Is USA education "bad"?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by gorbatzjov, Jan 31, 2006.

  1. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Or maybe the American school system is very good at teaching students about American history and geography, teaching basic foreign languages, and teaching specialized knowledge.
  2. gbkv Senior Member

    USA, English
    I have worked at public schools from K-12 (I'm currently a high school Spanish teacher) in three different states. I strongly feel that many of the problems which are attributed to "bad" schools are in fact due to societal factors (which are then exacerbated by defects in schools and the educational system--right on up to Mr. No Child Left Behind).

    There seems to have a been a huge, but silent societal shift regarding the supposed duties of the parent vs. teacher and the perception of the teacher. (Public) schools are now expected to teach values and ethics to children! I'm all for widely accepted values being upheld in schools and modeled by the staff, etc.--but isn't it the parent's duty (and desire???) to teach his or her child about right and wrong? And teachers' already difficult jobs are made next to impossible because students do not come to class with basic interpersonal and self-management skills that supposedly should have been learned at home.

    And have you watched TV, the movies, or read a magazine lately? You see two types of teachers in the former: traditionally trained teachers who are terrible, amoral, etc. (think Boston Public) or people with no training in education who blow in and steal the show (Dangerous Minds, etc.). And in the magazines, there's article upon article about how to make sure your child's teacher is really doing his/her job, how to sue your child's teacher...I'm not saying there're no bad teachers, but this sounds like guilty until proven innocent!

    When you add in things like routine class sizes above 30, sadly outdated resources, and over-mandated and under-supported teachers, even the few children who come to school ready to learn get buried under the chaos.

    Our schools make me sad and scared, and I think most of us who succeeded owe our success more to our families than our schools. What I've always been very curious to find out is how do we really compare to other countries? (In other words, are we "bad" compared to what?)
  3. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Yes, this perspective is certainly right. The emphasis on one issue makes the education regarding this issue excellent. However, the lack of teaching other history and geography should not be denied.

    Indeed. The same.

  4. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Interestingly, the same discussion is going on in Germany. More and more people demand moral values and virtues to be taught be teachers rather than parants. I believe this is a misdevelopment. Parents have the duty to teach and educate their own children in values.

  5. Ynez Senior Member

    It's the same here. For many years now all the pressure of education was on teachers, not parents. I hope this may start to change soon.
  6. newbold New Member

    New Jersey - English
    This is a story that would've made national headlines and I've never heard of it. Google hasn't heard of it either. But the premise of this argument is way off in the first place. It's also "begging the question". In the US "states" don't pay for primary education. Sure, the state and the federal government might kick in a part of the annual budget (and that's mostly confined to the poorest districts) but the bulk of money for public schools everywhere is from taxes collected at the municipal or county level.

    When I hear about schools shutting down it's because the teachers are on strike, not b/c the school doesn't have any money.

    Personally, i'm a little tired of european chauvinism and propaganda. It's not that i think this country doesn't have problems. I know it does. It's that i think that most europeans have no clue about american education, culture or politics. They just think they do b/c they watch american tv shows.

    It's like some english acquaintances of mine, who, while i was in London, proceeded to insult my intelligence while talking about a broad range of issues but had no background on anything they were talking about. They also had no idea where Philadelphia was. As a point of comparison it would be like me not knowing where Berlin is.

    Or the french kids i used to tutor who, after arriving in the US, couldn't believe there were so many americans who, not only didn't own giant cars, but didn't own cars at all. They expected to find a lot of rich people with giant houses and pools and expected that we would go to an amusement park every day, eat McDonald's, and watch hours of television. They were incredibly disappointed to find themselves among people who ate at good restaurants if they ate out at all, didn't have cable, and lived in houses smaller than those they left in France. In essence, they were the equivalent of american tourists who visit france to see the eiffel tower, eat a crepe, buy a beret, shop at hard rock cafe, then go home.

    I'm intelligent enough to make the distinction between french kids from small towns in rural areas who don't know much about the world and the french kids from bigger cities like Lyon and Paris who were quite comfortable here and get around on their own quite well. I would never say "One of my french students got lost walking 3 blocks to the bakery, man, those french kids are dumb."

    A stereotype is a stereotype.
  7. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Well, I can understand how you feel, and you are surely right, that many misconceptions of Europeans about American culture might originate from American TV shows. However, please also understand that many of the WRF foreros certainly have met several Americans or lived, or at least stayed, in America and were able to build up a more realistic picture.

    I do not think so. Philadelphia might be heartfelt for you, but it is only the sixth most populous city in the US, while Berlin is Germany's capital, its most populous city, the second most populous city of Europe, and it has been historically important on a world-wide scale in the last century. There IS a huge difference here. A better comparison to Berlin would have been Los Angeles or New York.

    Yes, these are typical examples of TV misconceptions and prejudices. You are right that Europeans might have a wrong picture about fast food, huge cras or amusements parks in the US. However, please note that American movies are largely made by Americans. It is not a European fault to paint such a simplified picture -- although everyone educated should be able to think further, I agree.

    Let's return to the title question: Is American education bad?

    Fact is that such a question cannot be answered. The question in itself is misleading and simplified. I think everyone will agree that (1) there are many different aspects of education, e.g. subjects (science, language, music, history...) or values (discipline, puntuality, modesty), each of which a certain system of education might be strong or weak in, and each of which a people might desire or not. Thus, every single education system will not simply be good or bad, but it will be good or bad as far as a certain aspect is concerned and might be the opposite for another. Also everyone will hopefully agree that (2) good or bad are absolute values which generally cannot easily be assigned. Good or bad is usually measured relative to something else, it can be better or worse, but it is not necessarily simply good or bad.

    Putting both points together this leads me to the conclusion, that we should replace the title question by better questions, i.e. more specific and more "relative" questions.

    For example, languages are in the focus of this forums, so we could ask:

    Which system, American or German, achieves a higher general fluency in a foreign language?

    But we should also ask:

    In which country is it necessary to achieve a high fluency in a foreign language?

    Germans speak English. And they need to be able to speak English. Whereever I go, I can communicate in English. I do not need any other foreign languages. I can understand the claim of many Americans that they see no necessity in learning a foreign language, even if they see several advantages of speaking a foreign language.

    The same track of thought applies to learning history. Of course, Chinese will learn very much about Chinese history. Germans do not learn much about Chinese history. Americans will learn a lot more about American history than Germans. And so on. To phrase a reasonable question about the quality of history education, we would need to define an aim, e.g. "having success on a gobal market and in international relations" or "understanding international politics and interests". Given such a specific aim, we can compare American and German "history and politics education" if we knew both system well enough.

    Back to the question and my very personal opinion as I mentioned it already in post 50. There I took the untold perspective of "global and international". I still personally believe that learning at least one foreign language is an important part of school education. Thus, I would conclude that US education does not achieve the same standard as German education in this certain aspect does. Maybe this achievement is no desirable goal for Americans anyway, so their system might be better for them while our system is better for us. The same thought applies for "history and politics".

  8. newbold New Member

    New Jersey - English
    Our first problem is that Berlin is not the second most populous city in Europe. It is smaller than London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, and Manchester - and that's just if we're talking about European countries within the EU. And yes, it's also smaller than Philadelphia. Having been to all of those cities and having also been to LA and NYC I can tell you, unequivocally, that the only accurate comparisons would be between London and Paris, New York and LA. (In fact, London and Paris are both about the size of Chicago)

    Philadelphia is the second largest city on the east coast and the biggest city in Pennsylvania. If i'm expected to know that the capital of Croatia is Zagreb (a metro of 1 million) and be able to find it on a map I would expect that europeans would be able to identify the 20 largest american cities and, at a minimum, be able to find an american city larger than Berlin or Milan.

    Our second problem is that europeans approach the US as a monolith. As if knowing the national capital and the two largest cities is enough. It's like if i said, "oh, yeah, i know european geography. Brussels is the capital and London and Paris are the biggest cities." Not only that but from what i've found traveling on both continents, cultural differences within the US are, at the very least, just as varied as those between France and Germany. If you're comparing Boston to Miami or Seattle to El Paso the differences will be greater.

    And that's a big difference between americans and europeans. We seem to understand much better the definition of "fiction". We get a lot of european films here. Most of them are about french infidelity, spanish dysfunction, or german murderers. If I harbored stereotypes from european cinema I would be too scared to go to europe.

    The EU has 23 official languages. North America has 3 major languages. I speak all 3 of them (i will admit that my spanish is lacking pero entiendo todos). It's true that language training isn't an emphasis in the US or Canada but the north american english market is 300 million people. Add another 100 million people world-wide. We have twice as many native spanish speakers in the US as there are Portuguese speakers in Portugal. Learning German or Italian just isn't important or a practical skill. If people learn it it's because they want to. If you're learning a language that isn't French, Spanish, or Mandarin then you're just doing it for fun or to better yourself personally.

    Maybe the biggest difference is what the school systems are preparing their kids for. In wealthier areas students are prepared for university studies. In poorer areas students are prepared for work in warehouses, manufacturing, or service industries. From what i've seen similar tracks of study exist in europe although they probably have much less to do with geography and more to do with economic class.

    That said, there are a lot of countries in the world. US high school education covers in some detail the history of of the more powerful nations in history (Russia, China, England, France, Germany, Turkey, etc) and many other countries in less detail. Nearly every university requires students to study a more detailed history (europe, asia, africa, latin america) for at least a year. That's in addition to study of world literature (in high school and university).

    Most high schools already require a year and a half of foreign language and, at this point, Spanish is mandatory in most places. In many districts Spanish education now starts at age 8. I'm a little older so i studied french through high school and into university. Now i'm getting a second degree in Spanish. Universities require a year of language study (most offer Spanish, French, Portugues, German, and Italian) and another year of study on some related cultural topic - French cinema for example. Granted, in schools that don't start children in the 3rd or 4th grade there isn't enough time to achieve fluency but it's also not the goal in those cases. It's to prepare the student for the pursuit of fluency at the university level.
  9. michimz

    michimz Senior Member

    US English
    :confused: That's news to me! What exactly does 'most places' mean?
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    My wife, a retired school administrator, advises me that Spanish is NOT required in the district where she taught, although it was in an agricultural area with a large number of Spanish-speaking migrant workers.

    This is an extremely sensitive political subject in the United States where there is substantial debate on the subject of language as well as other issues surrounding the large numbers of people crossing the southern border.
  11. newbold New Member

    New Jersey - English
    Most places means most suburban high schools in the northeast (and most of the city high schools as well) either de jure or de facto b/c Spanish is the only foreign language offered.

    after just looking it up I see that a foreign language is not a state requirement in Oregon or Pennsylvania :-o but it is in California and New Jersey (for instance). I can tell you, though, that all of the suburban high schools in PA require it. It's probably a rarity in rural parts of the state.

    It's just more to my point about cultural differences in different parts of the US and that this country isn't monolithic and that saying things like "the american education system is bad" doesn't make much sense because there isn't an american education system.
  12. vampares New Member

    USA, plain english
    There is 12 years of compulsory education (although dropping out is permitted after the 7th or 8th year or at age 16). The education is provided by to every child. There is usually an age limit of 19 or 20 for public schooling. Private schooling and home schooling are alternatives. The government does not ordinarily subsidize these.

    Subject matter is regulated loosely by federal and state governments and more rigidly in districts. Manditory subjects include language (reading and writting), mathematics, social subject matters (history, government, culture), sciences, physical education (gym). Emphasis is roughly in that order. Other subjects are provided such as music and art. The intensity, amount of matter and laboriousness varies from bare minimum or, at the students inclination, college preparation and beyond.

    Transportation is provided. At least one meal is provided (usually at cost of ~$3) during a full day of education. Books are provided (but may be purchased in some instances). In rare cases uniforms may be provided.

    Extra-curricular sporting is popular. Other activities include marching and playing music, theatrics and such.

    Some municipalities provide vocational education, often in a facility that serves several districts. This vocational training usually consists of 2-4 hours of ordinary academics and 2-4 hours of training in a chosen vocation, ie automotive mechanics, a trade such as carpentry, metal working. Sometimes this is referred to as "shop class".

