[Rigorous but harsh] Sixth grade was tough for my child because of the homework load and social/bullying issues. (Staff handled the latter quite well.) Some of the teachers seem to equate academic rigor with a harsh and humorless demeanor; I wish they'd make learning more fun. My kid responds to positive energy from teachers. And the history curriculum is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, what with its emphasis on ancient times, the male worldview, and Christianity. I do like that they infuse school life with virtues education (justice, temperance, prudence, fortitude). But sometimes "rigor" is self-defeating: Half the sixth grade had to repeat pre-algebra this year because the school was pushing seventh-grade material at sixth-graders last year! On the other hand, when my kid was in SPPS she was bored silly, it was so unchallenging. And I do like uniforms as a way to keep the focus off fashion and peer pressure and on school. I've looked at other schools, but there's no happy medium -- you either get too much rigor (Nova), or not nearly enough (every other St. Paul school). So we'll probably stay at Nova as long as our kid seems happy, healthy, and able to handle the work.
My school is on its way to becoming the best school in all of Minnesota!
My daughter is already asking how much longer summer will be until school starts. It is not that her days are lacking fun and relaxation, but that she finds Nova so engaging, involving and welcoming. The world-class (truly) curriculum and dedicated staff at Nova ensure a top-notch experience where scholarship and the development of the individual are the priority and the result.
Nova is an amazing charter school that brings a rigorous, classical, private-school-like experience to kids lucky enough to get in the lottery. The facility is beautiful, the expectations are high, and the community appreciates the teachers. This is a disciplined environment - so definitely make sure it fits your parenting style before signing up. It's truly a gem in St. Paul.
As a rising senior at Nova, who has hands-on experience and ample opportunity to observe what happens in classes, I have to say any comments degrading Nova, or complaining about its work load are utterly unjustified. It is by no means a "simple" school, it is by no means "easy." Nobody said it would be. Nobody said that a school that prepares you for life's struggles and hardships would be easy. Nova is a top-notch school, and I'm not just referring to the academics, which are only half of the deal. Nova's teachers are virtually irreplaceable--as in, I find my mind boggled when I look into their eyes and feel as if they care about me, as if they have a grain of compassion in their hearts, as if teaching is what they admire, and as if immersing themselves in work is what they love to do. Furthermore, as a student, I feel like I have thrived at Nova to extents impossible to state. I am allowed to speak my mind in classes; I have highly intelligent, curious, open-minded classmates to rebut my claims, and I have teachers to guide me through my studies as true mentors. If you want a place where you feel like people care and love and follow through with utter honesty, it's Nova.
Our two sons have attended NOVA for most of their school careers and are now in the Upper and Middle schools. We love the school - for us the trade-offs are more than worth it. I think you come to have a relationship with a school the same way you do with a work group or church or community group. I think it comes down to "fit", and for us NOVA is a fit. Our kids are challenged, the homework is also a challenge but we have decided it's worth tackling, and we like the personality of the school (intellectual, artistic, sometimes quirky, but in no way "heartless" as some reviewers have said). There is also a mix of liberal and conservative views. The classical education approach is embraced by some parents who home school their kids, and this conservative group (some of whom are also biblical literalists) co-exist side by side with the majority who are more moderate to liberal. We actually like this aspect of the school's diversity, and are grateful for the chance it gives us to discuss differing political and spiritual views with our kids. Judging by the quality of the kids in the upper school and how they treat each other, the school is doing a whole lot of things right.
I have read many of the reviews on this page and have noticed that the majority are submitted by parents. As a student at Nova, I feel that it is important to hear from not just parents but from students as well. Nova is unlike any other school you will ever attend. Students at Nova are beyond close and I am not alone in saying that I can trust every individual there. I feel like everyone there is my family. I love everyone. A lot of parents have submitted reviews complaining about the homework load. Yes, it's not a secret that you have to work hard at Nova. It's also not a secret that you have to work hard in college and in life. Nova is more than just a school. It's a promise for the future. Obviously, not everyone will perform optimally at such an intense school. It's also true that not all adults will perform optimally in life. But the best way to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead is to get the best education you can, even if it's difficult and even if it means lots of late nights. Nova has something for everyone, whether you're a hitter on the volleyball team, a lawyer on one of Nova's Mock Trial teams, or the lead in the spring musical.
In 25 yrs my fairly average kids (3rd, 5th, & 7th grade) will be running the world. It is my job to prepare them for what lies ahead. "Easy" is not what I am looking for. This is our 3rd year at Nova, My oldest struggled with the homework for about 3 weeks as he learned time management skills. Since then he has thrived at Nova while being active in Basketball and Track. I also enjoy watching my kids read and learn from the great authors and thinkers of history. From the journals of Christopher Columbus to the writings of philosopher Cicero. When I describe what goes on at Nova to the parents in my neighborhood, most just stare at me in disbelief. So dont take my word for it. Schedule a vist at Nova and see for yourself.
I could not agree more with the previous parent post regarding homework. Admittedly, I have heard numerous complaints about the amount of homework students receive, however, this should not be a surprise as the school's emphasis is on accleration. I have 3 daughters that have attended Nova for two years now. Currently, 2nd, 5th, and 8th graders. My 8th grader and recently 5th grader have participated in plays that have taken them away from the majority of their school day. To be more specific, the plays were at Minneapolis Childern's Theatre and SteppingStone Theatre. I mention this to make the point that these are professional venues and most should know that the production schedules are crazy and my 5th grader has a rigourous ballet schedule to boot. After all of this, they are still above average students. In fact, my 5th grader is a straight A student. I just wish parents would really take a good look at what they are entering into. It is a tough school, but any student can be successful with parental support. Parent/Educator
I find the comments on homework interesting. The school set out to have a rigorous curriculum and has high expectations for all students. We have a 7th grader who participates in both fall and spring sports, music, and still has time to complete the required work. Our 4th grader is able to complete his work in less than 30 minutes. Both are children are engaged in the subject matter and enjoy school. Enough said.
After several years at Nova, I have to revise my rating downward. We still love the curriculum but are becoming increasingly frustrated by the all-consuming homework of upper grades and high school. My 9th-grader regularly is spending 4+ hours per night on homework, and sometimes double that on weekends. (This is from a high-honor roll student who doesn't complain and who never had a problem with the middle-school homework load, which was also significant.) If a child even has even one other activity -- a sport or mock trial -- she is pretty much committed to being up at midnight every night. I second the other parent who says the "major work" calendar is useless. So are the yearly homework logs, which appear to be roundly ignored. My high-schooler will likely tough it out, but I sincerely doubt whether we'll have our second child continue beyond eighth-grade. She's already showing signs of frustration and despair in middle school. I used to be one of the school's biggest backers. I used to think that any child could succeed at Nova. I don't think that anymore.
Nova is a great school, but that is not to say it is without flaws. It is still a very new school (will have its first graduating class this year) and there are definitely things that need to be worked out, especially in the upper grades. While I understand the philosophy of hard work, sometimes I wonder if it might be a little bit much. The school makes promises that colleges will examine the schools curriculum and adjust accordingly, but I am afraid that many students will be at a disadvantage going into this process simply because of lower GPAs. Many have talked about the homework load. It is not so extreme as many make it out to be, but sometimes it can be excessive. One of the only other real problems with homework is that teachers do not coordinate with each other. The major work calendar is supposed to take care of this, but it does not. Only assignments such as presentations, tests, and lengthy papers go on this calendar. A 4 page paper? A quiz? A 12 page annotation? A lab report? No, not on the calendar. I believe that Nova just needs to find the balance between a rigorous education and putting students at a disadvantage.
Nova is our second charter school. We attended Eagle Ridge and private schools before. Our 8th grader has really loved the warm welcome and is very active in volleyball and other school activities. Our third grader is loving the supporting learning environment and the new facility is just beautiful. The school has a very long waiting list of people wanting to attend and you can feel that most of the families there are truly excited to be part of the community of students, teachers, parents and school administrators. We are staying here.
Nova is wonderful school. I have had 2 kids there since the first day. I have a child who will be in the first graduating class and we are so excited. It is a great place for learning but you must understand what you are getting into. My oldest child went to a public high school in St Paul. She was a straight A student in the IB program but her experience was not like Nova.
Nova is a niche school; it claims to be rigorous with an accelerated curriculum, and it delivers on that promise. I can't imagine how hard it is to hold to those expectations. The parents below who are upset should simply choose an easier school for their children. That is why Nova is a choice. Keep up the good work!
We've been at Nova for several years. We chose Nova for the academics but am so disappointed. They are a school of homework, homework, and more homework. They do nothing to teach the children the love of learning. I could not be more disappointed in Nova. Every year gets worse and worse. I can't tell you enough - please consider a different school. No parent should have the regret that I have. Even my own child can't wait to be out of Nova. The teachers lack compassion. The academics aren't worth what your child will lose in the long run. Please, save yourself the regret.
My son is now in 6th grade and has been at Nova since Kindergarten. I also will be removing my son from this school for 7th grade due to the overwhelming amount of homework and lack of support despite meetings upon meetings. Keep in mind that if it turns out your kid is not able to keep up with 11th/12th-grade level history readings in 6th grade, for instance, that there are no modifications for your child unless he receives a special-education test result that indicates he is "slow". My child tested at a 10th grade reading level and can't follow much of the readings, for instance. In any other school, he'd likely be an A student, but at Nova, get gets straight Ds and Fs despite 3-5 hours of homework per night. My son feels like a failure despite working hard. The nightly homework is so extensive that he can't find time to review for tests. He stays awake 1-2 hours past bedtime routinely to try to catch up in SIXTH GRADE. The most redeeming quality about Nova is that it's urban and exceptionally safe. Bullying is a minor problem. Parents are involved in the school. Your child will learn, but it might break their spirit and the essence of their childhood in the process.
Our family has been at Nova for 3 years now and we have had a wonderful experience. Both of my children are average students but are always excited about what they are learning and they are learning a lot. The teachers have been responsive when I have had questions or concerns. The administration has done a wonderful job in seeing the new campus project become a reality. No school is going to be perfect for everyone but we are very happy with our choice to move our kids here.
We love this school. I have one child in the upper school (8th) and one in the lower school (5th). First and foremost, this is an awesome curriculum. I love how art-music-history-literature all are tied together so that when students study literature from a time period, they also learn the music/art/history of that period. Every family has its own perspective on homework, but I'm going to be the contrarian: I don't think there's too much. My fifth-grader averages less than an hour a day, and the eighth-grader has about an hour and a half -- sometimes far less. Sure, when there's a project or research paper due, the older one might have a block of a couple hours working on research or rough drafts over the weekend, but she's learning interesting stuff and seems to enjoy it. In addition, I like that the athletic program is growing, with the varsity level sports (soccer and volleyball) this fall, and more to come. We have been very pleased with the choir program, drama club (for younger students) and fall and spring drama productions, which are really quite impressive.
Nova has worked out very well for our family. Some of our kids have had easier times than the others and some have had teacher conflicts but that is true of any school (or life- have you always liked your boss or co workers?) What I like about Nova is that they force my kids to do their best, at what ever level that is- NO SKATING BY. I feel like they offer support in the way of tutoring, although I can't deny it can be tough to keep up and I am still looking forward to the "final" version of this school when they work out some of the High School kinks
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