The Idaho State Department of Education’s Core Standards serve as the starting point and is enhanced with unifying themes and other creative methods. The subjects that make up the curriculum are listed and briefly discussed below. Traditional core curriculum areas–language, social studies, science, physical education, and mathematics,–remain strongly emphasized. The core curriculum is enhanced with music/arts, American history studies and business/economics.
NSCS’s curriculum has an emphasis on business and economics that makes NSCS unique. The focus on business and economics is purposely woven into the fabric of NSCS curricula, and is considered to be a core foundational skill for NSCS students. In a global economy marked by rapid technological advances, students face increasingly complex economic decisions in their lives. As producers, consumers, spenders and investors, young people make economic choices daily. They must be prepared for the challenges they will face in the years to come. Equipping students with economic decision-making skills to navigate through life will lead to increased civic competence, proficiency in logical and analytic reasoning, an appreciation of our free enterprise system, and a development of crucial personal and survival skills.
When is the best time to begin teaching children about economics? Some would say that as soon as children ask for money, parents should begin teaching economic principles. Most states have adopted one semester of economics in high school as a requirement for graduation. However, young children are capable of understanding the most basic economic principles: scarcity, wants, needs, choices, costs. Society is assigning increasing opportunities to children to become consumers. Governmental leaders are more willing than ever to privatize essential services, making private citizens more and more responsible for their own well-being. In other words, each person will need to become his or her own “economist” in the future. It is unlikely that future “economists” will be ready to make these critical decisions with just one semester of high school economics.
NSCS’s approach has several layers. We teach students to “think economically”. We provide lessons throughout the core curricula to teach the influence of economic decisions in our neighborhoods, communities, history, and future. Finally, we give students the skills to apply economic principles to problems faced both nationally and internationally.
NSCS’s language arts curriculum is designed to develop effective communicators, who love literature, and to develop a lifelong passion for reading and writing. Younger grades focus on explicit phonemic awareness and phonics-based reading instruction to ensure that NSCS students learn to decode and read text through research-based methodologies and instructional practices described in the Teaching Reading Sourcebook, 2nd edition . As recommended by the Idaho Core Standards, NSCS implements and utilizes a novel-based approach, guided by the instructional practices and exercises in the Teaching Reading Sourcebook, 2nd edition to teach and develop rich vocabulary, reading comprehension and reading fluency. NSCS’s writing curriculum focuses on ensuring students understand and apply basic grammar skills through the explicit, research-based teaching required to develop rich written language and helps the student apply these skills to research, informative writing, persuasive argument, narratives and college preparatory writing.
Social Studies, Business and Economics
NSCS’s social studies curriculum includes instruction in history, government, geography, current world affairs, and sociology with a heavy emphasis on citizenship, business and economics. This focus on citizenship, business and economics is a unique curriculum choice, which NSCS is proud to make available to its community. As students progress through the NSCS curricula, the emphasis is enhanced with an additional focus on community service and how students apply their understanding of and their contributions to the community around them.
NSCS’s science curriculum is a multi-year sequence that emphasizes hands-on-on experimentation and functional knowledge of scientific phenomena. NSCS is proud to offer an elementary science curriculum taught by a dedicated and certified science teacher in grades 3rd through 5th. This unique commitment emphasizes NSCS’s dedication and commitment to ensuring a superior science curriculum which focuses on Life Science, Physical Science and Earth Science.
A flexible physical education program, taught by a certified teacher, ensures that NSCS students develop the coordination, motor skills and overall fitness necessary to lead healthy and active lives. Students are expected to participate in physical education activities, which will teach them good sportsmanship, team play, and participation that will translate and generalize into the classroom and personal settings.
Through daily practice and reviewing application, NSCS’ math curriculum builds a strong early foundation in both facts and applied concepts. Younger grades will focus on mastery of arithmetic processes in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers, fractions and decimals through daily drills that develop math fluency. Developing automaticity for math facts early in the academic career of NSCS students allows for greater ease of applications as students progress through the math curricula and focus on advanced concepts and applications such as place value, time, money, story problems and complex problem-solving.
NSCS appreciates and promotes the need for math to be a hands-on learning experience, when learning how to apply math strategies. Students engage in exploration, conjuring and deeper level thinking promoted by the Idaho Core Standards and the Math Thinking for Instruction (MTI) methodologies. MTI methods are designed to help the student understand the multitude of methods available for solving any given math problem, rather than the rigid approach historically taken to solving math problems via one specific algorithm or strategy. MTI methodologies take into consideration the child’s cognitive development, issues of number, meanings of operations and how they relate to one another, and computation within the number system as a foundation for algebra, number systems, ways of representing numbers, meanings of operations and how they relate to one another, working with qualitative and quantitative change and the need to describe and predict variation.
