The American system of school education

History of school education system in the USA. The role of school education in the USA. Organisation of educational process in American schools. Reforms and innovations in education that enable children to develop their potential as individuals.

Рубрика Педагогика
Вид курсовая работа
Язык английский
Дата добавления 12.01.2016
Размер файла 326,6 K

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Picture 2.2 - Arrangement of grades

The school facility is much more than a passive container of the educational process: it is, rather, an integral component of the conditions of learning. The layout and design of a facility contributes to the place experience of students, educators, and community members. Depending on the quality of its design and management, the facility can contribute to a sense of ownership, safety and security, personalization and control, privacy as well as sociality, and spaciousness or crowdedness. When planning, designing, or managing the school facility, these facets of place experience should, when possible, be taken into consideration. During strategic long-range educational planning, unmet facility space needs often emerge. The goal of educational planning is to develop, clarify, or review the educational mission, vision, philosophy, curriculum, and instructional delivery. Educational planning may involve a variety of school and community workshops and surveys to identify and clarify needs and sharpen the vision of the district. Long-range planning activities, such as demographic studies, financing options, site acquisitions, and community partnering opportunities are often initiated by the district administration as a response to the results of educational planning. An outcome of long-range planning is the development of a comprehensive capital improvement program to address unmet facility needs.

The district superintendent appoints a steering committee to oversee the details of the capital improvement program. The responsibility of the steering committee includes the selection of various consultants, the review of planning and design options, and the reporting of recommendations to the school board for a final decision. Depending on the needs of the district, one of the first tasks of the steering committee is to retain a variety of consultants. Educational and design consultants, financial consultants, bond counsels, investment bankers, and public relations consultants are retained to perform pre-referendum planning activities during which project scope, budget, financing, legal issues, and schedule are defined. Once project feasibility is established, a public referendum package is developed and presented to the taxpaying public through public hearings. Upon passage of the public referendum, more detailed facility planning of the school can begin.

An architect is often selected to assist in facility planning in cooperation with the educational planning consultant and in-house facility staff. The school board, as the owner, enters into a contract for services with the chosen architect. The architect, in turn, negotiates contracts with a variety of consultants, including interior designers, landscape architects, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers, and land surveyors.

The facility planning process at its best involves an assessment of functional needs in light of the educational program developed during educational planning. There are several names for this process: Educators refer to the development of educational specifications, while architects refer to it as facility programming. Facility planning includes any or all of the following activities: feasibility studies, district master planning, site selection, needs assessment, and project cost analysis. Spatial requirements and relationships between various program elements are established. The outcome of the facility planning process is a public facility program, or educational specifications document, that outlines physical space requirements and adjacencies and special design criteria the school facility must meet [10].

The design phase of the process, which includes schematic design, design development, and construction documents and specifications, can last from six months to one year. Each step in the design process involves more detailed and specific information about the technical aspects of the building systems, components, and assemblies. The design process requires school board decisions and approval, with each phase offering more detailed descriptions of the scope, budget, and schedule. The products of this phase include sketches, drawings, models, and technical reports, which are shared with the school and community through public hearings, workshops, and other forms of public relations and community involvement. Community participation during the earliest stages of the design phase can be as critical for stakeholder support as it was in the educational planning process.

There are several construction delivery methods available to the school district: competitive bidding, design/build, and construction management. Each state has evolved its own laws regulating the acceptable forms of construction project delivery. Competitive bidding is still the most common form of construction delivery. It allows contractors in each trade, such as general, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, to compete for individual prime contracts and form separate contracts with the school district. In principle, it provides the most open and fair competition appropriate for a public sector project; however, project communication and coordination may ultimately affect schedule and budget. Design/build is most popular with private sector owners but is occasionally used in the public sector. Under a design/build contract, the owner contracts with one firm that completes both design and construction of the project under one contract. Cost and time savings are possible but often with a loss in quality of the product. Construction management is a service that often is established simultaneously with the hiring of the architect. A construction manager's responsibility is to act as project manager throughout the design and construction process, coordinating the project budget and schedule along the way. A fourth form of construction delivery is actually a comprehensive project management delivery service, which includes construction management but also extends from pre-referendum through occupancy and even facility management, offering one-stop shopping for facility development. Large school districts that have multiple projects often contract with project management services. Project management firms offer a wide array of financial, legal, and construction services promising economies of scale.

