Secondary Education, in the United States, the schooling that follows elementary education, up to the college level. Secondary schooling, or high school, may begin at varying grade levels. For many years secondary schooling was considered to encompass the high school years—grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Many school districts, however, no longer follow the traditional pattern of offering 8 years of elementary school followed by 4 of high school; instead, they have a 6–2–4 or a 6–3–3 system of elementary school, junior high, and high school as distinct levels. A few systems provide five years of secondary school, beginning with grade 8. Many substitute a middle school (grades 5 or 6 through grades 8 or 9) for a junior high school. Junior highs and middle schools are a bridge between elementary and secondary education but usually operate more like high schools than elementary schools; for example, the pupils have different teachers for each subject.
Some high schools use the grade system for designating class level (9th grade, 10th grade, etc.) but most, at least informally, use the college designations of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Preparatory schools (private schools emphasizing preparation for college) often use the British term form, with 7th graders being in the first form and seniors in the sixth.
In the majority of states, school attendance is compulsory until age 16, by which time a pupil has usually completed only 9 or 10 grades. Because of increasing need in business and industry for highly trained persons, all students are being urged to complete their secondary schooling. Graduation from high school is a minimum requirement for most employment opportunities.
About nine-tenths of the country's high school pupils are enrolled in free public schools. The rest attend some type of private school, mainly parochial schools.
A secondary school that meets the academic standards of its regional association of colleges and secondary schools is designated as “accredited”—its graduates are not required to take examinations in high school subjects in order to be admitted to college. Most colleges, however, require that certain aptitude tests (such as the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT) be taken prior to admission.