    Special needs students, physically disabled or mentally challenged students are provided special education. They have many rights afforded to them by federal law. In a few metropolitan districts students can choose (or be required to attend) an alternative school. Reasons for doing so vary, such as sexual preference, religion, etc.

    In public schooling it is not permitted to teach religion or otherwise indoctrinate. Student organization of religious groups or the practice of religion are very limited and highly discouraged but not forbidden, per se. History of religion or comparison of world cultures in regards to religion is also minimized.

    The mention of God (as the object of a preposition) is done, regularly, once a day in the context of the flag and nation in a salutatory oath utter by all students in unison.


    US education is "public" education. Unlike countries such as Ireland, which does not provide secondary education, the US prides it's self on being the forebarer of knowledge. There is strong opposition to not only catholic schooling but also teachers. One means of auditing teachers is through the requirement of bachelors level mathematics (calculus, finite and discreet math) in addition to subject specialty and educational training (~5 years). Most public schools will not hire teachers who do not have certification. By and large, this does leave educators who are ambitious and intelligent. There are relatively fewer "flaky", unqualified, subject-obsessed or severely neurotic educators. Even language teachers are process oriented and logical.

    From that standpoint US education ranges from good to excellent.

    School local districts pay for superior educators and facilities. Only a fraction of the budget is subsidized. Often the means of levying these funds are through property taxation. Because these districts are usually residential (or otherwise financially burdened), home owners pay these static taxes. There is a pressure to minimize these funds, especially if homeowners are elderly or do not utilize the services, or if parents tend to lease their homes.

    Quality of education pivots on affluence. This can segregate communities as parents buy their way into a school district.

    This hyper-focused allocation also draws home owners deeper into farming communities and where ever real properties are producing income. The offset on the taxation, coupled with lower municipal burden and smaller population offers an advantage that cannot be found in "towns" or semi-urban communities. Further more, class segregation and race segregation follow hand in hand.


    My criticism of US education is the monolithic approach. Each grade level is essentially an escalation of the previous one. 12 years is long time to pound 4 or 5 basic subjects into each students head. There is reiteration and redundancy of the years. This "liberal arts" approach bottlenecks again in colleges and universities.

    Individualism is extreme and sterile. Since the introduction of "sex education", the life instruction is not existent.

    Contrasted with "soviet" style education (the Borg), the US is the Sanitarium of educational standards.
  13. newbold New Member

    New Jersey - English
    Not all high school students recite the pledge of allegiance. Again, that's a regional issue closely related to the politics of the area.

    Strong opposition to catholic schools? Maybe in parts of the country where catholics are a minority but it's certainly not the case in the northeast. I went to catholic school from 4th-8th grade. Half the kids weren't catholic. Their parents sent them there for what they perceived to be a superior education.
  14. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    It's not the U.S., but see this Daily Mail article on education.

    Once upon a time, the use of good English in the U.S. was considered the mark of an educated person. That link seems to be disappearing.
  15. zlyice New Member

    United States-English
    Actually, I'm not sure all suburban schools do require it. I attend a high school in suburban Pennsylvania, and we are not required to take any foreign language at all to graduate, although 3 years is highly recommended. That said, 5 different languages (Spanish, French, German, Latin, and, more recently, Chinese) are offered and most people do take some language.
  16. newbold New Member

    New Jersey - English
    You live in the Philadelphia suburbs? Like i said, it's not a state requirement, that means it's up to the school district to decide whether or not to require a foreign language. In places where property values are closely connected to the quality (or perception of quality) of the education at the local school district, most school boards, vis-a-vis local property owners, make it a requirement.
  17. zlyice New Member

    United States-English
    Harrisburg suburbs, actually. Languages are not a graduation requirement here, but, on the contrary to what you mentioned, the level of education often does reflect what sort of property or house a person will be able to buy.
  18. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    As far as I know, you can't legally drop out before age 16.

    That's true. One thing that needs to be emphasized is how much variation there is between states, and even between school districts. Unlike in some countries where education is federally controlled and standardized (e.g. France), school districts in the U.S. (which are independent, albeit government-funded entities) have a great amount of latitude in deciding what to teach, what courses to offer, etc. The state government often sets standards, for example, how much physical education students or math students must take, but for the most part does not issue curriculum (with exceptions).