Following the competitive bidding process, the next phase of the school building process is that of bidding and negotiation. An Invitation for Bids is publicized to obtain bids from prime construction contractors. Most states require the school district to accept the lowest responsible and responsive bidder. However, the school district reserves the right to reject all bids. Once low bids are accepted, the school district, as owner, negotiates a contract with each prime contractor. The architect represents the owner in the construction phase, but the contract and legal relationship is between the school district, as owner, and each prime contractor. The construction of the school can last from twelve to eighteen months, depending on the project scope, material selections, lead times for shipment to the site, weather, unforeseen subsurface site conditions, and a variety of other factors. With the use of school buildings being tied to the school year schedule, project phasing is always an issue that needs to be addressed. Other factors that can escalate cost and slow the project are change orders to rectify unforeseen conditions or errors and omissions in the original construction documents. Once the architect is satisfied that the project is complete, a Certificate of Substantial Completion is issued and the owner can legally occupy the facility.

While the planning, design, and construction of the school facility may take two to three years, the management of it will last the entire life cycle of the facility. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the mean age of a school building in the United States as forty-two years, with 28 percent of school buildings built before 1950. Many of the building materials, furnishings, and equipment will not last half that long and will require constant upkeep, maintenance, and inevitable replacement to defer building obsolescence.

The costs of managing school facilities have historically received much less attention than facility planning. The percentage of the operating budget for the maintenance and management of school facilities has steadily decreased, creating a capital renewal crisis as a result of years of deferred maintenance at all levels of education.

Best practice requires that a comprehensive facility maintenance program be established and monitored by the school district. The maintenance program often includes several distinct programs, including deferred, preventive, repair/upkeep, and emergency maintenance. Responsibility for facility management is divided between the district office and the school site, with the principal being the primary administrator responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school, including custodial, food, and transportation services. Custodians are typically hired by the school district but managed by the principal. Custodial staff is generally responsible for cleaning the building; monitoring the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; and providing general maintenance of both building and grounds. District staff is responsible for long-term maintenance programs and the procurement of outsourced services for specialized maintenance projects.

Several environmental quality issues have emerged over the past few decades, such as classroom acoustics, indoor air quality, water quality, energy conservation, and abatement of asbestos, radon, and other hazardous materials. Many of these issues require the services of facility consultants hired through the district. Other issues for the building-level administrator include safety and security, vandalism and threats, and acts of violence and terrorism. All of these functions must be conducted within a constantly changing set of government mandates, such as energy deregulation, accessibility guidelines, codes, and other regulations and guidelines at the state and federal levels.

Many communities recognize that in addition to school facilities being cost effective, they should be more learner-centered, developmentally and age appropriate, safe, comfortable, accessible, flexible, diverse, and equitable. By location of new facilities in residential neighborhoods and partnering with other community-based organizations, schools are becoming true community centers. In addition, schools are taking advantage of educational resources in the community, as well as partnering with museums, zoos, libraries, and other public institutions and local businesses.

Based on mounting evidence that smaller schools lead to improved social climate as well as better achievement, school leaders have begun to create smaller schools or have created schools within schools.

The design of safe schools increasingly recognizes the desirability of providing natural, unobtrusive surveillance mechanisms, rather than installing checkpoints and security guards. Smaller scaled school buildings allow for both natural surveillance and territorial ownership, where students and teachers are on familiar terms, thereby decreasing the possibility that any one student is overlooked.

The self-contained classroom can no longer provide the variety of learning settings necessary to successfully support project-based, real-world authentic learning. Research indicates that smaller class size is a factor contributing to improved achievement. Learning settings are being designed to support individualized, self-directed learning and small informal group learning, in addition to traditional large-group instruction. Rather than lining up classrooms along a long corridor, instructional areas are being organized around central cores of shared instructional support.

A trend in the provision of professional space for teachers has emerged as well. Teacher office space, including desk and storage, phone/fax, and information technologies, is seen as essential to the development of teachers as professionals.

Information technology is precipitating a variety of changes in the organizational and physical form of schools. With respect to instructional processes, technology is facilitating the movement toward project-based, self-directed learning and individualized instruction. As learning becomes increasingly virtual, web-based, and wireless, it still must physically take place somewhere. As information technology is becoming ubiquitous, more schools are decentralizing technology throughout the school building and across the community.

The trend toward smart buildings, or buildings that are designed and constructed to integrate the technologies of instruction, telecommunications, and building systems, will have increased responsiveness to occupant needs as well as the educational process.

