Building Blocks and Next Steps
A two-year series of articles looking at kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Kindergarten, which is German for "children's garden," is serious stuff these days. With half-day programs giving way to full days in state after state, the curriculum once saved for first grade has been pushed down to 5- and 6-year-olds.
First Grade
Elementary school educators across the country, not to mention members of Congress and the president of the United States, are trying to inject words into seemingly every moment of every 6-year-old's life.
Second Grade
Once it was a time for youngsters to master reading and math skills learned in first grade and prepare for the independent learning traditionally demanded in third grade. But in many public schools across the country, second grade has moved on.
Third Grade
These days, everything starts with third grade. It is the first year in which states test students in reading and math under the No Child Left Behind law. Many schools have reorganized to make sure those 8- and 9-year-olds get all the attention they need.
Fourth Grade
Fourth-graders have left behind the primary years and entered an intermediate stage seen as a transition to middle school.
Fifth Grade
Fifth-graders often learn rapidly and are capable of advanced academic work, and yet they are also as fun-loving and genuine as when school was new and they were just learning to read.
Sixth Grade
Sixth grade is a weird year, full of physical, emotional, social and logistical transitions that schools meet with wildly varying levels of success.
Seventh Grade
For two decades, policymakers have decreed that seventh grade should be a time when children have a chance to adjust to puberty and cliques and the other annoyances of turning 13. Now that attitude is changing.
Eighth Grade
Once stuck squarely in the middle of junior high, eighth grade has taken on new importance as the end of the modern middle-school experience. It is the gateway to the super-charged, high-school world.
Ninth Grade
Teachers are increasingly searching the records of each new ninth-grader before school begins and talking to their families and previous teachers.
Tenth Grade
Once less fraught than the earnest freshman year before it and the intense junior year that follows, 10th grade now pulses with a tension of its own.
Eleventh Grade
No single grade in the K-12 system produces more reports of anxiety and stress than 11th grade.
Twelfth Grade
As national concern grows over the quality of America's workforce -- and with reports that about 30 percent of students who go to college need remediation -- 12th grade has become a central issue in the debate about the future of public education.

© 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive