Educate Your Kids

The educational system in the US segments pupils into grades which correspond loosely to a student’s age. There are 12 numbered grades (First through Twelfth), plus one year before First Grade, often called “Kindergarten.” Pre-K (for pre-kindergarten), often called pre-school, is widely available, but typically privately funded, whereas every American student is provided with a free public school education from Kindergarten through 12th grade. People often check online resources such as or to find out the school’s rating and reviews.

Education from Kindergarten (ages 5-6) through 12th Grade (ages 17-18), often referred to as K-12 education, is compulsory. Children can attend public or private schools. They also have an option to be home-schooled.

Schools often use separate buildings to break the grades into the following:

  • Elementary School: Kindergarten through 5th grade
  • Middle School: Sixth, Seventh and Eight grades
  • High School: Ninth (Freshmen Year), Tenth (Sophomore Year), Eleventh (Junior Year) and Twelfth Grade (Senior Year)

The typical school year starts in late August or early September, and completes the following year in late May or early June. This is referred to as a “Traditional Calendar.” Some schools follow a year-round calendar (without the traditional summer break) where classes are in session for a few weeks, and then out for a couple of weeks.

There are several distinct choices when it comes to sending your child to a school in the US.

Public Schools

Public schools are funded by the state and federal government and run by a local governmental entity (e.g. Wake ). Attendance in public schools is free. Public schools also have a reduced and free lunch programs for low-income families.

Each residential address is assigned to a specific school district. In many districts of the Triangle area, NC, you can choose between a base school (operating on a traditional calendar) and a year-round school. If you live in Wake County, visit this link to find your base school.

Public schools include magnet and charter schools, admission to which is based on a lottery.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public schools with specialized curricula or courses. If you live in the school district of a magnet school, you will be assigned to that school as your base school. However, if you live outside its school district, you have to win a lottery in order to be admitted.

Charter Schools


Charter schools are public schools of choice that are authorized by the State Board of Education and operated by independent non-profit boards of directors. State and local tax dollars are the primary funding sources for charter schools, which have open enrollment and cannot discriminate in admissions, associate with any religion or religious group, or charge-tuition. Charter schools operate with freedom from many of the regulations that govern district schools, but charter schools are held accountable through the State assessment and accountability system.

Private Schools

From USCIS Guide for New Immigrants:

Private schools are owned and run by groups that are independent of the government, including religious and non-religious groups. Students generally must pay a fee (called tuition) to attend private school. In some cases, private schools may offer financial help for students who cannot pay the tuition. In other cases, public funds may be available in the form of vouchers for students to attend private school Some private schools are coeducational, while some are only for boys or only for girls. Some states have licensing or registration requirements for private schools, and many private schools choose to be accredited by an accrediting association. To learn more about private schools, contact your state’s department of education.


You also have an option to homeschool your child. Read the Home School Requirements and Recommendations provided by North Carolina’s Department of Administration.

Higher Education

From USCIS Guide for New Immigrants:

After high school, young adults and other adults can continue their education in a two-year community or technical college, a four-year college, or a university. These are called postsecondary institutions or institutions of higher education. Typically, the first four years of postsecondary education is called undergraduate education, and schooling beyond the bachelor’s degree is called graduate studies. There are both public and private institutions of higher education. Generally, public colleges and universities may cost less than private ones, especially for residents of the state where the college or university is located. Adults can also choose to attend schools to learn how to do specific jobs, such as repairing computers or being a health care assistant.

Students in higher education choose a specific subject to study in depth (this subject is called their major). Choosing a major helps prepare them for employment or further education in that field.