How does the US education system work

School system in the USA


In the United States, children start school when they are 5 or 6 years old. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 16 or 18, depending on the federal state. Children younger than 5 years can attend a nursery school or preschool.

At 5 or 6 years of age, children go to “Elementary School” (elementary school, also called “Grade School” or “Grammar School”), which lasts 6 years. By the way, the first year at the Elementary School is called “Kindergarten”.

After elementary school, the students switch to "Middle School" (also called "Junior High School"), where they study for 3 years. Then the students go to the "Senior High School". Some states require students to study in high school until they are 18. In other states, with parental consent, they can leave school at 16 or 17.

<>nursery school / preschool
11-14middle school / junior high school
14-18high school / senior high school

When talking about the school year, the US usually uses the ordinal number; B. 'tenth grade'. (In Great Britain, on the other hand, the basic number is usually used, e.g. 'year ten'.)


At the Elementary School, students mainly learn arithmetic, reading and writing. There are usually between 20 and 30 students in a class.

The junior and senior high schools also mainly teach English, math, biology, chemistry, physics, sports and history. In addition to the compulsory subjects, schools offer other subjects from which students can choose, e.g. B. Art, foreign languages, computer science. Sports play a particularly important role in US schools - many students are members of a club.

Talented students can take advanced courses or take courses at Community College after school or during the holidays. Often such courses are later recognized by the universities and enable an early university degree.


The grades in the USA (as in other English-speaking countries) are not numbers but letters.

  • A> 90% (very good)
  • B> 80% (good)
  • C> 70% (satisfactory)
  • D> 60% (just failed)
  • E> 50% (failed)
  • F. < 50="" %="" (nicht="">

All grades lower than C usually mean 'failed'. The grades themselves can be further differentiated with a plus (+) or a minus (-).

School types

Most students in the United States attend state schools. These are financed through taxpayers' money so that parents do not have to pay school fees. Approximately 10% of US students attend private schools, but an annual fee must be paid for them.

There is also the option of homeschooling in the USA, i.e. lessons at home. About 1-2% of American parents choose this option. Reasons for homeschooling include: B. religious views, special needs of children (e.g. with disabilities), but also problems in traditional schools (bullying, drugs, etc.). However, there are also many voices against homeschooling. They are of the opinion that the students do not develop social skills, that the teachers (often the parents) have insufficient training and that (especially for religious reasons) extremism could be encouraged.

school uniform

School uniforms are not common in US schools. However, many schools have a dress code that specifies what types of clothing can and cannot be worn in school. Some schools (especially private schools) have started to introduce school uniforms, e.g. B. To prevent branding and to improve discipline in schools.