Finally, because of the recognition that spending too much time in buildings can be detrimental not only to health but also to learning, school buildings will begin to connect more to the natural environment visually, aurally, and kinesthetically by including transitional indoor and outdoor learning spaces [11].

Thus, the American school year traditionally begins at the end of August or the day after Labor Day in September, after a traditional summer recess. Children customarily advance together from one grade to the next as a single cohort or "class" upon reaching the end of each school year in late May or early June. There are eight years of elementary schooling. The elementary school is followed by four years of secondary school, or high school. Often the last two years of elementary and the first years of secondary school are combined into a junior high school. The costs of managing school facilities have historically received much less attention than facility planning.

3 Advantages and problems of the American system of school education

3.1 Advantages of the American system of school education

Figuring out where you want your child to go to school is not an easy decision. Parents want the best educations for their children. There are many different types of schools that are available to students, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Traditional schools, more commonly known as public schools, are usually the first option that parents explore when considering school choices. While they vary from school to school, there are advantages that all traditional schools have in common [12, p. 16].

Since traditional schools are regulated and monitored closely by the state, you can be sure that the teachers are properly qualified to teach their respective grade levels or subject areas. Teachers at traditional schools most often hold a bachelor's degree or higher in addition to being state-certified. On the contrary, charter and private school teachers are sometimes given more leeway in their certification requirements. While teachers at these schools may be college graduates and hold subject-area expertise, they are not guaranteed to be state-certified to teach a certain grade level or subject.

Being part of the public school system ensures the maximum state and federal funding in traditional schools. Having access to more funds allows traditional schools to have high-quality resources such as updated textbooks and access to technology like computers and Smartboards. Adequate funding also provides traditional schools with the option to offer students a more well-rounded educational experience that includes art and music studies, academic clubs and sports teams.

While some studies claim that students who attend private or charter schools show higher levels of achievement than their counterparts in traditional schools, it has been proven that students who attend traditional schools actually outperform students who attend alternative schools, especially in grades 4 through 8. After adjusting for student characteristics such as background and poverty level, a National Center for Educational Statistics study found that traditional school students do better in reading and math. Additionally, low-performing or at-risk students have shown increased achievement when attending traditional schools as opposed to charter or private schools [13, p. 45].

Traditional schools are required to offer educational services to all students who seek them. As a result, traditional schools usually have a diverse population of students coming from a vast number of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. At a traditional school, students are presented with the task of learning how to interact, get along with and solve problems with peers who are different from themselves. The same opportunities may not be available to students who are homeschooled or who attend private schools. Attending a traditional school prepares students for life in a diverse society [14, p. 228].

3.2 Problems in the American system of education

Education in America is not as effective as it should be because of a number of problems inherent within the system. Because of the way issues of political and social differences have infiltrated educational policy and decision-making, students are not being offered a sound way of dealing with diversity or understanding how to manage differences. Furthermore, in the midst of more large scale debates centering upon sociopolitical questions, there are more concrete problems that are not being dealt with such as the issue of cheating in schools and even the imbalance and potential unfairness of the grading system [15, p. 367].

In many cases, it seems that the problems in the schools are related to an inability to make important decisions about the future of education in America. Instead of focusing on the areas of true and immediate significant importance and value, time is being wasted by infighting and indecision. Instead of wasting time of these debates, the larger issues that have an effect on the system as a whole and outcome of educated young people should be addressed and these other side arguments should be saved until a time comes that education in America is improve [16, p. 135].

One of the problems with the American education system is that it has yet to form a consensus about the role of religion in the classroom. While this is not a statement meant to argue whether or not religion has a valid place in the public schools, it is fair to state that this is certainly an area of contention as opposing sides attempt to standardize how religion is treated, particularly in textbooks. Because of a lack of agreement, proponents on both sides use litigation and other actions to determine religion's status in schools and this has caused textbook publishers and other educational entities to have to take a dramatic stance. For instance, some argue that the efforts to stay away from this debate “has pushed textbook publishers to excise religion altogether, even from history class. It is not just the teaching of religion that has become taboo…It is the teaching of religion”. No matter where one stands in the midst of this controversy, it is necessary to at least admit that a large portion of Western history revolves around religious ideas [17, p. 54].

