Remember that nervous feeling on report card
day as a kid? You spend all day with a racing mind wondering what grades you got. Straight
As? Some Bs sprinkled in there? Oooh…will Mom and Dad be mad about Cs and Ds? Or – heaven
forbid – did I get any Fs?? Hold on…why isn’t there a grade E??
Well, the short answer is that F simply stands for “failure” on the grading scale since
“failure” begins with the letter F. Teachers didn’t want E to be interpreted as “excellent”
beyond primary school, as percentages come in when you’re in middle school, high school,
and college. Poor lonely E! The other letters in the grading scale are
generally considered passing grades, although D is also a failing grade in some schools.
Every district is different. But, in general, the logic is that by skipping the E, F is
set apart as a failing grade. So, in most schools, if you get an A, B, C, or D, you
pass. An F means you failed that class. But the poor E wasn’t always excluded! The
first school to use a grading scale model similar to our modern one was a school in
Massachusetts called Mount Holyoke College, an all-women’s university. In 1887, their
scale went from A to E, with E as the failing grade. A year later, the F was added, (what?
to kick you while you’re down?) A student received an “F” if their overall performance
was below a 75%. Before the F was added, it was the E that stood for this lowest performance.
The college made this change to their grading scale to allow a little wiggle room – to
give students one more passing letter grade. Once the F was added, E meant that the student’s
performance was between 75 and 79%, which was still considered passing.
As this grading scale grew in popularity across the U.S., the E was eventually removed to
simplify the scale, as F intuitively stood for “failure.” The percentages that signify
each letter grade differ between school districts in the U.S., but F is still that failing grade.
Differences in the grading scale has become a hot topic recently, because now grade point
average, or GPA, comes into play; there’s a question in some districts whether a 90%
is an A or a B; parents are concerned whether their school’s grading scale is fair and
comparable to the College Board…but that’s another video!
How about some other fun facts about U.S. schools?
1. Our Measurement System Yes, yes, it has to be addressed. The Standard
Measurement System is still taught in schools, while the rest of the world uses the Metric
System, which many believe is much easier to understand. In the USA, it is taught that
there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, et cetera. Maybe the U.S. will catch
up with the rest of the world one day. Or vice versa!
2. Dress Codes and Uniforms Only about 20% of U.S. primary, junior, and
high schools require uniforms; besides at these few, American students can generally
wear what they want to school, although each school will have their own dress codes. Requiring
the midriff and most of the shoulders to be covered, and for shorts and skirts to be a
certain length, are two pretty standard examples of common American school dress codes. Clothing
that displays anything inappropriate in the design, such as offensive language, is of
course not allowed. In college, though, there is much more freedom, and all bets are off
as far as clothing goes! 3. The Structure of the U.S. School System
The U.S. school system starts with preschool, which is actually somewhat optional, then
kindergarten, which a student would ideally start at about age 5. Then comes grades 1-5
and sometimes 6 (aka “elementary school”); next comes junior high, aka middle school,
which is grades 7 and 8 – sometimes middle school is grades 6-8; it all depends on your
school district. Then finally comes high school, which is generally grades 9-12, with the goal
of finishing 12th grade at age 17 or 18. In the U.S., there are a variety of ways that
you can complete your high school education – you can go to school online nowadays,
or attend public or private school, even home-school – but each of these grade levels must be
completed before you can attend college. 4. The American Academic Year
American students spend about 180 days a year in school. This is in the middle of the road;
there are countries where students attend more days of school, and countries where students
attend less. As far as breaks go, summer break is the longest break that American students
have, usually lasting 9-10 weeks starting in June, depending on the district. American
students also get a Fall break, a winter break, and a Spring break. That sounds like a lot
of breaks, but the American school day itself is longer than in some other countries. School
is typically from 8am-3pm, or some small variation of that timeframe, attending Monday-Friday.
