No national education system or national curriculum exists in the United States. The federal government does not operate schools.
Each of the 50 states has its own Department of Education, which sets guidelines for the schools of that state. Public colleges and universities receive funding from the state in which they are located. Each state’s legislature decides how many tax dollars will be given to colleges and universities and from where this money will come. For this reason some states’ colleges and universities are much better funded than others’.
Most of the control of American schools lies in the hands of each local school district. The school board, a small committee of people elected by the local community, sets general policies for each school district. Students in public schools do not pay tuition in grades 1-12.
Generally, school districts include elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Elementary schools are for students in kindergarten and 1st through 5th or 6th grades. Many children enter kindergarten when they are five years old. Children usually begin first grade at the age of six.
After elementary school, students continue on to middle school for grades 6-8(9). Following middle school, students enter high school to complete grades 9(10)-12.
High school students take a wide range of courses. All students are required to take English, math, science, and social studies courses. They are also often times required to take a foreign language and/or physical education. In high school, courses can be either one or two semesters long.
In the United States, education is compulsory for all students until age 16. Usually, a student
graduates after he or she has successfully passed all of the required courses and met the minimum number of credits need for graduation. Grades are given to students for each course at the end of
every semester or term.
Grades are given as follows, with pluses (+) or minuses (-) added as necessary:
A – Excellent
B – Above average
C – Average
D – Below average
F – Failure
At most schools a student must receive a minimum grade of a C in order to receive credit for the course. A student who receives a D or F will be required to take the course again the following semester.
Each letter grade also corresponds to a number grade that will be used in determining a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). The student’s final GPA is the sum of his number grades divided by the sum of the number of credits taken. Most U.S. colleges and universities have a minimum GPA for acceptance into a degree program.
Number grades correspond to letter grades as follows: