Education in the United States
|National education budget (2007)|
|Budget||$1.3 trillion (public and private, all levels)|
|System type||Federal, state, private|
|Secondary||26.1 million (2006–2007)|
|Post secondary||20.5 million 2|
1 Includes kindergarten
2 Includes graduate school
Public education is universally available, with control and funding coming from the state, local, and federal government. Public school curricula, funding, teaching, employment, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards, who have jurisdiction over individual school districts. State governments set educational standards and mandate standardized tests for public school systems.
Private schools are generally free to determine their own curriculum and staffing policies, with voluntary accreditation available through independent regional accreditation authorities. 88% of school-age children attend public schools, 9% attend private schools, and nearly 3% are homeschooled.
Education is compulsory over an age range starting between five and eight and ending somewhere between ages sixteen and eighteen, depending on the state. This requirement can be satisfied in public schools, state-certified private schools, or an approved home school program. In most schools, education is divided into three levels: elementary school, middle or junior high school, and high school. Children are usually divided by age groups into grades, ranging from kindergarten and first grade for the youngest children, up to twelfth grade 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.
- History 1
- Statistics 2
Educational stages 3
- Variations 3.1
K-12 education 4
- Preschool (Pre-K) 4.1
- Primary education 4.2
- Secondary education 4.3
- Grading scale 4.4
- Standardized testing 4.5
- Extracurricular activities 4.6
- Home schooling 4.7
- Education of students with special needs 4.8
- Public and private schools 4.9
Funding for K–12 schools 4.10
- Judicial intervention 4.10.1
- Pensions 4.10.2
- Test performance for primary and secondary schools 4.11
Higher education 5
- Cost 5.1
- The status ladder 5.2
- Criticism 5.3
- Funding for college 5.4
- Affirmative action 6.1
- Student quality and college dropout rate 6.2.1
- Gender differences 6.2.2
- Racial achievement differences 6.2.3
- International comparison 6.2.4
- Wider economic impact 6.2.5
- Race 6.3.1
- School security 6.3.2
- Cheating 6.3.3
- English in the classroom 6.4.1
- Evolution in Kansas 6.4.2
- Sex education 6.4.3
- Textbook review and adoption 6.4.4
- Governance 6.5
- Tracking (streaming) 6.6
- Charter schools 6.7
- Reading and writing habits 7
- See also 8
- References 9
Further reading 10
- Bibliography 10.1
- History 10.2
- External links 11
Government-supported and free public schools for all began to be established after the American Revolution. Between 1750 and 1870 parochial schools appeared as "ad hoc" efforts by parishes. Historically, many parochials elementary schools were developed which were open to all children in the parish, mainly Catholic, but also Lutherans, Calvinists and Orthodox Jews. Nonsectarian Common schools, designed by Horace Mann were opened, which taught the three Rs (of reading, writing, and arithmetic) and also history and geography.
In 1823, Reverend Samuel Read Hall founded the first normal school, the Columbian School in Concord, Vermont, to improve the quality of the burgeoning common school system by producing more qualified teachers.
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, albeit only in urban centers.
Starting from about 1876, thirty-nine states (out of 50) passed a constitutional amendment to their state constitutions, called Blaine Amendments after James G. Blaine, one of their chief promoters, forbidding public tax money be used to fund local parochial schools.
Following the American Civil War, the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was founded in 1881, in Tuskegee, Alabama to train "Colored Teachers", led by Booker T. Washington, (1856-1915), who was himself a freed slave. His movement spread to many other Southern states to establish small colleges for "Colored or Negro" students then (now "Black") entitled "A. & M.", ("Agricultural and Mechanical") or "A. & T.", ("Agricultural and Technical"), some of which later developed into state universities.
Responding to many competing academic philosophies being promoted at the time, an influential working group of educators, known as the Committee of Ten was established in 1892, by the National Education Association recommended that children should receive twelve years of instruction, consisting of eight years of elementary education (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 to assure equal treatment in graduation and admissions requirements, course completion and transfer procedures.
By 1910, 72 percent of children attended 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 rapidly increasing public high school enrollment and graduations. By 1930, 100 percent of children attended school.
During World War II, enrollment in high schools and colleges plunged as many high school and college students dropped out to take war jobs.
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, providing the idea of 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 private schools expanded in response to accommodate white families attempting to avoid desegregation by sending their children to private secular or religious schools.   
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') while explicitly forbidding the establishment of a national curriculum. Section IV of the Act created the Pell Grant program which provides financial support to students from low-income families to access higher education.
Policy changes have also sometimes slowed equal access to higher education for poorer people. Cuts to the Pell Grant scholarship aid programs in 2012 reduced the number of low-income students who would receive grants. 
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 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.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind, 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. 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. The 2006 Commission on the Future of Higher Education evaluated higher education.
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) attended private schools.
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.  The 2010 unemployment rate for high school graduates was 10.8%; the rate for college graduates was 4.9%.  The country has a reading literacy rate of 99% of the population over age 15, while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding compared to other developed countries. In 2008, there was a 77% graduation rate from high school, below that of most developed countries.
The poor performance has pushed public and private efforts such as the No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, the ratio of college-educated adults entering the workforce to general population (33%) is slightly below the mean of other developed countries (35%) and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high. 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".
According to the National Association of School Nurses, 17% of students are considered obese and 32% are overweight.
The American school year traditionally begins at the end of August or the day after Labor Day in September, after a traditional summer recess. Children customarily advance together from one grade to the next as a single class or "cohort" upon reaching the end of each school year in late May or early June.
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. They may begin in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or first grade. They normally attend 12 grades of study over 12 calendar years of primary/elementary and secondary education before graduating, earning a diploma that makes them eligible for admission to higher education. Education is mandatory until age 16. There are generally five years of primary (elementary) school, during which students customarily advance together from one grade to the next as a single cohort or "class", three years of middle school, which may have cohorts, and four years of high school. There is some variability in the arrangement of grades.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 elementary school (K-5th grade), middle school (6th-8th grades) and high school (9th-12th grades). Some schools differ in the grades they contain.
|General level (or category)||Level||
Student age range
(at the beginning of academic year)
Ages vary, but often 18–22
for a consecutive bachelor's degree
(usually within a solitary concentration)
(with various degrees and curricular partitions thereof)
|Vocational school||Ages vary|
Community college or junior college typically offer two-year associate's degrees, although some community colleges offer a limited number of bachelor's degrees. Some community college students choose to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a Bachelor's degree. Community colleges are generally publicly funded (usually by local cities or counties) and offer career certifications and part-time programs.
Private institutions are privately funded and there is a wide variety in size, focus, and operation. Some private institutions are large research universities, while others are small liberal arts colleges that concentrate on undergraduate education. Some private universities are nonsectarian and secular, while others are religiously-affiliated. While most private institutions are non-profit, a growing number in the past decade have been established For-profit education.
Curriculum varies widely depending on the institution. Typically, an undergraduate student will be able to select an academic "major" or concentration, which comprises the main or special subjects, and students may change their major one or more times.
