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2020-05-13 00:00:54

American school: system from the inside out

American school: system from the inside out

American High School. Movies and TV shows have created a persistent image of high school in the United States: studying there is cool, students sit on the carpet or at desks one by one, high school students go to parties, you can already enjoy scouting a sports team at school - or vice versa, studying there is very dangerous, it is a creepy caste system (you get into losers and stay there), students carry guns and drive around in used cars. Which of these is a myth and which is reality? Below are the most important things about American schools according to eyewitness accounts.

American School Stages

Students attend American school for 12 years - from ages 5-6 to 17-18. Each school determines a different age for international students. In some cases, students are accepted from age 7, but few parents are willing to send their child abroad at that age, so it is usually the middle (13-14) or older (16-17) school age who come. If you come to America with your parents, you will be accepted at any age.

The 12 grades are divided into elementary school (1-5), middle school (6-8), and high school (9-12). All of these divisions (elementary, middle, high school) are separate educational institutions, and each also resembles an academic city inside. The schools are separate from each other, each with its own principal, teachers, and administration.

Elementary School

There are no public kindergartens: young children go to private kindergartens or stay at home with relatives or nannies. Secondary education in the U.S. begins not with the first grade, but with the lower grade, which is called kindergarten, but the usual kindergarten (not the lower grade of school) in America is called preschool, that is "pre-school". Accordingly, the child goes to "preschool" (from age 3-4) and then to kindergarten or from age 5.

Elementary school classrooms are divided into several study areas - students either sit at round tables of 5-6 people, or on the carpet near bookshelves, or at computers (usually there are several computers in each classroom). The teacher gives an assignment, the children do it on their own, they can move around safely (this is even encouraged). The teacher follows a certain routine with no breaks for lessons, students eat lunch during the big break, in the fall and spring, the break is spent outdoors. The core subjects are writing, reading, basic math, and the environment (these are taught by one teacher), and creative, music, and sports classes are taught by other teachers.

Middle School

In U.S. high schools, each subject is taught by a different teacher, and students have some flexibility in the choice of courses they take. Math, English, science (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy), history, physical education, and creative arts remain required. Students choose 1-2 subjects on their own: most often it is computer technology, cooking, foreign language or art. That's why the concept of "classmates" is much more blurred here: you can be in a biology class with some students and bite the granite of math with completely different ones.

There is an option to choose a more challenging program in a particular subject: you need to get an excellent yearly grade in it in order to do so.

High school.

High school involves more freedom in the choice of subjects, level of study.

Mandatory blocks:

  • 2 years of math.
  • 4 years of English
  • 2 years of science (with laboratory work)
  • 3 years social studies
  • 1 year of physical education
  • 1 year of art course.

Beginning in Grade 9, some subjects may be taken in more depth - the Advanced Placement course. More often than not, students choose courses they will take later. Advanced Placement includes 38 subjects. The most prestigious universities

o not consider certificates with a grade point average below 4.25, and this grade cannot be obtained without Advanced Placement AP courses.

High school includes 4 years of study, grades 9 through 12: they have their own specialization, so from grade 9 you begin thorough preparation for admission (university, vocational courses, college). During your studies, you can accumulate enough knowledge for admission and get credits (special educational, not bank credits), which will save a lot. The high school assumes compulsory study of English, mathematics, social subjects and natural disciplines. The high school offers four areas of specialized education:

  • industrial
  • agricultural
  • commercial
  • General
  • academic.
  • Class Schedule


U.S. schools do not start immediately: from mid-August to early September. Accordingly, the school year also ends differently - at the beginning, middle, or end of June. The first day of school is routine: there are no ceremonial rulers or school-wide structures before classes begin - students usually come to school and attend classes, except that more students are accompanied by their parents (especially the younger of the course). Students attend 6-8 classes each day, study five days, rotate 5 minutes, one large one 40 minutes (students have time for lunch during this time).

Academic disciplines in American high schools

High school students choose their own classes. Mandatory for four years are:

  • English - 8 semesters (six months) + there is an honors, challenging option. There are courses in Shakespeare, public speaking, journalism, and creative writing in 12th grade.
  • History - seven semesters, there is an honors option: 9th grade - world history, but mostly history of Asia, Africa, Latin America, 10th grade - European history, 11th grade - American history + geography, US economics 12th grade - half a year of native history.
  • Mathematics - 6 semesters, each taking according to their level of knowledge, order: Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus (complex algebra 2), Calculus (numerical methods), Statistics.
  • Science - 6 semesters (biology, chemistry, physics, higher biology).
  • Physical Education - 4 semesters (physical education: yoga, aerobics, team sports, strength training).
  • Art - 2 semesters of art (drawing at different levels, singing, orchestra, music band, guitar, theater, ceramics, photoshop course).
  • Foreign languages - 4 semesters (Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, German). During the year a student studies level 1 (according to international standards).

Additional disciplines students choose from the same list:

  • Economics
  • Programming (1 semester Scratch course, 2 semesters Java class).
  • Vocational courses (carpentry, filmmaking, engineering design, learning programs such as AutoCAD, metalwork, cooking class, teacher's class).
  • Disciplines for future military - young people study military affairs for 4 years, which gives them higher ranks in the military.
  • English as a second language - they learn until they take a test.

Graduation test:

  • Reading (text comprehension) - 10th grade
  • Composition on a given theme - 10th grade
  • SAT (75% English, 25% Math + Science) - 11th grade (close to test)
  • ACT (25% English, 75% Matan and Science) - optional, but highly sought after by US universities (especially the top ones like Caltech or Ivy League).

