The biggest difference between the American school system and the Asian school system is the time between 6th and 9th grade. In Asia, elementary school takes 6 years while middle school and high school take 3 years to complete. But in America, elementary school takes 6 years, middle school takes 2 years and high school takes 4 years to complete. In some school systems, elementary school takes 5 years and middle school takes 3 years to complete. In Asia, students take an education advancement test after they graduate from high school. But in America, students in their 11th grade usually start taking the standardized tests, such as SAT and ACT. During the final year of high school (12th grade), students apply for college in October through December, and in the following March to April, they receive acceptance letters. Before May 1st, students must finalize their college decisions. Unlike in Asia, there is no one in U.S. to take one year after high school to prepare for the standardized test in a cram school.
Ninety percent of American students attend public high schools near their homes, while the other ten percent choose to attend private high schools. Since the tuition at private schools is more expensive, the students who attend are usually from wealthier backgrounds. Also, because many of these private high schools are run by churches or certain religions, they often emphasize traditional values. As to the way they are run, the principals and teachers at private schools have greater influence on the teaching curriculum. In addition, parents with children studying in private schools are often more focused in their child’s learning, and these parents often attend more school activities. A large part of private schools’ financial backing comes from tuition, but it can also come from various foundations and donations. Private schools can then be freer in screening and recruiting incoming students. Most private schools also have a smaller layout, so they are, generally speaking, easier to manage and the student-teacher relationships are much closer. On the other hand, because the layout in some schools is small, they may lack certain courses, facilities or services.
Public high schools, because the financial source is the government or state education funds, by law must accept all students in the area. This results in a very diverse students body, with many different races and cultures. Public high schools are also required by law to provide education to students that may have special learning needs. It is also not only a diverse student body at public high schools, but also a diverse teaching staff, with teachers from all over the world. When public high schools hire new teachers, they must make decisions according to government education requirements. As a result the teachers’ qualifications are usually higher. For the most part, public high schools have a much larger layout, and therefore have a larger selection of classes, activities, facilities, and resources. Most teachers are easily attracted by the high salary and great benefits for teaching at public schools, so the turnover rate for teachers at public schools is only half of what is at the private schools.
US News & World Report uses students’ reading and math test result in each state’s high school tests, least-advantaged students’ performances and college-readiness performances (by looking at AP course data) to thoroughly evaluate the ranking of all high schools in the United State.
There were 505 schools that met the standards given above, and the top 100 were named as “Gold Medal Schools.” There are 22 schools in the top 100 that are located in California. These schools include: Pacific College Collegiate Charter (Santa Cruz), Oxford Academy (Cypress), Preuss School UCSD (La Jolla), Gretchen Whitney High (Cerritos), California Academy of Math and Science (Carson), Animo Leadership High (Inglewood), University High(Fresno), Mission San Jose High (Fremont), Monta Vista High (Cupertino), Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (Los Angeles), Henry M. Gunn High (Palo Alto), Piedmont High (Piedmont), Lowell High (San Francisco), Saratoga High (Saratoga), Lynbrook High (San Jose), University High (Irvine), Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High (Los Angeles), San Marino High (San Marino), Palo Alto High (Palo Alto), Palos Verdes Peninsula High (Rolling Hills Estates), Palos Verdes High (Palos Verdes Estates) and La Canada High (La Canada).
If students are not competitive enough, it is difficult for them to stand out among all the other outstanding students. It is not necessarily a good thing to enter a prestigious high school, unless the students can handle the pressure. Some students struggle to get good grads while others can easily maintain straight A’s. Therefore, it’s extremely important to choose high schools that are suitable based on their ability. When I asked a current Harvard student home for vacation how his first semester was, he replied he had built a solid foundation during the 4 years in University High and studying in Harvard was not that difficult. Another student told me although it was really competitive studying at University High, his roommates who was studying in another school district and was accepted by UCLA with a high GPA, was struggling and wanted to transfer out. Therefore, the decision of to study at a normal high school to get a higher GPA or enter a prestigious high school should be based on the students’ level and ability.