What Ages Go With Each Grade In America?- The Age Guide

Education is compulsory for all children in America. The child literacy in America statistics might shock you. The estimate is that a staggering 27% of students in 8th grade aren’t at a basic reading level.

It would help if you started your child off early to give them the best chance. It is debatable at what age a student should start going to school—starting your child off too early or later than the rest has some disadvantages.

Children have different learning capacities that differ with age. It is why parents should start their children off at the right time to optimize their learning experience. The child should be mature enough to understand the basics of communication before starting school.

What Ages Go with Each Grade in America?

At the age of 4, a child should start preschool. The child should have entered first grade by the time they’re six years old. By the time they’re 13 or 14, they should be in 8th grade. High school starts at 14 or 15, and graduation from high school at 18.

The United States Education Structure

The education system in the United States lies in four distinct categories:

  1. Preschool
  2. Elementary school
  3. Secondary school 
  4. Higher education centers

1. Preschool

Preschool is the earliest form of education that a child can receive in the US. It is available to children from three to five. Preschool is optional for all children in America, though parents should enroll their children.

In preschool, children learn the very basics of communication. They learn about shapes, colors, numbers, and patterns. It introduces them to the fundamentals of etiquette and gives them a chance to interact with their other children.

2. Elementary school

Elementary school is compulsory for all children in America. It starts from kindergarten to eighth grade. There are legal consequences on the parent or guardian if your child fails to attend elementary school.

Children can attend a public school or private school. Homeschooling is allowed.

In elementary school, the curriculum varies from state to state. Children take standardized tests as they progress through each level of elementary school. There is generally no specialization in elementary school, and everyone learns the same thing.

3. Secondary school

Secondary school starts at grade 9. Secondary school is the final compulsory stage in the education system. The academic content is not yet advanced and still largely unspecialized.

In high school, there are compulsory subjects and electives. Electives are optional subjects that students get to select. The secondary school allows students to identify the general areas they might want to specialize.

Secondary school lasts four years. Students get to apply or receive offers from universities. They also make essential career path choices. They take placement courses at this stage.

Higher Education

Higher education is the final step. It is optional to seek higher education.

Most students graduate high school at 18 or 19. They may decide to venture into the workforce directly or attend colleges.

Post-secondary school education offers learners advanced and specialized skills that suit specific fields. These qualifications improve your chances of getting employment.

Higher education institutions get grouped into four distinct categories. They are:

1. State Universities

These are institutions that state governments run. These governments also finance and support the institutions.

Each state has at least one university. They offer a wide range of programs, ranging from certificate, diploma, degree, master’s, and doctorate programs.

2. Private Universities

These are institutions that are owned and financed privately. Most owners and financers of private universities are individuals or religious groups.

Private universities owned by religious groups do not turn away other students. They must meet a specific ratio of students from the founding religion.

Government subsidies are not extended to private institutions and tend to be quite expensive. These institutions offer similar programs and courses to those offered by state universities.

3. Community colleges

These are institutions that offer two-year programs. The programs they offer are classified into two categories: transferable programs and certifications.

Transferable programs are bridge courses. They allow you to transfer credits to state universities and complete your programs there. The advantage of transferable programs is that they allow you to complete your course in a shorter period at a state university.

Certifications are programs that equip students with skills for the workforce. The credits for certifications are not transferable to state universities. They are short courses that allow learners to join the workforce at a higher skill level.

Causes Of Child Illiteracy

The United States has some shocking child illiteracy statistics for a developed country.

All children must get the opportunity to have an education. The government allows parents to homeschool their kids.

Child illiteracy is attributable to several factors. It is essential to understand the causes to discuss the probable solutions.

Here are some common causes of illiteracy among children in the United States:

1. Illiteracy background in the family

There is a damning correlation between a lack of education for parents being transferred forward to the next generation. It is not uncommon for uneducated parents to disregard the importance of educating their children.

In families where the parents have been educated, the children are more likely to receive an education. An estimate of 70% of all child illiteracy stems from a generational culture of under-education. A lot needs to be done to correct the statistic.

2. Poverty

Some parents fail to emphasize the importance of reading or getting a good education. It is especially true for the case of low-income families in the United States. The emphasis in low-income households is employment rather than education.

The disproportionate literacy levels between children from low-income households and those from average and high-income households are reflected in the disproportionate literacy levels.

3. Access

Some children are disadvantaged by a lack of access to reading materials. It is especially true since the prevalence of online learning started at the pandemic’s beginning. Many children who lack computers or decent internet connections were left behind.

More should be done to ensure that each child gets a fair opportunity to access education from their home.

4. Inadequate support

Children with special needs are more likely to be left behind. So is the case with children with other physical disabilities. The disparity between the literacy levels of the demographic is still high, and more needs to be done to support these children.

The Effects Of Child Illiteracy

Child illiteracy is a problem plaguing the United States and other countries globally. It has damning effects on children as it impacts their chances of success.

Here are some consequences of child illiteracy:


Illiteracy bears a strong correlation with unemployment. The market for workers is very competitive, and illiterate folks get disproportionately turned away from decent jobs.

Most jobs require folk to display some basic form of literacy. It is the minimum skill required to get employment in nearly all fields, including casual work.


According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an estimated 66% of inmates lack the essential ability to read or write. It is undoubtedly a shocking statistic. 

It gets even worse for children. In the juvenile system, only two of all ten children display the basic competence levels of literacy. Children who are left behind are statistically more likely to turn to crime. They are also more likely to spend time in correctional facilities.

Esteem and mental issues

Illiterate folk suffers a lot from the stigma associated with the inability to read or write. Society views the illiterate as being unworthy members of society. These attitudes are reflected in employment, incarcerations, etc.

Illiteracy can lead to low self-esteem and even self-harm. All children must be given equal opportunities for growth and literacy to avoid the stigma associated with illiteracy.

More needs to be done to change people’s attitudes toward illiterate folks.

Financial insecurity

Illiterate people are statistically more financially insecure. It can be attributed to having low-paying jobs and also financial illiteracy. Illiterate folks are more likely to make irresponsible decisions with their finances, contributing to financial insecurity.

The vicious cycle of illiteracy

Unfortunately, people from homes with illiterate parents are likely to become illiterate themselves. Unfortunately, nearly all cases of illiteracy can directly be attributed to parents’ attitudes toward education.


It would help if you started your child’s schooling early to optimize their learning experience. Literate children are more likely to succeed in the real world. Learning should be taken seriously during the early stages, as it could set the tone for the kind of student that your child would be.

In America, your child must start schooling at four. It is estimated that this is the age where they’re mature enough to understand the basics of communication. 

John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor is a seasoned writer with more than 10 years of experience as a professional. He has written professionally for many different organizations, such as The Atlantic and the Boston Globe. John can write on any topic you need him to cover, from business writing to creative nonfiction pieces. His portfolio speaks for his skills; he's not only an experienced writer but also an excellent editor and researcher!


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