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Adapting the United States Educational System Abroad

In recent decades, the growth of so-called “charter” and “magnet” schools in the United States has drawn exceptionally gifted students to their classrooms. Oftentimes these institutions have highly specialized curricula designed to graduate students with a high degree of technical proficiency in their chosen fields such as chemistry and engineering. These schools have instated ‘pay-by-performance’ compensation models, which reward teachers if their students graduate with exceptional marks. These incentives are crucial for increasing interest in the teaching fields, which have lagged in numbers compared to other sectors.

Brazil examined the United States charter system with great interest and recently has begun adopting the charter system in several major cities including Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro[i]. These charter schools will largely serve the underprivileged children who cannot afford a quality education. Before implementing these charter schools on a wider scale, however, the institutions will be subject to evaluation by international accrediting bodies.

Another educational issue that Brazil is currently reviewing for implementation is a guideline of minimum expectations that must be met by students before graduation. In the United States, these guidelines are referred to as the Common Core. These changes are intended to make the requirements as specific as possible and to standardize them across the country. For example, a high school diploma or a general education degree (GED) usually guarantees a certain level of proficiency in subjects such as mathematics, sciences and literature. These core competencies ensure that the student can successfully pursue university-level studies.

Perhaps the most recognized hallmark of the American educational system is the 4.0 or “A through F” grading scale. 4.0 represents the highest level of academic achievement, although a few states list GPA’s that can be higher. Converting grades to the United States system is a critical component of SpanTran’s course analyses, which convert grades to the 4.0 scale to ensure that international student records can be acceptable for admissions purposes.