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In the USA there is no centralized national system of education. Schools are funded by local and state taxes, the federal government can give financial help. Each state has the authority to set up and govern its own education system.
Schools are managed by boards of education, whose members are elected. The textbooks are loaned to the students for the period of study required, in inner-city schools (with many poor people) pencils and excersise books are provided by the school. About 85% of American children attend state schools; the remaining 15% pay tuition to attend private schools. Most private schools are run by religious organizations and include a religious instruction, which is not taught at state schools.
Discpline in American schools is generally much stricter than in Austria. Students are not allowed to leave the school ground during the day, and must show a “hall pass“ to walk on the corridos during classes. Students who are caught missing classes or who are late to class are usually required to make up the time by staying in school later in the afternoon. If a student goes on breaking the rules, he is warned by the teacher, the guidance counsellor, and the principal. Parents are summoned to school for a conference with teachers and the principal and a student can be suspended from school for some time, which is marked in the report and results in a lower grade. Especially in innter-city schools security is quite strict; often there are some kinds of guards at the entrance and ID cards must be schown.
Usually children start with nursery school at the age of 3.
All of the five-year old children attend kindergarten. Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 in elementary school which children attend for six years. During these years the emphasis is laid upon the basic skills of reading, speaking, writing and maths.
At the age of 12 children move on to junior high school for their next two years and then on to (senior) high school for four years.
The American high school is non-selective – all students of this age group attend it. There is no class system like in Austria but a system of courses that are chosen by the students.
There are compulsory „core“ subjects that students must take (English, Maths, Science, American History, Physical Education) and optional subjects, (electives) which often include arts, music journalism, drama etc.
Tests like SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) and ACT (American College Testin) are entrance exams for university.
The school year is usually divided into semesters (terms) and lasts from August or September until May or June.
The high school diploma is no final exam like our Matura. If one fails a subject that is necessary for the diploma, one must take it again but it is not necessary to repeat the whole year with all the other subjects like in Austria.
Grades (marks) vary from A to F (fail) or from 4 to 0 and are based on a overall evaluation of small tests (quizzes), mid-term and final examiniations, participation in class discussions, homework assignments and papers.
High school also offers workshops for those students who want to take up a manual job when they leave school.
In addition to the core subjects and the electives, the American high school also offers a variety of extra-curricular activities such as debating clubs, photo clubs, a school choir or an orchestra (which often are electives) and, of course, the school teams in all different kinds of sports, mainly in (American) football (also soccer is quite common now), basketball, baseball, swimming and athletics.