    Also, while the United States does not have officially-designated "gymnasium", "hochschule", etc. schools like Germany does, within a single high school the average student will have a wide range of choices. There are requirements, and some courses that must absolutely be taken, but for the rest of the day, students can choose what classes they want to take. Most schools offer "Advanced Placement" or "College in the Schools" for more advanced or serious students, as well as special-education / remedial-type classes for those who have fallen behind, in addition to a normal track.

    Very true. Virtually all high and middle schools have a wide selection of extracurriculars. Sports are the most common and have been the subject of many high school movies. From my school I can remember girl's / boy's basketball, football, girl's / boy's hockey, girl's / boy's soccer, tennis, golf, cross-country, track, dance, and cheerleading being offered, often with several levels - varsity, junior varsity, 9th grade, in addition to theater, knowledge bowl, math league, etc.

    This is also very much in agreement with my own experience, up to the part where a single facility serves several districts (as in Duluth). Some other programs I remembered being offered were nursing and floral design, or something like that.

    The "shop class" is a bit different in my experience, however - "shop" for me was "Industrial Tech", a class all students at my middle school had to take each year, where they did things like woodworking, welding, video editing, etc.

    I don't know if I would say that such groups were "highly discouraged" at my public school, but religion in such contexts was a touchy issue.

    In some schools.

    A strong opposition to Catholic schooling? Not in my experience. In fact, many non-Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools to receive a better education. I would even bet many Catholic schools have a non-Catholic majority.
  19. Словеса Senior Member

    It seems that the study didn't study what it said it did. Actually, it was a test on being more or less political or apolitical! Well, at least I guess so. It's not a surprise that many people turned to be apolitical: the fundamental principle of democracy says, "the majority does not care". Until something goes very-very wrong, I mean... Now, see how nicely it fits with the data: people who make more effort to know news perform better on the test; people who receive more education (and thus are supposed to receive positions of command on other people) perform better; men (the same point) perform the same on hypothetical questions, but better on the actual ones; immigrated people (the same point, but in the reverse) perform worse.

    Well, this one ("one in five cannot find the Pacific Ocean.") shows there is something with not willing to care about basic geographical knowledge, too. Is this extraordinary? I don't know... I was (slightly) shocked. But not being able to find Iraq on a map without place names does not sound shocking to me.
  20. stevenvh Senior Member

    le Fiandre, Belgio
    Belgium, Dutch
    My 18-old niece went to the US to study one year in college (in Alabama). She's not particularly gifted, but nevertheless got nothing but A's and B's without a minute of studying. She told me that the level of difficulty was never higher than what she had experienced in high school here in Belgium.
  21. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    American colleges, law schools and medical schools are the best in the world.
  22. stevenvh Senior Member

    le Fiandre, Belgio
    Belgium, Dutch
    Since you mention three different categories I gather that this is not from personal experience. Can you give us the source for that claim?
  23. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

  24. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    Here is another article on the topic of medical schools:

    From the article:

    Here is the same site's ranking of universities globally. Of the top 10, 6 are in the U.S. and 4 are in the U.K. I find that surprising because I would expect to see more of a mixture of countries.

    It is a quirk of the U.S. education system that our primary and secondary schools are sub-par and our universities are excellent. As a result, many university students in the U.S. come from other countries.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  25. stevenvh Senior Member

    le Fiandre, Belgio
    Belgium, Dutch

    This doesn't say anything about college (indeed, many of these tweeters probably didn't even finish high school), but it clearly shows that education in the US leaves a lot to be desired.
    (Not only school dropouts, but many, if not most, of them seem to be black. It looks like No Child Left Behind is one big failure.)
  26. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    It's not just education but a culture that doesn't value education. It's possible to get a very good education but it's also possible to just drift through the system from beginning to end without learning anything but the minimum.

    "No Child Left Behind" is indeed a big failure, partly because it punishes schools for having any low-performing students. The onus is on the school to make the child learn, which is impossible. It's absurd; no one can be made to learn if they don't want to learn. It judges a school by its lowest-performing students rather than its highest or its average performers. Combine that with a culture that in many segments doesn't value education and you have a downward spiral effect.

