What Are Public Schools?

Public schools are learning institutions that are funded by local, state and/or federal governments. They offer general education opportunities to children in kindergarten through grade 12, and extracurricular activities are also part of many public school programs.

Typical Curricula for Public Schools

Public school curricula usually are developed on the district level, but they must adhere to state and federal regulations. In addition to basic studies in reading, writing and arithmetic, public school students usually explore science and technology, social studies, fine arts and physical education. These studies continue on the secondary level; however, middle and high school students also generally have the opportunity to handpick some of their courses, which can expose them to one or more foreign languages, advanced studies in science and mathematics, or vocational topics, like building trades or cosmetology, among other opportunities.

Important Facts About Public Schools

Program Levels Public offerings begin at the kindergarten level, and continue up to graduate studies
Post-Secondary Degree Fields of Study English, biology, engineering, journalism
Online Availability Available in both fully online and hybrid/blended formats
Continuing Education Many public universities also offer courses that satisfy CE credits for adult education and professional certification

Standardized Testing

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that each state develop basic skills assessments, which must be given to all public school students in certain grade levels in order for a school to receive federal funding. For example, in North Carolina, third- through eighth-graders take standardized end-of-grade (EOG) tests in reading and math, while fifth- and eighth-graders also take science EOGs.

Additionally, public schools that receive Title I funding from the federal government must show annual improvement, or adequate yearly progress (AYP). Schools that don't show AYP must complete specific tasks aimed at improvement, such as offering free tutoring, replacing staff or extending the school day.

Extracurricular Activities

Typically held before or after school, extracurricular activities provide opportunities for public school students to enhance their skills in such areas as music, speech and drama. They also can supplement the physical education that students get as part of a public school education. Extracurricular programs might introduce students to sports including basketball, baseball, football, golf and soccer, and many public schools - particularly on the middle and high school levels - also offer students the chance to compete in team or individual sports.

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