American School Grades

American schools grade students on a 5-point scale, and grades are not graded by numbers, but by letters: A (excellent), B (good), C (satisfactory), D (poor), F (unsatisfactory). But this corresponds to our "5," B to "4," C and D to "3," both of which are passing grades, and F to "2." Students' grades are considered confidential information; all grade information is sent to the electronic office on the website.

Teachers do not pressure students on their grades, but when they get to the university, they will consider what percentage of students are in the grades. Those in the top 10 percent of students will receive a certificate with honors, and that document will be a significant advantage in admission. The second and third "top 10" qualify for an honors diploma; the rest will receive only a high school diploma.

Grades are taken online, they are not "pulled up" for the sake of the overall grade: if you forget your work or do not register, they give 0%, some give 50% for late work. If you miss a test, they won't make you "absent," but they will set you at 0% if you don't show up to retake the test. Negotiating along the lines of "Yes, I did my homework, I just forgot my notebook!" will not work here.

Teachers, school administration, communication with parents

Every American school has its own website with contacts, basic information, and the principal or teachers post student results, school news, and class information once a week. Parents can call/text the principal and teachers if they have any questions.

Teachers usually set up a table at the beginning of the year when they need parents' help, and everyone can register and help. During field trips, parents are invited to help, schools volunteer to work in the school garden or when organizing extracurricular activities. A parent can agree and come to any class.

In the middle of the year there is a mandatory meeting of the teacher with parents - a conference of parents and teachers, but it is individual in nature.


Most American students bring their lunch in plastic boxes, and it can only be eaten in the cafeteria or cafeteria during the big break. Students can buy school lunches for themselves by bank transfer in the cafeteria; the cost is usually $3-4. The standard lunch lineup: fries, burger, milk, fruit. Mmm, milk and burgers, appreciated?


Activities are held during the weeks leading up to the holidays and often on the occasion of sports victories. There are regular book fairs, holidays such as Halloween and Christmas, science fairs, reading meetings, spelling, talent shows, etc. D. Outside activities are organized - theater, museum, picnic (if the class goes somewhere, written permission is required from parents!).

A great deal of attention is given to charitable activities: some are to raise money for urgent school needs, and some are to benefit other organizations. For example, there is a collection of used books, used warm clothes for those in need.

Hobby clubs meet after school, with a teacher assigned to each club: clubs for anime, Japan, robotics, cooking, ping pong, and exciting chemistry. Acceptance everywhere is favorable, especially if you attend meetings. In America, students decide which group they will take and sign up on their own. The most popular sections have sponsors who provide funds for music, creative, and science projects. The circles themselves are usually free, but parents pay for field activities, costumes, and props.


Athletes in American schools fare very well, that's a fact. High school and university sports are a well-developed industry: many professional athletes at the national level have left high school sports. After-school sports run the gamut from gymnastics to lacrosse, and American football is commonplace.

Cheerleaders, beautiful and athletic girls (usually 25 for the entire school) are required to go to all games, cheer for the school team, and rehearse their own performances. Being on the school cheerleading team is not just cool, it's prestigious and very promising. In addition to a tight figure and beautiful pom-pom uniforms, cheerleaders boast really impressive athletic training, strength and stamina, because they can easily pull almost any other sport, especially track and field or gymnastics.

School Bus.

Yellow school buses continue to take American students from home to school and back for free. At the beginning of each school year, parents receive a schedule and route plan of transportation routes, of which there are several, each student is assigned one of them. The only disadvantage of the bus is the long route, because of which the road sometimes takes up to 1 hour.

Many parents drive their children in their cars: they drive to the assigned place, and volunteers and helpers from among the high school students help the child get out of the car, see that it goes straight to school, and the parent immediately leaves without getting out of the car. Since 10th grade, many students have been making their own car ride to school.


Parents buy school stationery in advance according to a list - this is standard for all schools, but varies by age. Example options: pencils, markers, pens, scissors, glue, felt-tip pens, notepads, erasers, folders, rulers, headphones, plain and disinfectant wipes.

School Status

American schools are notable for their status. The state is funded by the local budget, the main part of whose income is property taxes: logically, where property is more expensive, the schools have a higher budget. Accordingly, the more prestigious the neighborhood in which you plan to live, the better the school will be, and vice versa. Compassionate parents who are concerned about their children often even move to a new place of residence and change jobs if only the child went to a good school - in America it is really considered a powerful social springboard.

Private Schools

Private schools have many advantages over public schools: about 15 students in a class, allowing each student to receive maximum attention. Living in a dormitory ensures constant contact with peers, not only in the classroom, but also in everyday life. In private schools, education has a longer period, so the chances of going to university increase.

Charter schools or "magnet schools"

In addition to public schools, there are 2 other categories of schools in the United States: "charter schools" (charter schools) - about 5,700; magnet schools - about 4,000. Charter schools are usually organized on the basis of public schools: they receive a license ("charter") to provide educational services, manage their own resources, and in return guarantee a higher quality of education. The initiative to create such schools can come from the teaching staff, parents, local authorities, institutions of higher education and commercial entities. Specialized magnet schools provide an opportunity for a child to receive an in-depth education in certain areas of knowledge: mathematics, language, art. Any student who lives in the educational district can get into a magnet school, but the applicant lists are long.


Public schools in the United States are completely free: they are funded by the local budget, which is mainly financed by property taxes. Accordingly, if you are not a U.S. citizen or non-resident, you pay tuition.

The cost depends on the rating of the school, staff, prestige, history: on average, a year of study costs from 40 000 to 70 000 $. Private schools include room, board, extracurricular activities, study groups, study materials, English courses for international students, and preparation for final exams.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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