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.
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