable to private school prices, although
students can generally get state residency after their first
year. Private schools are typically much higher, although prices
vary widely from "no-frills" private schools to highly
specialized technical institutes. Depending upon the type of
school and program, annual graduate program tuition can vary
from $15,000 to as high as $40,000. Note that these prices do
not include living expenses (rent, room/board, etc.) or
additional fees that schools add on such as "activities fees" or
health insurance. These fees, especially room and board, can
range from $6,000 to $12,000 per academic year (assuming a
single student without children).
College costs are rising at the same time that state
appropriations for aid are shrinking. This has led to debate
over funding at both the state and local levels. From
alone, tuition rates at public schools increased by just over 14
percent, largely due to dwindling state funding. A more moderate
increase of 6 percent occurred over the same period for private
The status ladder
Memorial Hall at
American college and university faculty, staff, alumni,
students, and applicants monitor
rankings produced by magazines such as
U.S. News and World Report,
Academic Ranking of World Universities, test preparation
services such as
The Princeton Review or another university itself such as
the Top American Research Universities by the University of
These rankings are based on factors like
brand recognition, selectivity in admissions, generosity of
alumni donors, and volume of faculty research.
In terms of brand recognition, the United States' best known
Harvard. Seemingly, Harvard alumni often gain prominence in
American business, education, and society; for this reason, it
has become entrenched in popular mind as America's 'top' school.
depict Harvard as the ultimate example of the academic "ivory
The Paper Chase, etc).
In the popular mind, approximately twenty-five institutions
compose the "top tier" of American higher learning. Most would
cite the eight universities that compose the
Ivy League and a small number of elite, private research
Washington University in St. Louis,
University of Chicago,
A small percentage of students who apply to these Ivy League
schools gain admission.
Many Americans would also cite the "Little
Ivies," a handful of elite
liberal arts college known for their high-quality
instruction. These include
Swarthmore, etc. Others would cite all-female institutions
Smith, former members of the "Seven
A woman walks across the
University of Chicago.
This "ladder" is not absolute, however. Top public
universities (sometimes referred to as "Public
Ivies"), such as the
University of California, Berkeley,
University of Michigan,
University of Washington, and the
University of Virginia actually perform better than various
private universities in many measurements of graduate education
and research quality.
Among engineering schools, Ivy League universities are outranked
by multiple public and other private universities.
Each state in the United States maintains its own
public university system, which is always non-profit. The
State University of New York and the
California State University are the largest public higher
education systems in the United States; SUNY is the largest
system that includes community colleges, while CSU is the
largest without. Most areas also have
private institutions which may be for-profit or non-profit.
Unlike many other nations, there are no public universities at
the national level outside of the
service academies. Many states have two separate state
university systems. The faculty of the more prestigious system
are expected to conduct advanced cutting-edge research in
addition to teaching (the naming convention usually runs
"University of ___" for the upper tier, e.g. the
University of California), while the less prestigious is
focused on quality of teaching and producing the next generation
of teachers (usually named "___ State University," e.g.,
California State University). The second-tier university
systems are often the descendants of 19th-century
normal schools. Note that
has six (6) separate state university systems: the
University of Texas System, the
Texas Tech University System, the
Texas A&M University System, the
University of Houston System, the
University of North Texas System, and the
Texas State University System.
Prospective students applying to attend one of the five
military academies require, with limited exceptions,
nomination by a member of
Congress. Like acceptance to "top tier" universities,
competition for these limited nominations is intense and must be
accompanied by superior scholastic achievement and evidence of
Suzzallo Library at
University of Washington
Aside from these aforementioned schools, academic reputations
vary widely among the 'middle-tier' of American schools, (and
even among academic departments within each of these schools.)
Most public and private institutions fall into this 'middle'
range. Some institutions feature honors colleges or other
rigorous programs that challenge academically exceptional
students, who might otherwise attend a 'top-tier' college.
Aware of the status attached to the perception of the college
that they attend, students often apply to a range of schools.
Some apply to a relatively prestigious school with a low
acceptance rate, gambling on the chance of acceptance, and also
apply to a "safety
to which they will certainly gain admission.
Low status institutions include
community colleges. These are primarily two-year public
institutions, which individual states usually require to accept
all local residents who seek admission, and offer
associate's degrees or vocational certificate programs. Many
community colleges have relationships with four-year state
universities and colleges or even private universities which
enable their students to transfer relatively smoothly to these
universities for a four-year degree after completing a two-year
program at the community college.
Regardless of perceived prestige, many institutions feature
(at least one) distinguished academic department, and most
Americans attend one of the 2,400 four-year colleges and
universities or 1,700 two-year colleges not included among the
twenty-five or so 'top-tier' institutions.
