The American Education System: A Guide for Foreigners


Having grown up in the American education system, I think I have an understanding on how it operates from the student perspective. As an adult, have been working in the education for a decade, so I think that I speak from experience and knowledge when I talk about it. That said, it can be a different concept to understand if you have not lived it and are not incredibly familiar with it.

So this is a barebones guide for people who are outside of the American system to get a look at what it is.

Cost of Education in America

The majority of students in the United States go to public school. Public schools are free, since they are paid for by taxes. The amount that goes to the schools varies completely by where the schools are. Some states and local governments pump more money into the education system than other areas. This usually depends on the economy of the surrounding area. More affluent places will be able to pay for more than less affluent areas, so there is a huge variation between the quality of schools.

It is also because of this that it is harder to attract teachers to teach in low-income areas. The quality of the materials and the school itself is a lot lower if there is not enough money pumped into it. This is why there are education foundations to help out schools. Without some extra financing, many schools would fail under the current system since tax money is constantly being diverted away from education into areas that the government finds more profitable.

The Grading System

The basic grading system of students in the United States is an A, B, C, D, F grading system, where A is the best that you can do. Students that earn the most A’s in school usually have an easier time getting into colleges since they have already shown that they do well and are ready to go to college. C is considered “average” and is a passing grade. Anything below C is failing and is not considered a passed class.

The issue with the grading system is that it can be based greatly on test scores and standardized abilities, which is not appropriate for every type of learner out there. Also a disappointment is that when we look at our success rates for students, the grades are not taken into consideration, but instead it is the graduation rate. This often does not make sense as teachers are assessed based on the students’ abilities to pass tests, but not based on how well the students performed toward graduating from high school.

Who Has to Go

Education is required by law for all school-aged children. Of course if a student has graduated early, this does not apply. But a parent cannot keep a child at home instead of sending them to school. That is unless they are participating in a home school program, but these are also monitored and have standards that have to be met in order to be accepted. Children must go to school. Part of this was originally based on the United States Governments strong desire to have all children and adults be completely literate.

The literacy rate in the United States is pretty darned perfect, so while we need to do better with our quality of education as well as our success rate for students, we have mostly achieved a completely literate society. Unfortunately, this has not kept Americans from watching reality tv shows, but at least we know that they have the ability to pick up a book and read it.

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The Most Successful Education Foundation Grants

Grant writing is no small feat and can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating to even the most experienced grant writers. That said, there are a number of education foundations whose grants are incredibly successful, meaning that they are actually worth all of the extra effort it takes to write a grant to obtain them.

Looking at the education foundations that support K-12 education systems, there are so many things to take into consideration when trying to figure out what is actually a successful education foundation. Looking at the top 100, here is what makes the grade as the very best education foundations in the United States. This is a short list and they are not ranked in any particular order.

Good Burger Award Nomination

  1. Pinellas Education Foundation (Florida): The Pinellas Education Foundation was started in 1986 with the hopes of helping the education system and improving the educational opportunities that were in the Pinellas County School system. Part of their endeavor was helping students be prepared for college or the real world once high school was over. The foundation has blossomed over the past 30 years and now has many different scholarships and programs to students of all different backgrounds. The foundation reported a net asset of 31 million dollars. Not too shabby for a foundation at all.
  2. Omaha Schools Foundation (Nebraska): My personal favorite thing about the Omaha Schools Foundation is that there is a paid preschool program, where parents have to pay a whole $50 to register, but otherwise, the preschool is free to any who want it. Considering most preschools cost the same and sometimes more as full-time daycare, I am incredibly envious that there are any states who provide such an important and helpful service. They also sponsor a Kids Club where elementary school kids can dabble in arts, music, outdoor games, drama, and more. There are also teacher grants available and college scholarships.
  3. Clark County Public Education Foundation (Nevada): Clark County Public Education Foundation is located in the fifth-largest school district in the entire United States. It has been around for 25 years and boasts a whopping 140 scholarship programs. But the primary focus of the foundation is improving how students experience school when they are in the K-12 age bracket. Part of this includes giving supplies and books to teachers as well as helping children understand their potential in the world and what they can do with their education. It also helps low income students get dental care.

