American schools are in a state of mixed and uneven development. Some of the new school designs are trying to adapt to modern approaches to teaching and learning and to a globalised economy. Yet there is a surprising commitment to isolated classrooms run by a single teacher. These ‘neanderthal’ schools are being built alongside some of the most modern educational projects anywhere in the world. In his frst overview article, our American editor Paul Hutton looks at the way things are shaping up stateside.