Our students engage in flexible, mixed-age groupings. Flexible, mixed-aged groupings means that students are grouped by their ability or need in a subject, rather than their age. Through a small group environment, teachers utilize formative assessment to guide the group's pacing. Although grade-level content is taught until proficiency, students are exposed to all levels and facets of a topic regardless of their technical grade level or age. All students participate in the full core academic subjects such as English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science, and Arts. There are no free periods. All instructional time is maximized through this schedule. This aspect allows students to be moved where they are most successful, and their schedule is created to meet their learning needs.
We employ the use of co-teaching (more than one teacher teaching at the same time) so that we can bring lessons closer to students. In our classes, we have the support of multiple educators and use parallel teaching (teachers cover the same information but reteach/accommodate it for the students they are working with) so that all students can engage in the lesson.
TEACHER TO STUDENT RATIO
An important part of STARS Academy’s mission is to provide individualized instruction and ensure each student receives the support they need. To do so, we maintain a low teacher to student ratio of 7:1. Our classes range in size depending on the subject and needs of the students.
We implement the Standards (with the implementation of the five Cs—Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Culture) school-wide and develop our core K–8 private school curriculum based on thematic units. Lessons integrate multiple content and performance standards, build upon prior knowledge, and allow for reflection, self-assessment, and metacognition. Common Core grade-level content is taught until proficiency. With personalized instruction, we can build in support so that proficiency can be achieved.
Our school includes Visual Arts, Dance, Music, and Theater intricately woven into the everyday curriculum. This integration allows creative expression for students through both mind and body, as they bring their ideas and dreams to life.
STARS Academy removes the stress of homework from our students’ and parents’ lives. We believe that homework causes more harm than good. We find that it is more important that students have time to discuss their day and what they are learning with their parents rather than have their parents try and understand how to re-teach them what they are learning in school. We do not find homework vital to our curriculum. We create lessons that are engaging and fun so that our students retain the knowledge of the material more effectively. Removing the stress of homework allows our students to return to school the following day with a positive attitude, further building their knowledge. STARS Academy does not provide any tangible homework, however, students will be encouraged to engage weekly in a few activities to solidify the fundamental skills of reading, math, and communication.
Our school days include opportunities to play, invent, discover, and design. Through these opportunities, students become well-versed in a wide range of art, media, and techniques. They enhance their core skills through this integration. We believe in an active learning process, rather than passively receiving teachers' knowledge. We bring learning alive as students apply classroom learning to tangible problem-solving.
We believe students need to take ownership of their learning and to do so, we have eliminated traditional letter grades. It reduces stress levels and competition among students and levels the playing field so that students can just focus on the actual learning. We believe success is measured on a personal growth scale and students need to learn the skills of self-monitoring. Students learn to find the answer rather than worrying about if it is right or wrong. We instill skills of Growth Mindset (the belief that one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning) so that students focus on the process of learning, rather than the product. Each semester students prepare a conference in which they reflect on their progress throughout the semester and set goals for themselves.
Our goal is individual student success, both academically and socially. At STARS Academy, teachers understand students individually and work as a team to address each student’s academic and social needs. Additionally, our goal is to develop student leaders through peer practice partnerships and collaborative creation. We provide our students with opportunities to highlight their learning in public through family events, presentations, and publications. Our students are empowered to take on responsibility, advocate to affect and create change, and develop a sense of self. If you have any more questions or concerns about our K–8 private school curriculum or education, do not hesitate to connect with us.
Many of our classes employ project-based learning to help students understand the multifaceted relationships among academic subjects, technical and life skills, and the greater world. Project-based learning integrates multiple subject areas into a topic of study. A single project has an overarching theme, but students approach it from a multi-disciplinary perspective. By focusing on the project as a whole, students learn competency skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic where the emphasis is placed on these skills as tools, not as ends to the process. As they work through the project, students also acquire and exercise problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The project-based learning process engages and motivates students to accomplish multi-level achievements. They increase core competencies and improve practical skills, as well as complete a tangible project. Project-based learning promotes self-motivation and competence through the interests of students, enhancing their propensity to become lifelong learners. These approaches also encourage many modalities of expression.
Reciprocal Teaching, as described in Reciprocal Teaching: Seeing is Believing, occurs in small, flexible groups and is proven effective in helping all learners (Baker et al.). Learning experiences are specifically designed to reinforce what individual students know and to provide access to what they need to learn next. This ensures that students gain independent control and mastery over reading, comprehension, and problem-solving strategies. Students learn how to summarize, clarify, question, and predict while investigating, reading, thinking, and problem-solving. Small student-centered groups are used to address the individual instructional needs of all students. These groups range from five to fifteen students so that discussions are in-depth, there is room for clarification and knowledge is able to be transmitted effectively. These small groups are constantly changing as they are flexible based on observation, interest, motivation, and faculty assessment. Similarly, this model allows students to engage with content on deeper and more complex levels at these times.
In order to differentiate our curriculum to serve the needs of all students, we use a Parallel Curriculum model as described in The Parallel Curriculum: A Model for Planning Curriculum for Gifted Students and the Whole Classroom (Palmer). This model ensures that all learners have access to content, competency, and appropriate degrees of challenge through faculty-reinforced exploration of steadily increasing levels of intellectual depth and complexity. Core and supplemental texts and learning materials are varied and adjusted to maximize intellectual access and full participation for all students. Through the use of individually appropriate textual materials and strategies, students at different levels of academic achievement are able to concurrently explore, discuss, and actively contribute to a shared understanding of fundamental themes and concepts, thereby reinforcing STARS Academy’s high-level expectations for all students.
Independent School Curriculum
At STARS Academy, our K–High School curriculum is set for individual student success, both academically and socially. Our educators and teachers understand students individually and work as a team to address each child’s academic and social needs for them to achieve greatness. We work very closely and build a foundation with our students and parents to help students succeed. Below you will learn about our academics, the way we teach, and our curriculum.