Some students, typically those with a bachelor's degree, may choose to continue on to graduate or professional school, sometimes attached to a university. Graduate degrees may be either master's degrees (e.g., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., M.S.W.) or a doctorates (e.g., Ph.D., J.D., ("Doctor of Law"), M.D., D.O.). Academia-focused graduate school typically includes some combination of coursework and research (often requiring a thesis or dissertation to be written), while professional graduate-level schools grants a first professional degree. These include medical, law, business, education, divinity, art, journalism, social work, architecture, and engineering schools.
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.
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.
Some undergraduate institutions offer an accelerated three-year bachelor's degree, or a combine five-year bachelor and master's degree.
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.
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. Public (free) education is typically from kindergarten to grade 12 and is thus referred to as K-12 (short for K through twelve).
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 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, and more than $500 billion is spent each year on public primary and secondary education. Most states require that their school districts within the state teach for 180 days a year. 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.
Most children begin elementary education with kindergarten (usually five to six years old) and finish secondary education with twelfth grade (usually eighteen years old). In some cases, pupils may be promoted beyond the next regular grade. Parents may also choose to educate their own children at home; 1.7% of children are educated in this manner.
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. 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. The incarceration rate for African-American male high school dropouts was about 50 times the national average as of 2010.
States do not require reporting from their school districts to allow analysis of efficiency of
- EducationUSA: Your Guide to US Higher Education
- National Center for Education Statistics
- National Assessment of Educational Progress
- Essay about public education paradigms on YouTube
- Information on studying in the US
- High School Grade Point Average Calculator - Standard grade point average calculator for US High Schools.
- Information on education in United States, OECD - Contains indicators and information about United States and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
- Diagram of American education system, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages.
- James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (University of North Carolina Press, 1988).
- Axtell, J. The school upon a hill: Education and society in colonial New England. Yale University Press. (1974).
- Maurice R. Berube; American School Reform: Progressive, Equity, and Excellence Movements, 1883–1993. 1994. online version
- Brint, S., & Karabel, J. The Diverted Dream: Community colleges and the promise of educational opportunity in America, 1900–1985. Oxford University Press. (1989).
- Button, H. Warren and Provenzo, Eugene F., Jr. History of Education and Culture in America. Prentice-Hall, 1983. 379 pp.
- Cremin, Lawrence A. The transformation of the school: Progressivism in American education, 1876–1957. (1961).
- Cremin, Lawrence A. American Education: The Colonial Experience, 1607–1783. (1970); American Education: The National Experience, 1783–1876. (1980); American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876–1980 (1990); standard 3 vol detailed scholarly history
- Curti, M. E. The social ideas of American educators, with new chapter on the last twenty-five years. (1959).
- Dorn, Sherman. Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure. Praeger, 1996. 167 pp.
- Gatto, John Taylor. The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling. Oxford Village Press, 2001, 412 pp. online version
- Herbst, Juergen. The once and future school: Three hundred and fifty years of American secondary education. (1996).
- Herbst, Juergen. School Choice and School Governance: A Historical Study of the United States and Germany 2006. ISBN 1-4039-7302-4.
- Kemp, Roger L. "Town & Gown Relations: A Handbook of Best Practices," McFarland and Company, Inc., Publisher, Jefferson, North Carolina, USA, and London, England (UK)(2013). ISBN 9780786463992.
- Krug, Edward A. The shaping of the American high school, 1880–1920. (1964); The American high school, 1920–1940. (1972). standard 2 vol scholarly history
- Lucas, C. J. American higher education: A history. (1994). pp.; reprinted essays from History of Education Quarterly
- Parkerson, Donald H. and Parkerson, Jo Ann. Transitions in American Education: A Social History of Teaching. Routledge, 2001. 242 pp.
- Parkerson, Donald H. and Parkerson, Jo Ann. The Emergence of the Common School in the U.S. Countryside. Edwin Mellen, 1998. 192 pp.
- Peterson, Paul E. The politics of school reform, 1870–1940. (1985).
- Ravitch, Diane. Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms. Simon & Schuster, 2000. 555 pp.
- John L. Rury; Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling.'; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2002. online version
- Sanders, James W The education of an urban minority: Catholics in Chicago, 1833–1965. (1977).
- Solomon, Barbara M. In the company of educated women: A history of women and higher education in America. (1985).
- Theobald, Paul. Call School: Rural Education in the Midwest to 1918. Southern Illinois U. Pr., 1995. 246 pp.
- David B. Tyack. The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education (1974),
- Tyack, David and Cuban, Larry. Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. Harvard U. Pr., 1995. 184 pp.
- Tyack, David B., & Hansot, E. Managers of virtue: Public school leadership in America, 1820–1980. (1982).
- Veysey Lawrence R. The emergence of the American university. (1965).
for more detailed bibliography see History of Education in the United States: Bibliography
- Berliner, David C.
- Green, Elizabeth (2014). Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone).
- Woodring, Paul. A Fourth of a Nation. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1957. 255 p. N.B.: Philosophical and practical reflections on education, teaching, educational psychology, and the training of teachers.
- Sennholz, Hans F., ed. Public Education and Indoctrination, in series, The Freeman Classics. Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1993. iv, 203 p. N.B.: Sennholz is not clearly identified as the editor of this collection of essays on the subject, but his editorship seems probable.
- "Bureau, U. C. (2009). The 2009 Statistical Abstract, Retrieved from National Data Book" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- U.S. Bachelor Degree Rate Passes Milestone
- "School Finance". Federal Education Budget Project. New America Foundation. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "State Compulsory School Attendance Laws". infoplease.com. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
- Samuel Read Hall Biography at the Old Stone House Museum website, Retrieved on 2009-07-03
- "An early Yankee Educator". Melrosemirror.media.mit.edu. 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
- Paul Monroe, "A cyclopedia of education" (4 vol. 1911) covers each state
- Campbell, pp 78-9, 226-7
- Grace Palladino, Teenagers: An American History (1996) p 66
- Steven Mintz, Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood (2006) pp 258-9
- Nordin, Virginia Davis; Turner, William Lloyd (1980). "More than Segregation Academies: The Growing Protestant Fundamentalist Schools". The Phi Delta Kappan 61 (6): 391–394.
- Carper, James C. (1983). "The Christian Day School Movement". The Educational Forum 47 (2): 135–149.
- Carper, James C.; Layman, Jack (1995). "Independent Christian Day Schools Past, Present, and Prognosis". Journal of Research on Christian Education 4 (1): 7–19.
- "The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 forbids federally determined curricula." Hoover Institution – Daily Report Archives – Secretary Riley Reignites the Math Wars
- Gaddy, Laura (October 22, 2013). "Stricter Pell Grant terms cost students at smaller schools, officials say". Anniston Star. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
- Jesse Rhodes (2012). An Education in Politics: The Origins and Evolution of No Child Left Behind. Cornell U.P. pp. 179–81.
- Steven Brill (2011). Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools. Simon and Schuster. p. 84.
- Archived: Fact Sheet on No Child Left Behind
- "Zeman vs Simmon-Harris, US Supreme Court certoriari 00-1751". findlaw.com. 2002-06-27.
