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Education Discussion: The American Education System: An Overview

Updated on April 1, 2013


According to the CIA World Factbook (, The following statistics are true about the United States of America.

  • Literacy Rate: 99%
  • Males are expected to have fifteen years of schooling in total, and Females are expected to have sixteen years of schooling in total.
  • Annually, the Government of the United States of America has spent, on average, 972USD Billion, since 2005. (For disambiguation, that's $972,000,000,000)
  • More than ten percent of the student population attend private, Non-Government Funded schools.

United States Department of Education

How it Works.

Average Age
Grade/Year of Study
Nursery School
Elementary Schools
Kindergarten / Nursery School
Elementary Schools
Elementary Schools
Elementary School
First through Fourth Grades
Elementary Schools
Elementary School/Middle School
Fifth Grade
Elementary Schools
Elementary School / Middle School / Junior High School
Sixth Grade
Elementary Schools
12 - 13
Elementary School / Middle School / Junior High School / Junior-Senior Combined High School
Seventh and Eighth Grades
Secondary Education
4-Year High Schools / Junior High Schools / Junior-Senior Combined High Schools
Ninth Grade
Secondary Education
4-Year High Schools / Senior High-Schools / Junior-Senior Combined High Schools
Tenth through Twelfth Grades
Secondary Education
Vocational Technical Institutions / Junior of Community Colleges / Undergraduate Programs
Years 1 and 2 of Post-Secondary Education Studies
Post-Secondary Education
Undergraduate Programs
Years 3 and 4 of Post-Secondary Education
Post-Secondary Education
Master's Degree Studies / Professional Schools (Medicine, Law, Theology, et cetera)
Year 5 of Post-Secondary Education
Post-Secondary Education
Doctoral Studies / Professional Schools (Medicine, Law, Theology, et cetera)
Years 6 and 7 of Post-Secondary Education
Post-Secondary Education
Postdoctoral Study and Research
Postdoctoral Research

Understanding the above.

From Elementary school, depending on the area of the country, students either leave for Middle School at grade 4, Junior High at grade 5, A Junior-Senior High School at grade 6, or to a 4-Year High School at grade 8.
Middle School students move to a 4-Year High School after grade 8.
Junior High students move to Senior High Schools after grade 9.

Each state has different laws regarding home-schooling, but in many states, parents are allowed to educate their children at home rather than sending them to public school for the entire twelve years. The parents have the option of home-schooling as many years as they like, and the student can then reenter the public schooling program at any time. In the majority of cases, the students perform better on tests and have an overwhelming wealth of knowledge about a plethora of subjects in comparison to their public-schooled cohort.

Vocational Technical Institutions are only 2-year programs.

Junior/Community Colleges are 2-year programs after which, the student usually enrolls in an Undergraduate program to finish off the final two years. Students have the option of skipping Junior or Community colleges altogether and enroll in an Undergraduate Program for the full four years, after which they have the option to move into Master's Degree Studies or a Professional School program.

After Master's Degree Studies, the individual has the opportunity to participate in Doctoral Studies.

After Professional School Programs have been completed, the individual has the option to spend usually less than a year in Doctoral Studies before receiving his doctorate.

The Basic Curriculum

By the end of 12th grade, all students are required to have taken courses in the following areas of study:


  • Typically a minimum of Two Years (At least two of the following):
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics


  • Typically a minimum of two years (At least two of the following):
  • Algebra
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-calculus


  • Typically a four-year minimum.
  • English classes vary wildly.

Social Sciences

  • Typically a three-year minimum. 
  • Usually a Civics Class
  • Usually a World History Class
  • Usually an American History Class

Physical education

  • One year minimum mandated by the government, but other schools may require physical education every year.


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    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Good hub, lots of information. I am a Pre-Kindergarten teacher by trade and I agree that early education sets a foundation for life-long learning. It is important to find a facility that will teach children through play and with a positive behavior based system. Voted up and interesting.

      footnote to mpurcell...that principal and teacher should have both been reported to the local authorities. Their licenses would have been pulled and many children would have benefited from their removal. This can be done with anonymity. It is vital that we protect ALL children. Good for you for pulling your kids!

    • Epsilon5 profile image

      Epsilon5 7 years ago from Eastern Pennsylvania


      I absolutely agree that parents should have a say in when their child begins school. (In fact, they do: Homeschooling is always an option) But while I don't believe that the fact that children start school at such an early age is THE problem, I believe that for some students, it can certainly make the difference between an excellent life-long learning experience, and one that is much less than acceptable.

      Thanks for reading!

    • GPA Calculator profile image

      GPA Calculator 7 years ago

      I think parents should have a say in when their child begins school. Forcing children to go to school at a very young age is the real problem with America's education system, imo

    • Epsilon5 profile image

      Epsilon5 8 years ago from Eastern Pennsylvania

      If the principal of a school is standing behind the idea of teaching third-graders how to grow marijuana as a fall-back, that's a scary place to be, and we both know that you've made the right decision in deciding to home-school your children.

      There's no doubt that your children will reap the benefits of the decision you made 13 years ago, for the rest of their lives.

      It's good to see a fellow home-schooling advocate. :)

      Thanks for reading!

    • mpurcell10 profile image

      mpurcell10 8 years ago from Arkansas

      I have been homeschooling for 13 years. When my son was in 3rd grade he was taught how to grow weed by his science teacher because it was the #1 crop in Kentucky. I spoke with the principal and his words were they are trying to help kids have something to fall back on. That was 13 years ago and they know how to grow a real garden and that's enough for me.