About Nova High School

2018-12-20 15.11.44 copy.jpg

Nova High School is an innovative alternative Seattle Public School committed to social and racial justice, access and equity, the arts, and environmental sustainability. Nova’s focus on competency-based teaching and learning, project and problem-based teaching and learning, assessment through application of learning, and the balance between social/emotional, trauma-informed, and personalization is on the leading edge of education reform and transformation.

Nova creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students to discover their passions, make a difference, and lead a purposeful life.

Learn more about Nova here >


“This is my 5th year as a teacher at Nova. I’ve learned so much from everybody. Nova is deepening my compassion, expanding my perspectives, and teaching me how to be a better teacher, listener and advocate. ”

— Akil, Teacher and Coordinator


what’s different about Nova?

We believe learning looks different for each person and should be a flexible and malleable personalized process driven by the learner with support and guidance from caring mentors and other learners. As a social and racial justice school, we believe personalization in education is key to building trust and academic success in preparing all students for college and the workforce after high school.

Nova High School offers specialized education for students that take into account the students’ voice. Students are empowered to take responsibility for their own education, and this may be unfamiliar, but also welcome, to most incoming students. Nova’s culture of student empowerment, course schedules, and non-graded competency-based credits give students freedom they may not have had at other schools. Some students struggle with this freedom at first, but most all grow in self-discipline and self-confidence in this environment.

  • We work to find balance between personalization, academics, and community responsibility.

  • We are a competency, inquiry, problem and project-based school that uses performance and portfolio assessment to gauge the level and depth of student work.

  • We offer a wide range of innovative and creative classes and customized learning opportunities that intellectually engage our students while meeting Seattle Public School graduation requirements.

  • We offer a wide variety of assistance and services to all students, including special education supports, 504 accommodations, LGBTQ student supports, and a democratic structure where students are involved in the decision-making at Nova – from our Hiring and Review Committee to our Budget Committee.

  • Every student has a teacher advisor, called a Coordinator, and is part of an advisory group with 20-25 other students so they received personalized support throughout the school year.

  • Learn more about Nova’s academic program here:


what’s a coordinator?

Every student and family at Nova is assigned a coordinator for the duration of their entire academic career. The coordinator is your primary contact and expert on the student’s Nova experience. They guide the student through their educational experience and also serve as a counselor. Students meet with their coordinators on a regular basis to plan their educational path, review how school and life are going, address any issues and receive support with the graduation process.

How can students make the most of Nova?

  • Go to class – be present and give yourself the opportunity to learn.

  • Speak up and ask questions – it is part of the growth experience

  • Get involved – Nova has many avenues for making connections. Find your people.

  • Talk with your coordinator when things are not working well, when they are working well, or when you have ideas for how to make things work better for you and others. Usually you will have a once a week set time to talk to talk with your coordinator, but most coordinators are open to talking whenever you need to.

  • If you want to switch coordinators, talk with the one you want to work with and they’ll help you move forward.

    Tips for Parents/Guardians
    Your student’s “Coor” (coordinating teacher) is the FIRST point of contact for any issues related to your student’s time at Nova. This includes academics for ALL their courses/teachers, as well as all non-academic issues. They will coordinate with others as needed for the success of your student.

Helpful places to start in connecting with your student’s Coor:

  • Ask your student who their coordinator is and the best way to contact them.

  • Look up your coordinator’s contact information on the Seattle Public Schools Nova Staff Directory

  • Connect at Orientation and Open House events to meet your coordinator and ask what method of communication they prefer. Some prefer phone, some prefer only email. 

  • Expect return contact within a day. If you’re not able to connect with your coordinator after a full day, please reach out to Eyva Winet for assistance.

  • Ask your coordinator what subjects they teach. Many staff teach multiple courses.


how does compentency-based Learning work?

With support and guidance, students choose classes, create schedules and demonstrate learning. Classes at Nova are inquiry, project and seminar based. Each class has a clear set of established competencies that the student can choose how to demonstrate.

Competency standards map to a “B” or “A” in traditional academic settings. In the classroom and independent learning contracts, students follow their own interests and create unique ways to engage with the material, all while meeting and exceeding graduation requirements. Nova students become deeply engaged in — and transformed by — their own learning experience. Click here to learn more >


why are committees important at nova?

Nova has always been a grassroots, democratic school with a strong commitment to social justice. 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. For over 40 years Nova has been run collectively by the students and staff. Students are required to participate in a governing committee that makes real decisions about how their school is run. Initiatives, improvements, and reforms are driven by student voice with staff support. 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. Check out our Committees for the current school year >


“I’ve only been at Nova for a short time but I can see that the teachers here care for and value the students and their needs. This is what students deserve: to be heard and respected and cared for at school. ”

— Lucas, Nova High School Student



What’s it like to be at nova?

Our student climate surveys over the last four years rate Nova highest among Seattle Public School high schools in regard to safety, belonging and identity, healthy community, positive and supportive learning environment, creativity, and critical thinking compared to other high schools. In regard to grit, perseverance, and completion of work Nova students responded at the school district average.

Specifically, Nova students rated the following categories higher than the SPS average:

  • Belonging (14 percentage points higher)

  • Classroom Environment (17 percentage points higher)

  • Healthy Community (23 percentage points higher)

  • Pedagogical Effectiveness (24 percentage points higher)

  • School Safety (20 percentage points higher)

  • Student Motivation and Inclusion (27 percentage points higher)

School norms prioritize acceptance, kindness, respect and consent. Students report that they love to come to school, and that they feel safe and comfortable in their skin, bodies, sexualities and genders. Nova is deeply committed to social justice and creating a positive and supportive environment for all students, teachers, staff and families. Click here to learn more about our amazing team of staff and teachers >

Nova recognizes that we are all constantly in a state of growth. Students take to Nova quickly, but sometimes it can take families some time to understand how it works. As families engage with Nova, it becomes clear that Nova is a place where students find their people, get excited about learning, and take responsibility for themselves. If you have any questions about the Nova experience, please contact us! 


how about Life After Nova?

Students leave Nova knowing how they learn, what they care about and who they are. Each student is supported to find their unique path and make meaningful plans for their future. In addition to a student’s ongoing relationship with their Coordinator, Nova also has a designated Career and College counselor to provide an additional layer of support and meets with students and families to plan next steps.

Our graduates meet all state graduation requirements and receive a Seattle Public School High School diploma.

College admissions officers from highly regarded colleges — University of Washington, Lewis & Clark, Mills College, Oberlin, The New School and others — seek out Nova students every year because they have come to expect creativity, critical thinking, maturity and self-reliance.

Nova students are accepted at highly regarded colleges and other schools in our region and across the country. 

To learn more about Nova’s Career & College center, please contact Jennifer Spigner.


learn more about nova