- Didi Games
- Zagier, Alan Scher (6 June 2010). "Rethinking the four-year degree". Washington Post: Washington Post. pp. A2.
- A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century, U.S. Department of Education, 2003. Accessed May 13, 2006. Two percent of the population do not have minimal literacy and 14% have Below Basic prose literacy.
- Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), OECD, reading literacy, science literacy and mathematics literacy all rank near the bottom of OECD-countries,
- Ripley, Amanda (December 8, 2008). Can She Save our Schools. Time Magazine.
- Education at Glance 2005 by OECD: Participation in continuing education and training
- "Scientific Literacy: How Do Americans Stack Up?." Science Daily.
- "School Nurses". Merritt Island, Florida: Space Coast Medicine and Healthy Living. March–April 2009. pp. 21–33.
- Structure of U.S. Education. U.S. Network for Education Information: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
- National Center for Education Statistics. "Nontraditional Undergraduates", Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. (p. 2) Accessed 17 Jun 2013.
- "Age range for compulsory school attendance and special education services, and policies on year-round schools and kindergarten programs". Nces.ed.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Education. United States Census (2000)". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "News". US Census. 2011-04-11.
- Kathleen Kingsbury (2008-08-14). "Four-Day School Weeks". Time magazine.
- "K-12 Facts". Center for Education Reform. 2011-02-26.
- Amurao, Carla (February 21, 2013). "Fact Sheet: Is the Dropout Problem Real?". Tavis Smiley Reports: Episode 6: Education Under Arrest.
- Gerson, Michael (5 January 2010). "Column:More second chances". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 7A.
- "Return on Educational Investment". Center for American Progress. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
- The other is Texas
- Reed, Matt (12 December 2010). "Tackling 'achievement gap' hurts US schools". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 1B.
- Streufert, Duane (February 10, 20005). "The original Pledge of Allegiance". usflag.org.
- Reed, Matt (April 24, 2012). "Dumb, overpaid teachers gouging U.S. taxpayers?".
- "6 Most Popular Milspouse Jobs". USAA Magazine (San Antonio, Texas). Fall 2012. p. 7.
- Home Page
- "Supreme Court and School Busing". United Press International. 1999-01-07. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Digest of Education Statistics, 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Illinois State Board of Education – Illinois Learning Standards". Isbe.state.il.us. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Executive Summary of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Reynolds & Van Tuyle, 2012
- Rural Education, 2011
- "Opponents of standardized education". Undeferredliving.com. 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Wasted Brilliance: Slavery of the Industrial Mind and the Path to Freedom and Success". Undeferredliving. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Four Years to Nowhere: College Degrees, Zombies, and the Future of Education". Undeferredliving. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "America’s Problem: How the World is "Beating Us" in a Battle We Don’t Necessarily Want to Win". Undeferredliving. 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Mumm, Graham. Four Years to Nowhere: College Degrees, Zombies, and the Future of Education. Undeferred Living. http://undeferredliving.com/four-years-to-nowhere-investing-in-a-college-degree/
- Mumm, Graham. Wasted Brilliance: Slavery of the Industrial Mind and the Path to Freedom and Success. Undeferred Living. http://undeferredliving.com/memorizing-vs-knowing-knowing-facts-is-knowing-nothing-theoretical-vs-applicable-knowledge/
- Lloyd, Janice, Gannett News Service (January 5, 2008). Home-schooling numbers rise. Burlington Free Press.
- Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs. National Education Association.
- "Home School Legal Defense Association". Hslda.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- seizure disorder
- "Paper Chase: US government: disabled students must be allowed to compete in extracurricular sports". JURIST. 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "IDEA 2004 Resources". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Teaching exceptional, diverse, and at-risk students in the general education S Vaughn, CS Bos, JS Schumm – 1999
- Gillies, R.M. (2004). "The effects of cooperative learning on junior high school students during small group learning". Learning and Instruction 14 (2): 197–213.
- "Federal Role in Education". United States Department of Education. 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Klauke, Amy. Magnet schools. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Retrieved February 21, 005.
- Private schools in the United States
- Michael Birnbaum (2009-11-02). "A look at private schools". Washington Post (Washington Post). pp. B2.
- "OECD calls for broader access to post-school education and training". Oecd.org. 2005-09-13. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Education Spending Statistics". nationmaster.com.
- Coulson, Andrew J. (2006-10-18). "Private Schools Now 33% Off!". Cato-at-liberty.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "20 Troubling Facts about American Education, William J. Bennett, October 1999". Heartland.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education, Table 1". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- , Federal Reserve Bank of ChicagoUsing Market Valuation to Assess the Importance and Efficiency of Public School Spending
- Eric A. Hanushek and Alfred A. Lindseth, Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the funding-achievement puzzle in America's public schools (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010)
- McCleary v. Washington State
- Cavaliere, Victoria. "Washington's Supreme Court holds state in contempt over education". Reuters. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Racioppi, Dustin (March 23, 2014). "Dire Straits for some state pensions". USA Today. pp. 6B. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "Who's No. 1? Finland, Japan and Korea, Says OECD". Siteselection.com. 2001-12-10. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- Note that these add up to more than 100% because they are cumulative; e.g. it is assumed that all people with doctorates also have undergraduate and high school degrees, and are thus counted twice in the "lower" categories. It is not assumed, however, that all doctorates or professional degrees have Master's degrees. Age 25 is used rather than age 18 because there are few people aged 18 or over with advanced degrees. "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2009". U.S. Census Bureau. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
- Nat'l Ctr. for Educ. Statistics, Degree-Granting Institutions and Branches, by Type and Control of Institution and State of Jurisdiction, 2009–10 (September 2010). Retrieved December 1, 2011
- Michelle Singletary (2009-10-22). "The Color of Money:Getting through college these days almost requires a degree in thrift". Washington Post. pp. 20A.
- "Educational attainment of persons 18 years old and over.". National Center for Education Statistics. 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Trends in College Spending 1998–2008" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Tuition Levels Rise but Many Students Pay Significantly Less than Published Rates". Collegeboard.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "College Pricing and Student Aid - Pressroom". Press.collegeboard.org. 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Broder, David S. (columnist) (December 7, 2008). College affordability about future. Burlington Free Press (and other column subscribers).
- "The U.S. Census Bureau (2010)". Retrieved April 24, 2011.
- Crowe, Aaron. "Ten things that aren't free - but should be (and how to get them for free anyway) - DailyFinance". Walletpop.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "College ROI 2013 Methodology". Payscale.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Student Loans For Study Abroad | Scholarship to Study in USA". University In The USA. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Clark, Kim (November 17–24, 2008). Does it Matter That Your Professor Is Part Time?. US News and World Report.
- "The Top American Research Universities". The Center (University of Florida). Retrieved 2006-11-07.
- "THE World University Rankings: Measure by measure: the US is the best of the best". Times Higher Education. 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Ivy League College Admissions Facts and Statistics". Admissionsconsultants.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- the Top American Research Universities by University of Florida TheCenter
- "America's Best Graduate Schools 2008: Top Engineering Schools". usnews.com. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- "Christ College – The Honors College of Valparaiso University". Valpo.edu. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Honors College". Baylor University. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Safety Schools: Your Plan B".