    I have a friend who teaches high school mathematics. Even though his department is able to move a child 2.5 years forward in a single year, due to heavy concentration on remedial math and special educational techniques, the fact that many of the students come in to high school (14 years old) with a 4th grade level of math (a 9-year-old) means that they are marked as deficient when the student tests at a 7th grade level at the end of the 9th grade. The school loses funding, is marked as "under-performing" by the state and, if the trend continues over several years, the school is taken over by the state, the teachers are fired and a new batch is brought in. No school that has been taken over by the state has improved after takeover, but that hasn't changed the process. The funding that would have gone to special programs for high-performing students is cut to focus all efforts on the non-performers in order to get them to pass the annual tests.

    There is no consequence to the child if they don't perform. It is impossible to fail a year and have to repeat it, as children had to do when I was in school. That was ruled detrimental to their self-esteem. As a result, if a child refuses to learn and the parents have no interest in getting involved in the problem, the child continues to move from grade to grade, even if he fails every year, and ends up leaving school with very little education, and the school that is unfortunate enough to have that child is punished for all twelve years that child is in their district, along with all the high-performing students in that district. And to add insult to injury, that child can turn around and sue the school district for having failed to educate him. The concept of personal responsibility is completely lost in this system.

    It's a ridiculous set-up. If I were a conspiracy theorist I would think it was designed to make the schools fail.

    That's why I think Obama's initiative, "Race To The Top", is a better concept, although in practice I don't think it has made much of a difference.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2014
  27. chamyto

    chamyto Senior Member

    Burgos, Spain
    One partner sent her niece to the USA for this term to a high-school. Is it true that pupils do not take exams? If so, how are they evaluated?
  28. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    It's absolutely untrue that pupils do not take exams. They spend most of the year focusing on the material that will be on the national standardized exams. Oddly, our system seems a bit weird in how it deals with the results of these tests. There are no consequences to the students, but there are severe consequences for the teachers and the school district, including loss of funds and, in the case of continued poor performance, state government takeover of the school.
  29. chamyto

    chamyto Senior Member

    Burgos, Spain
    Correct me if I'm wrong, JamesM . Do you mean that pupils only take one exam of the specific subject?

    In Spain, pupils usually take several exams for the same subject.
  30. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    No, they take exams throughout the year in preparation for the major annual exam and also to confirm that they have learned smaller portions of the subject. They also have daily homework. They also write papers and do projects. I'm surprised that there is any high school in the U.S. where this process isn't followed. Are you sure your partner's niece wasn't excused from the exams because she was visiting?
  31. chamyto

    chamyto Senior Member

    Burgos, Spain
    She has made something like an academic exchange in the USA. She is living in a host family and she will convalidate this term when returning to Spain.

    From uncle's words: XXX (the name of the girl) says that pupils do not take exams, opposite as it happens here in Spain.
  32. Mrs JJJ Senior Member

    English (British)
    I think that the standardized tests to which JamesM refers are rather different from what many Europeans understand by "exams". The standardized tests are tests in certain specific subjects, but their principal function is as a tool to measure a school's alleged success, rather than as a measure of the achievement of individual students. Parents are informed of their students' overall scores, but, as James explained, the test results are largely irrelevant to the students' academic careers. (When my children were at school, students in California who achieved high scores in certain tests were given small amounts of scholarship money for college, but I'm not sure whether that is still the case.) The overall results are, however, very important to the schools, because their funding can depend on them. As a result, the tests are very controversial, because people feel that too much classroom time is spent coaching students for the tests instead of teaching them other material which they should be learning. And since only certain basic subjects are tested, those where there are no standardized tests suffer. And currently, the results of the standardized tests don't count towards a student's final high school diploma.

    The big difference between US and many other countries is that individual students' achievement is measured less by exams than by continuous assessment. This probably explains why foreigners are sometimes given the impression that American students do not take exams.

