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What Makes North Star Academy So Special?

The school, part of the Redwood City School District, serves grades 3 through 8 and consistently receives top marks for test scores and an enriching curriculum.

While most schools are cutting back on arts, theatre and other non-core subjects, students at Redwood City’s are enriching their studies with subjects from Medieval Weaponry to French Cooking .

The school teaches following the philosophy of Professor Joseph Renzulli, who stresses the potential of gifted students to learn without repeating material, thus providing greater opportunity for a diverse range of subjects to be covered.

The process of getting into North Star Academy is difficult, according to Wendy Kelly, a former Principal and Director of Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment at the .

Ninety-three students are selected annually entering third grade, based on a 7 point rubric that includes report cards from previous years as well as a reasoning test.

Gaining acceptance after third grade is difficult, given that there are very few drop outs. Applicants attempting to gain acceptance after that point will join a long waitlist.

According to Kelly, these rigorous standards make it possible to provide a higher quality of education to students, because material does not have to be repeated to the same extent as in typical elementary and middle school classes. As a result, gifted students have the opportunity to expand their knowledge.

North Star received an Academic Performance Index Score of 992 out of 1000 in 2011, ranking it as one of the top performing schools in the state.

North Star does not, however, simply teach to the test.

Students are constantly encouraged to seek out alternative activities if the class is covering material they are already familiar with.

This approach works very well for gifted children, according to Subartha Ramanathan, a parent of two children at North Star and an active PTA member.

Ramanathan explained how her son, now a high school junior at , was constantly bored throughout kindergarden.

“I was trying to find a way to keep him interested and engaged,” said Ramanathan.

Instead of focusing entirely on core material throughout the day and proceeding to extracurricular activities in the afternoon, North Star emphasizes exploring a diverse range of subjects throughout the day.

“One thing that makes it so unique and different is that we are able to offer deep and unique enrichment programs throughout the school day not just after school,” said Kelly.

Perhaps the most significant metric used by parents to judge an elementary or middle school is the extent to which the school prepares students for future education.

According to Kelly, a high percentage of students at North Star proceed to private high schools or to honors programs at the public high schools, while over 99% go on to pass the California High School Exit Exam.

“You don’t realize the value of North Star until your kid leaves North Star,” said Ramanathan.

What's special about your school? Tell us by emailing stacie@patch.com.

 

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Tia Creighton Knuedler September 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Robert:t Those schools in LAUSD are all for children testing "gifted" -- a term that is legally defined. North Star does not test for gifted and is not a school for the gifted. You will note North Star is very careful to say it is for "talented and high achieving students." The school never uses the term gifted. California districts can--in fact must--provide education for "gifted and talented" students via GATE programs. Children must reach certain thresholds and/or pass GATE tests to be deemed gifted. North Star is not a GATE school, therefore, it has no reason or rationale to test kids to get it.
Robert Clark September 17, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Tia, I believe there are some errors in your last post. First, there is no specific test for giftedness: Each district can define the selection criteria. LAUSD admits about the top 15%, as does North Star. See CA Ed Code: 52201. (a) "Gifted and talented pupil," as used in this chapter, means a pupil .. who is identified as possessing demonstrated or potential abilities ... as defined pursuant to Section 52202. 52202. For the purposes of this chapter, the demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of high performance capability shall be defined by each school district governing board... 2nd, CA districts are not required to provide GATE services. See http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/gt/gt/gateprogfaq.asp , the first FAQ. 3rd, why do you say North Star is not a GATE school? Does it say that in District documentation? Are they required to use the term "gifted" ? 4th, whether the district considers it a GATE school or not, North Star's "reason or rationale" for selective admission is clearly expressed in CA Ed Code secs 33080, 58400, and 58900 as well as the GATE provisions of 52200. The Code clearly encourages experimentation in providing for the differing needs of different students at the district level, including academically advanced students. About a third of all magnet schools use selection criteria. Not all of them are even academic magnets. See http://www.dps61.org/domain/920. Since you repeatedly use "legal", please provide sources.
Sheila Neufeld October 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM
The parents who whine and complain about North Star appear as spoiled children throwing tantrums because their child/children didn't get in. The children who do go to North Star are served very well by the school and the teachers. It is a wonderful learning environment. The kids love it and thrive there. They also learn and excel. It seems to me that is what should be important. It's 'illegal'??? Parents 'cheat' to get their kids in???? Seriously? Get a life and get a grip. Do something productive to help your child achieve better instead of moaning and groaning about a great school that quite possibly your child couldn't get in to.
Parenting by Adoption February 27, 2013 at 01:21 AM
My daughter is a 3rd grader at North Star currently. Previously she attended Henry Ford Elementary School. She had great teachers there BUT it was clear all three years that it was necessary to teach to the tests as the school was trying to get out of PI (program improvement) status. My daughter loved her teachers but was frequently bored and in some cases was helping her classmates. I do not send my child to 1st and 2nd grade to teach, I send her there to learn! North Star has a rigorous curriculum and this first year after coasting for three years at Henry Ford has been a bit of a academic shock to my child and her parents as well. Additionally Henry Ford is currently a K-5 school, we as parents preferred our child to attend a K-8 school. North Star is a 3rd grade through 8th grade school taking her to the point of readiness for high school. Look I don't feel like either option we have participated in is "perfect" and on some days I wish there was a middle ground school available. Where the pressure is not so high, she is in after all THIRD GRADE! But as parents who know what lies ahead in high school and college - we had to make the right decisions for our child. I was a very active volunteer at Henry Ford - PTA, Site Council, classroom volunteer, Art in Action docent, etc. I tried to make it work for my daughter but in the end a change was needed and North Star was the best option for our academically bright child.
Tia Creighton Knuedler March 03, 2013 at 05:03 PM
You clearly need to educate yourself to the back story about and the recent scandals regarding your child's school. Not all parents who "whine and complain" about North Star are those who couldn't get in. Many, if not most, are parents fighting the existence of this school based on principle. I will put my productivity up against anyone anytime. Y'all just let me know when you want to compare notes.

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