Guest Post: Studying in Michigan

[notice] Today we have a guest post by  Ruth Kraut an educator who blogs at  Ann Arbor School Musings. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she is a mom to three children, works in public health, and blogs about education issues in Ann Arbor and in Michigan[/notice]

Ann Arbor Open at Mack,  ( By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ann Arbor Open at Mack, ( By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I live in Michigan, which is a northern state in the middle of the United States. We don’t have the ocean, but we do have our great lakes!


Students in the U.S. generally enter elementary school, starting with Kindergarten, at age 5. Elementary school usually goes until grade 5 (kids are typically 10 or 11); then they go to middle school, generally grades 6-8 (11-14); and then high school is grades 9-12, generally up to about age 18.


Class sizes tend to be smaller in elementary school (20-30 students in a class, depending on where you live) and larger in middle school and high school (25-35 students in a class).

In elementary school, students spend most of their time with one teacher who teaches English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Additional classes with “special” teachers might be art, music, gym (physical education), health.


In middle school, teachers tend to specialize in one or two subjects, and the students rotate to different teachers during different class periods. In most school districts, students do not specialize in a particular area (for instance, science, or mechanics) and career decisions are left until after high school.
In the majority of school districts, students don’t start learning a second language until at least middle school and sometimes high school, and a lot of students only take a couple of years of a second language. So very often, U.S. students graduate from high school not speaking any other language.


Education in the United States is much more decentralized than it is in Singapore. Individual school districts, and individual states, have a lot of say in how students will be educated. Depending on where you live, you might end up with more project-based assignments and hands-on learning, or more of a test-based curriculum. Students in elementary school generally are not “tracked” based on how much knowledge they already have.


That means that sometimes the classes have a wide variety of skills in them. A first grade classroom, for instance, might have students who barely know the English alphabet and students who are reading chapter books. That can be challenging for the teacher!

My own children went to a school that was a combined elementary/middle school K-8 “magnet” school. To get in, there was a lottery. For the first child, you just had to put your name in and if it was drawn, your child could go there. After that, there is a “sibling preference” so my younger kids got to go there as well. No tests are taken to get in. This school is a little bit unusual in that most of the classrooms have more than one grade in them.


For instance, right now my youngest son is in a 7th/8th grade classroom. I like this because in life, we don’t just work with people of one age. I also like this because one year he is the younger child and can get help from the older children, and the next year he gets to be the helper. I also like this school because they do a significant amount of “project-based” work, where they learn with a lot of hands-on activities and do projects.



This week is my youngest son’s last week at the school, and I’m rather sad about it. It has been a good place for all of my children to learn!