As a German student, I would like to know how the American school system is structured. What do I need to do to achieve the A Level?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In America, free public education is provided from the age of 4 years old to twelfth grade [the student is usually 17-18 years old]. Pre-kindergarten to sixth grade is considered elementary school; 7-8 grades are junior high school; and high school is 9-12th grades.  At that time, if the student has completed all of his required classes, he will graduate with a high school diploma. 

There are also private schools which require tuition paid by the individual to attend.  Many of these schools are religious in nature.

In high school, there are different approaches that the student can choose while he is beginning the ninth grade:

  • Vocational school to study a technical field yet still taking the basic courses required in high school;
  • regular course work;
  • honors classes which are geared toward challenging the student aimed toward a college degree;
  • advanced placement which allows the student to take tests at the end that will enable the student to enter college already having tested out of certain classes.

Schools in America have a diversity in their populations. This is a description of a student population in a high school in Boston, Massachusetts:

The school's 1,324 students speak more than 50 languages; about one third are white, just over another third are Hispanic, and African-Americans and Asians account for most of the rest. The graduation rate is 81 percent; 77 percent of grads go on to college. In the last school year, 129 students took 160 AP exams.

After graduation with a high school diploma, the person has several choices: find a job; go to junior college; go to a technical school; or go to a university. The training in each of the schools has a different purpose.

To enter college, a student will need to take an examination.  There are two possibilities: the SAT or the ACT. The colleges or universities require one or the other.  For the most part, the junior college or community college will have a lower degree of expectation of scores on the test than the university. Each college or university have a standard level of proficiency that they expect in order to be accepted into their studies. 

At the college level, the student must pay tuition on on a course basis.  In addition, the textbooks for the courses must be bought.  Some schools require that the student stay on campus for the first year in school, so that would require paying for the boarding in the dormitory. 

After the student graduates with a degree, he/she has the option to go into the work world or to continue his education by studying for a masters degree in their field. If he/she is in a field that pays more or requires a higher degree of learning, he may study for a doctor's degree. 

This is the basic American education system.  Almost every state has this same plan for the student to follow.



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