Public Education in America
A GENERAL LOOK AT THE TYPICAL HIGH SCHOOL
America’s public education system begins with kindergarten, which is for 5 to 6 year old children, and goes through the 12th grade, which is for 17 to 18 year olds. Children under the age of 16 are required to receive a formal education. The great majority of children in America attend public schools. Public schools are funded by local, state, and national governments. Control of the school is in the hands of local officials with state and federal officials assisting and regulating general requirements. About 10 to 12% of school children attend private schools, and about 3% of students are homeschooled. (Homeschool students are taught all formal subjects by their parents or by tutors.) Technically, universities are a part of the public education system as well, but this article will focus on the average high school.
According to a research project released in 2008, the average 15 year old student spends 8 hours a day sleeping and about 7 and ½ hours doing school work. The rest of their time is spent in sports, recreation, chores or work, and leisurely activities. (Girls spend more time doing homework and school work, while boys spend more time watching t.v. and playing on the computer.) A student will arrive at school around 8:00am, with class beginning between 8:15 and 8:30am. The day will be divided into 7 subjects covered in 50 minute periods and a 30 minute break for lunch. School will dismiss around 3:30pm. Although there are some differences across the nation in school structure and available classes, the core subjects for high school students are the same. These are regulated by the national and state governments. A student must take 3 years of sciences, normally biology, chemistry, and physics. Mathematics are required for all 4 years, including algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus, and/or statistics. English is required all 4 years, which includes studies in literature, written composition, and general studies of the humanities. Social sciences, such as history, political science, government or economics, are usually required for 3 years. Most high schools require 2 years of physical education. Most all students are required to take at least 2 years of a foreign language and at least 1 art appreciation class. Team sports are normally on a voluntary basis and practices are held after school. The rest of a student’s education is made up of electives. These are classes which the student may elect to take depending on his or her desire. Common electives are computer classes, athletics, music (such as band, choir, and orchestra), drama, art, photography, dance, foreign languages, and Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. (The J.R.O.T.C. is for those who are thinking of entering the military after high school or college.)
Upon graduation from high school, the average student is equipped to enter the job force or attend a university to continue their education. Students who excel in their studies often receive scholarships to attend universities.