Primary education in the United States (also elementary education) refers to the first eight years of formal education in most jurisdictions, often in elementary school. Preschool programs, which are less formal and usually not mandated by law, are generally not considered part of primary education. The first year of primary education is commonly referred to as kindergarten and begins at or around age 5 or 6. Subsequent years are usually numbered being referred to as first grade, second grade, and so forth. Elementary schools normally continue through sixth grade, which the students normally complete when they are age 11 or 12.
In 2001, there were 92,858 elementary schools (68,173 public, 24,685 private) in the United States.
Some private schools, and some public schools, are offering pre-kindergarten (also known as preschool or pre-K) as part of elementary school. The first three to five years of an individual’s life can be the most critical period of their education. During this time period young minds work on several physical, intellectual, and emotional developments, including curiosity, formation of character, personality, cognition, language skills, and social skills.
Since 1965, the federal government has promoted the growth of state-funded programs such as Head Start, a program under the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In 2007, it served over 22 million preschool-aged children and their families. Head Start works to educate the whole child in addition to providing health and nutrition services to low-income families.
Elementary school (Kindergarten through grade 1/2/3/4/5/6)
Students may attend either a 6-year or 7-year public or private elementary school. Elementary school usually runs from kindergarten through either grade 5 or grade 6, depending on the region. Upon successful completion of their elementary education students then proceed to middle school,(High School in the UK) also known as junior high school. Additionally, students may have the option of attending elementary schools that include all eight primary grades. In this case the student will directly proceed to High School.
In most U.S. elementary schools, students have all their core classes from one or two homeroom teachers (as opposed to middle and high schools that typically have students rotate from one specialized teacher to the next throughout the day). In some elementary schools, when funding and supplies are adequate, additional teachers are hired to instruct students in areas such as Art and music.