I. Many international students, who visit America for the first time and attend a school there, wonder about the prior education of their classmates. As there are many variations of the school system from state to state, the education system seems to be a bit confusing. Additionally, the structures and procedures at American universities differ from other systems, such as the German one.
This essay will give you a brief overview of the U.S. education system, including important Acts as the “No Child Left Behind” Act and funding as well as admission to Universities.
II. To begin, I would like to present the American school system, and later on the “No Child Left Behind Act”.
A. The United States has no country-level education system or curriculum. Each of all fifty states has its own Department of Education, where the guidelines for the schools in this particular state are set. So the federal government does not control any schools within the US at all. Public schools and universities receive funding by the local state, which decides what percentage of e.g. the local property taxes go to the universities. Pupils in grade one to twelve do not pay tuition fees, in contrast to the students of colleges and universities.
Each school district is governed by a school board, which consists of some people who were elected by the local city or appointed by the local government.
They set the guidelines and general policies for their district.
B. Formal schooling in the United States lasts 12 years, until around age 18. The school system is often called “K-12 education”, referring to an education system from the Kindergarten up to the 12th grade. Usually, one of the following three patterns prevails in American society:
- Elementary school (K-5), middle school (6-8), high school (9-12);
- Elementary school (K-6), junior high school (7-9), senior high school (9-12); or
- Elementary school (K-8), high school (9-12)
However, most children in the U.S. begin education prior to entering regular schools. Their parents send them to Nursery schools/Pre-Schools (age 2-4) and later on to a Kindergarten (age 5-6). These institutions have to be paid privately and convey the children basics such as the alphabet and different colours.
In middle and high school, students can choose from a wide range of academic and elective classes.
But as students do not get any oral grades, they do not have to pay attention to their teacher necessarily. So it is not surprising that some of the students drop out of school to do something different. On the one hand “Over the past two decades, increasingly percentages of students have completed high school (from 69% in 1980 to 84% in 2000)”, but on the other hand this means that 16% (from formerly 31%) did not finish their school. This leads later on to a poor education in the whole society. Or as John Miller puts it: "We should take no pride in a finding that 70 percent of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times." This poor performance pushed private and public efforts such as the “No child is left behind Act”.
C. This education reform, proposed by the administration of former President George W. Bush is based on the belief that measurable goals can improve individual education. This act requires states to push their students to develop basic skills in certain subjects, to receive federal funding continuously. However, standards are not set by the government, but by each individual state.
“The High School Reform initiative provides funding for activities such as dropout prevention and efforts to increase the rigor of the high school curriculum and require reading and math assessments in two additional high school grade levels to give educators better data to keep all students on track towards graduation.”
The results of the National Assessment of Education (NAEP) shows improved achievement of American students in reading and math as well as other social aspects:
- For America's nine-year-olds in reading, more progress was made in five years than in the previous 28 combined.
- America's nine-year-olds posted the best scores in reading (since 1971) and math (since 1973) in the history of the report. America's 13-year-olds earned the highest math scores the test ever recorded.
- Reading and math scores for African American and Hispanic nine-year-olds reached an all-time high.
- Math scores for African American and Hispanic 13-year-olds reached an all-time high.
- Achievement gaps in reading and math between white and African American nine-year-olds and between white and Hispanic nine-year-olds are at an all-time low.
To put it in a nutshell, a raise in government expenditure of $42.2 billion in 2001 to $54.4 billion in 2007 closed many gaps and improved the situation of the U.S. education system significantly, according to the Department of Education.
On the contrary, others argue that “In 2008, there was a 77% graduation rate from high school, below that of most developed countries”
Nevertheless, America has now the best education system it has ever had, but there still need a lot of things to be done.
 University of Heidelberg
 Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)
 Miller, Jon; Professor of integrative studies and political science at Michigan State University Hannah
 U.S. Department of Education
 U.S. Department of Education
 Ripley, Amanda; (Author of “The Unthinkable“ and longtime contributor to Times Magazine)
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