For this reason (among others,) America's higher education
status ladder remains highly controversial, and certainly not
beyond reproach. For example, prestigious
Reed College famously refuses to participate in
institutional rankings, insisting that one cannot quantify the
Bard College president Leon Botstein said of U.S. News'
annual rankings; "it is the most successful journalistic scam I
have seen in my entire adult lifetime -- corrupt, intellectually
bankrupt and revolting."
Contemporary education issues
- See also:
Major educational issues in the
United States center on curriculum, funding, and control. Of
critical importance, because of its enormous implications on
education and funding, is the
No Child Left Behind Act.
Curriculum in the United States varies widely from district
to district. Not only do schools offer an incredible range of
topics and quality, but private schools may include religious
classes as mandatory for attendance (this also begets the
problem of government funding vouchers; see below). This has
produced camps of argument over the standardization of
curriculum and to what degree. Some feel that schools should be
nationalized and the curriculum changed to a national standard.
These same groups often are
advocates of standardized testing, which is mandated by the
No Child Left Behind Act. Aside from who controls the
curriculum, groups argue over the teaching of the
George W. Bush signing the
No Child Left Behind Act
A large issue facing the curriculum today is the use of the
English language in teaching. English is spoken by over 95% of
the nation, and there is a strong national tradition of
upholding English as the
de facto official language. Some 9.7 million children aged 5
to 17 primarily speak a language other than English at home. Of
those, about 1.3 million children speak English "not well" or
"not at all."
While a few, mostly
Hispanic, groups want bilingual education, the majority of
school districts are attempting to use English as a Second
Language (ESL) courses to teach Spanish-speaking students
English. In addition, many feel there are threats to the
"integrity" of the language itself. For example, there has been
discussion about whether to classify as a "second language" the
African American Vernacular English (known colloquially as
portmanteau of "ebony" and "phonics"). While it is not
taught in any American schools, debate continues over its place
1999 the School Board of the
Kansas caused controversy when it decided to eliminate
evolution in its state assessment tests.
This caused outrage among
scientists and average citizens alike, but was widely
supported in Kansas. However, intense media coverage and
the national spotlight persuaded the board to eventually
overturn the decision.
As of 2005 such controversies have not abated. Not
surprisingly, most scientific observers stress the importance of
evolution in the curriculum and dislike the idea of
intelligent design or
creationist ideas being included, since they are not
scientific whatsoever. Some
fundamentalist religious and "family
values" groups, on the other hand, stress the need to teach
creationism in the public schools. While a majority of United
States citizens approve of teaching
evolution, a majority also support teaching
intelligent design and/or
creationism in public schools. Support for evolution was
also found to be greater among the more educated.
sex education ("sex ed") in the United States is highly
controversial. Many schools attempt to avoid the study as much
as possible, confining it to a unit in
health classes. There are few specifically sex education
classes in existence. Also, because
President Bush has called for
abstinence-only sex education and has the power to withhold
many schools are backing away from instructing students in the
birth control or
However, according to a
survey, a majority of the 1001 parent groups polled wants
complete sex education in the schools. The American people are
heavily divided over the issue. Many agreed with the statement
"Sex education in school makes it easier for me to talk to my
child about sexual issues," while a similarly large proportion
disagreed with the statement that their children were being
exposed to "subjects I don't think my child should be
discussing." Also, only 10 percent believed that their
children's sexual education class forced them to discuss sexual
issues "too early." On the other hand, 49 percent of the
respondents (the largest group) were only "somewhat confident"
that the values taught in their children's sex ed classes were
similar to those taught at home, and 23 percent were less
confident still. (The
margin of error was plus or minus 4.7 percent.)
There is constant debate over which subjects should receive
the most focus, with astronomy and geography among those cited
as not being taught enough in schools.
Funding for schools in the United States is complex. One
current controversy stems much from the
No Child Left Behind Act. The Act gives the
Department of Education the right to withhold funding if it
believes a school, district, or even a state is not complying
and is making no effort to comply. However, federal funding
accounts for little of the overall funding schools receive. The
vast majority comes from the state government and from local
property taxes. Various groups, many of whom are teachers,
constantly push for more funding. They point to many different
situations, such as the fact that in many schools, teachers,
especially those at the elementary level, must supplement their
supplies with purchases of their own.
Property taxes as a primary source of funding for public
education have become highly controversial, for a number of
reasons. First, if a state's population and land values
escalating rapidly, many longtime residents may find themselves
paying property taxes much higher than anticipated. In response
to this phenomenon, California's citizens passed
Proposition 13 in 1978, which severely restricted the
ability of the Legislature to expand the state's educational
system to keep up with growth.