The point is, the American school day is almost as long as the standard 8-to-5 American work
day! 5. America’s First School is Almost 400
Years Old! The original 13 American colonies opened The
Boston Latin School, America’s first public school, in 1635. It’s still standing and
functional today! The school has prestigious admission requirements, and it regularly performs
better than other elite schools in Boston. But not every student that has passed through
this historic school’s doors has been a success – one of its most famous dropout
is Benjamin Franklin! Their motto is Latin for “We are first.” Talk about “old
school”…haha! 6. Early U.S. “Academics”
Early American schools didn’t teach subjects like reading or science; the early colonists
wanted to teach their children more about family and community values so that they could
be productive members of society. I mean, in 1635, the colonies were a pretty young
society, so it makes sense that teaching their children about the foundations of community
was a very integral part of their education. 7. Pre-School
Earlier I mentioned pre-school being part of the American educational system. If U.S.
parents want their child to “get ahead,” or just to acclimate them to a social learning
situation, enrolling their child in pre-school at about 3 or 4 years old is considered ideal.
It prepares the child for kindergarten, and gets them in a school routine. A choice of
a full day or a half day is usually offered. But in the last few years, fewer and fewer
3-year-olds are being enrolled in pre-school. In 2016, only about half of 3-5 year-olds
were enrolled in some kind of full-day preschool program. This percentage is much higher in
European countries. 8. The U.S. Workplace and Higher Education
About 85% of current jobs in the U.S., and 90% of new ones, require some college or post-secondary
education. It used to be that college was the only smart option for high school graduates
in the U.S., but now the demand for technical schools and skilled tradesmen and women – and
by that I mean automotive workers, welders, plumbers, and members of similar necessary
fields – are on the rise. 9. Field Trips
Most experienced U.S. teachers agree that field trips can and should be an integral
part of a student’s education. Students get many benefits from educational field trips.
Museums, a theater to see a play or concert, and art galleries are all good examples of
fun and educational field trips. Most teachers agree that field trips like these is one of
the best ways to apply what students have learned in the classroom setting to the real
world. Field trips encourage creative and critical thinking, observation skills, and
promotes cultural understanding. Plus, students are making fun memories with their friends!
Do you have a story about a particularly memorable field trip? Let’s hear about it down below.
10. School Sports American schools offer a variety of after-school
activities, but joining a sport team is probably the most popular. Most schools offer football
(the American kind), basketball, wresting, tennis, volleyball, softball, and baseball.
Where possible, there is a boys’ and girls’ team. These sports are a big deal, especially
football and basketball; the whole community comes to watch their school’s team compete
against other schools in the district. It’s exciting and promotes school spirit! The football
and basketball teams will have cheerleaders too – a squad of mostly girls who dress
in a uniform with pompoms and do routines to music to cheer their team on.
11. Relaxed Classroom Environment The American classroom is a pretty relaxed
place to learn! Students are still expected to raise their hands when they want to talk
or ask a question, but generally, open discussion is encouraged. Students and teachers often
joke with each other, and exchange high-fives in the hallways. Teachers also make a big
effort to work with those students who need extra help, like staying after school, or
coming in early if a student has a question about homework, a paper they wrote, or something
discussed in class. Teachers will also offer “extra credit” too, if students are really
struggling. 12. Each State is Different
The most unique thing about U.S. education is that each state is going to be a little
different. That’s 50 different states who all have multiple cities and counties that
are homes to our schools. There will be differences in grading scales, testing requirements, class
structure, rules…pretty much everything! No school is in the U.S. is the same! And
that’s the beauty of it: since the U.S. has that separation of state, each state can
appoint its own panel of educational rule makers. Ah yes, high school memories. I remember I
was in that half of the class, that made the upper half possible. I’m so proud! Hey, if you learned something today, give
this video a like and share it with a friend! And here some other videos I think you’ll
enjoy; just click to the left or right. And remember: stay on the Bright Side of life!