As a result of this fact, it seems as though these textbook publishers who are afraid to include anything of a religious nature are doing students a disservice since they are denying the legitimate reasons for many historical and social truths of history. In other words, political correctness and oversensitivity about religious issues have clouded education and caused students to have a rather skewed view of society since they are only being offered a rather whitewashed version of it. When Goodman suggests that American schoolchildren need to be taught the importance of diversity by stating, “it is not that Americans deny their differences or always resolve them, but that we have managed, until now, to live with them” she makes an important point about diverse thinking. As her statement also makes clear, American education cannot gloss over history and society without cheating students out of a deeper understanding of differences in opinion. By offering young people only one narrow way of thinking because of political reasons, it limits their scope and ability to deal with such social difference later in life.

Education is not becoming more ineffective simply because of political wrangling about the role of religion in schools, but also because there is a lack of understanding about moral issues, such as plagiarism. While its another argument entirely about whether or not the two are interdependent in some ways (religion and simple morals/ethics) it is noteworthy that there is a lack of ethical stringency in schools. When it has been suggested that out of the top American students many cheated and had ambivalent views about it, it becomes clear that there is a lapse in ethical lapse in the system itself. According to one of the statistics in “Their Cheating Hearts” by William Raspberry, “80 percent had engaged in academic cheating and thought cheating was commonplace. Moreover, most saw cheating as a minor infraction” [18, p. 241].

It is not just that so many students are cheating but that so few think it is not a major issue. Even still, as Raspberry notes, many of them contend that they would wish to live in a community where people “adhered to the highest ethical standards”. This disparity in what students believe about plagiarism and what they practice highlights a significant shortcoming in the education system since it seems it only teaches young people what is wrong but does not perhaps address how they should apply this to their lives. Again, one must wonder if the fear of controversy over moral issues has extended so far that it is shortchanging students of valuable information that will allow them to make informed, responsible, and ethical decisions. Instead of getting caught up in debates of great magnitude (the role of religion in schools, for instance) these questions should still be posed but should also take into account that children need to be taught important ethical lessons while the argument rages on.

Another important issue that must be addressed in order to help save the deteriorating state of the American educational system is that of the grading system. Educational researchers, students, and teachers at all levels have confronted the issue of possible imbalance in the system even though, according to one opinion, “No one has ever demonstrated that students today get A's for the same work they used to receive B's or C's”. In other words, even though there is an ages-old debate about the grading system it is generally something that comes and goes yet is without a great deal of merit. In many ways, it seems as though there is a great deal of time being wasted within the educational system (on the part of educational researchers, critics, students, and even teachers) about this supposed problem. Instead of focusing on legitimate issues (such as cheating) again it seems there are useless or debates that cannot be won that are taking up precious time and resources. Furthermore, just as in the case with the problems arising from religious debates in schools, the question of political correctness is in the background as thinkers wrestle with the possibility of grade inflation and what is defined by “too much concern about the students' self-esteem” [19, p. 117].

These more ethereal questions are being posed when the real problem lies in the fact that there is no consensus about this issue among others. This is another clear case of the educational system failing because no one can agree about important factors affecting education in America. Although it would be impossible to claim that is one standard by which students would be judged, wasting time on this debate detracts from more important issues such as how to improve testing scores, how to make sure students are maximizing their educational experience, and whether or not the system is attempting to make better citizens out of young people.

Even though all of the problems that have been addressed thus far are important, it is necessary for thinkers to look at and offer commentary on larger societal education issues. In the case of academic dishonesty there is a move to look at how students view the issue from a larger cultural/social perspective and this should occur in other educational debates as well. While it would be a massive undertaking to change the way high schools function at this point when the system is already weak, Botstein observes how culture and social changes are having an effect on even the most basic assumptions we have about schools. For instance, “The primary cause for the inadequacy of high school rests with irreversible changes in adolescent development”. While this is biological since adolescents come to maturity more quickly than they did in the past, it is also a matter of culture. Influences ranging from the home to the media are making adolescents feel like actual adults and thus perhaps high school is outdated since “High school was designed to deal with large children. It is now faced with young adults whose adult behavior has already begun”. This kind of thinking moves the questions about how to fix education forward since it accounts for new developments with the focus of the schools--the young people themselves as opposed to the theorists and proponents of morally or politically-based arguments.