NSCS students develop a high degree of mathematical literacy and qualitative proficiency as indicated by consistently superior year-end summative assessments. Mathematics is taught as a tool for reasoning and problem solving in purposeful ways through a combination of initial explicit and direct instruction, followed by application in problem solving and real-world situations. Because math instruction is interwoven with the business and economics focus at NSCS, the students are explicitly taught the math skills through direct instruction, after which they use the skills and an economics-based context, focusing on every day, real-world application such as formulating compounding interest, how to read and develop bar graphs, understanding savings and loans agreements, etc.
NSCS utilizes the Orff-Schulwerk method for music teaching and learning, combined with and supported by movement, based on things children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat or play a rhythm on anything near at hand. These natural behaviors are directed first into responding to and making music; reading and writing music are a later natural outgrowth of these experiences. Composer Carl Orff, originator of the approach, called this music and movement activity “elemental” – basic, unsophisticated, concerned with the fundamental building blocks of both art forms. The purpose is to provide a means for awakening the potential in every child for being “musical” – able to understand and use music and movement as forms of expression. The further intent is to develop a foundation for lifelong enjoyment of music and movement/dance, and for some, the incentive for specialized individual study.
NSCS offers its student community a unique curriculum designed to instill in our students a love and appreciation of our heritage, particularly the history of American leaders and influential individuals and its Constitution. By studying and understanding our original founding documents, and the lives and writings of the Founders and other influential leaders, NSCS students will understand and appreciate their roles and responsibilities as virtuous citizen leaders in the 21st century. This focus on our American Heritage is integrated into the elementary curriculum, and carries through the middle school and high school curricula as students look at the documents and machinery of American democracy in American Government in specific classes such as US History, American Government and History of the Americas.
Technology will be used to support a child’s natural way of learning through individual and group discovery and seeking solutions to real-life challenges. NSCS will provide our learners with technology skills that prepare them for future employment. In the elementary grades, students receive explicit instruction related to keyboarding, basic computer skills and the utilization of technology in NSCS’s elementary computer lab. As students progress into middle school, their technology skills develop through Business and Technology courses, in the computer lab. They begin to utilize the technology in topic presentations. As high school students, they use the technology skills they have learned to conduct research, develop essays, and present information to educators and peers. North Star teachers utilize an array of technologies each day in their classroom through desktops computers for student use, staff laptops, iPads and Apple TVs used for the delivery of instruction and the use of Interwrite Boards to enhance visual presentation. NSCS will, in the future, continue to explore the feasibility of using technology to create new methods of delivery within and outside the school. New approaches to delivery may be adopted if and only if they are feasible, sustainable and do not detract from existing delivery success.
NSCS is committed to improving student achievement through high expectations for student engagement and meaningful preparation for postsecondary education and careers. NSCS’s curriculum, instructional methodologies, use of assessment, scheduling and professional development are designed and continually reviewed to ensure student achievement. This approach of continual critical inquiry dedicates NSCS to a student-focused model of best practice.
NSCS teachers utilize a combination of direct instruction and Idaho Core Standard-inspired questioning in group activities, designed around current educational research indicating effectiveness and best practice. NSCS has maintained many of its philosophical education roots, with its focus on keeping the curricula challenging and the expectations for learning high, while utilizing the help and support of qualified educational assistance and classroom volunteers.
We draw not only on time-honored practices, but also on many valuable insights into childhood cognitive and developmental processes realized in recent decades. Moreover, we place strong emphasis on the relationship between the school and the home, recognizing the critical role of parents in fostering children’s education.
We see ourselves as allies of the family, reinforcing parents’ efforts to guide the intellectual, emotional, and moral development of their children. By providing moral and ethical standards, the school prepares its students to accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Every child is capable of achieving his or her potential to the fullest extent when afforded respect, fairness, kindness, discipline, and appropriate instruction.
NSCS seeks to achieve accelerated student learning by using cross-curricular methods to teach Idaho Core Standards. Through multiple methods, all students are capable of fulfilling their individual potential. NSCS currently uses the following instructional methods:
• THE SUBJECT MATTER METHOD presumes that an educated learner needs to know clearly defined skills and concepts that can best be learned in an organized sequential fashion. The primary method to ensure these skills are acquired is through direct-instruction. NSCS also utilizes computer-based learning for struggling learners who may be missing the prerequisite skills necessary for them to participate successfully in the general education curriculum. Computer-based learning offers students an opportunity to receive instruction at their instructional level, through state-sponsored computer-based programs such as Plato Learning Environment. Computer-based learning is also an engaging method for providing the opportunity for high-repetition drills sometimes necessary for learning.