    In the US, a student who is brilliant but very lazy will find it hard to succeed in high school. Why? Although he will probably take an end-of-year exam (usually called a "final") in each subject, just as most of his European counterparts do, achieving a very high score on the exam will not be enough for him to pass the class. Because his grade on every single homework assignment will also count towards his final grade. And, in my experience, US students with high aspirations have to do a LOT of homework! (Too much, in my opinion. :)) The system is by no means foolproof, because some teachers allow a lot of "extra credit" to enable failing students to make up missing homework points, and some administrators put pressure on teachers to pass students who are failing (especially if they are stars of the sports teams). But in general, academic success in US high schools depends on hard work, as well as natural ability.

    One can achieve a high-school diploma without taking any external examinations, just those set by one's teachers.

    However, towards the end of high school, the most able students take external examinations that are closer to what people from other countries often understand by the term "exam". The best-known of these are the Advanced Placement examinations ("AP"s). They have a syllabus, set by an outside body, are graded by outside examiners, and students all over the US take the same exam on the same day. Almost all college-bound students take important, largely multiple-choice, tests called the SATs, which are also external examinations. There are two types. SAT 1 tests are basically a type of intelligence test, assessing things such as verbal reasoning and mathematical ability, plus a writing component. SAT II tests are subject-based and students choose which subjects, if any, they wish to take. Their scores on the SAT I are crucial for college applications. Students can take the tests multiple times, but obviously, too many attempts will not impress admissions officers.

    When my son applied to UK universities, his SAT I and AP scores were those that the colleges were interested in, because good grades in the APs were akin to UK Advanced Level examination passes.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  33. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
  34. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    Yes, it is obscene. Our son, through hard work, frugality and quite a bit of help from us will still probably leave university owing $40,000, and that's remarkably low for students his age.
  35. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    I have only attended American schools and universities, so I wouldn't have a basis for comparison. But in my experience, you as the student get out of your education whatever you put into it. The opportunity to learn and learn a lot is always there. Or, if you so choose, you can skate by with just the bare minimum needed to pass. It's up to you.
  36. LaVache

    LaVache Senior Member

    English- American
    It depends on where you live. Wealthy people live together and send their kids to the same schools. Those schools are good. The schools poor people go to on the other hand are very bad.
  37. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    You usually have a mix of demographics in a public school.
  38. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Some inferences can be made from the PISA tests organised by the OECD for school children in most of the developed countries. Firmly at the top of the tables we find the Chinese-speaking (China, Taiwan, Singapore) and Sinicised countries (Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam not far behind). In a second cluster we find the West-European countries, Australia, and a few Eastern-European ones (Estonia). Quite significantly far behind are the two “super” powers (US and Russia) and a few others. And then there is fourth group at the bottom of the list.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
  39. LaVache

    LaVache Senior Member

    English- American
  40. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Oh, yes. There are lots and lots of exams. I must have taken 2 million in school. Sometimes there was one every other week in some subjects, usually whenever we finished a chapter.

    There were nationalized exams given at the end of the year in a variety of subjects (called Stanine I think), but I cannot remember them being important for me. You couldn't study for them and they did not count on school report cards.

    I could not agree more with this statement. It is totally up to the individual to get what he can out of his education at school in the US. The tools and encouragement are given to him to excel, but if the student chooses not to care he can get by with the basics and he will eventually finish high school anyway.
  41. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    There are tons of tests and exams during every year of high school, but no big cumulative exam at the end. As you pass each class, you rack up the credits necessary to graduate. It's just like college.

    That said, there are a couple if big tests that are not part of your high school grades that you will have to take in order to get into college. They will look at those scores, your grade point average in high school, any extracurricular activities you were involved in, and usually make you write an essay as part of your application.
  42. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    That may be. I can only go off of my experience, where the local demographics seemed pretty well represented in my schools. My elementary school in Virginia had lots of black and white students. My middle schools in upstate were overwhelmingly white, but so was the local population. My DoD high school was on an army base in Japan and maybe half of my peers were white, Asian, and black, while the other half were half Asian and half white or half black. My class president was black. My two California universities were mixed, and my New Mexico university was predominately hispanic and white (we have a hispanic majority here). All but one of my schools were public. I think I got a pretty fair slice of life out of them.

Share This Page