Because my friend, Shmellington, and I just figured this out, and I graphed it and we are genii. I hope this helps with UK/US education conversions. ^_^ You also might need to resize your screen to see the graph correctly; sorry in advance for any confusion!
Please note: Unless something major crops up, I think I'm done editing this post, except, maybe, to streamline it more. I'm just copypastaing the comments, anyway. So if you see something that doesn't hold true in your area, please note that there are many regional differences, and be sure to read through the comments. ^_^
ALSO! This discusses the US public school system vs. the UK state school system; US public schools are free, non-tuition schools and are the equivalent to UK state schools. This concentrates mostly on English schools; as readers have noted, Scotland/Ireland/Wales have different approaches. There are many regional differences in both countries. I'm not saying that this is the be-all, end-all of school system information, and I've left plenty of stuff out, such as different tests that are taken, etc. I wanted this to mainly be a guide for matching up the school years; please read the comments, preferably on both communities, before adding your own --- what you have to say may already have been said. ^_^
For everyone confused as to the differences between the UK and US school systems, I present this handy graph for your perusal:
Pre-kindergarten is also known as transitional kindergarten *rolls eyes* in some places. This is a relatively recent trend, and it started in my siblings' Catholic school around the time my baby brother started school pre-k, which was four years ago this fall (I think; he'll be 8 in November).
To find the equivalent year without my handy-dandy graph, Brits subtract one year to get the equivalent American grade. Americans, add one year to get the equivalent British year.
Keep in mind that the UK uses "year two", "year three", etc., whilst the US uses "1st grade", "2nd grade", etc. See what I did, there?
Public school systems in the US:
Let me preface by saying that schooling in the US varies state-to-state; what's true in one state, or even one school district, may not hold true in another. Also, this is about public schools, not private/tuition-based schools, who are on their own variety of crack (thank you, lydia_golis, for pointing that out).
In the US, the school subgroups are elementary school, middle school, and high school. College starts the not-free, continued education. Pre-K and kindergarten aren't normally considered elementary school that I'm aware of (but I have since been corrected on this, and they are considered elementary school); they're pre-K and kindergarten, but most of the time they'll be part of an elementary school. Grades 1-6 are elementary school, 7 & 8 are middle school, and 9-12 are high school. Some places have middle school as 6th-8th grades; this happened at my middle school the year after I left (my Freshman year of high school).
fencer_x points out that middle school = 7-8 vs. middle school = 6-8 is a population-based difference, and possibly also regional. The given Wiki article says, "Middle school (sometimes abbreviated MS) is often used instead of junior high school when demographic factors increase the number of younger students. Whereas junior highs tend to only include grades 7 and 8, middle schools are usually grades 6, 7, and 8 (i.e. around ages 11-14), varying from area to area and also according to population vs. building capacity."
On that note, grades 9-12 are known as Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. These are also the titles for the traditional four years of college, which is also known as secondary/continued education
Pre/t-k generally starts at 4 years of age. There fore, you're 5 in kindergarten, 6 in 1st grade, etc. You should end 12th grade either 17 or 18 years old, depending on when in the year you were born. September 1st is the cut-off date for enrolling in pre/t-k/1st grade. I was born August 21st (whoooo, Leos!), therefore I was barely 5 when I started kindergarten, and barely 17 when I graduated high school --- this made me one of the youngest people in my classes, all the time. My sister was born December 7th (whoooooo, Pearl Harbour Day! . . . wait) and therefore missed the cut-off (my baby brother was
Starting in 9th grade, you take finals at the end of every school year, and during high school you take ACT and/or SAT tests. Colleges use these scores to determine if they want you or not; senior year finals and ACT/SAT tests are similar to A-levels.
squishybear914 points out that: "Starting in junior year (unless you're really brilliant), you can take AP, or Advanced Placement classes, for college credits. Depending on the college, you have to pass it with a 4 or 5 for credit and being able to skip the class, and 3 for just credit.
High school also has midterms, generally the week following Martin Luther King day.
Some schools don't offer driver's ed, so students have to take it outside of school.
Some states/towns have a different cut-off date. Providence, at least when I started, used December 31st, which is how I got in at age 4. (Btws, I was 16 when I graduated high school)
Also, schools change from town to town.
Colleges also like SAT IIs -- two of them. Many states also have some kind of standardized test that you have to pass to graduate. At least, my home state does. Some colleges are getting rid of that as entry criteria, but those are smaller, more liberal artsy colleges.
Also, what colleges want as part of admissions varies from college to college. @_@. And you start looking junior year, applying first quarter of senior year.
ALSO, many schools split up into quarters, with report cards every quarter.
Skipping grades is fucking HARD. It's not automatic, and very very few bright students skip."
gritsinmisery adds to this: "There're a ton of sophomore-level AP classes. From his sophomore to senior high school years, my son took (and successfully tested on) enough AP courses that he's starting uni with enough credits to be considered a sophomore.
High school mid-terms, or first-semester finals, fall at the halfway point of the school year. Many public systems are switching to a calendar very close to the "semester" calendar of US universities that use that system (rather than trimesters) and starting earlier so that mid-terms / 1st semester finals fall before "winter" break.
