Overview of Public Schools

A comprehensive look at the U.S. public school system, including history, governing bodies, funding, and services. Compare private, public and charter schools. Learn more about Magnet school programs and get tips on choosing the right school for your child.
View the most popular articles in Overview of Public Schools:
Updated February 01, 2015
Why Students and Schools Benefit from Foreign Language Programs
It’s clear there is currently a gap in language education. As of 2008, only 18.5% of K-12 students were enrolled in a foreign language class. Ask the experts and they all agree— schools with robust foreign language programs can bring students to the next level.
Ask the experts and they all agree— schools with robust foreign language programs can bring students to the next level.
 
Public schools that invest in foreign language, whether through a full-fledged program or just a few classes, are certain to see the benefit in their student body, extracurriculars, and overall reputation. Full language programs start at an early age, immersing children in language classes every year from K-12, with extracurricular clubs, field trips, and learning experiences to enhance their language education. 
 
It’s clear there is currently a gap in language education. As of 2008, only 18.5% of K-12 students were enrolled in a foreign language class. From 1997 to 2008, public and private elementary schools offering foreign language instruction decreased from 31% to 25%. These numbers are simply not acceptable.
 
There are many reasons why schools, even those at the most elementary levels, should institute a foreign language program into their core curriculum. Dr. Jennifer Austin, an associate language professor at Rutgers University, is an adamant believer in the benefits of language studies. “Researchers have found that there are lifelong cognitive and academic benefits to becoming bilingual.”
 
Robert Riger, Vice President and Director of Pimsleur Language Programs, believes foreign language is the gateway to the rest of the world. “At an age where students begin to form individual preferences, dreams, and set priorities, it’s a clear road map to the next step. For many, it’s a passport to global citizenship, to dreams of connection with future friends and with their
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Updated August 22, 2016 |
Comparing Private, Public and Charter Schools
We take a closer look at the pros and cons of three of the most popular education choices today – public, private and charter schools. Which is the best choice for your child?
Once children have graduated from diapers and baby food, the next big decision for parents becomes where to send their precious tots to school. There are many choices available to parents today, from the neighborhood school down the street to charter and private schools in the area. How does a parent know which school will be the best fit for his child? The choice is never easy, but it helps to weigh the pros and cons of each of these types of schools to see which might present the greatest benefit.
 
Cost

Of course, one of the first variables parents must weigh when comparing the various types of schools is cost. Public schools are “free” institutions by law, although they may charge fees and students may be required to provide their own supplies. Charter schools are also considered public schools, so there is no tuition cost assessed. However, private schools can – and do – charge tuition to students and their parents, and in some cases, those costs can be rather high.
 
According to a report at Fox News, the average tuition cost for private secondary schools during the 2007-2008 school year was around $10,500. Great Schools also cites statistics from the National Catholic Education Association that show while private parochial schools tend to charge lower tuition rates, the average tuition for these schools is still around $2,600 for elementary schools and nearly $7,000 for secondary schools.
 
Enrollment

Public schools are required to accept all students within that district, without
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Published February 18, 2013 |
An Overview of Public School Services
Learn about some of the services available to students through the public school system that are especially helpful to low-income families.
Students in the public school system in the United States are eligible for a variety of services, depending on their needs. Under Title I, students in need are provided with additional assistance to promote their success in school and beyond. Title I funding is provided to more than 90 percent of the school systems across the country, with the money used in a variety of ways to help low-income students break the cycle of poverty with the tools they need for academic success.
 
What is Title I?
 
Title I is one of the oldest public education programs in the United States, as well as one of the largest. The program provides additional funding to school districts with a large population of low-income students to help students in this demographic meet the academic standards assigned by the state. The program was established as the Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and its purpose is to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education,” according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
 
The Department of Education also lists strategies that should be implemented by local school districts to achieve that purpose with the provided funding, which include:
  • Meeting the educational needs of low-income and minority students
  • Holding schools and governments accountable for academic achievement of students
  •  Use of tools, assessments and instruction that are aligned with state standards
  • Closing the achievement gap between high and low-performing children
  • Providing professional development for staff that
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Published January 27, 2013 |
A History of Public Schools
Public schools in the United States have an interesting history. Learn about how these public institutions developed into a cornerstone of our country's education.
Public schools enjoy a long and illustrious history in the United States, with the first schools in the country dating almost as far back as the arrival of the Puritans on U.S. shores. Since that time, the purpose, philosophy and goals of public education have been examined and debated, up to the development of the public school system still in existence today. How we got to the current point in public education warrants a look back centuries at the very first schools dedicated to educating American youth.
 
Puritans Recognize Need for Public Education
 
As early as the 17th century, the need for public education was recognized by the Puritans living on American shores at the time. This population determined education was essential both for teaching basic academic skills and core religious values. Boston Latin School was established as the first public high school in 1635 in Boston, Massachusetts. The school is still in operation to this day.
 
The Massachusetts Bay Colony decreed in 1647 that towns of 50 people should have a public elementary school, and those with populations of over 100 should have a Latin school. The primary function of schools at this time was to teach reading, so that children learned to read the Bible. Schools also taught Puritan values and basic information about the Calvinist religion, according to Applied Research Center.
 
Religion Dominates Early Schools
 
Throughout the 18th century, the focus on schooling was either private or religious in nature. Many of the public schools developed the century prior
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About Public Schools

Overview of Public Schools