Growing up as a minority in a small town, I wasn’t always too enthusiastic about my academics. Depressingly, I didn’t receive the learning experience I needed to maximize my learning potential. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a choice as to where I attended school, so from elementary through high school, my years were spent in the traditional public school system where I was just another number. My unique cultural background was not acknowledged, nor did I once feel that my teachers made an effort to get to know me on a personal level or where I originated from, and how that shaped me as a student. Because of my experience I realized that I wanted my children to receive an education that is tailored to their unique needs and recognizes that their culture and language plays a significant role in their learning.
Choosing the right school for my children was not a decision I made lightly. When my eldest turned four years of age, I started researching for schools that would have my kids’ best interest when it comes to learning. One of my most important findings was that children in my area were not strictly limited on school options. Public charter schools can provide an alternative learning experience. They are funded by the state and offer what a public school would offer in terms of curriculum and standards, but also includes different electives. Most appealing is that state regulations enables the school leadership autonomy to construct a school wide curricular model that meets students’ linguistic, academic, and cultural needs.
My hope was for my children to be challenged, supported, and most importantly to feel they matter, and they can be the best student possible – things that lacked for me during my school years. A friend of mine suggested that I consider a charter school in the Twin Cities by the name Noble Academy, known for its rigorous curriculum and academic performance, and also Hmong culture infusion. While exploring further into the school’s background I discovered how the school came to be recognized by the Department of Education as one of a few high quality charter schools in the state for several years in a row.
Noble Academy began as an idea of founder and now Superintendent Neal Thao. Academics have been the top priority of the school since opening its doors in the fall of 2007. The school focuses on four cornerstones surrounding their educational philosophy: 1. A rigorous educational program focusing on core content areas and standards mandated by the state of Minnesota in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. 2. Hmong Heritage (native) language and culture. 3. Responsive classroom/social curriculum, and 4. Up-to-date-technology.
Noble’s student population consists of six times the percentage of English-learners compared to the other schools across the state of Minnesota, and more than 1.5 times the percentage of students from low-income families; nonetheless, on average the school has managed to outperform statewide average in composite math, reading and science scores on state mandated testing. The school’s success has also attracted a number of non-Hmong, English-dominant families, making the school more diverse than ever before.
The school is distinguished for implementing student growth and reducing the achievement gap. Their MCA assessments compared to other school districts of similar demographics is among one of the highest. The flexibility and autonomy of the school encourages teachers to be more responsive to every child, providing individual engagement and meeting them at their growth level. Due to its performance and classification as “high quality” the school was granted authorization to replicate and to expand. The school built a brand new state of the art building in 2015 located in Brooklyn Park, and in 2018 the school added a new site Nompeng Academy in Brooklyn Center.
I now have four children enrolled at the district between the two sites. My children are doing exceptionally well in school. The teachers are dependable and caring. They are competent and willing to do what it takes to help my children succeed. I frequently interact with their teachers and they have never disappointed me. My children are in good hands. The teachers provide quality learning, they believe in my children’s capabilities, and they see the value in developing and collaborating with parents. They are individuals with high standards who are truly dedicated to the teaching profession. The school is well-organized and events are always well-executed.
I truly believe Noble Academy devotes much energy and resources to implementing high academic standards and helping students achieve educational excellence. By having the ability to focus on individual students’ needs, teachers are able to ensure that students are receiving a world class education. I work for a successful firm, and I know that as with any thriving organization, it starts from the top with great leadership. I’ve had many encounters with the senior administration team and impressed at how they engage their students, teachers and parents with passion. Most importantly, teachers are held accountable to very high teaching and academic standards.
Memories of my childhood schooling experience comes back as I drop off my children to school every morning. Choosing the right school is critical because my children needs the right foundation to be successful citizens when they grow up. Because I was discouraged academically, I knew I wanted my children to receive a better educational experience. I am most grateful that today I don’t have to simply choose between the neighborhood school that is struggling and the unaffordable private school, but instead my children is receiving an innovative, tuition-free, high-quality education at Noble Academy.