It is clear that there are serious problems with the modern American educational system. As it stands, the solutions to the problems inherent to the American system of education are within reach if there could be common agreement about what some of the basic needs of students are instead of the less concrete concerns. Still, it is important to recognize that all the theories that have been put forth about what is wrong with schools are still important, but that they must not overshadow the commitment to making education more effective in the here and now. If culture and the rapidly changing state of society can be taken into account, new ideas about education can be useful. If, however, debates rest on stagnant arguments that cannot ever be won by either side without even slight consensus, then education will continue to suffer [20, p. 95].

Thus, there are advantages that all traditional schools have in common. There are many different types of schools that are available to students, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Teachers at traditional schools most often hold a bachelor's degree or higher in addition to being state-certified. The problems in the schools are related to an inability to make important decisions about the future of education in America. Even though all of the problems that have been addressed thus far are important, it is necessary for thinkers to look at and offer commentary on larger societal education issues.


Education in the United States is a tremendously complex and far-reaching endeavor that touches on almost every citizen. Therefore, it should not be surprising that education ranks as one of the most important public issues in the United States.

The landmark publication A Nation at Risk (1983) declared that the U.S. education system was in dire need of improvement. Since then, efforts to reform education in the United States have been steadily under way, and standards, evaluation and accountability are now explicit components of U.S. education. Of course, not all parties always agree on their definition and implementation.

Today, nearly every state in the country has developed and published standards for what students should know and be able to do. Most states also have, or are in the process of developing measurements to assess whether students have met the standards. And policymakers and the public are increasingly interested in holding the education sector accountable for the quality of its graduates and program offerings.

Education in the United States is primarily the domain of the states and local school districts. Nevertheless, the federal government can significantly influence educational quality through education-related legislation and programs.

The landmark No Child Left Behind Act increases federal funding for elementary and secondary education and allows states greater flexibility in how they spend federal funds for education, while requiring states to set standards for student achievement and holding educational institutions accountable for results.

As a result of the law, by June 2003 every state--as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia--had in place a new accountability plan outlining a strategy for improving student learning and ensuring that all students, including those who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency.

With significant reforms at the federal level and ongoing innovation at the state and local levels, education in the United States is continually evolving and progressing toward the goal of ensuring that all children can achieve their highest potential as individuals and as successful citizens in a free society and global economy.

school education american


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2 The American Education System [Electronic resource] / Susan E. Hume. - URL: - Date of access: 15.05.2014.

3 History of education in the United States [Electronic resource] - URL: - Date of access: 15.05.2014.

4 Why is Education So Important? [Electronic resource] / Manali Oak. - 2013. - URL: - Date of access: 15.05.2014.

5 The purpose of schools [Electronic resource] / Michael Peterson. - 2009. - URL: - Date of access: 15.05.2014.

6 Obama's speech on importance of education [Electronic resource]. - 2009. - URL: - Date of access: 15.05.2014.

7 Education in the United States [Electronic resource]. - URL: - Date of access: 16.05.2014.

8 The American School System [Electronic resource] - URL: - Date of access: 16.05.2014.

9 School Facilities - Overview, Maintenance and Modernization [Electronic resource] / Jeffery A. Lackney. - 2012. - URL: - Date of access: 18.05.2014.

10 The Advantages of Traditional Schools [Electronic resource] / Carissa Lawrence. - 2014. - URL: - Date of access: 18.05.2014.

11 Problems and Weaknesses in the American Educational System [Electronic resource] / Nicole Smith. - 2011. - URL: - Date of access: 18.05.2014.

12 Kalman, B. Colonial Life / B. Kalman. - New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 1992. - 32 p.

13 Bruner, J.S. The Process of Education / J.S. Bruner. - Harvard Univ. Press, 1997. - 97 p.

14 Calkins, L. Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent's Guide / L. Calkins. - Cambridge, MA, 1998. - 336 p.

15 Corwin, M. And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner- City Students / M. Corwin. - Morrow, 2000. - 432 p.

16 Allen-Meares, P. Social Work Services in Schools (6th Edition) / P. Allen-Meares. - Chicago: University of Illinois, 2009. - 432 p.

17 Davies, B. Shards of Glass: Children Reading and Writing Beyond Gendered Identities / B. Davies. - Cresskill: Hampton Press, 1993. - 210 p.

18 Dewey, J. Democracy and Education / J. Dewey. -Dover, 1997. - 384 p.

19 Galbraith J. The Gifted Kids Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook / J. Galbraith, P. Espaland, J.R. Delisle. - Free Spirit Publishing, 1996. - 304 p.

20 Anyon, J. Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform / J. Anyon. -Columbia Univ. Press, 1997. - 217 p.

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