And then there are the school systems that, because of either overcrowding or the belief that children retain more the shorter their between-term breaks are, have gone to year-round schooling, with something like three months on and one month off. Even more confusing, some school systems do this in some schools / grades while using the standard semester system in others. You simply cannot know when a term starts or how long it will run until you know precisely which system, school, and grade you are speaking of.
Cut-off (birth)dates for entry into the system vary from system to system. Can be as early as July 1 or as late as Dec. 31. Some parents will voluntarily "hold back" their child a year if they fall on the early end of their class birthday-wise. And the school system itself may do testing on children entering the system and decide that they are physically, emotionally, or intellectually unready to enter despite falling within the dates. (Thus was born pre-K: for the advanced 4-year-olds and the not-so-advanced 5-year-olds.)
And of course all bets are off if you're sending your child to a private (US; UK-equivalent = public) school."
Generally, you take driver's education your freshman/sophomore year of high school, and can get your permit at 15 1/2 years old. I went to one HS my freshman year (9th grade) and they gave driver's ed sophomore year. I went to a different one for the rest of high schools, and they had driver's ed freshman year. Summer school, wheeee! You also have to be at least 16 to get your driver license.
sophiap reminded me that "middle school" is also synonymous with "junior high," and "senior high" is synonymous with "high school."
And just to be ornery, I'm sure, the_pioden related that the US has no internal consistency in regards to their education system, saying: "none of the high schools in my district had midterms, only semester finals. Also, many districts will allow Advanced Placement in Sophomore year as a norm (AP World History is notorious at my school as a beast of a sophomore class, and if you took compacted English freshman year, you could take AP Lit and AP Lang sophomore year as well.)
With regards to driving: at least in my state (Nebraska), if you live more than a certain distance from your school (I think it's something like five miles) and you live in a town of 5000 people or less, you can get a school learner's permit at 14, and a school liscense that allows you to drive on your own on your 15th birthday."
School systems in the UK:
In the UK (but not Scotland, thank you tailsy), the three levels of education are Primary, Secondary, and Further (college, university etc.).
Primary school consists of the a reception class and years 1-6, although some Primary schools include years 7-8. Secondary school is years 7-13. College is usually years 12-13 and teaches students who have left Secondary school after their GCSEs. GCSEs are rather like A-levels for younger years, and A-levels have been described as, "a bigger version of GCSEs/a pain in the proverbial/somewhat pointless in the current economical climate." You take A-levels when you're in your last year of Secondary school (year 13/12th grade), they help get you into university if you do well, and if you fail your GCSEs, you don't take A-levels. They're similar, then, to American high schools' senior year finals/ACT/SAT testing.
Some colleges teach people of any age.
University is a bunch of other people who are too old for school, and want to get a degree; the UK equivalent of American college.
In some secondary schools, years 7-8 are known as juniors and years 9 and above are known as seniors.
tea_fiend corrects this with: "Re: ages in British schools - reception is the year in which a child turns five. Some schools start it in September, others stagger it - being born in May, I turned five in the summer term, and so started reception after Easter. Some quick mental arithmetic will demonstrate that all students will therefore turn six in year one, seven in year two, etc, and so everyone turns eighteen during the upper sixth (assuming they stay on for sixth form / go to college), and so everyone is eighteen by the time they finish."
People can apply for a provisional driver's license when they're 16, but can only drive when they're seventeen, if they passed the test.
stoptheqtip says: "The last two years of secondary school tend to be referred to as 'sixth form', which may or may not be attached to a secondary school, and old secondary school may not have a sixth form.
People also take 'AS-Levels' (which is worth half your final grade) in Year 12.
'People can apply for a provisional driver's license when they're 16' is is accurate but to be exact, it's three months before their 17th birthday."
silver_x_cross further explains A-levels/GCSEs: "Expanding on the exams we Brits have, it's worth noting that we take more GCSEs than AS/A levels.
GSCEs are considered the basics for a well rounded education- the average school offers ten. Mine were English literature, English language, Maths, Science Double Award (worth two GCSEs), German (modern language requirement), History (humanities requirement), Drama (arts requirement), Resistant Materials (Design Technology requirement) and Sociology (the spare one!)
AS levels then drop to four or five subjects, with three or four (varying depending on the Sixth Form or college) carried on to make a full A-Level. University degrees are traditionally done in one subject, usually your best subject at A Level."
_stolendreams_ adds: "Minor point: in the UK colleges are not mostly for years 12 and 13. A lot of people take A levels and then go to college. Colleges teach a lot of vocational stuff, adult education, etc.
A college for year 12 and 13 only would be a sixth form college, then the rest, which take all ages, are just called colleges."
And there you have it! Feel free to correct me and link to/post this anywhere you please. More love if I'm credited. ^_^
Please note: I live in California, I'm almost 25, and I've been out of school for 7 years. Things may have changed, and laws are different everywhere. If things are different in your state/county, please be nice about letting me know. Don't be mean, FFR, I have a rolled-up newspaper and I know how to use it. <3
Edit @ 6:26: I think it's formatted correctly, now. I may mess with it more. Off to read comments.
Further edits: I'm editing this as I get replies; please read the comments and see if your point has already been . . . pointed out . . . and then wait a minute or so for me to catch up, please! Thank you to everyone who's commenting!