- "Number of U.S. Colleges and Universities and Degrees Awarded, 2005 —". Infoplease.com. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann, Eliot A. Jamison and Dean T. Jamison, "Education and Economic Growth: It's not just going to school, but learning something while there that matters", Education Next, Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2
- "Student Loans". Grove City College. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Acceptance Rates".
- "Highlights of the 2002–2003 Supreme Court Term". Supct.law.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- Hurst, C. Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and Consequences. Sixth Edition. 2007. 374–377.
- Rimer, Sara; Arenson, Karen W. (June 24, 2004). "Top Colleges Take More Blacks, But Which Ones?".
- "Amid charge of bias, Rapelye stands firm". The Daily Princetonian. November 30, 2006.
- Ryan, Camille; Siebens, Julie (February 2012). "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2009". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- "US Census Bureau report on educational attainment in the United States, 2003". Retrieved 2006-07-31.
- Goldin, C., Katz, L.F. The Race between Education and Technology. The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA: 2008.
- neumont.edu page 14
- ed.gov; page 10
- scribd.com page 25
- "U.S. college drop-out rate sparks concern", MSNBC, November 15, 2005
- David Leonhardt. "Colleges Are Failing in Graduation Rates", The New York Times, September 8, 2009
- "Lisa Bloom: How To Talk To Little Boys". Huffingtonpost.com. May 3, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- "Students Affected by Achievement Gaps". NEA. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Research Center: Achievement Gap". Edweek.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Parker, Kathleen (December 13, 2012). "Reluctant First Father".
- "Lino Graglia, UT Law Professor, Decries Single Motherhood, Black Test Scores, And Affirmative Action (VIDEO)". Huffingtonpost.com. 12/11/2012. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- A Review of the Bell Curve: Bad Science Makes for Bad Conclusions
- Racism and Education: Coincidence or Conspiracy? By David Gillborn
- Murray, Richard J. Herrnstein, Charles (1994). The bell curve: intelligence and class structure in American life ([4. Dr.] ed.). New York, N.Y.: Free Press.
- Lynn, Richard (2008). The global bell curve: race, IQ, and inequality worldwide. Augusta, Ga.: Washington Summit Publishers.
- Gould, Stephen Jay (1981). The mismeasure of man. (1st ed. ed.). New York: Norton.
- "International Outcomes of Learning in Mathematics Literacy and Problem Solving" (PDF). National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "PISA 2006 Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World Volume 1: Analysis." (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Is the US Really a Nation of God-Fearing Darwin-Haters?". Spiegel Online. April 6, 2009.
- American Achievement in International Perspective, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, March 15, 2011
- Jay Matthews (2009-10-19). "Tests don't always offer right answers". Washington Post. pp. 3B.
- """McKinsey and Company, "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap on America’s Schools. (PDF). April 2009. p. 5. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012". ACT. 2013-08-21. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- U.S. Department of Education, "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core Data: School Year 2009-10" (provisional data). January 2013.
- McKinsey and Company, "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap on America’s Schools." April 2009. Forty years ago, the US led the world in high school graduation rates; now it is 18th out of 24 industrial nations. In 1995, the US was tied for first in college graduation; it now is 14th.
- "Literacy in America" (PDF). National Center for Educational Statistics. April 2002. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Toppo, Greg (2009-01-08). "Literacy study: 1 in 7 U.S. adults are unable to read this story". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn't Changed In 10 Years".
- Doe, John (April 28, 2013). "News".
- School Resource Officers: 2004 National SRO Survey Results
- "School Resource Officer". Online Police Academy. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Transfer to". Aft.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Reader's Digest, pp. 123–7, March 2006; Cheating: "but everybody is doing it".
- "Astronomy Education in the United States". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "What is GENIP?". Geographic Education National Implementation Project. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Harm de Blij (3 November 1999). "Geographic Education and Public Policy". About.com. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
- "Summary Tables on Language Use and English Ability: 2000. United States Census (2000)". Census.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Kansas school board's evolution ruling angers science community". Cnn.com. 1999-08-12. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Statements from Scientific and Scholarly Organizations". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Myers, P.Z. "Nicholas Wade flails at the philosophy of science", Pharyngula, October 9, 2009
- Shermer, Michael. Why People Believe Weird Things, Second Edition (2002), Henry Holt, Page 142
- "Poll: Creationism Trumps Evolution. CBS News Polls (2004)". Cbsnews.com. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- David J. Landry, Susheela Singh and Jacqueline E. Darroch (September–October 2000). "Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 1999". Family Planning Perspectives 32 (5): 212–9.
- "Sex Education in the U.S.: Policy and Politics" (PDF). Issue Update. Kaiser Family Foundation. October 2002. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- Jacqueline E. Darroch, David J. Landry and Susheela Singh (September–October 2000). "Changing Emphases in Sexuality Education In U.S. Public Secondary Schools, 1988–1999". Family Planning Perspectives 32 (6): 204–11, 265. See especially Table 3.
- "Sex Education in America – General Public/Parents Survey. NPR/Kaiser/Harvard survey (2004)" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Blake, Mariah. "Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids' textbooks. January/February 2010". Washingtonmonthly.com. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Texas Conservatives win Curriculum Change". New York Times.
- Herbst, Juergen. School Choice and School Governance: A Historical Study of the United States and Germany page 107 2006. ISBN 1-4039-7302-4
- "Education Commissioner Highlights Importance of Libraries- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education". Doe.mass.edu. 2002-06-05. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- "Trans-Atlantic Comparisons, part 2: Why Europeans Have It Wrong About Americans". Spiegel Online. May 6, 2009.
- Reed, Matt (October 19, 2013). "Brevard's new literacy crusade:United Way". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 1A. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Academic grading in the United States
- College Board examinations
- Education in the Thirteen Colonies
- Language education in the United States
- List of dropouts in the United States
- List of heads of state educated in the United States
- List of state graduation exams in the United States
- Lists of school districts in the United States
- Outcome-based education
- Race to Nowhere (documentary film)
- Roots of Empathy
- Social programs in the United States and education
- Two Million Minutes (documentary film)
- Blab school
Teachers have been frustrated with lack of parent involvement in the learning process, particularly in the earlier grades. Children spend about 8% of their time in school, sleep 40%, leaving about 50% of their time when they are not in school. Teachers believe that parents are not supervising their children's free time to encourage the learning process, such as basic literacy, crucial to not only later success in life, but keeping out of prison.
Libraries have been considered important to educational goals. Library books are more readily available to Americans than to people in Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Austria and all the Mediterranean nations. The average American borrowed more library books in 2001 than his or her peers in Germany, Austria, Norway, Ireland, Luxembourg, France and throughout the Mediterranean. Americans buy more books than people in Europe.
Reading and writing habits
The charter school movement began in 1990 and have spread rapidly in the United States, members, parents, teachers, and students to allow for the "expression of diverse teaching philosophies and cultural and social life styles." 
