Enrolling your Children in US Schools
Are you and your family about to move to the U.S.? Here you will find information on how to enroll your children in U.S. schools.
Enrolling your Children in U.S. Schools
Each state is responsible for education, as there is no form of Federal government control. The state's department of education is controlled by an elected board of education and is divided into local school districts, which are governed by a superintendent and locally elected board. The public school system is primarily funded by state and local governments, and only marginally by Federal funds.
The state board is responsible for allocating state and Federal funds, certification of teachers, and determining the ages for compulsory education (usually ages 6-16). The school districts build school sites, determine educational policies, employ teachers, purchase equipment, determine academic calendar/holidays, and generally oversee the daily operation of the schools. Parents may choose to send their children to the local public school where education is free or to a private school where fees are charged. Private schools are organized like public schools, although the curricula of many are directed towards ensuring the student's admission to a university (called "prep schools"). There are also a number of church affiliated schools where religious instruction is included.
Schooling is compulsory for all children in the United States, but the age range for which school attendance is required varies from state to state. Most children begin elementary education with kindergarten (usually five to six years old) and finish secondary education with twelfth grade (usually eighteen years old). Kindergarten is part of the public school system in most states in the US, i.e. K-12 or 13 years all together. Independent private nursery schools for children under age 4 are also popular and commonplace. And, although one may legally "quit" school at age 16, this is discouraged, and the vast majority stays on until they graduate from high school at age 18.
The twelve years of formal education are most commonly organized under the "6-3-3 Plan": Grades 1-6 in elementary school, Grades 7-9 in junior high school and Grades 10-12 in senior high school. Some school districts operate under 8-4 plan, but no matter which plan is followed, the basic state-mandated curriculum for each grade is the same.
Elementary schools provide instruction in the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as in history, geography, civics, crafts, music, science, health, and physical education. Foreign languages, which used to be offered only at the secondary level, are now often introduced in the last few years of elementary school.
Parents, who plan to enroll their children in a U.S. school for a certain amount of time before returning to Norway, are advised to contact their Norwegian school obtain the læreplan is for the period they will be away. In order to ease the transition back into Norwegian schools, textbooks and other materials should be brought along to complement the instruction received in the American school.
There is financial aid available for parents who need to complement their children’s education abroad, called "Tilskuddsordningen for kompletterende undervisning i utlandet" . Contact Statens utdanningskontor i Oslo og Akershus (address below, under "Resources") to obtain further information and application forms. In order to be eligible for financial support, children must be Norwegian citizens attending local schools abroad. Financial support is given for supplementary instruction in Norsk, Samfunnsfag, and Kristendomskunnskap med religions- og livssynsundervisning (KRL) . Application deadlines are June 10 (academic year or fall semester only) and December 5 (spring semester only).
Norsk nettskole is an internet-based school supported by KUF, and it is targeted towards Norwegian "Grunnskole" students who live or travel abroad, or attend smaller schools in remote areas of Norway. It offers courses over the Internet in Norsk, Samfunnsfag, KRL, and Matematikk i 10. klasse. Students receive guidance and counseling from a teacher, and may communicate with other students on the school’s webpage. Norsk Nettskole has the same aims and uses the same study plans as regular Norwegian schools. Contact information can be found under " Resources".
Public high school education is co-educational and comprehensive. Schools offer a wide range of subjects from which a student sets up a program leading to college/university entrance or to a career in business or industry. Every student must take certain required courses for a prescribed number of years. Required courses include English, mathematics, health, physical education, general science and social sciences, which include US history and government, world history and social problems. Apart from these subjects students elect subjects according to future career plans. Students who intend to go to college/university elect courses with a special emphasis on academic sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), higher mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus), foreign languages, advanced English literature, composition and social sciences. Students interested in business or industry may take typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, business machines or "business English". It is often possible to take agricultural, technical or fine arts subjects as well.
A student is graded from -"A"-Excellent to "F"-Failing -in each subject he takes throughout his twelve years of education. Grades are based on tests given during the year, participation in class discussion, completion of homework assignments and independent projects. Report cards are issued at least twice a year which show the grades earned in each of the subjects studied. The high school maintains a "transcript" which summarizes these subjects, the grades attained and any other relevant data. Upon satisfactory completion of twelfth grade, the student graduates and receives a "high school diploma".
College-bound students take national college aptitude tests during their last two years in high school. These tests are set up by various independent institutions and are designed to measure aptitude in verbal and mathematical skills. They are not based directly on course work. The tests most often required are the Scholarship Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Achievement Tests administered by the Educational Testing Service. The American College Testing Program runs another commonly used exam, the ACT. Both are recognized by accredited universities as a means of evaluating potential students.
A student with a regular "high school diploma" will not be admitted to Norwegian universities or høgskoler. Secondary school students who will eventually return to Norway and are concerned about meeting university entrance requirements in this country might consider AP Exams or the International Baccalaureate.
AP Exams: American schools do not train students for external examinations such as the Norwegian "eksamen". There is a continuous evaluation system throughout all the grades, much like the Norwegian "standpunkt karakter". In recent years, the Advanced Placement program has gained in popularity in the US and is recognized by Norwegian universities. The AP Program is an advanced-level curriculum offered in a range of subjects. The program is adopted by a high school in addition to its state-mandated curriculum.
Students complete one academic year of coursework-which is designed to parallel an introductory college-level course. Those who earn a successful mark on the AP exam- will not have to repeat that same course when they get to college--that is, the college will give credit for subjects in which the student has passed the AP exam. A student returning to Norway with 3 AP passes will usually be admitted into the Norwegian higher educational system.