Another issue is that many parents of private school and
homeschooled children have taken issue with the idea of paying
for an education their children are not receiving. However, tax
proponents point out that every person pays property taxes for
public education, not just parents of school-age children.
Indeed, without it schools would not have enough money to remain
open. Still, parents of students who go to private schools want
to use this money instead to fund their children's private
education. This is the foundation of the
school voucher movement. School voucher programs were
proposed by free-market advocates seeking competition in
education, led by economist
Milton Friedman. Herbst (2005) describes the evolution of
One of the biggest debates in funding public schools is
funding by local taxes or state taxes. The federal government
supplies around 8.5% of the public school system funds,
according to a 2005 report by the
National Center for Education Statistics. The remaining
split between state and local governments averages 48.7 percent
from states and 42.8 percent from local sources. However, the
division varies widely. In
Hawaii local funds make up only 1.7 percent, while state
sources account for nearly 90.1 percent.
At the college and university level, funding becomes an issue
due to the sheer complexity of gaining it. Some of the reason
for the confusion at the college/university level in the United
States is that student loan funding is split in half; half is
managed by the Department of Education directly, called the
Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP). The other half is
managed by commercial entities such as banks, credit unions, and
financial services firms such as
Sallie Mae, under the Federal Family Education Loan Program
(FFELP). Some schools accept only FFELP loans; others accept
only FDSLP. Still others accept both, and a few schools will not
accept either, in which case students must seek out private
alternatives for student loans.
Herbst (2006) explains the charter-school movement was
born in 1990.
Charter schools have spread rapidly in the United States,
based on the promise to create less bureaucratic schools that
vest "management authority in a group of community members,
parents, teachers, and students" to allow for the "expression of
diverse teaching philosophies and cultural and social life
styles" (Herbst p. 107). Herbst ultimately maintains that
charter schools have produced mixed results. Recent studies
confirm that charter-school students do not out-perform their
public-school counterparts. Herbst concludes that federal
intervention in public and private education has only increased
since the 1990s. The federal government's involvement culminated
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which extends federal
oversight of state schools and grants parents the choice of
removing their children from persistently failing schools.
There is some debate about where control for education
actually lies. Education is not mentioned in the
constitution of the United States. In the current situation,
the state and
national governments have a power-sharing arrangement, with
the states exercising most of the control. Like other
arrangements between the two, the federal government uses the
threat of decreased funding to enforce laws pertaining to
Furthermore, within each state there are different types of
control. Some states have a statewide school system, while
others delegate power to
school boards. However, under the Bush administration,
initiatives such as the No Child Left Behind Act have attempted
to assert more central control in a heavily decentralized
U.S. federal government exercises its control through the
U.S. Department of Education.
School accreditation decisions are made by voluntary
regional associations. Schools in the 50 states and the
District of Columbia teach in
English, while schools in the territory of
Puerto Rico teach in
Nonprofit private schools are widespread, are largely
independent of the government, and include secular as well as
The national results in international comparisons have often
been below the average of developed countries. In
Programme for International Student Assessment 2003, 15 year
olds ranked 24th of 38 in mathematics, 19th of 38 in science,
12th of 38 in reading, and 26th of 38 in problem solving.
In addition, many business leaders have expressed concerns that
the quality of education given in the US system is generally
below acceptable standards, and should be adapted in order to
conform to the needs of an evolving world.
Bill Gates has famously stated that the American high school
Colonial schoolhouse in
Hollis, New Hampshire
- Further information:
History of Education in the United States
The first American schools opened during the colonial era. As
the colonies began to develop, many began to institute mandatory
education schemes. In
Massachusetts Bay Colony made "proper" education compulsory.
Similar statutes were adopted in other colonies in the
1650s. Virtually all of the schools opened as a result were
private. The nation's first institution of higher learning,
Harvard University, opened in
Churches established most early universities in order to train
ministers. Most of the universities which opened between 1640
and 1750 form the contemporary
Ivy League, including
University of Pennsylvania, and several others.
American Revolution, the new national government passed the
Land Ordinance of 1785, which set aside a portion of every
township in the unincorporated territories of the United States
for use in education. The provisions of the law remained
unchanged until the
Homestead Act of
After the Revolution, a heavy emphasis was put on education
which made the US have one of the highest literacy rates at the
The school system remained largely private and unorganized
Education reformers such as
Horace Mann of
Massachusetts began calling for public education systems for
all. Upon becoming the secretary of education in Massachusetts
Mann helped to create a statewide system of "common schools,"
which referred to the belief that everyone was entitled to the
same content in education. These early efforts focused primarily
on elementary education.
The common-school movement began to catch on.
