Students that would often be targets for bullying in standard schools are cared for and protected, and a lot of time is devoted to this. Students with iffy social skills or that are introverted and need one-on-one time with a counselor see no benefit.
My child scores at the gifted level in humanities, yet she made it all the way through Nova without being required to read one single novel. It was comics, movies, news articles, done. The 94% on the reading SAT was consistent with her middle school reading scores.
I have no idea how much homework my child received there. She wasn't aware of the amount of missing work she had, either. She should have checked; on the other hand, there was a time when Nova teachers really were counselors, and would set up meeting times with their kids and follow up if they did not show.
This used to be a place where every student was valued, but with the departure of core staff, students are neither challenged nor mentored. The combination of a pass/fail grading system with no reports to parents and no mentoring of students is lethal to the education of quiet, passive students. They just fall right between the cracks.
There is a lot of attention given to developing respect for gay, lesbian, bi and trans kids. In particular, Nova has become the safe house for trans kids, and there's a lot of time spent on this issue. If I had a trans student, I would send that child to Nova.
There's an agenda in place. If your child agrees with the political perspective of the staff, then a rapport can be built and your child will learn to treat others fairly and honestly. If your child is not interested in politics, or disagrees with staff political positions, s/he will be viewed as an outsider and may not feel like going to school.
The school is not the caring, mentoring environment it once was, and it is also no longer a democratic school in which student committees run every aspect, including teacher hiring and finance. The core faculty that built it have retired, and so now it's a school that does not give grades, does not give parents feedback even during freshman year, and also does not provide mentoring. Math here is a joke. A student that is gone for an entire semester--truant--will not inspire a single phone call home. There is a political agenda attached to the social justice aspect of the program, and if a kid doesn't agree politically with whatever social justice goal is being promoted, they will receive heavy pressure to fall in line. Mentoring does not happen, and parents receive no feedback. If the district sends out a letter telling the parent their child is not in line to graduate and needs summer school, Nova will tell them that because their program is different, that letter does not mean anything, but when the kid is truly at risk not to graduate, not a word is said. My girl scored 94% on the reading SAT, but did not get her diploma. Of course she is responsible, but as parents, we were discouraged from coming in for progress reports. The one time we insisted on a meeting, we were told, "Oh wow", and in the meeting we were assured our child could graduate easily and that we would hear if she got so far behind that she could not. This never happened. We got a cc'ed e-mail from her counselor to our child asking if she wants to be removed from attendance.
I know that trans students, about whose safety there are lots of class meetings and coor meetings, feel safe here. If you have a trans student, I still recommend this place because your kid will be safe. Students who do well in any educational environment may prefer Nova's laid back approach and can track their own credits. But if your child is introverted and depressed, this place is not going to help, and may even hurt.
Nova has been amazing to me! All the teachers really care about you and really want to see you succeed. I felt that through the classes that I am in, I have learned more than I ever have. All the classes are taught in a way that makes it interesting to everyone, and if things aren't working out for you in a class the teachers will work with you to change something so you will learn and want to continue learning. The other students are all really nice and there is no bullying at all. Nova has a reputation for drugs but all I can say about that is that they won't expel you for doing it, instead they will work with you to quit. They really want to help you and won't just push you away just to keep a good reputation which is a lot more than I can say about other schools.
Nova has a low tolerance for hate speech and use of slurs, and there are many student-lead movements to educate people on why certain things should not be said, and maintaining Nova as a safe space for everyone.
As a current Nova student getting ready to graduate this year I can say Nova saved my life. I come from a small town where i dealt with years of people putting me down for being queer and mixed race and coming to Nova I found refuge. Teachers can appear to play favorites but for a majority of them if you talk to them about problems outside of class they are happy to help and talk to you. During my freshman year I had a mental breakdown due to family drama and landed myself in a pysch ward for a month and my coordinator came to see me once a week, not for homework but to check in on me. Nova is a very close knit community due to the size of the school and if you start there with out having friends that are current students it can be hard to find your way but if you try you can. It is a family and once you find the people you need to find there you will have a good experience.