1K-12 education in the United States is regulated by each of the 50 states. Although each state can develop its own structure, all fifty states require essentially the same curriculum and assessment. This has been validated by the recent development of “Curriculum Content Standards”. These standards were developed by a committee of professional, subject matter experts who were appointed by the chief education officer of each state. The purpose of the “Curriculum Content Standards” is to assure that students in every state are being taught the same basic curriculum and that the student assessments will validate whether or not the students have achieved mastery in each curriculum content area. Further, textbook and ancillary materials must be aimed at addressing the content standards.
In the development of the content standards, the curriculum has been designed with a specific scope and sequence. The scope is the expectation of the total coverage of each content area. Essentially, the scope indicates what every student should be able to do, show, know, etc. at the conclusion of receiving the high school diploma.
The sequence then is a description of what should happen at each grade level—to reach the total scope of the content. The sequence is further delineated into benchmark levels—typically the benchmarks are at grades 3, 5, 8, 10 and 12. The benchmarks are necessary to assure that the “chunk” of learning is reached at each level—before the students move on to the next benchmark level. This assures that students show skills and knowledge at these benchmarks before being moved on to the next level.
The American system of education is based on solid research in learning. It will be very helpful as the American system is offered in other countries in the world. It demonstrates mastery of learning that can be assessed and standardized.
Historically, in the United States, local public control (and private alternatives) have allowed for some variation in the organization of schools. Elementary school includes kindergarten through fifth grade (or sometimes, to fourth grade, sixth grade or eighth grade). Basic subjects are taught in elementary school. Typically, the curriculum in public elementary education is determined by individual school districts. The school district selects curriculum guides and textbooks that reflect a state's learning standards and benchmarks for a given grade level. Learning Standards are the goals by which states and school districts must meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) as mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This description of school governance is simplistic at best, however, and school systems vary widely not only in the way curricular decisions are made but also in how teaching and learning take place. In general, a student learns basic arithmetic and sometimes rudimentary algebra in mathematics, English proficiency (such as basic grammar, spelling, and vocabulary), and fundamentals of other subjects. Learning standards are identified for all areas of a curriculum by individual States, including those for mathematics, social studies, science, physical development, the fine arts, and reading. While the concept of State Learning standards has been around for some time, No Child Left Behind has mandated that standards exist at the State level.
Secondary education is often divided into two phases, middle or junior high school and high school. Students are usually given more independence, moving to different classrooms for different subjects, and being allowed to choose some of their class subjects (electives).
High school (occasionally senior high school) usually runs from 9th or 10th through 12th grades. Students in these grades are commonly referred to as freshmen (grade 9), sophomores (grade 10), juniors (grade 11) and seniors (grade 12). Generally, at the high school level, students take a broad variety of classes without special emphasis in any particular subject. Students are required to take a certain mandatory subjects, but may choose additional subjects ("electives") to fill out their required hours of learning. High school grades normally are included in a student's official transcript, e.g. for college admission.
In High School, students in their first year are called freshman, in their second year sophomore, in their third year junior, and in their last and fourth year senior. There is an even greater variety of subjects than before. Students generally stay in the classroom an average of 7.5 hours and must earn a certain number of credits (which they get for a successfully completed course) in order to graduate and be awarded with a High School Diploma.