US education system for International students

An Orientation to the US Education System for International Students

If you are new to the United States, you may have some difficulty learning the differences between our education system and yours. Your readings may be hard to understand because they assume you are already familiar with our system. This page provides an overview of the U. S. education system in the hope that it will help you better understand your texts better understand debates among your classmates. It introduces some of the central issues and commonly-used terms you will hear about while you are here.

In addition to reading this page, you should also try to find a way to visit some US schools relatively quickly after you arrive, just to get a feel for life there. Again, this contextual knowledge will help you understand the research and theory you will be reading in your courses.

Local Control of Schools

Americans have traditionally worried about government control of School. Citizens of the United States have always had a deep distrust of government, and much of our current system of governance is designed to ensure that government does not become too powerful. The system of education reflects this broader tendency. Instead of having a national system, run by the federal government, or even a collection of state systems, run by the various states, the US education system is completely decentralized. There are thousands of independent school districts in the country, each with its own elected school board which establishes curriculum and policy for that specific district. So you will occasionally see articles in the news about a town in Idaho or somewhere that has decided to ban teaching about evolution, or to insist that students receive a course on the history if mining or something. Local school boards can do this. And they are elected locally, so they will lose their jobs if they make policies that local citizens disagree with.

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