A Beginner’s Guide to Education in the USA

We have been hailed as the greatest country in the world. Ok, perhaps sometime we are hailing ourselves that way, but regardless, you cannot disagree on the point that we are an excellent world power. The United States has its hand in so many different economies and countries around the world, that it still maintains its reputation of being a world power with ease.

But even if we are one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, what does our education system look like by comparison? With memes floating all over Facebook about how Scandinavian education is superior, we need to look at our own system outside of the internet. Let’s just look at the hard facts of the education system in order to make a fair and appropriate assessment.

Our Literacy Rates are Excellent

Say what you want about the failures of the American education system, but you cannot argue that our literacy rates are not spectacular. We have a 99% literacy rate so when you factor in the people who cognitively cannot learn to read, you are left with a small population of people who were failed by either the education system or perhaps child development services. Really, that is an incredibly small amount of people.

Literacy should not be taken for granted either. Reading is an integral part of our lives. You need to read in order to take a subway, read a map, order food, read what you buy in the grocery store, follow road signs, and even just exist as a citizen. It is also fairly impossible to work in this country without being literate. Even the most hands-on jobs require the ability to read and understand things, even if it is at a rudimentary level.

There are Three Acceptable Forms of Education

The vast majority of children in the United States attend public schools (87%), but there are also private schools and home schooling. Private schools make up for about 10% of the education system. The least amount of children are home schools. As long as the programs are accredited, it is acceptable.

Public schools are what are funded by the state governments. The teachers, staff, building maintenance, and more are all paid for by the government, the curriculum is built by the government, and the school system is monitored by the government. They create standards of learning that some perceive as controversial that they expect the basic public school to be able to meet. Private schools create their own curriculum, but are still expected to be able to match certain administrative requirements in order to be considered an acceptable type of school. Home schooling receives the most criticism among parenting groups because it is the parent acting as the teacher instead of an actual teacher. There are programs and expected curriculum that home schooled students are expected to be able to perform. Overall, it seems like most home schooled children do very well academically, but they do miss out on valuable social building opportunities.

The Set Up

The American school system is generally broken down into four educational categories. The first is preschool, which is not required by the government and is entirely optional. There are state-run preschool programs, but most preschools cost money out of pocket for parents.

The standard breakdown of school for minors is elementary school (ages 5 through 12, normally), middle school (ages 12 through 14), and high school (ages 14 through 18). There is some variety as far as the age ranges go depending on birthdate cutoffs, how well the children are performing, and some schools will begin earlier than others. Some middle schools are three or four years instead of two. It depends greatly on where you are and what your school system is like. Most students will graduate at the age of 18, releasing them from the public education system.

When I was a kid, my parents moved every couple of years, which meant that I changed schools every couple of years

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