You may be wondering how the American education system is set up. Parents have the option of enrolling their children in preschool at the age of three to four years old or children will be required by law to start kindergarten at ages five to six. They will attend K-12 (kindergarten through twelfth grade) education: elementary (primary school), middle (junior high), and high (senior high school/secondary) schools. After completing high school, students have the option of enrolling in post-secondary (higher) education at colleges and universities. The school year, holidays, class hours, course offerings, grade scale, and extracurricular activities are determined by the local school districts. Nationwide, the school year typically runs between late August to early June. Students will either have quarter or semester terms. Start and end hours are at some time between 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Depending on where you live, school bus transportation for children may be available. There are two types of schooling education: public education and private education.
Public schools are free and have state-certified teachers. They are required to have special education programs for students that learn differently than others and to offer English as second language (ESL) courses for students that qualify for it. Classes are co-ed and diverse. Public schools have to follow state guidelines on what is taught to students.
Private schools charge tuition that you must pay and oftentimes, but not always, operate through religious institutions. Just as in higher education they typically offer scholarships or lower tuition to students with exceptional abilities and or a financial need. The schools are more likely single-sex and have a uniform clothing policy. They may have smaller class sizes because they are exclusive with admissions. School days may be longer with more unique classes and after-school programs.
The Private vs Public School Debate
As any parent who has toured both kinds of school knows, it's not always easy to answer these questions. Many people have a bias one way or another. Some assume that private schools offer superior everything, justifying their tuition costs. Others contend that public schools provide more real-life experiences or, in some cases, more-developed specialty programs in athletics or science.
How do you know what's right for your child?
Don't rely on hearsay and rumor when it comes to deciding between private and public. Visit the schools and ask the teachers lots of questions. Read school profiles on Great Schools. At the end of the day, the best school for your child is a highly personal decision based on your family; your values; and, most important, the special needs, idiosyncrasies, and interests of your kid. Let the debate rage on, but don't forget about the one person for whom this decision is far more than sandbox banter. Feel free to reach out to your current designated PassportUSA representative if you have any questions about the American education system. Be sure to check out more great articles in the Employee Education Center to help you succeed in your new life in the USA!