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.