Introduction to American High Schools

Posted on: 2010 -11-29

Unlike China, American high schools include four years (9th-12th grade), equivalent to middle school third year to high school last year in China. In addition, high schools in USA come in many different categories: girls only, boys only, co-educational, military high schools.

I. Public High Schools and Private High Schools

American high schools can be categorized as public (Public High School) and private (Private High School) with the majority being public high schools, funded by the government for local students. Students attending public high schools don't need to pay tuition and fees. Public high schools are for all local students, though some schools mainly recruit 'top students'. Private schools are owned by private organizations or religious groups. Students in private high schools are required to pay tuition ranging from $10,000- $30,000 per year, unless they receive scholarships or grants from their schools. Students attending boarding schools also pay a boarding fee of $10,000-15000 per year. In general, private schools have smaller class sizes and more teachers, thus give more attention to each student. Therefore, graduates from private high schools have much greater opportunities to go to elite universities than students from public high schools.

Another difference between private and public schools is that U.S. public high schools are not allowed to accept foreign students for long-term studies. Public high schools can only accept J-1 foreign exchange students or F-1 students with a short-term residence period. No matter what kind of visa a student holds, in any public high school in the United States, legally the maximum time of attendance is one year. Public high school students are still required to pay tuition fees. On the contrary, U.S. private high schools can accept foreign students holding F-1 visas for long term studies.

Private high schools include boarding schools and day high schools. There are very good boarding and day high schools, but day high schools are far more than boarding high schools. The advantage of a private day school is its tuition is relatively low. But to a foreign student, he must either live with a relative or find a host family. For the former case, it is difficult to obtain a visa, while for the latter case, it is critical to choose a good host family, whereas choosing a boarding high school has no such headache. There are nearly three hundred private boarding schools in the U.S., thus school choice is still very large.

II. Secondary School Curriculum and Holidays

The high school academic year has two semesters, starting in September and ending in early June of the following year. Each academic year consists of three major holidays (summer, Christmas, or winter holiday and spring break). The U.S. high school has great flexibility in choosing courses. Unlike China, high school students in the U.S. do not have fixed classes. They also utilize an elective system to select courses. Different from secondary schools in China that focus on memory-based implementation of the knowledge, and apply a method similar to fitting in as many meals as possible into a duck's mouth that each question has a correct answer, American secondary education uses heuristic education. In school, students often discover data, and write their own research reports. Courses can be different in different schools. U.S. high school subjects include: English, algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, U.S. history, world history, American literature, economics, foreign languages, computers, sports, etc. ; Elective courses include: advanced mathematics, art history, contemporary history, writing, photography, music appreciation, drama, speech, chorus and so on. For some outstanding students, most U.S. high schools also offer college credit courses. Students who achieve an AP Course grade 4-5 may receive university credit.

U.S. high schools usually have a wealth of activities outside class (extracurricular activities ), including all kinds of sports, instrumental music, chorus, art, sculpture, painting, speech, debate, drama, editing, and so on, which enable students to fully develop their abilities.