• THE INQUIRY AND PROBLEM-SOLVING METHOD suggests that learning occurs when individuals think critically and solve problems. The predominant premise of this method is that it is important to know how to retrieve and use the information, not just to have instant recall and possession of the information. With the adoption of the Idaho Core Standards, North Star has shifted the way students indicate mastery of a skill from not only recalling the information on tests and quizzes but also applying the skill in problem solving and real-world situations.
• THE DISCUSSION METHOD encourages learning through sharing of information and concepts within a group, with the thinking process playing an important role. A discussion leader is prepared to recognize each learner’s level of understanding and can respond at the level most helpful to the learner. The Discussion Method is encouraged by the Idaho Core Standards, as a way for learners to connect with one another through a sharing of ideas.
NSCS’s educational roots are in the Subject Matter Method. However, NSCS has transitioned from a predominantly Subject Matter Method into a blended model, which also utilizes the Inquiry and Problem-Solving Method and Discussion Method. While the Subject Matter Method will always have its appropriate place in subjects such as phonemic awareness, phonics, and numerical operations, many skills are better taught and learned through the Inquiry and Problem-Solving Method and Discussion Method such as reading comprehension skills, and math application and word problem solving skills.
DEFINING AN EDUCATED PERSON
An educated person in the 21st century has a strong foundation in basic reading, writing, science, social studies, and computational skills. He has been educated in a technology-rich environment that has encouraged the effective use of technology as a tool in the workplace. A 21st century learner develops the following intellectual habits important in the work place: adapting to new situations and responding effectively to new information; critical thinking and solving problems; locating and evaluating information from a variety of sources; making flexible connection among various disciplines of thought; thinking logically and making informed judgments. NSCS instills in its 21st century learners personal habits important in the work place: accepting responsibility for personal decisions and actions; honesty, courage, and integrity; leadership; a healthy lifestyle; empathy, courtesy, and respect for differences among people; reflection; self-confidence; concentration and perseverance; responsible time management; assuming a fair share of the work load; and working cooperatively with others to reach group consensus.
WHEN LEARNING BEST OCCURS
NSCS believes that students have the opportunity to accelerate their learning and excel when they are provided with a safe, supportive environment and challenging academic content. Students are actively engaged in learning when Highly Qualified teachers provide rich content in a safe and challenging environment. Learning best occurs when students are provided a teaching and learning climate that is positive and safe. Every student has the right to attend a school that encourages positive and productive learning, provides a safe and orderly environment, and promotes student respect for themselves and others. Students learn when their teachers and learning environment emphasize high expectations of behavior and performance. Students accelerate when they are given opportunities to develop and express exemplary character traits in concert with their overall education program. NSCS believes that learning occurs when:
• learners construct meaning;
• learners see the connection between what they learn and the real world;
• learners are actively engaged in purposeful tasks;
• activities are integrated and meaningful;
• learners work individually and as members of a group;
• learners are expected and encouraged to learn;
• learners internalize that what they learn and do in school makes a positive change in the community;
• learners are supported by passionate, engaged coaches, mentors, and advocates;
• all learners have advanced learning opportunities; and
• learners see themselves as part of the community and find ways to serve the community.
No matter how skilled the teacher or how elaborate the classroom, learning takes place in the mind of the student. The most effective educational environment, therefore, is the one that stimulates and engages the mind of the student. The core educational philosophy of NSCS is grounded in the belief that providing a highly challenging content in a safe environment creates the setting for accelerated learning. NSCS offers an advanced curriculum to its students, focused on helping students meet and exceed the Idaho Core Standards. This offers students in our community a choice for public education that meets the needs of advanced learners, while ensuring that struggling learners receive the help to which they are entitled through Response to Intervention, direct paraprofessional support and differentiated learning.
This core educational philosophy is represented in NSCS evidence-based curricula and through student participation in a successful, spiraling curriculum, direct instruction, and the “teach to the top” philosophy that has helped NSCS students report some of the highest state-mandated, year-end assessment results in the state of Idaho. NSCS believes that when teachers design lessons around teaching to the advanced student (teaching to the top), all students in the classroom benefit from and accelerate their learning.
NSCS is made up of an Elementary Program covering grades K-5 and a Secondary Program covering grades 6-12, with the middle school years being grades 6-8 and the high school years being grades 9-12.
All students will participate in a common core of learning that will fulfill the school’s mission. It is the intent of the NSCS to ensure that students achieve and exceed the Idaho Core Standards.
Our students will learn to:
• develop oral and written skills;
• use knowledge and skills, think logically, and solve problems related to mathematics;
• acquire sufficient knowledge of science to be responsible users of scientific information;
• develop their aesthetic talents in music, visual arts, and/or performance.
In keeping with NSCS’s mission, we recognize that education is more than the assimilation of facts. Proficiency in a discipline means that the learner becomes a capable practitioner and has a sufficient foundation to pursue advanced study. NSCS emphasizes both the acquisition and application of knowledge.