Primary and Secondary Education

Find out where to get answers to common questions about primary and secondary education.

Education in the U.S.

The Education System in the United States follows a pattern similar to other countries:

  • Early childhood (or pre-kindergarten) education
  • Primary (or elementary) school
  • Middle (or junior high) school 
  • Secondary (or high) school 
  • Postsecondary (college, career, or technical schools) education 

Most education policy is decided at the state and local levels. The federal government role in education is limited, but the Department of Education:

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Getting Involved in Your Child's Education

Whether you are reading with your child, helping with homework, volunteering at your child's school, or participating in parent/teacher groups, parent involvement impacts the success of your child in school. Learn how you can be involved in your child's education:

  • Getting Parents Involved - has a section on parental involvement in education and has organized resources and activities around school subjects. Help your kids with homework or supplement their education with activities they can do at home.
  • Department of Education's Parents Section - Offers information just for parents on early childhood, special education, and paying for college.
  • Parent and Family Engagement - Features educational topics for families, including a blog.
  • Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - Many school districts have a PTA-affiliated group that parents can join to discuss concerns and stay involved with school activities. PTA-affiliated groups pay dues to a national membership, follow national rules, and are represented by a centralized office in Washington, D.C. that lobbies the government on broader educational issues.
  • Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) - Many schools have PTOs; they are independent of the PTA. These are often single-school groups that operate under their own bylaws and are interested in their local school or town.

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Learn English

If you want to learn English or need to join an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for school or work, these resources can help you find local and online courses:

  • Schools or Nonprofit Organizations: If you live in the U.S., every state, county, and city has its own education programs and resources for learning English. If you have children, talk to their school staff,  or contact a community college, university, or nonprofit organization to find local programs.

  • Internet: Learn English from home with the website or download the application to your phone or tablet to practice on the go. Listen to for audio conversations to learn English.

  • Libraries: In some communities, libraries offer English classes and materials to study. Find a library near you.

If you are concerned that you might have been scammed or overcharged by an ESL program, contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.

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Educational Programs for People with Disabilities

There are many educational resources and aid available to people with disabilities:

  • maintains information and educational resources for people with disabilities.
  • Your state education department or your local community school board can tell you what programs are available in your state and answer questions on state laws regarding educational rights for people with disabilities.
  • The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) provides information on what federal educational aid is available and which federal laws provide educational rights.
  • Non-governmental organizations, such as nonprofits and charities. Visit your local public library, talk to friends and family, or search the Internet.
  • College bound students with intellectual disabilities may be able to take advantage of special financial aid programs. The Federal Student Aid office can provide specific information on loans, grants, and scholarships, and application procedures. You may want to visit the financial aid office at your school of choice for additional information on special programs for people with disabilities. 

Disability Discrimination

Find answers to frequently asked questions about how disability laws apply to public schools districts, colleges and universities. If you feel you have been discriminated against in an educational institution, file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

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Ensuring Safe School Environments

A safe school environment is a concern for every student, parent, and educator. Children learn better when they feel safe, know what their school rules are, that discipline policies are enforced fairly, and that bullying is not tolerated. Learn more about what is being done to improve school climate, establish fair discipline, and how to stop bullying:

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Locating School Records

Elementary through Postsecondary Schools

To locate your school records, contact your former school. Administrators at the school should be able to tell you how to get your records.

This locator can help you find a school or college. You can search for a public school, private school, or college by city, state, zip code, or by school name.

If the school you went to closed, use this state contacts page for help locating the appropriate school district or state higher education agency. They should be able to help you get your records.

Locating Financial Aid Records and Repayment of School Loans (Closed School)

If the school you went to closed and you have questions on repaying your loan, use these resources:

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Teaching Abroad

The Department of State has offices that deal with teaching abroad: 

You may also want to visit Becoming a Teacher for the Department of Defense (DOD). This site includes teaching requirements, online application, vacancy announcements, and salary schedules.

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