English as an Additional Language/School and Education
School is a place where students, often children, go to learn. The students, also called pupils, learn in groups called classes. A teacher (or teachers) instructs (teaches) each class. Students listen to the teacher and do schoolwork while at school and then homework in the evening at home.
Types of schools in the United States
In the United States, most children go to public schools for the levels K-12 (kindergarten & grades 1-12). Public schools are operated by the local government and controlled by a local Board of Education (BOA). Members of the BOA are paid representatives who are elected in each city or township. Public schools in each community are supported by local property taxes and are free to the students. Each state, as well as the federal government, has educational regulations that the local schools must follow.
Many people criticize the quality of learning in the local school systems, and are looking for new ways for their children to get an education. Some alternatives to public schools are private schools, magnet schools, Montessori schools, home schooling, for-profit schools and web- or Internet-based schools.
Most private schools are Catholic schools, other Christian schools or private academies. Private schools are usually not free. Students or their families must pay tuition, which can be very expensive. Some parents send their children to private schools to avoid the bad influences of other students. Many people hope that private schools will offer their children more attention or a better education.
Magnet schools are public or private schools that focus on a specific area of studies, such as the visual arts, performing arts (drama), or the sciences.
Montessori schools are learning environments where students can help direct their own studies. Students learn individually, guided by a teacher.
Home schoolers are students who learn at home with the help of a parent or a tutor, often with religious motivations. This method has been criticized for a long time as inadequate. However, a high percentage of these students are above-average performers, demonstrating academic excellence in comparison to their peers. Some people are concerned that home schoolers miss out on socialization, but parents answer that their children get plenty of social contact at church and in the family, and at neighborhood or community events. In addition, many of these parents desire to avoid the socialization that comes specifically from most public schools, and would prefer their children only to have their socialization from the aforementioned sources.
For-profit schools are schools set up by businesses to make money. Like public schools, these schools usually receive tax money from the government. For-profit schools are relatively new and the schools only exist in a few cities.
Internet-based learning is more common among university-level courses but is starting to be used by some students at the K-12 level.
The goal of schools is to educate their students. Schools use teachers and teaching (didactic) materials to prepare their students with knowledge and skills for future work and life. Education is important for society to function and be productive. By law, American students are required to complete their education (go to school) through high school unless their parent or guardian signs a release note giving them permission to quit school before finishing 12th grade. The great majority of adult Americans have finished high school, and most have gone to at least some college (university-level studies).
People at the school
There are many people with many jobs at a school besides just students and teachers. The head of the school is called the principal. The principal is in charge of the teachers, administration of the school and the well-being of the students. The principal of each school answers to the superintendent of schools, who is in charge of the entire school system and works with the BOA to make sure that the students can learn effectively in a safe and positive environment. Janitors, custodians, groundskeepers and other maintenance workers clean the schools and make sure that the school grounds are clean, safe and tidy. Guidance counselors help students make decisions and counsel troubled students. The school psychologist helps when the problems are serious or abuse is involved. The school nurse helps sick students and helps assure their health. In many schools there are now police or security officers who maintain security for everyone at the school. The school secretaries help the principal, parents and students with various tasks. Teacher’s assistants are paid to help out in the classroom and often volunteers also help in the classroom in lower grades. Bus drivers pick children up from home in the morning and take them back home in the afternoon in long, yellow school buses. Substitute teachers (subs) teach or take care of classes when the regular teacher is absent. Cafeteria workers (lunch ladies) prepare and serve lunch and sometimes breakfast in the cafeteria. And sometimes other people come to visit the school to give presentations.
Students traditionally attend school for five days a week, about six or seven hours a day, for most of the year. They have vacations, or time without classes, for a few months in the summer and a few weeks around Christmas/New Year’s. Summer vacation is a favorite time for children to relax and have a good time, although they tend to complain of boredom. Others use the time for activities such as athletics, and a somewhat smaller group feels the need to do independent studies over vacations.
Schoolwork is usually made up of writing papers, reading books, doing worksheets, solving mathematical problems, researching different topics, doing special projects, and so on. Of course, the type of schoolwork that a teacher assigns to his or her students depends on the level of the class and the topic under study, as well as the preference of the teacher. Homework is sometimes called assignments, which refers to a task that is assigned.
Students are divided by ages and ability levels into grades, which are usually subdivided into different groups or classes. “Class” can refer to the group of about 25 students who meet together habitually, even if together they study various topics, as is the case in lower grades. “Class” can also mean course, an academic topic or subject that lasts for a school year or part of a school year. A class of this sort only meets together certain hours of the week, for example one hour every day or three times a week. The other common meaning of the word “class” is everyone who is in the same grade level. In high school especially, the students in one grade are collectively known as a class, identified by their year of graduation. The students who graduate in 2006 are called the class of 2006.
One teacher teaches one class at a time. In lower grades, the same teacher usually has the same group of students, or class, all or most of the day. In higher grades, pupils have a different teacher for each class, or subject. Even in lower grades, specialized instructors usually teach certain courses like art, music, and gym.
Examples of “classes” as courses are reading, general science, and computer class. Students can take classes in the following areas: math (mathematics), including pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics; sciences, including biology, chemistry, physical science, physics, and laboratories (labs); language arts including English, literature, composition, and foreign languages like French or Spanish; music including band, orchestra, and choir; social studies, health, gym, government, art, shop, accounting, and home economics, and many more, depending on the school. Other classes or periods of the day include lunch, recess, and study hall.
