The Nova Project is committed to a student-centered education. Students choose their classes and are directly involved in creating their schedules. In the classroom and through independent learning contracts, students can follow their own passions while creating unique and individual ways to demonstrate their learning.
This philosophy of student involvement extends beyond the academic to the school and its governance. Students take responsibility not only for their own learning, but also for the institution in which their learning occurs. Nova students have an equal vote with staff members on issues including allocations for the school’s budget, hiring decisions, and planning for the school’s future.
Learning to take responsibility for one’s own education is an educational experience in itself. Nova’s coordinating system and active committees provide a network of supports, enabling students to grow into this responsibility.
An Alternative Learning Experience:
Nova is an ALE (Alternative Learning Experience) school authorized by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. ALE is spelled out in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-121-182. They are learning experiences for public school students that are developed and supervised via a student learning plan and certified teachers. Different from conventional schools, ALE sanctions student learning based in our non-graded, competency-based system that relies on student application of learning and performance-based assessment. ALE provides the legal and legislative basis for our ability to create and implement our innovative, flexible program with our students. The other significant component of ALE is that student achievement and funding are not based primarily on “seat-time”, which is how conventional high schools are funded.
What this means for Nova -
Nova provides a strong academic program within a competency and project-based teaching and learning system, performance-based assessment, seminar-style course, multi-level classes, and independent study. In addition to learning individual and social responsibility, Nova students design their own programs of study within an interdisciplinary non-graded structure.
In a “seat-time” funded program, schools receive their funding based on student attendance within a 20 day timeframe. Within ALE, we are funded based on the number of hours per week that students are engaged in learning activities. Full funding is based on 25 hours per week per student. A student who is making progress in 5 classes is, according to ALE, engaged in 25 hours per week.
To document student achievement and meet ALE funding requirements, we have created an internal database. Teachers keep track of class attendance and assignments and the database generates monthly reports on each student that calculate monthly progress and hours. Students meet monthly with their coordinators to review their overall progress. If it is determined that a student is not making progress, the student learning plan will be revisited and, if after two continuous months of not making progress, students must keep track of their individual weekly hours for one month or until they are again on-track and making successful progress. If a student continues to not make progress, we can only claim their actual hours of learning activities and, if a student falls below the ALE threshold, they can be released, according to the legislative guidelines, from Nova. At that point, we will help the student find a program or school that is a better fit.
Overall, the ALE structure is a structure for success. It is built on an innovative teaching and learning system with built-in mechanisms to help students succeed. Although there are graduated consequences in place for students who are not making adequate progress, at each step the student and their family are involved in and aware of both the plan for getting back on track and the consequences if that graduated step does not work.
Here at Nova, we believe that ALE is a structural and funding system for our type of school. Feel free to talk with your student’s coordinator, our principal, other parents and guardians, and the PTSA with questions or for further clarification.