Outline of Education in the USA

Children in ClassroomEducation in the USA follows a similar pattern to other Western countries. Children start compulsory education between 5 and 8 years of age, and finish between 14 and 18 years old; both starting and finishing ages depending on the State.

State schools (also known as public schools), are generally primary or secondary schools offered to all children by the government, and paid for either wholly or in part by state taxes. Public education is available in all States.

The funding for state education comes from three levels: federal, state, and local.

School grades follow the format below. (Note that in the US you don’t say “My child is in Grade 5”, you say “My child is in 5th Grade” – the number comes first.)

Elementary school                  Age

Preschool                          4–5
Kindergarten                       5–6
1st Grade                          6–7
2nd Grade                          7–8
3rd Grade                          8–9
4th Grade                         9–10
5th Grade                        10-11

Middle school                      Age
6th Grade                        11–12
7th Grade                        12–13
8th Grade                        13–14

High school                        Age
9th Grade (Freshman)             14-15
10th Grade (Sophomore)           15-16
11th Grade (Junior)              16-17
12th Grade (Senior)              17-18

Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University):       Ages vary, but frequently 18–22 (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years)

Vocational education                                  Ages vary
Graduate education (Universities)            Ages vary
Adult education                                          Ages vary

Like other Western countries, other options exist apart from State education. You can choose from Private Schools (not paid for by the State); also Charter schools, a variety of alternative schools such as Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) schools, Montessori schools, Scientology schools, and many others.

US Dept of Education website