The American School System
The following text is supposed to help potential exchange students to get used to the American
school system and to get to know the activities in which they can participate during their
exchange year. It contains also basic information for other interested people.
The American School System is built up pretty simple and straight. Before Elementary School most children go to Kindergarden or Pre-School. In Elementary School they spend their first six years of real school. After that the High School starts. First there is the Junior High School and then the actual Senior High School which we all know from the series on TV. The Senior High School goes from grade 9 through 12 (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior). The successful completion of the High School is necessary to go to College.
The organization of a High School
Every school has itís own mission statement. With it the school states what they are trying to achieve or what they want the students to learn for life. In the following there are two examples of mission statements:
"The mission of our school is to present our students with opportunities for the full development of their mental, physical, emotional, social, and economic lifes. Because we believe in the essential dignity and equality of all persons in a multicultural diverse society, we strive to possess those values in our own lifes."
"Our mission is to encourage the growth of the intellectual, physical, vocational, creative, cultural, and social abilities of our students. Our commitment is to encourage lifelong learning so that our young people are prepared to effectively participate in their future as individuals and as members of society."
The school district is supervised by the school board. The school board has
about eight members and they are responsible for all the regulations and rules a High School
For the students the first person they go talk to whenever they have a problem is the guidance counselor. He has his own office Ė the guidance office. The guidance counselor helps students to choose their courses and supports them the best he can.
The daily routine at a High School
Every school district has itís own bell schedule. There are also differences between elementary school, junior high, and senior high. Hereís a possible bell schedule for a (senior) high school:
As you can see, thereís not much time (4-5 minutes) to go to the locker to get your books for the next class and go to the next classroom. And at this time all the students want to get to their locker so the hallways are always very crowded.
The day starts with the warning bell. Everybody goes to his homeroom. First of
all the students have to stand up and say the pledge:
After Homeroom the first course begins. The difference to most European
schools is that in the USA you have the same subjects always at the same time every day. That
means (e.g. if you take fist hour Math, second hour Physics and so on) you have from Monday
through Friday (for at least half a year) in the first hour Math and in the second hour
If you need to get out of your classroom for any reason (even if you just need to go to the toilet or get a drink of water) you have to ask for the hall pass. At our school is was a wooden sign with the name of the teacher on it. This is necessary for the teachers that are observing the hallway so that they can see which teacher let the student go out of class and they can see if somebody is not allowed to walk around (when he doesnít have a hall pass).Tests:
The tests are usually multiple choice questions or matching. Sometimes you also have to fill in the blanks. The grading system is calculated by the percentage of the right answers:
A = 90 Ė 100
A through D are sufficient grades while F is not sufficient. If you have an
F at the end of the course you failed it and the credit wonít be given to you.
A student who maintains an average of 90 or above in all academic subjects is eligible for the "A" Honor Roll. The Honor Roll will be posted each six weeks. A student who maintains an average of 80 or above is eligible for the "A/B" Honor Roll.
At the High School you can choose all the subjects you want. There are only two restrictions:
Note for exchange students: if you want to graduate you should ask your guidance counselor to put you into 12th grade and to tell you which subjects you have to take. Some schools do not let exchange students graduate.
American high schools have a wide range of courses you can choose from. If you go abroad for a year you should take advantage of it and enroll for some special subjects if you donít have the opportunity at your school at home.Example of courses:
Foods: Prerequisites: None, 1 credit
Basic units of food including: General nutrition, food safety, sanitation, and consumerism. Students will practice food preparation skills as they prepare meals and individual foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, breads, and cereals.
Journalism: Prerequisites: None, 2 credits
This course is designed to allow students to explore the many aspects of journalism. Course content will focus on types of writing, types of publications, and student development of journalism skills. Students in this class will be expected to write and organize information for school news. Students will be required to attend activities for reporting purposes.
Advanced Woodworking: Prerequisites: introduction to industrial arts or teachers approval, 2 credits
This course will include the following: planning and designing, advanced joinery, machine safety, jigs and fixtures. Necessary for this work will be the study of types of furniture, cabinet construction, and wood turning. Each student will build a project.
Photography II: Prerequisites: Photography I, 1 credit
Photography II explores photography as an art form, increases camera and darkroom skills, and explores special effects. Student will be expected to attend school activities to use and enhance their photography skills. Students should have access to a 35mm camera. They will also need to purchase 8-10 rolls of film during the semester.
Sports and Clubs
Sport at an American High School is as important
as the other subjects. You have the chance to participate in one of the teams. Some sports are
of course Football, Basketball, and Baseball. But there are (that depends on the school) also:
Cross Country, Track, Volleyball, Soccer, Tennis, Ice Hockey, and a lot more.
If you donít like sports you have the chance to participate in one of the
numerous clubs or in the band.