Parts of the school grounds
The classroom is where most of the learning takes place, the office is where the principal and other school administrators and the secretary or secretaries work. The gym (gymnasium) is where students have gym class, and the locker room is nearby, where the students change clothes and shower after gym. The playground is where kids go for recess, and everyone who drives parks in the parking lot. Everyone eats lunch in the cafeteria (lunch room) except maybe the teachers, who "hide" in the teacher’s lounge and are believed to complain about the students. In reality, most teachers will have lunch, a discussion, and/or may grade schoolwork of the students. The cafeteria is often considered a social vice, because what often happens is that specific groups of children will sit at specific tables and permit only similar children at their table. Many can remember tables with "cool" people, and its opposite. Still, in some schools, this is less severe or nonexistent, while at others, extremely defined. Kids with problems (or a desire to get out of a class, as the case sometimes is,) can visit the school nurse in the nurse’s office or a guidance counselor in the guidance office. You can imagine what happens in the art, band and choir rooms. Many science rooms, especially at higher levels, have defining features, although they may vary. (ex. chemical storage, non-wood desks, tool storage, emergency features, etc.) The rooms are connected together by halls (hallways). Often, there are main hallways lined with lockers to store books and the like for the students. Many classrooms exist for teaching various subjects. Often, one teacher or group of teachers will have predominant use of the classroom for teaching, and will put posters and diagrams up throughout the room, often making the teacher(s) and/or subjects taught somewhat identifiable from a glance. As with most public establishments, there are often bathrooms throughout the school, and they are often subject to vandalism and lack of care in certain schools.
Levels of school
(Preschool and daycare); ages 0-5, 3-5 Elementary school (grade school): K-5 (kindergarten and grades one through five); ages 5-11 Middle school (junior high school): Grades 6-8; ages 11-14 High school: Grades 9-12; ages 14-18
The above is not status quo as one changes schools by any means. Often children may start late or early, or may stay back and skip grades. State and Local laws usually dictate ages for starting school. In some places, it may be four years and a certain number of months before one can enter elementary schools. There are also school systems that may split up their grades as K-6 to elementary and change other grades.
Preschool and daycare
Many children attend a sort of day-care or preschool before they are old enough to go to kindergarten. Preschool is usually only a few hours a day and may not be every day. Preschool and daycare can help working mothers be free to go to work. They also can help small children begin to build social skills. Preschool is not a standard part of public education. Preschools are usually small, private institutions run in the neighborhood.
Children begin school at age five or six when they enter kindergarten. Kindergarten in the United States is one year long and children typically attend half-days or every other day. Teachers are usually women and are with one class all or most of the day. Teachers’ assistants and classroom volunteers, usually parents, often help out with routine tasks in the classroom.
Classes may be as small as fifteen students to as large as thirty-five. Both boys and girls of about the same age are taught together in the same room. Subjects include basic reading, math, writing, and cultural issues.
Younger students tend to spend a large part of their day playing. For example, a kindergartner's play time is mixed in with time for learning basic concepts such as the alphabet, telling time, and how to read basic words. In later grades, play time is reduced to recess, an unstructured time where students can play or do sports or games for an hour or so.
Each student gets letter grades in each subject, which range from A to F with A being the best and F being the worst. Pluses (+) and minuses (-) are sometimes used to divide one letter into distinct levels. For example, “B” can be divided into B+, B and B-.
Normally, one must achieve a certain grade measured out of 100 to get a certain letter grade. The scales for what numerical grade constitutes what letter grade often differ by school and teacher(s). Usually, one must have a 92 or a 90 for an "A" range grade, and the letters usually change at a rate of one every ten points with some exceptions. "F" is usually placed at 60-72 percentage points, often at 65. Some systems might not even use "E" as a grade, and skip from "D" to "F" on such a scale.
A GPA (Grade Point Average) is sometimes done out of four points. Usually, achieving an "A" gets one a four, and anything less usually gets a lower point value. These point values are then averaged for this number. Sometimes, for more difficult levels of classes, these numbers are "weighted" in their point values as such.
Sometimes one will get a straight percentage grade, but it is rare to receive this without a letter grade as well.
Some schools now give "L" as a grade to all students, meaning "learning" and the practice is scorned upon. At that point, a grade doesn't matter, since one can not get something otherwise, and the system does not reward those working harder than their peers.
In order to weight assignments, many teachers at higher levels give a certain number of assignments and give them different point values. At the end of the grading period, the points earned is divided by the maximum point total and then multiplied by a hundred to give points out of one hundred.
Sometimes students misbehave and must be disciplined. Each school has its own methods, which usually include trips to the principal’s office, notes or calls home to the parents, and after-school detentions. Typical offenses are smoking, fighting, cheating, cursing (cussing or swearing), picking on (bullying) other students, inappropriate clothing (violation of dress code), inappropriate touching or displays of affection, stealing, talking back (insolence), lateness (tardiness), skipping class (cutting class), vandalism, plagiarism or otherwise causing trouble or breaking the rules. Especially serious infractions of student conduct can result in long- or short-term suspension from school, expulsion, or even court dates and jail time, although this is less likely for juvenile offenders.
Several systems of discipline exist, as stated earlier. One common system is to divide the offenses into groups, levels, or tiers. Each one of these has its own unique punishments involved. In such a system, the lowest might be a minor offense, like talking in class, and may be met with a warning, but a repeat offense will put it in the next grouping. The highest usually involves federal offenses and are met extremely seriously.
One system would involve a unique punishment for every situation, but is often difficult to figure out in a school large and/or disorderly enough to prevent a central figure from doing such things, requiring someone such as the teacher to enforce such things on a lower level and decide this. A more efficient method than this case-by-case basis would be some set of rules or a code that would mandate unique punishments for every crime.
Younger children are often subjected to a small set of simplified rules in their classrooms that the teacher places, sometimes with the help of the students. This is in addition to whatever the school requires, but often includes what the school requires, as is relevant to a young child.