The Efficiency of the American Education System


Americans began developing their education system as early as after the American Revolution. The founding fathers of America envisioned a nation that gave equal academic opportunities to its citizens. The education system they established in the 18th century has undergone many transformations before becoming what it is today.

Currently, education is the responsibility of state governments. The federal government relinquished all the powers of running schools to the state governments. Each state runs an education system that is different from what other states provide. All the fifty states adopted an education system that has three stages: elementary education, middle school and high school.

Both private and public schools adopted this structure, though some states have slight differences in their education systems. However, critics have been questioning the quality of graduates that come out of this education system for a long time. Since 2003, American kids have performed poorly in the Program for International Student Assessment. Julia Ryan in The Atlantic predicts that improving the performance of American kids in this assessment will increase the nation’s GDP by approximately 14% in the years to come (Ryan par.5). This essay analyzes the structure, impact and the management of education in the US and compares it to other nations before concluding that an improvement is necessary for America to continue competing favorably with other nations.

Analysis of the Efficiency of the System of Education in America

State governments have the responsibility of running all schools. As Susan Hume reports in the International Students’ Guide to the United States of America, each state makes its decisions regarding the funding and running of schools in that state. The states provide tuition fees for all learners between grade 1 and 12 (Hume par. 3). Each state has an educational department that determines the amount of money each school and college should get every financial year. In addition to decision-making, the department of education also formulates rules and regulations for all the schools in the state.

This department gets the funds for the running of schools from the state governments and taxes paid for private properties. The only time the students pay for their school fees is when they join universities and colleges. However, the state government pays less attention to the quality of education, leading to poor performance among the students. Therefore, the federal government should intervene and help check and ensure the quality of education in the whole country.

America has one of the best structures of education in the world. Their system of education has three stages: elementary, middle and high school. Elementary school is a level of education that runs from grade 1 to grade 5. Learners spend all their time in one room with a single class teacher for the whole year. They learn basic elements of education such as letters, numbers and colors. Middle school entails students in grade 6 to 8 (Hume par. 4).

At this level, learners interact with other learners as they move from one class to the other because of elective subjects. The scope of their curriculum is wider than the elementary school curriculum. Students who successfully go through middle school proceed to high school. In high school, the scope of the curriculum is wider than in the two preceding stages. Students study mathematics, English, sciences and other compulsory and elective courses.

All students must attain a set number of credits before getting the permission to graduate (Hume par. 5). However, Tara Subramaniam in her article My Stance on Education Reform disapproves of this structure. She argues that this system lays much emphasis on scoring high grades at the expense of preparing the students for the challenges of life. Hence, states should adopt education systems that prepare learners for life, and not for exams (Par. 5).

Private schools in the US provide better education than public schools. They insist on providing quality education because they know that quality education is the best way to market their schools and beat the competition from free public schools. Many parents have opted to take their children to private schools because of their repute for quality education. According to the Council for American Private Schools, 10% of all the students in the US attend private schools (Par. 1). Their statistics also indicate that private schools are 24% of the total number of schools in the United States of America (CAPE par. 2).

According to Public Schools.Org, many parents take their children to private schools because of congestion, lack of important facilities and over-emphasizing the standardized test instead of school-based tests. Some practices in public schools also discourage hardworking students (Par. 6). Thus, for the quality of education to improve, state governments must ensure equal and sufficient support for all schools. They must also carry out school-based tests, build more classes for each school and come up with ways of motivating hard-working students.

The level of intelligence among American kids is rapidly deteriorating. American students have not been able to beat their counterparts from nations such as China, Korea, Japan, Switzerland and Poland for over ten years. As Ryan reports in The Atlantic, American education is the most expensive in the world but produces worse results than countries that spend less money on their education (Par. 8). Ryan formulates her argument from the results of the 2012 International student Assessment. American kids performed dismally in this assessment, and it was not their first poor performance.

They have always been performing badly since 2003. In 2012, the assessors ranked the US in position 17 out of 34 participating nations. According to Ryan, the US spends $115, 000 on every student, but ranks the same as the Slovak Republic, which spends only $53,000 on each student (par. 8). These statistics imply that the lack of facilities is not the main cause of American children’s poor performance.

The poor performance among American students in the International Students Assessment results from various factors and has a great impact on the state of the American economy in relation to the economies of other nations. As Ryan reports, the lack of facilities is not the main cause of this dismal performance. According to her, socio-economic difference among the students is the main cause of the poor performance. She observes that only the rich can access quality education in the US.

Children from poor families have no option but to attend the free public schools. The statistics she gives indicates that the socio-economic difference among students is responsible for 15% of the poor performance (Par. 9). Subramaniam observes that too much emphasis on standardized tests is the other cause of the poor performance, especially in public schools. According to her, teachers formulate the objectives for the standardized test and then use illegitimate methods to help their students pass the same tests (Par. 4).

The long-term effect of the underperformance of American students is the stagnation or deterioration in the economy. If the trend continues, then the economies of the countries whose kids have been performing better than American kids will surpass the American economy in the future. Countries such as China, Poland, Japan and Korea might become superpowers in the days to come.


The American system of education appears to be the best in the world, but its results have been deteriorating over time. The American education system has a very appealing three-stage structure but when American students sit the same exams with students from other academic powerhouses, they score less than what the other students score. The American education system is also among the most expensive education systems in the world. Therefore, the provision of facilities to the students is not a big problem to them. In normal circumstances, the availability of good educational facilities means the quality of education is also good.

However, this assumption is not true in the American context, as the learners are continuously performing poorly despite the availability of good educational facilities. Scholars point at factors such as stringent standardized tests and congestion in public schools as the main causes of the deterioration in the quality of education in American schools. Therefore, all the fifty states in the US should come together and find a good solution to this problem before it escalates.

Works Cited,. “CAPE | Private School Facts”. N.p., 2014. Web.

Hume, Susan. “American Education | How The System Works”. n.p., 2014. Web.

Public Schools. “Pros And Cons Of Public School Attendance”. n.p., 2012. Web.

Subramaniam, Tara. “My Stance On Education Reform”. The Huffington Post. n.p., 2014. Web.