Tracking is the practice of dividing students at the primary or secondary school level into separate classes, depending if the student is high, average, or low achievers. It also offers different curriculum paths for students headed for college and for those who are bound directly for the workplace or technical schools.
The U.S. federal government exercises its control through the U.S. Department of Education. Educational accreditation decisions are made by voluntary regional associations. Schools in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, teach in English, while schools in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico teach in Spanish. Nonprofit private schools are widespread, are largely independent of the government, and include secular as well as parochial schools.
Many cities have their own school boards everywhere in the United States. With the exception of cities, outside the northeast U.S. school boards are generally constituted at the county level.
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 education. Furthermore, within each state there are different types of control. Some states have a statewide school system, while others delegate power to county, city or township-level 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 system.
As of January 2009, the four largest college textbook publishers in the United States were: Pearson Education (including such imprints as Addison-Wesley and Prentice Hall), Cengage Learning (formerly Thomson Learning), McGraw-Hill Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Other US textbook publishers include: John Wiley & Sons, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, F. A. Davis Company, W. W. Norton & Company, SAGE Publications, and Flat World Knowledge.
This effect is however reduced with modern publishing techniques which allow books to be tailored to individual states.
In 2010, the Texas Board of Education passed more than 100 amendments to the curriculum standards, affecting history, sociology and economics courses to 'add balance' given that academia was 'skewed too far to the left'.
In some states, textbooks are selected for all students at the state level, and decisions made by larger states, such as California and Texas, that represent a considerable market for textbook publishers and can exert influence over the content of textbooks generally, thereby influencing the curriculum taught in public schools,
Textbook review and adoption
However, according to a 2004 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. Over 80% of polled parents agreed with the statement "Sex education in school makes it easier for me to talk to my child about sexual issues," while under 17% agreed with the statement that their children were being exposed to "subjects I don't think my child should be discussing." 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 "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.)
For example, a 1999 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that most U.S. sex education courses in grades 7 through 12 cover puberty, HIV, STDs, abstinence, implications of teenage pregnancy, and how to resist peer pressure. Other studied topics, such as methods of birth control and infection prevention, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, and factual and ethical information about abortion, varied more widely.
Almost all students in the U.S. receive some form of sex education at least once between grades 7 and 12; many schools begin addressing some topics as early as grades 4 or 5. However, what students learn varies widely, because curriculum decisions are so decentralized. Many states have laws governing what is taught in sex education classes or allowing parents to opt out. Some state laws leave curriculum decisions to individual school districts.
In 1999 the School Board of the state of Kansas caused controversy when it decided to eliminate teaching of evolution in its state assessment tests. Scientists from around the country demurred. Many religious and family values groups, on the other hand, claimed that evolution is simply a theory in the colloquial sense, and as such creationist ideas should therefore be taught alongside it as an alternative viewpoint. A majority supported teaching intelligent design and/or creationism in public schools.
Evolution in Kansas
An issue facing curricula 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 do not speak English well or at all.
English in the classroom
There is debate over which subjects should receive the most focus, with astronomy and geography among those cited as not being taught enough in schools.
Curricula in the United States vary widely from district to district. Not only do schools offer a range of topics and quality, but private schools may include religious classes as mandatory for attendance. This raises the question of government funding vouchers in states with anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments in their constitution. This has produced camps of argument over the standardization of curricula and to what degree. These same groups often are advocates of standardized testing, which is mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
From 50% to 95% of American students admit to have cheated in high school or college at one time or another. These poll results cast some doubt on measured academic attainment tests.
Many schools have nurses either full-time or part-time to administer to students and to ensure that medication is taken as directed by their physician.
For some schools, a police officer, titled a school resource officer, is on site to screen students for firearms and to help avoid disruptions.
Nationally, one in every six black students is suspended compared to one in 20 white students. A 2011 study found that students who were expelled were three times as likely to become involved with the juvenile justice system the following school year.
The U.S. Department of Education's 2003 statistics indicated that 14% of the population – or 32 million adults – had very low literacy skills. Statistics were similar in 2013.
A five-year, $14 million study of U.S. adult literacy involving lengthy interviews of U.S. adults, the most comprehensive study of literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government, was released in September 1993. It involved lengthy interviews of over 26,700 adults statistically balanced for age, gender, ethnicity, education level, and location (urban, suburban, or rural) in 12 states across the U.S. and was designed to represent the U.S. population as a whole. This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not "able to locate information in text", could not "make low-level inferences using printed materials", and were unable to "integrate easily identifiable pieces of information."
In 2007, Americans stood second only to Canada in the percentage of 35 to 64 year olds holding at least two-year degrees. Among 25 to 34 year olds, the country stands tenth. The nation stands 15 out of 29 rated nations for college completion rates, slightly above Mexico and Turkey.
ACT Inc. reports that 25% of US graduating high school seniors meet college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, mathematics, and science. Including the 22% of students who do not graduate on time, fewer than 20% of the American youth, who should graduate high school each year, do so prepared for college. The United States has fallen behind the rest of the developed world in education, creating a global achievement gap that alone costs the nation 9-to-16% of potential GDP each year.
Overall the households and demographics featuring the highest educational attainment in the United States are also among those with the highest household income and wealth. Thus, while the population of the US is becoming increasingly educated on all levels, a direct link between income and educational attainment remains.
Narrowing the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students would have added another 2-4% GDP, while closing the gap between poor and other students would have yielded a 3-to-5% increase in GDP, and that of under-performing states and the rest of the nation another 3-to-5% GDP. In sum, McKinsey's report suggests, “These educational gaps impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”
Current education trends in the United States represent multiple achievement gaps across ethnicities, income levels, and geography. In an economic analysis, consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that closing the educational achievement gap between the United States and nations such as Finland and Korea would have increased US GDP by 9-to-16% in 2008.
Wider economic impact
US fourth and eighth graders tested above average on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study tests, which emphasizes traditional learning.
However, the picture changes when low achievers, Blacks and Hispanics, in the U.S. are broken out by race. White and Asian students in the United States are generally among the best-performing pupils in the world; black and Hispanic students in the U.S. are among the lowest-achieving pupils. Black and Hispanic students in the US do out perform their counterparts in all African and Hispanic countries.
In the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment 2003, which emphasizes problem solving, American 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 the 2006 assessment, the U.S. ranked 35th out of 57 in mathematics and 29th out of 57 in science. Reading scores could not be reported due to printing errors in the instructions of the U.S. test booklets. U.S. scores were behind those of most other developed nations.
Though the conclusions reached by Jensen in this study have been proven to be insufficient to prove a genetic component between IQ and race, some members of the academic community accept these findings as fact. The racial achievement gap is complicated by issues of social class, institutional racism, and civil injustice. Some authors claim that such a gap exists independently of these factors both in the United States and world-wide. A prominent biologist, Stephen Jay Gould wrote one of the most prominent critiques of such findings and the issue remains controversial.
Professor Lino Graglia has suggested that Blacks and Hispanics are falling behind in education because they are increasingly raised in single-parent families. On the other hand, the late UC Berkeley professor Arthur Jensen, in a controversial paper published in 1969, argued that the achievement gap was the result of IQ differences between blacks and whites.
