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Is There a Standard American Curriculum?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated Jan 27, 2024
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There is no set standard American curriculum. Instead, each state within the United States sets a different curriculum standard. Further, each school district within a state may have separate curriculum standards set in place. While the US Department of Education publishes educational guidelines, this governmental department has no control over the actual curriculum that each state adheres to.

In various ways, the lack of one American curriculum causes a lot of problems. While some states have excellent educational standards, other states are greatly lacking in the educational department. In addition, many states are constantly changing and altering curricula, which results in statewide confusion. However, schools that claim to teach an "American curriculum" follow the same basic guidelines according to a child's age and grade.

Elementary schools, which encompass grades kindergarten through grade five or six, focus mostly upon social interaction. In conjunction with social games and exercises, these schools teach letters, reading, and numbers. Some schools, depending upon the state, will also teach languages, arts, physical education, and science at this level. Following elementary school, students are sent to middle school, which includes grades six through eight. The main issue with most middle schools within the United States is that these schools offer students a broad curriculum that may, or may not, prepare them for high school.

Frequently, middle school students are split into two different categories: vocational and educational. Students who show a particular aptitude for educational work are often taught a slew of high school and college pre-requisites. Students who would be better suited for vocational occupations are taught basic vocational skills. While this type of split occurs regularly, it is not the case in all states.

High school within the United States is just as mixed as elementary and middle schools are. Every student must obtain a total of 26 credits in order to gain a high school diploma. Subjects that are counted towards these credits can include science, mathematics, English, history, arts, physical education, and, in some cases, language. In addition, some students may enroll in advanced placement courses that are reserved for students with outstanding academic records. Nearly every school that follows an American curriculum grades students on a letter basis -- letters range from A to F, with "A" being the best possible grade.

Attempts at creating a true American curriculum have been made in the past, though this proves to be a challenging endeavor. Throughout the United States, at any given time, different curricula are tested on a regular basis. Occasionally, one state may provide an appealing educational model for other states, though all states remain separate educationally speaking.

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Discussion Comments
By anon332324 — On Apr 28, 2013

There is now. The PARCC is the new test that will be given and the new American curriculum can be found in the Common Core Standards that have been adopted by almost all the states.

By anon331676 — On Apr 24, 2013

I was recently informed by my son's school that while his test scores show him as average, he is not up to the school's curriculum standards. I am not sure what to do at this point.

My son does have some difficulties reading, but to the extent that they are saying? I just do not see it. Does anyone know if schools get extra funding because of students who are labeled as learning disabled?

By donbri5 — On Feb 23, 2011

If this is the case, how can our students be expected to do well on the national standardized tests? They compare them to their peers around the country to see what districts and states have the best schools. If the curriculum is different, then this seems a bit unfair to me. Any one have any thoughts?

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