The International Baccalaureate : Another option for secondary school students who will eventually return to Norway is the International Baccalaureate. The IB Diploma program is a rigorous pre-university course of study that allows its graduates to fulfil requirements of various national systems of education.
The IB curriculum comprises the last two years of secondary education. The subjects which make up the core of the IB are arranged according to six groups. Diploma candidates are required to select one subject from each area:
- Language A-includes the study of world literature
- Language B-modern foreign languages
- Study of Man in Society-social sciences
- Experimental Science
- A "Sixth Subject" elective
Three subjects are studied at the Higher level, three at the Subsidiary level and the candidate is required to complete a course unique to the IB curriculum, "Theory of Knowledge". (The latter reflects the philosophy of the IB, which is that students should be taught "how to learn"- a deliberate compromise between the preference for specialization in some countries and the emphasis on breadth often preferred by others)
Foreign national students accompanying parents who are working, studying or performing diplomatic service in the U.S. usually attend public schools tuition-free on the basis of their family's residence in the community. These students' visa status is based on that of their parents.
At the elementary and secondary levels, the school the student will attend is usually the one nearest his or her home. Normally, medical records showing dates of required immunizations and documents showing academic performance at the students' last school are required for admittance. Some schools can offer English as a Foreign Language course: call in advance to ask about any special courses needed.
Foreign students planning to live with relatives (not their parents) while attending school will require an F-1 student visa. The nearest US Consular office has current information regarding visa restrictions. Currently, public schools are required to charge tuition to foreign students if they are not sponsored by an exchange program. Contact the particular schools involved to determine if they are eligible to admit foreign students. If the school is eligible, they may issue the form "I-20" that the student uses to apply for a visa.
Private boarding and day schools have been established to serve a multitude of special educational needs. Some are "prep schools" geared to prepare students for admission to highly selective colleges; some are single-sex institutions; some are sponsored by religious groups; some are for students with learning disabilities. There are boarding schools that emphasize activities such as music, international education, and outdoor living. In considering a private school, it is especially important to examine the goals of the school to find one whose purposes match those of the student.
A private boarding school must be authorized to issue the I-20 that the student uses to apply for the F-1 student visa. The foreign student then completes the school's admissions procedure including any required exams. Many require the SSAT-Secondary School Admissions Test, which is administered by the Educational Testing Service, CN-6451, Princeton, NJ 08541-6541, USA. The test is given internationally in December and April; registration forms may be obtained by contacting the above address. The student should begin well in advance in order to complete the application process before the school's deadline date.
International students wishing to apply for admission to private day schools follow the same procedure as for a public school. Their visa status is dependent upon whether they will be living with a parent or relative, and they must determine whether the school is eligible to issue the I-20. The application procedure is formal and fees are charged. Addresses and other information can be found on this website:
For all children, be sure to bring a record of their birth certificate, school transcripts, and proof of vaccinations (see "Resources" for more information on vaccinations). It will be helpful if your child's primary teacher can write a short description of subjects covered and anything specific about your child that might be important for the U.S. teacher. More specific explanation of subjects and grades will be important for the placement of a junior high school or senior high school student.
When you arrive in the United States, take your child to see the school before school starts. You can either call in advance or just go to the school. As a rule, public schools offer a variety of after school activities, including sports or other interest groups at the junior and senior high level.
Parents are expected to participate in the affairs of their child's school. Most schools have a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that meets regularly during the school year to discuss school matters of interest. Parent-teacher conferences are held several times a year and offer parents a chance to meet privately with teachers to discuss their child's progress. Volunteering at your child's school to either help in the classroom or with after-school activities is a good way to support your children and to meet people in the area.
Links to other Websites:
- Visa informationl
- high-schools.com; informasjon om den videregående skolen i USA
- Grunnskolen på Internett
Norsk nettskole gir fjernundervisning til elever over hele verden:
Tlf: (47) 70 05 61 46 Fax: (47) 70 05 61 41
- Veileder for norske familier som flytter med barn til utlandet
Formålet med veilederen er å gi en oversikt over barn og unges rettigheter og muligheter for å få hjelp dersom det oppstår problemer under et utenlandsopphold. Veilederen omhandler derfor i første rekke forhold knyttet til barnevern, men den gir også fyldig informasjon om skolegang og annet som særlig angår norske barnefamilier i utlandet. I tillegg inneholder veilederen henvisninger til brosjyremateriell og nyttige nettsteder.
- U.S. Department of Education
- To find public and private schools in the U.S.
- Vaccinations: The Centers for Disease Control's Website has a recommended vaccination schedule for children; please click here for more information. Vaccination requirements do vary from state to state and from school to school. You can visit the CDC website and click on a state to get links to each state's individual Department of Public Health.
Informasjon om støtte til komplettering av undervisning for barn ved utenlandske skoler:
Statens utdanningskontor i Oslo og Akershus
PB 8105 Dep
Tlf: 22 00 38 00, fax: 22 00 38 90
Information available from the Fulbright Office
The publications listed below are available for reference at the Fulbright Office , Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 13-16.
- Diversity, Accessibility and Quality: A Brief Introduction to American Education for Non-Americans , Cliff Sjogren, The College Board.
- Patterson's American Education , Educational Directories, Inc.
- Annual Guide to Independent Secondary Schools . Peterson's Guides.
- The Handbook of Private Schools , Porter Sargent Publisher
- "International Baccalaureate" and "Directory of Schools", I B North America
The National Association of Independent Schools, 18 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108, U.S.A., publishes annually two booklets that they will send for a small postage fee:
- "Boarding Schools" (addresses and brief descriptions of accredited private boarding schools)
- "Special Programs" (lists boarding schools offering ESL, International Baccalaureate, summer programs and learning disability programs.)