The racial achievement gap in the US refers to the educational disparities between minority students and Asian and Caucasian students. This disparity manifests itself in a variety of ways: African-American and Hispanic students are more likely to receive lower grades, score lower on standardized tests, drop out of high school, and are less likely to enter and complete college.
Racial achievement differences
Males have underperformed females for a number of years. On average, females stand higher in their classes and perform well in all subjects. This is a turnaround from the early 20th century when males usually outperformed females. Parents and educators are concerned about how to motivate males to become better students, but this has not materialized in moving curriculum away from the prioritization of the advancement of females in society over their male counterparts.
Dropout rates are a concern in American four-year colleges. In New York, 54 percent of students entering four-year colleges in 1997 had a degree six years later — and even fewer Hispanics and blacks did. 33 percent of the freshmen who enter the University of Massachusetts Boston graduate within six years. Less than 41 percent graduate from the University of Montana, and 44 percent from the University of New Mexico.
44% of college faculty believe that incoming students are not ready for writing at the college level, while 90% of high school teachers believe exiting students are well-prepared.
Student quality and college dropout rate
Since the 1980s the number of educated Americans has continued to grow, but at a slower rate. Some have attributed this to an increase in the foreign born portion of the workforce. However, the decreasing growth of the educational workforce has instead been primarily due to slowing down in educational attainment of people schooled in the United States.
Post-secondary education is valued very highly by American society and is one of the main determinants of American middle class and status. As with income, however, there are significant discrepancies in terms of race, age, household configuration and geography.
In the 21st century, the educational attainment of the US population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the United States is becoming increasingly more educated.
The academic curriculum was designed to provide the students with a terminal degree. The students obtained general knowledge (such as mathematics, chemistry, English composition, etc.) applicable to the high geographic and social mobility in the United States. The provision of the high schools accelerated with the rise of the second industrial revolution. The increase in white collar and skilled blue-collar work in manufacturing was reflected in the demand for high school education.
The rise of the high school movement in the beginning of the 20th century was unique in the United States, such that, high schools were implemented with property-tax funded tuition, openness, non-exclusivity, and were decentralized.
Prominent African American academics Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier, while favoring affirmative action, have argued that in practice, it has led to recent black immigrants and their children being greatly overrepresented at elite institutions, at the expense of the historic African American community made up of descendants of slaves. In 2006, Jian Li, a Chinese undergraduate at Yale University, filed a civil rights complaint with the Office for Civil Rights against Princeton University, claiming that his race played a role in their decision to reject his application for admission.
In 2003 a Supreme Court decision concerning affirmative action in universities allowed educational institutions to consider race as a factor in admitting students, but ruled that strict point systems are unconstitutional. Opponents of racial affirmative action argue that the program actually benefits middle- and upper-class people of color at the expense of lower class European Americans and Asian Americans.
|Acceptance Rates at Private Universities (2005)|
|Overall Admit Rate||Black Admit Rate||% Difference|
Major educational issues in the United States center on curriculum and control. Of critical importance, because of its enormous implications on education and funding, is the No Child Left Behind Act.
Grant funding is provided by the federal Pell Grant program.
At the college and university level 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.
Funding for college
A college economics professor has blamed credential inflation for the admission of so many unqualified students into college. He reports that the number of new jobs requiring college degrees is less than the number of college graduates. The same professor reports that the more money that a state spends on higher education, the slower the economy grows, the opposite of long held notions. Other studies have shown that the level of cognitive achievement attained by students in a country (as measured by academic testing) is closely correlated with the country's economic growth, but that "increasing the average number of years of schooling attained by the labor force boosts the economy only when increased levels of school attainment also boost cognitive skills. In other words, it is not enough simply to spend more time in school; something has to be learned there."
Regardless of perceived prestige, many institutions feature at least one distinguished academic department, and most post-secondary American students 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.
Lower 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 that enable their students to transfer to these universities for a four-year degree after completing a two-year program at the community college.
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 but, as a backup, also apply to a safety school.
Prospective students applying to attend four 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 "leadership potential."
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 military service academies.
Also renowned within the United States are the so-called Little Ivies and a number of prestigious liberal arts colleges. Certain public universities (sometimes referred to as Public Ivies) are also recognized for their outstanding record in scholarship. Some of these institutions currently place among the elite in certain measurements of graduate education and research, especially among engineering and medical schools.
Included among the top 20 institutions identified by ARWU in 2009 are six of the eight schools in the Ivy League; 4 of the 10 schools in the University of California system (Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco); the private Universities of Stanford, Chicago, and Johns Hopkins; the public Universities of Washington and Wisconsin; and the Massachusetts and California Institutes of Technology.
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 Florida's The Center. These rankings are based on factors like brand recognition, selectivity in admissions, generosity of alumni donors, and volume of faculty research. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 27 of the top 50 universities, and 72 institutions of the top 200, are located within the United States. The US has thereby more than twice as many universities represented in the top 200 as does the country with the next highest number, the United Kingdom, which has 29. A small percentage of students who apply to these schools gain admission.
The status ladder
According to Uni in the USA, "One of the reasons American universities have thrived is due to their remarkable management of financial resources." To combat costs colleges have hired adjunct professors to teach. In 2008 these teachers cost about $1,800 per 3-credit class as opposed to $8,000 per class for a tenured professor. Two-thirds of college instructors were adjuncts. There are differences of opinion whether these adjuncts teach better or worse than regular professors. There is a suspicion that student evaluation of adjuncts, along with their subsequent continued employment, can lead to grade inflation.
A 2010 study indicates that the return on investment for graduating from the top 1000 colleges exceeds 4% over a high school degree.
The debt of the average college graduate for student loans in 2010 was $23,200.
From the US Census Bureau, the median salary of an individual who has only a high school diploma is $27,967; The median salary of an individual who has a bachelor's degree is $47,345. Certain degrees, such as in engineering, typically result in salaries far exceeding high school graduates, whereas degrees in teaching and social work fall below.
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 2002 to 2004 alone, tuition rates at public schools increased over 14 percent, largely due to dwindling state funding. An increase of 6 percent occurred over the same period for private schools. Between 1982 and 2007, college tuition and fees rose three times as fast as median family income, in constant dollars.
- Public University: $111,868
- Private University: $161,904
Total, four-year schooling:
- Public University (4 years): $27,967 (per year)
- Private University (4 years): $40,476 (per year)
The mean annual Total Cost (including all costs associated with a full-time post-secondary schooling, such as tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board), as reported by collegeboard.com for 2010:
Annual undergraduate tuition varies widely from state to state, and many additional fees apply. In 2009, average annual tuition at a public university (for residents of the state) was $7,020. Tuition for public school students from outside the state is generally comparable to private school prices, although students can often qualify for 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 $50,000. 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).
A few charity institutions cover all of the 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.
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 Graduate Record Examination (GRE-graduate schools in general), the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). 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. 8.9 percent of students receive postgraduate degrees. Most, after obtaining their bachelor's degree, proceed directly into the workforce.
