This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Nova Classical Academy Upper School1
Posted May 02, 2015
- a parent
My son is a senior at Nova Classical Academy. I regret sending him there for high school because of the ridiculous amount of homework that teaches him nothing other than to be a mindless robot. They make the seniors do a senior thesis akin to a doctoral thesis, and they take it very seriously. The seniors must write a 20+ page paper and go in front of a committee to defend their thesis. While I think this could be a great way to teach kids how to think and write preparing them for college, Nova, as it does with all assignments, has such high expectations for the thesis. I now cannot count the number of sleepless nights my son has had this year as a senior trying to get assignments done and meet deadlines. He is exhausted. If you have a child who takes their time with homework and really wants to learn concepts rather than rush through assignments just so they can get everything done, do not send you child to Nova Upper School.
Learning needs to be joyous, self directed and from within. Exposing children to ideas, inspiration and possibilities has to be the guiding principal, not cramming it down their throats with rote cognitive passive memorization (only one learning style of 7) and a sense of lack of balance in life with unnecessary and stressful amounts of homework, so much so in the upper grades,t hey never have time to think through alternate appraches . If the child loves learning, it will happen - that is built on trust and respect for the person and their individual gifts no matter the form that might take. There is no sense of value of balance or inner approaches. That's the western method for you... Building robots, not matter how smart is the opposite of critical thinking and creative problem solving. NOVA has clearly not thought through this as a pedagogy. Grades are not everything and all gifts are not grades.
Nova Classical Academy is perhaps more deserving of praise than any other school, as it is not just that--a school-- but a land of cultural, philosophical, scientific, and literary academia. It challenges its students beyond their limits, with a curriculum strict, difficult, rigorous, disciplinary, and endlessly diverse. Nova adheres to its school motto--"non scholae sed vitae discimus" (we learn not for school but for life)-- to every possible extent, fostering a kind of invaluable passion for learning within each and every student. This school is a place like no other; it is truly unique, and leaves every visitor, every student, every parent, and every grandparent utterly mind-boggled. Nova restores into students a hope for creativity and humanity, providing them with skills valuable for all situations of life, from critical thinking, to on-feet analysis, to hands-on work, to diplomatic communication.
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 high-honor roll freshman regularly is spending 4+ hours per night on homework, and sometimes double that on weekends. (This is from a 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 as a sixth-grader. 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 a very new school (will have its first graduating class this year) and there are still a few kinks, especially in the upper grades. 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. How advanced the students actually are shows through activities such as mock trial and debate: Nova won 1st and 3rd varsity speaker awards at State debate, as well as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 9th at the last mock trial competition. I believe that it is through things such as this that its true excellence is displayed. Many talk about the homework load. While it is not so extreme as many make it out to be, it can be excessive. They promise that the "major work calendar" takes care of overload, but it does not. Only assignments such as presentations and tests go on this calendar. A 4 page paper? A quiz? A 12 page annotation? A lab report? No, not on the calendar. Nova just needs to find the balance between a rigorous education and putting students at a disadvantage.
Nova is a great school. It is definitely academic challenging and yes, you child will be pushed further than in a regular public school. I think they are a year or two ahead in the curriculum (Chemistry in 7th grade, Physics in 8th - and it's not dumbed down either.). That's why we chose it! Yes, there is a lot of homework but to some degree, this depends on how quickly your child works. I have two children in the upper school and one child on the waiting list for the lower school and am very happy with it.
Nova is a great school trying to do great things. It saddens me to read the reviews below because the school is trying to be more inclusive and some parents hate it. The "controversial issues" below are actually sexual education and a Gay-Straight Alliance club; if you don't want your children around those ideas, go to a private, religious school ,not a public school. It is also ironic that one review says that we can't be parents here but also says that the school needs people to step up to be parents. This is a great school, but not a religious school. Get over yourselves.
Nova is the most unique school I have ever worked. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities to inspire and to push students to be more than they believed possible. I enjoy working with parents to help them to see what their children's potential truly is. I am sorry that not everyone is happy, but I believe we are doing good work here and that with the proper partnerships in place, every child will thrive at Nova.
Nova is the best school from K-4, then it starts getting ridiculous in the upper school. History lessons include memorization of dates, minutiae, and people (16-20 or so of these for each chapter) and complicated family trees for ancient royalty. The readings go up to the 11th grade level or so in 6th grade, so be prepared to tutor/teach your child extensively. English class in 6th grade is about at the 9th-11th grade level when it comes to grammar and reading lessons. Children read no American literature, and the books are "classical", yes (ie. slow and cumbersome). My son finds the books boring, and he loves to read. Homework per night is about 3-4 hours PLUS indoor recess PLUS tutoring PLUS weekends, so it will be your child's entire life, save maybe a club after school for 45 minutes. Even a haircut might mean a worksheet doesn't get done. There is NO adjustment to the curriculum if your child is struggling. If he can't read the 11th grade-level ancient text, he needs to "work harder". My child tested at an "academically superior" range, and gets Fs. Major issue for college entrance/self-esteem. Needless to say, after K-6 at Nova, we're going elsewhere for 7th grade.