Frequently Asked Questions
Is North Star a "homeschool" program?
No. North Star is a Mead School District Alternative Learning Program that has been designed to serve parents who have previously
homeschooled and/or want to be the primary educators of their children. North Star is an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE), a public education option where some or all of the instruction is delivered outside of a regular classroom schedule and we follow all public education requirements as well as chapter 392-121-182 WAC.
On the other hand, homeschoolers provide home-based instruction
and fall under a different set of laws including RCW 28A.200.011(1) RCW 28A.225.010(4)
What makes North Star unique? Our club offerings and our mentor teacher support are unique.
Clubs: Rather than offering a "traditional school day experience" for children, North Star provides a smorgasbord of offerings. Some parents will need to round out their child's education by accessing tutoring in core academic areas. Other parents with significant strengths in providing academic instruction will select clubs which provide enrichment in the fine and performing arts, technology, PE and life skills...some families choose a mixture of both. Our club offerings primarily enrich, rather than replace, academic instruction at home. While rich in content, our clubs do not replace instruction at home. The site-based clubs are designed according to parent input through surveys and reflect the needs of our particular families.
Mentor Teacher Support: We devote a significant amount of time to building relationships of support with our students and families. This has been listed regularly in our satisfaction surveys as the component that families appreciate most about North Star. Valuing the unique constellation of every learning family, we have a thorough intake process which allows mentor teachers and parents to work together to design an education specifically suited to each child and family...using a combination of carefully selected curriculum materials, educational activities and clubs. We set aside one week every month for progress meetings to partner with parents, provide support and encouragement, celebrate learning, and problem solve any stumbling blocks to learning. We allot additional time each week to follow-up with families and students, to provide the opportunity for every student to pursue his/her best learning.
What is the mission statement for North Star?
We collaborate with parents to customize a family-centered education in order to prepare students for life's responsibilities, challenges and opportunities.
What are the options available through North Star?
Families can choose and combine core and enrichment activities offered at North Star or access activities that are more suited to a large group, like drama. Families can get to know other like-minded families and form a support network through our "Coffee and Conversations" offerings each month. From the curriculum library available through the Mead program, parents can review various materials to supplement their learning at home. Our certified teachers have experience in alternative learning, homeschooling and learning challenges. They are an excellent resource for finding and evaluating resources in relation to the particular needs of individual students and families. Becoming involved with North Star enables families to be part of a school that honors the unique and beautiful individuality of each child and family.
What kinds of clubs are available?
Club activities are offered based on input from families. We offer club activities that focus on enriching the core subjects taught off-site. PE, fine arts, drama, hands-on science; project based history clubs; life skills/job-focused clubs; innovative technology class activities that integrate a variety of topics are made available based on parent preference. We also offer academic support clubs through a math and writing lab; reading support clubs; high school short stories and poetry club and high school science labs.To see current offerings, check our club schedule and our club descriptions.
What are the basic requirements for enrolled students?
North Star operates under the rules of Washington State's Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program Laws. ALE rules enable public school students to pursue a more flexible educational schedule in an individualized setting. Although Washington State requires that all learning be supervised by a certified teacher, in an alternative program, learning may take place outside the traditional school setting. Our teachers meet the documentation requirement by tracking and documenting student progress and achievement using WINGS. As a participant in publicly-funded education, families and students experience the flexibility, choice and control offered through our ALE programs and need to work with a consulting teacher to plan and document each student's unique learning path. Learning happens all the time so our approach is flexible. However, the law does require that we meet the following requirements:
- WSLP: Each student must have a student learning plan, written by the teacher in collaboration with the parent.
- Weekly direct student/teacher contact: Each student must receive a minimum of one hour per week of instruction from a certified teacher. Contact by phone or email must occur DURING THE SCHOOL WEEK in the case of an absence.
- Monthly Progress: a monthly report must be completed on each child each month by a certified teacher.
- Annual Assessment: Each full-time student must receive some form of assessment each year.
These requirements are described in more detail below.
Who are the advisors for the site based clubs?
Site-based clubs are considered "after school activities". However, since there are no "set hours" in alternative education, we are free to offer these clubs at any time. Club advisors are hired based on their knowledge and passion about their subject; their experience with alternative education; their ability to serve mixed-age groups with flexibility and warmth; their support for families and their ability to provide a highly engaging class. Some advisors are certificated teachers, others are not.
Are the students at North Star public school students or homeschooled students?
Yes, North Star students are public school students of the Mead School District in an alternative setting.
Do all students take the Washington State Tests?
All full-time 3-11th grade North Star students must be assessed every year by Washington State law through the Washington State SBAC in the Spring
Part time students (0.8 public schooled/0.2 homeschooled) are not required to take SBAC state tests, but ARE assessed in September and January using the MAP assessment. Also, formative assessments takes place during monthly progress meetings through a review of student work and learning probes.
What is a WSLP?
ALE rules require that every student in an alternative school program complete a WSLP, or Written Student Learning Plan. This document describes what will be learned, how instruction will be provided and how learning will be assessed over the year.
As part of the enrollment process, a WSLP is established for each student in WINGS. Shortly after enrollment, the parent or guardian will meet with a teacher who will develop the WSLP to personalize and more accurately reflect the student learning goals. The student learning plan must include the following:
- A beginning and ending date for the learning plan.
- Estimated number of hours per week that the student will engage in learning activities to meet the requirements of the learning plan.
- A description of how weekly contact requirements will be met.
- A list of the essential instructional materials.
- A description of specific learning goals, performance objectives, essential materials, timeline and methods of evaluation for each subject and the Common Core Standards or EALRs addressed within each subject.
- A description of anticipated educational activities related to each subject of study.
has available a full array of educational materials to help students reach their personalized WSLP goals.
Families meet with certified teachers monthly to evaluate progress and share successes. With the parent and student(s), the certified teacher will review work samples in each subject area. This is a great time to celebrate learning, ask questions and brainstorm creative approaches to learning. This process meets the state requirements and allows us to work closely as a team.
To meet state requirements, progress notes must be created each month. Each subject listed on the WSLP must be addressed. The topics most recently studied, the progress competed and the quality of the work must be addressed.