  1. Philadelphia Education Fund (Pennsylvania): Founded in 1985, the Philadelphia Education Fund was created by merging the Philadelphia Renaissance in Science and Mathematics and the Philadelphia Alliance for Teaching Humanities in the Schools. Later, the Philadelphia Schools Collaborative also joined in. The Philadelphia Education Fund is a foundation to help support educators in their classrooms, encouraging them to mentor children while keeping them interested in staying school and on track to graduate high school. Because there is a high dropout rate in Philadelphia, the foundation has proved incredibly important and beneficial.
  2. The Fund for Public Schools (New York): New York has both its hands full in keeping up with a high population as well as harboring some of the best schools in the nation. A dichotomy that can sometimes be difficult to manage. The Fund for Public Schools was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide initiative s to exemplary teachers, as well as scholarships and healthy kids programs. They combat childhood obesity while also supporting teachers in their hard work. They also fund the public school libraries, ensuring that they are still operating as a keystone in the education systems on the whole.

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The New to the Wiki Education Foundation? What you need to know

When you are trying to get a general sense of something online, where do you go first? For many people, the answer to that is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that allows anyone to go in and edit the content. Of course that makes it questionable and not always the most reliable source of information, but as long as you are looking at it for a general overview of something and not in place of actual scholarly research, then it is a wonderful source. Wikipedia answers a great many unanswerable questions that plague the modern internet user.

The Wiki Education Foundation uses the publishing power of Wikipedia to connect to higher education resources. It enriches the education system. So what does it do exactly? Let’s take a look.

Editing Wikipedia

If you have ever wondered who the people are who edit the Wikipedia page, I have some answers for you. Through the Wiki Education Foundation, students gain experience by editing Wikipedia. They are reading information and learning while they are reading what is there and understanding what should be expanded and improved. It allows the free encyclopedia to have a fine tooth comb brushed through it without having to pay someone to do it for them. The win is that it is free for Wikipedia while allowing students to gain both experience and knowledge at the same time. It’s a genuine win/win.

Some of the student testimonials on the foundation’s website include “My favorite part about writing for Wikipedia was knowing that the information being presented is valuable to someone,” “It feels awesome to take information squirreled away behind paywalls and share it with Wikipedia’s vast readership,” and “I was encouraged by more than the grade. I wanted to contribute to something long-lasting, and something bigger than myself.” While you should always approach testimonials with caution, it does seem like the vast majority of students working with Wikipedia are having a positive learning experience and gaining knowledge at the same time.


Designing Courses

Another wonderful thing that the Wiki Education Foundation has done well is helping instructors and teachers design courses that appeal more to students while increasing the students’ public knowledge. Some of the subjects that the Wiki Education Foundation have included are:

  • Bioinorganic Chemistry
  • Introduction to Translation into English
  • Applied Human Geography
  • Topics in Art History
  • Women and Writing
  • Neurobiology
  • Writing for Wikipedia
  • German Diasporas
  • Women, Art, and Culture
  • Writing Through Literature
  • Global and Cultural Perspectives
  • Urban Sociology
  • Human Development in Global and
  • Local Communities
  • Advanced Media Studies
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Modern Art
  • American Indian Literature
  • Geotectonics
  • Global Enterprise and Sustainable
  • Development
  • Cyberlaw
  • History of Psychology
  • Molecular Immunology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Evolution of Terrestrial Planets
  • Cold War Science
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Prokaryotic Diversity
  • International Trade
  • Authors: James Joyce
  • Virology
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Introduction to Public Administration
  • Ethics for a Free World
  • History of Western Canada

The Stats

Since the Wiki Foundation took flight in 2010, there have been over 14,000 student participants in the foundation. Of the instructors that worked with the foundation, 92% said that they would work with Wikipedia gain, which is not a statistic to scoff at. There have been more than 35,000 articles worked on by the students in the past six years, showing that having someone actually look at the content on Wikipedia has been helpful.

On a personal note, I have noticed that the quality on Wikipedia has gone up exponentially in the past few years it is certainly partly due to the hard work of the Wiki Education Foundation’s hard work to ensure that the pages are as accurate and well-written as possible, allowing anyone with internet access to have the ability to read a free online encyclopedia.

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