UNITED STATES SYSTEM OF EDUCATION:
ORGANIZATION and STRUCTURE
FOR LIST OF
|Education in the United States comprises three basic levels: elementary,
secondary and higher education. Vocational training, adult education,
schools or classes for special types of children, and kindergartens also
form part of the program in most states.
Parents may choose whether to send their children to their local free public schools, or to private schools which charge fees. The organization and curricula of private schools and colleges are similar to those of public schools although the administration differs. Public and private schools maintain many cooperative links through the transfer of students and various other contacts. The vast majority of students at the primary and secondary levels go to public school. Most of those who attend private school attend church-sponsored parochial schools or schools that hold to a specific religious or philosophical doctrine.
The school year is usually nine months, from early September to mid-June. The common pattern of organization, referred to as the 6-3-3 plan, includes elementary school in grades 1 through 6, junior high school in grades 7 through 9, and high school in grades 10 through 12. The older 8-4 plan, however, in which grades 1 through 8 were in elementary school and 9 through 12 were in high school, continues in many localities. Some localities use a 6-6 program: 1 through 6 in elementary or primary school, 7-12 in secondary school. In most localities groups of elementary or primary schools feed a single junior high school (groups of which will then feed the next level), secondary or high schools.
During the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Guidance counseling is important to help pupils find their way through early adolescence and as they begin to plan their careers and select subjects that will be useful in their chosen work. Guidance counseling continues throughout the senior high school years and into college, particularly in the junior college or the first two years of the four-year college.
In general, basic subjects are required in the 10th through 12th grades, but in some high schools students may elect an increasing proportion of their work according to their interests. In addition to these basic subjects – English, science, mathematics, social studies, physical education – larger school systems may offer a selection of courses aimed at three or more levels – academic, vocational, and general.
Most young Americans graduate from school with a high school diploma upon satisfactory completion of a specified number of courses. Students are usually graded from A (excellent) to F (failing) in each course they take on the basis of performance in tests given at intervals throughout the year, participation in class discussions, and completion of written and oral assignments. Locally developed end-of-the-year examinations are given in many schools. Some states, such as New York, give statewide examinations which are prepared by the state department of education. These tests serve to monitor the statewide differences in education and theoretically help administrators and teachers address shortcomings.
Students receive “report cards” at least twice a year (in some school districts, up to six times). These indicate the grade students have received in each of the subjects they are studying. High schools maintain a school “transcript” which summarizes the courses taken and the grades obtained for each student. A copy of the transcript is normally submitted to colleges when a student applies for admission.
College-bound students generally take college admission tests (SATs) during their last two years of high school. These tests are administered by the privately operated Educational Testing Service (ETS) and American College Testing Program (ACT), and are mostly multiple choice. They are designed primarily to measure aptitude and verbal and mathematical skills rather than substantive knowledge. Test scores, added to high school transcripts and recommendations from teachers, form the basis for college acceptance.
Usually, the pupil has one teacher for all major subjects during each of his or her first six years of schooling. For the upper six grades, however, a separate teacher will most likely teach each discipline. In some schools there is great opportunity for students to progress at their own pace in each subject using some of the latest teaching machines and programmed learning material.
Other innovations in the American secondary school organization include
programs to keep the school buildings in use year round. “Keep the
school doors open” became a popular slogan among American educators in
the mid-1970s. They argued that closing most school buildings from
June to September was a waste of time and talent and, more often than not,
an unnecessary break in the learning process. Many schools now offer
summer courses – some of which are remedial in nature, others as designed
to satiate the thirst for advanced training or learning – which students
may not have time to pursue during the regular school year, or find in
the regular school curriculum. Many of the “summer school” academic
offerings are at the advanced level, for which they receive college-level
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|The Role of Higher Education|