After additional years of study and sometimes in conjunction with the completion of a master's degree and/or Ed.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, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Podiatry Medicine, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Psychology, or Juris Doctor. Some programs, such as medicine and psychology, have formal apprenticeship procedures post-graduation, such as residencies and internships, which must be completed after graduation and before one is considered 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 to legally practice law in nearly all states).
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). Some students pursue a graduate degree that is in between a master's degree and a doctoral degree called a Specialist in Education (Ed.S.).
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 degrees.
Professional degrees such as law, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry, are offered as graduate study after earning at least three years of undergraduate schooling or after earning a bachelor's degree depending on the program. These professional fields do not require a specific undergraduate major, though medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry have set prerequisite courses that must be taken before enrollment.
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 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.)
Like high school, the four undergraduate grades are commonly called freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years (alternatively called first year, second year, etc.). Students traditionally apply for admission into colleges. Schools differ in their competitiveness and reputation. 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 colleges will rarely list that they require a certain standardized test score, class ranking, or GPA for admission, each college usually has a rough threshold below which admission is unlikely.
Higher education in the United States is an optional final stage of formal learning following secondary education, often at one of the 4,495 colleges or universities and junior colleges in the country. In 2008, 36% of enrolled students graduated from college in four years. 57% completed their undergraduate requirements in six years, at the same college they first enrolled in. The U.S. ranks 10th among industrial countries for percentage of adults with college degrees.
|High school graduate||86.68%|
|Associates and/or Bachelor's degree||38.54%|
|Doctorate or professional degree||2.94%|
Out of 21 industrialized countries, U.S. 12th graders ranked 19th in math, 16th in science, and last in advanced physics.
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.
Test performance for primary and secondary schools
While the hiring teachers for public schools is done at the local school district level, the pension funds for teachers are usually managed at the state level. Some states have significant deficits when future requirements for teacher pensions are examined. In 2014, these were projected deficits for various states: Illinois -$187 billion, Connecticut -$57 billion, Kentucky -$41 billion, Hawaii -$16.5 billion, and Louisiana -$45.6 billion. These deficits range from 184% to 318% of these states annual total budget.
In McCleary v. Washington State (2012), Supreme Court decision that found the state had failed to "amply" fund public education for Washington's 1 million school children. Washington state had budgeted $18.2 billion for education spending in the two-year fiscal period ending in July 2015. The state Supreme Court decided that this budget must be boosted by $3.3 billion in total by July 2019. On September 11, 2014, the state Supreme Court found the legislature in contempt for failing to uphold a court order to come up with a plan to boost its education budget by billions of dollars over the next five years. The state had argued that it had adequately funded education and said diverting tax revenue could lead to shortfalls in other public services.
The reliance on local funding sources has led to a long history of court challenges about how states fund their schools. These challenges have relied on interpretations of state constitutions after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that school funding was not a matter of the U.S. Constitution (San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973)). The state court cases, beginning with the California case of Serrano v. Priest, 5 Cal.3d 584 (1971), were initially concerned with equity in funding, which was defined in terms of variations in spending across local school districts. More recently, state court cases have begun to consider what has been called 'adequacy.' These cases have questioned whether the total amount of spending was sufficient to meet state constitutional requirements. Perhaps the most famous adequacy case is Abbott v. Burke, 100 N.J. 269, 495 A.2d 376 (1985), which has involved state court supervision over several decades and has led to some of the highest spending of any U.S. districts in the so-called Abbott districts. The background and results of these cases are analyzed in a book by Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth. That analysis concludes that funding differences are not closely related to student outcomes and thus that the outcomes of the court cases have not led to improved policies.
Rural schools struggle with funding concerns. State funding sources often favor wealthier districts. The state establishes a minimum flat amount deemed "adequate" to educate a child based on equalized assessed value of property taxes. This favors wealthier districts with a much larger tax base. This, combined with the history of slow payment in the state, leaves rural districts searching for funds. Lack of funding leads to limited resources for teachers. Resources that directly relate to funding include access to high-speed internet, online learning programs and advanced course offerings. These resources can enhance a student's learning opportunities, but may not be available to everyone if a district cannot afford to offer specific programs. One study found that school districts spend less efficiently in areas in which they face little or no competition from other public schools, in large districts, and in areas in which residents are poor or less educated.
 The remaining split between state and local governments averages 48.7 percent from states and 42.8 percent from local sources.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
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 escalate 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. Some states, such as Michigan, have investigated or implemented alternate schemes for funding education that may sidestep the problems of funding based mainly on property taxes by providing funding based on sales or income tax. These schemes also have failings, negatively impacting funding in a slow economy.
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 with federal plans 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 in some cases from local property taxes.
- Between 1960 and 1995, U.S. public school spending per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by 212%.
- In 1994, less than half of all U.S. public school employees were teachers.
According to a 1999 article by William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, increased levels of spending on public education have not made the schools better. Among many other things, the article cites the following statistics:
According to a 2006 study by the conservative Goldwater Institute, Arizona's public schools spend 50% more per student than Arizona's private schools. The study also says that while teachers constitute 72% of the employees at private schools, they make up less than half of the staff at public schools.
The federal government contributes money to certain individual school districts as part of Federal Impact Aid. The original idea was that the federal government paid no local real estate taxes on their property to support local schools. Children of government employees might move in and impact an area which required expenditure for education at the local level. This aid was a way of equalizing the unexpected impact.
According to a 2005 report from the OECD, the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools, with each of those two countries spending more than $11,000. However, the United States is ranked 37th in the world in education spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. All but seven of the leading countries are in developing countries; ranked high because of a low GDP.
Funding for K–12 schools
Private schools offer the advantages of smaller classes, under twenty students in a typical elementary classroom, for example; a higher teacher/student ratio across the school day, greater individualized attention and in the more competitive schools, expert college placement services. Unless specifically designed to do so, private schools usually cannot offer the services required by students with serious or multiple learning, emotional, or behavioral issues. Although reputed to pay lower salaries than public school systems, private schools often attract teachers by offering high-quality professional development opportunities, including tuition grants for advanced degrees. According to elite private schools themselves, this investment in faculty development helps maintain the high quality program that they offer.
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 often highly selective. Private schools also have the ability to permanently expel persistently unruly students, a disciplinary option not legally available to public school systems.
5,072,451 students attended 33,740 private elementary and secondary schools in 2007. 74.5% of these were Caucasian, non-Hispanic, 9.8% were African American, 9.6% were Hispanic. 5.4% were Asian or Pacific Islander, and .6% were American Indian. Average school size was 150.3 students. There were 456,266 teachers. The number of students per teacher was about 11. 65% of seniors in private schools in 2006-7 went on to attend a 4-year college.
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.
Admission to individual public schools is usually based on residency. To compensate for differences in school quality based on geography, school systems serving large cities and portions of large cities often have magnet schools that provide enrollment to a specified number of non-resident students in addition to serving all resident students. This special enrollment is usually decided by lottery with equal numbers of males and females chosen. Some magnet schools cater to gifted students or to students with special interests, such as the sciences or performing arts.
