School System of the USA

The American school system is in many ways different from the German one.

At the year of two you start your school carreer: You go to a "Nursery School" (Kleinkindergarten ). Then ,at the age of four, you join the kindergarden. and at the age at six you start with the so called "Elementary School" (Grundschule). After you stayed there six years, you go to a High School (Oberschule). The first three years you are in Junior High School, and the second three years is the so called "Senior High School".Some of the grades have names: for example the ninth grade is called "Freshman", the tenth "Sophomore", the eleventh "Junior" and the 12th grade "Senior". This is like the German "Tertianer ", "Primaner" and so on. After the 12th grade you can get your graduation.

One of the things American and German schools have in common is, that the pupils don't have to wear a uniform.

Many people in other countries think that High Schools have a low niveau, but that's mostly not right. There are really niveauless High Schools, but also High Schools that teach on a very high level. American High School believes in an other ideal of education. They advance, more than Germnan schools, the flexibility, creativity and selfconfident of the students.

The capital of the single states decides what's going on in the schools, so that The Ministry of Education in Washington D.C. has little influence. That's why there are so many differences between the single schools, so that you even can't pass any general statements about the exams, compulsory subjects, etc.

Nationwide school always begins on the Tuesday after Labor Day (that's the first Monday in September) and it always ends mid.June. In the rest of the year they have only very short holidays at Christmas and at easter. In the summer holidays there's a so called Summer School, in which you can repeat exams and courses.

The timetable of one student is every day the same. The pupils choose their courses with the advise of their Guidance Counselor.

Normally the lessons start at 8 o'clock and finish at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. In this time you can have between 6 and 8 lessons (60 min.) with short breaks (5 min.) and one big break (1/2-3/4 h). After school you can take part in several school clubs and activities.The students spend most of their freetime at such schoolclubs and so they identify themselves with "their" High School. They can join the sports clubs (American Football, Soccer, Baseball, Cheerleading..), hobby clubs, the chorus or the school band.

These activities are usually in the afternoon. In the evening there are often meetings, concerts, parties or balls.

In the High Schools in the eleventh grade the students have to decide either to take sports or "Airforce".

It's like an army and the students getdrilled in the Drill Team. On one day of the week they are allowed to wear their uniforms and even a revolver.

Some students make every year a so-called "Yearbook". They write articles show photos of all the important events of the last year. They often cost $30 and they are very important. That means you get better image if there are more photos of you in the Yearbook. So sometimesstudents join many clubs a

short time before the photograph comes to take pictures of the clubs for the book.

The pupils can choose between many different subjects, often between more than 100. There are the regular ones like English, maths, languages, history, etc.; but there are also subjects like jazzband, drama, journalism, dance choreographie, child development, psychology. Some courses are very practical for life, for example typing, drivers educationn, life skills (gutes Benehmen). There are extrem graduations between the single courses of one subject, for example the Seniors can still learn the basic kinds of maths.

Because of the high number of the curses, there are often students of different grades together in one course except English and advanced classes. In America it's like in England: the pupils have to change the rooms to get to their teachers and not, like in Germany, the other way round.

Sport is also very important at High Schools. There is also a high competition

between the single students to become member of a special sport team. There are often sport events between the single schools in one city.

The grades in America are not very different than the German ones. Instead of numbers they have letters. What is an "one" in Germany, is an "A" in America, and what 's an "six" is "F" (failed).


US-Grade Grade Highest number Grade

Points to reach in % in Germany



Superior A 4.0 } 95-100 1

A- 3.7

B+ 3.4

Good B 3.0 } 85-94 2

B- 2.7

C+ 2.4

Average C 2.0 } 75-84 3

C- 1.7

D+ 1.4

Poor D 1.0 } 70-74 4

Fail F 0.0 0-69 5/6


At the end of one school year the teachers calculate your average grade out of the grade points. This is called grade point average (GPA).

Your mark is put together from the tests and exams, the extra credits and the tardies. In the tests or exams you'll never have to write more than one page. The rest is a sheet of paper, where you only have to mark the right answer.

Sometimes the teachers give extra credits for a very good homework or a report. But if you come to late or you're absent wthout an apology, you get a tardy. At the end of a school year the teachers count all your points and the result is your mark then.

You can also lose points if you say "bad words". This different from teacher to teacher. These words can be "shit"(this is the worst word), "fag", "Oh god", "Jesus"...

At many schools in the US there are so called "Dress Codes". That means you are not allowed to wear for example shorts, sun glasses, hats or short skirts.

The teachers say that sorts or short skirts would disturb the concentration of the students. That's often very hard, especially in the south where it's very hot (40 degree) in the summer. If you don't observe the rules maybe you have to stay in the guidance office for the whole school day.

To get your diplome after the 12th grade you have to get a special number of so-called credits or units.The number of those credits is different from school to school. From the 9th till the 12th class the pupils havs to take part in different courses for half a year or a whole year. For every year you get one point and for every half year you get a 1/2 point. At the end of the 12th class the highest number of points (credits, units) you can get is 24, because in every of the four school years you can only take part in 6 curses.

If you decide to have an leisure hour in your time table you have to take "Study Hall".In this lesson you can do what you want, when you don't disturb the other pupils with loud noises. Most pupils try to sleep a little during this hour, if this is possible at little wooden desks in one room with 100 (!!!) other pupils.

Because in America there are no classes and what we call "Klassenlehrer", the pupils are divided into groups according to the alphabet and to their grade. They meet once a week or at some schools even every day to organize things.

This is called Home Room Period or Administration Period.

The teachers in the US are very low paid.With $20000 brutto a year they earn little more than half of the money a truck driver earns. If you get $35000, you earn more than the US average. Often the teachers start with $18000 a year, so they are the worst paid College absolvers in America. Because of their low salary they often have to work after school, for example in drugstores.

Drugs are always a problem in the High Schools. Many students sell marijuana or cocaine. They sell them at school as well as on parties. At the many schools started anti-drug campaigns.

Every Mai there is the graduation of the students of the 12th grade.It's a very big event like the german confirmation. In the evening when the director, parents and students deliver their orations, it's a bit like the "Abiturfeier" in Germany. But all the pupils have to wear these long capes and the hats called gown. It is customary that the students give the principal something to "buy" the graduation, for example smarties, forkes, chocolate...

After your graduation it's possible that you get a scholarship if you're good enough. There are many scholarships which the government distributes, because it's very expensive to visit a college.

But many students don't even get their graduation. They drop out before they have finished the 12th class. The motivation of the pupils depend on the single teacher, but because in the USA there are no marks for the verbal work in the lessons, many students don't pay any attention during the lessons.

The teachers don't mind if you don't listen to them. So they are also not surprised if a student easily doesn't come tolessons any more. The "Dropout-rate" in the US is with 30% or even more very high. Almost every third one leaves school before the end of the 12th class.

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