Connecticut adopted a similar system in
and Massachusetts passed a compulsory attendance law in
31 states required 8- to 14-year-olds to attend school. As a
72 percent of American children attended school and half of the
nation's children attended one-room schools. In
every state required students to at least complete elementary
school. Lessons consisted of students reading aloud from their
texts such as the
McGuffey Readers, and placed emphasis on rote memorization.
Teachers often used physical punishments, such as hitting
students on the knuckles with
switches, for incorrect answers. Because the public schools
assimilation, many immigrants, who resisted Americanization,
sent their children to private religious schools. Many of these
Roman Catholics. Though the new private schools met
the Supreme Court ruled in
Pierce v. Society of Sisters that students could attend
private schools to comply with compulsory education laws.
Secondary education progressed much more slowly, remaining
the province of the affluent and domain of private tutors. In
only 2 percent of 14 to 17-year-olds graduated from high school.
The number rose to 10 percent by
but most were from wealthy families. The introduction of strict
child labor laws and growing acceptance of higher education
in general in the early
20th century caused the number of high schools and graduates
to skyrocket. Most states passed laws which increased the age
for compulsory attendance to 16.
At the beginning of the 20th century, fewer than 1,000
colleges with 160,000 students existed in the United States.
Explosive growth in the number of colleges occurred at the end
1800s and early twentieth century. Philanthropists endowed
many of these institutions.
Leland Stanford, one of
The Big Four, for example, established
Stanford University in
Many American public universities came about because of the
Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Acts of 1862 and 1890.
During the rapid westward expansion of the United States during
the 19th century, the federal government took control of huge
amounts of so-called "empty" land (often after forcing the
Native American residents into
reservations). Under the Morrill Acts, the federal
government offered to give 30,000 acres (121 km²) of federal
land to each state on the condition that they used the land (or
proceeds from its sale) to establish universities.
The resulting schools are often referred to as
land-grant colleges. Founded in 1855,
Michigan State University is the pioneer land-grant
institution. Other well-known land-grant universities include
Pennsylvania State University,
The Ohio State University and the
University of California system. Some states have more than
one land-grant institution, one often being an
historically black university. Three states,
New York, designated private universities as one of their
land-grant institutions. Respectively, these are
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
World War II, the
GI Bill paid for the college education of many former
service men, and helped to create a widespread belief in the
necessity of college education and damaging the belief that
higher education was only for the wealthy.
As such, attendance at institutions of higher learning has grown
Segregation and inequality
For much of its history, education in the United States was
segregated (or even only available) based upon race. For the
most part, African Americans received very little to no
education before the
Civil War. In the
slavery was legal, many states enacted laws which made it a
crime for blacks to even be able to read, much less attend
school alongside white classmates. After the Civil War and
emancipation, blacks still received little help from the
states themselves. The
federal government, under the
Radical Republicans, set up the
Freedman's Bureau to help educate and protect former slaves
and passed several civil rights bills, but neither survived the
After the end of Reconstruction, many southern states began
to enact so-called
Jim Crow laws which mandated racial segregation between
blacks and whites. The
Supreme Court case of
Plessy v. Ferguson of
legalized the segregation of races as long as each race enjoyed
parity in quality of education (the "separate but equal"
principle). However, very few black students actually received
equal education, often with low funding, outmoded or dilapidated
facilities, and deficient textbooks (often ones previously used
in white schools).
Segregation laws in the United States prior to
Brown v. Board of Education
Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s helped overturn
such laws; in
the Supreme Court in
Brown v. Board of Education unanimously declared
separate facilities inherently unequal and unconstitutional. The
Civil Rights Acts of
1964 further helped end the period of segregation.
Integration itself was a long and drawn out issue; although
required by law, the first integrations of minute numbers of
black students met with intense opposition across the south. In
the integration of
Arkansas, had to be enforced by federal troops; this was
Dwight D. Eisenhower had federalized the
National Guard, which the governor had called in to prevent
integration. Throughout the 1960s integration continued with
varying degrees of difficulty, including a period of forced
bussing, popular during the administration of
Although full equality and parity in education would take
many years (many school districts are technically still under
the integration mandates of local courts), technical equality in
education had been achieved by 1970.
The actual equality of education, however, is still often the
subject of dispute. It may also be argued that the
transformation of the Pal Grant program to a loan program in the
early 1980s has caused the gap between the growth rates of
European and African American college graduates to widen since
Educational attainment in the United States
Education in Colonial America
Universities in the United States
Lists of school districts in the United States
Lists of high schools in the United States
Category:Lists of schools
Scouting in the United States
College Board examinations
Kingswood Regional High School
US related topics
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America's Schools (1990)
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Security State (2004)
online version; Volume: 2: Teaching for a Democratic
online version; Volume: 3: Curriculum Continuity and
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Education in the United States