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 the eight smallest US states – the New York City public school system is nationally influential in determining standards and materials, such as textbooks.
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 from one district to another. 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.
In the United States, state and local government have primary responsibility for education. The Federal Department of Education plays a role in standards setting and education finance, and some primary and secondary schools, for the children of military employees, are run by the Department of Defense.
Public and private schools
At-risk students (those with educational needs that aren't associated with a disability) are often placed in classes with students with minor emotional and social disabilities. Critics assert that placing at-risk students in the same classes as these disabled students may impede the educational progress of both the at-risk and the disabled students. Some research has refuted this claim, and has suggested this approach increases the academic and behavioral skills of the entire student population.
Schools meet with the parents or guardians to develop an Individualized Education Program that determines best placement for the child. Students must be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that is appropriate for the student's needs. Public schools that fail to provide an appropriate placement for students with special needs can be taken to due process wherein parents may formally submit their grievances and demand appropriate services for the child.
The federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to ensure that all government-run schools provide services to meet the individual needs of students with special needs, as defined by the law. All students with special needs are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
- Educating children with disabilities
On January 25, 2013, the Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Education issued guidance, clarifying school districts' existing legal obligations to give disabled students an equal chance to compete in extracurricular sports alongside their able-bodied classmates.
Commonly known as special classes, are taught by teachers with training in adapting curricula to meet the needs of students with special needs.
Education of students with special needs
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, and 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.
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, or who wish to add religious instruction to the educational curriculum (and who may be unable to afford a church-operated private school or where the only available school may teach views contrary to those of the parents). 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, sex, 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.
Many select moral or religious reasons for homeschooling their children. The second main category is unschooling, those who prefer a non-standard approach to education.
In 2014, approximately 1.5 million children were homeschooled, up 84% from 1999 when the U.S. Department of Education first started keeping statistics. This was 2.9% of all children.
In addition to sports, numerous non-athletic extracurricular activities are available in American schools, both public and private. Activities include Quizbowl, musical groups, marching bands, student government, school newspapers, science fairs, debate teams, and clubs focused on an academic area (such as the Spanish Club) or community service interests (such as Key Club).
High school athletic competitions often generate intense interest in 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. Extracurricular activities are 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; home-schooled students, however, are not normally allowed to participate. Student participation in sports programs, drill teams, bands, and spirit groups can amount to hours of practices and performances. Most states have organizations that 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.
Standardized testing has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Creativity and the need for applicable knowledge are becoming rapidly more valuable than simple memorization. Opponents of standardized education have stated that it is the system of standardized education itself that is to blame for employment issues and concerns over the questionable abilities of recent graduates.
During high school, students (usually in 11th grade) may take one or more standardized tests depending on their post-secondary education preferences and their local graduation requirements. In theory, these tests evaluate the overall level of knowledge and learning aptitude of the students. The SAT and 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 post-secondary institutions 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 post-secondary education, so they can usually be skipped without affecting one's ability to graduate.
Academic performance impacts the perception of a school's educational program. Rural schools fare better than their urban counterparts in two key areas: test scores and drop-out rate. First, students in small schools performed equal to or better than their larger school counterparts. In addition, on the 2005 National Assessment of Education Progress, 4th and 8th grade students scored as well or better in reading, science, and mathematics.
Under the 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 New York Regents Examinations, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), or the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS); 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. When a student fails to make adequate yearly progress, No Child Left Behind mandates that remediation through summer school and/or tutoring be made available to a student in need of extra help.
|A||B||C||D||F or E|
|100–97||96–93||92–90||89–87||86–83||82–80||79–77||76–73||72–70||69–67||66–63||62–60||Below 60 Percent|
Letter grades are often but not always used on report cards at the end of a marking period, although the current grade may be available at other times (particularly when an electronic grade book connected to an online service is in use). Although grading scales usually differ from school to school, the most common grade scale is letter grades—"A" through "F"—derived from a scale of 0–100 or a percentile. In some areas, Texas or Virginia for example, the "D" grade (or that between 70–60) is considered a failing grade. In other states, such as Hawaii, a "D" grade is considered passing in certain classes, and failing in others.
In schools in the United States children are constantly 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. At any time, the total number of points for a student when divided by the total number of possible points produces a percent grade, which can be translated to a letter grade.
The time investment and high cost of post-secondary education is of great concern for a great many people. Integrating high school, college, and vocational training is a solution worth pursuing. High achieving students are bogged down with redundant classes and rising educational costs. The same can be said of high schools trying to staff and fund more specialized programs for their students. Bachelor’s degrees are taking longer to complete and the costs have skyrocketed over the past few years and show no sign of relenting. Combining the more difficult high school programs with the lower level college programs and offering vocational programs to those not going to continue with an academic degree offer a way to solve some of these problems.
Many high schools provide 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. 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.
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 anatomy, nutrition, first aid, sexuality, drug 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.
High school (occasionally senior high school) usually runs from 9th or 10th through 12th grades. Students in these grades are commonly referred to as freshmen (grade 9), sophomores (grade 10), juniors (grade 11) and seniors (grade 12). Generally, at the high school level, students take a broad variety of classes without special emphasis in any particular subject. Students are required to take a certain 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.
"Middle school" usually includes sixth, seventh and eighth grade (and occasionally fifth grade as well); "Junior high" may include any range from sixth through ninth grades. The range defined by either is often based on demographic factors, such as an increase or decrease in the relative numbers of younger or older students, with the aim of maintaining stable school populations.
Secondary education is often divided into two phases, Middle school or 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).
In general, a student learns basic arithmetic and sometimes rudimentary algebra in mathematics, English proficiency (such as basic grammar, spelling, 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. 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.
Public Elementary School teachers typically instruct between twenty and thirty students of diverse learning needs. 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 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 to identify enrichment for textbooks. Many school districts post information about the curriculum and supplemental materials on websites for public access.
Typically, the curriculum in public elementary education is determined by individual school districts. The school district selects curriculum guides and textbooks that reflect 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 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 and/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.
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 fifth grade (or sometimes, to fourth grade, sixth grade or eighth grade). Basic subjects are taught in elementary school, and students often remain in one classroom throughout the school day, except for physical education, library, music, and art classes. There are (as of 2001) about 3.6 million children in each grade in the United States.
Pre-kindergarten (also called Pre-K or PK) is a classroom-based early childhood education program for children below the age of six in the United States, either delivered through a preschool or as a reception year in Elementary school. Head Start Program, the federally funded pre-kindergarten program founded in 1965 prepares children (especially those of a disadvantaged population) to better succeed in school.
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. All school districts establish their own times and means of transportation within guidelines set by their own state.
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. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that forced busing of students may be ordered to achieve racial desegregation. 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 have been released from mandatory busing.
 In 2011, the average annual salary of a preK-12 teacher was $55,040. In 2011, American teachers worked 1,097 hours in the classroom, the most for any industrialized nation measured by the  Teachers worked from about 35 to 46 hours a week, in a survey taken in 1993.
About half of the states encourage schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.