In the USA children generally start their school career at the age of five or six, depending on when their birthday falls. They start in Grade 1 and continue their schooling until they reach Grade 12.
The school system breaks the twelve years up into:
- Preschool: Children younger than five attend preschool. It introduces children to some necessary concepts and prepare them for formal schooling.
- Elementary School (Grade School): The elementary school usually consists out of a pre-kindergarten section for the 4 – 5 year olds, the kindergarten for the 5-6 year olds and then progresses from grade 1 to grade 5 for six to 11 year olds.
- Middle School: Middle school caters for the 11 to 14 year olds, from grade 6 to grade 8.
- High School: In high school you will find your freshmans in 9th grade, your sophomores in grade 10, the juniors in grade 11 and the seniors in grade 12. Children spend time in high school from the age of 14 to 18.
Schooling is compulsary in the United States and the classes consist of 20 -30 pupils per class. Public schooling is free and about 85% of children attend public schools. The remaining 15% of the children are enrolled in private schools. Individual school districts determine the curriculum for their schools but the government instituted the policy of “No Child Left Behind” in all public schools for the whole of the USA.
In addition to general public schools there are also magnet schools and charter schools, which fall somewhere in between public and private school.
Magnet schools: Magnet schools were introduced to compensate for the differences in the school quality based on the area in which a child resides. They provide space for students who do not live in a certain area, but these schools have to serve all residents in their area as well. Admission to magnet schools is based on applications and therefore can be very competitive.
Charter schools: Although charter schools are publicly funded, they are allowed to alter some rules and regulations that are specified for public schools. These rules and regulations do not apply to religion, because public schools in the USA promote non-religious affiliated schooling. At the end of the day their existence hinges on the accountability for producing certain results. In these schools parents and teachers can tailor the curriculum to produce academic excellence. Admission to charter schools are based on random selection. If more children apply to a charter school than can be accommodated, selection will take place on a lottery basis. Charter schools are however allowed to set minimum qualifications for admission.