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  Chapter Three:

  Educational Attainment
  Female Graduates
  Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  Private School
  College Tuition
  Graduate Education



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Preschool enrollment remained very low throughout the first half of the century but increased rapidly during the second half.
The traditional starting age for American elementary school children is six years. Kindergartens add an extra year of more or less formal schooling, beginning at age five. The concept and name of this extra year were imported from Germany, where the original kindergartens enrolled children at age four. 

Most kindergartens are operated in conjunction with an elementary school where pupils go directly into the first grade. While enrollment in the first grade is legally compulsory, enrollment in kindergarten is usually optional, although school systems may strongly encourage parents to take that option. 

Most nursery schools accept toilet-trained children at age three or older, although the distinction between preschools and day-care centers that accept even younger children is not always clear. 

The majority of nursery schools are privately owned and operated, some for profit and some not. Until the latter decades of the century, most were small and informal, but the vast increase in the number of working mothers, together with the advent of the Head Start program and federal day care subsidies in the 1960s, enlarged and formalized many nursery schools. 

Before 1965, enrollment in preschools never exceeded 10 percent of the total population of children aged three and four. But more than a third of that young population were enrolled by 1980 and more than half were enrolled in 1997, on schedules ranging from two or three hours once or twice a week to full-time attendance.

Chapter 3 chart 4

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series H 421; SA 1998, tables 258 and 266; and SA 1999, table 261. See also Digest of Education Statistics 1998 at (accessed August 25, 2000). For the characteristics of nursery schools, see Gladys M. Martinez and Jennifer C. Day, “School Enrollment: Social and Economic Characteristics of Students,” Current Population Reports P20-516 (July 1999).


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