STAR School is among 41 schools honored as innovative schools by Noodle
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STAR School is among 41 schools honored as innovative schools by Noodle

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  • Karin Unger/Noodle

Students At STAR School In Flagstaff. Photo Courtesy STAR School

STAR School in Flagstaff is one of the 41 public, private, and charter K–12 schools honored recently as innovative schools by Noodle, a comprehensive website for education information and resources.

Noodle released its inaugural Innovative Schools list featuring schools that are inspiring students to love learning, and empowering teachers and administrators to create unparalleled educational opportunities.

STAR School is among 41 schools honored as innovative schools by Noodle STARSchoolStudentsHP

Students at STAR School in Flagstaff. Photo courtesy STAR School

In creating the list, Noodle set out to identify schools that have moved away from traditional learning environments and realized significant results for their students in the process. While innovation is at the heart of the list, the production of positive, sustainable outcomes based on the school’s objectives also had to be shown.

“This year’s top 41 institutions exemplify new ways of addressing educational challenges and encouraging students to thrive,” said Suzanne Podhurst, Editor-in-Chief of Noodle. “All of the featured schools are making a demonstrable impact on the students they serve — and on the larger education space. At Noodle, we are shining a spotlight on the schools that are redefining education and creating exciting opportunities for their students.”

For instance, schools like the The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, where 100 percent of students are accepted to college, are empowering students in underserved communities to excel in science and other fields.

Others, like STAR School, have gone green, using solar panels and wind generators to generate power. The STAR (Service to All Relations) School opened in 2001 to serve students who are members of the local rural community and Navajo Nation. It is the first public charter school to exist completely “off the grid”; it is powered by 245 solar panels and two wind generators. The school produces enough energy to provide phone service, Internet, and electricity without having to rely on outside sources. In fact, STAR Charter cannot rely on external support because of its location bordering the country’s largest American Indian reservation. The school, which also has a “Farm to School” program, practices a place-based curriculum that is grounded in the Navajo tradition of valuing relationships — among the students themselves, with the environment, and with the local community.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education recognized STAR Charter as a Green Ribbon School for promoting and practicing sustainability.

The STAR School provides an example of how even a lack of infrastructure needn’t prevent students from receiving an education. The school’s ability to generate its own power means it can direct funds toward instruction rather than operational costs. In the process, the school makes the concept of sustainability an inherent component of the learning environment and curriculum. The school demonstrates what it means to be resourceful — literally and figuratively — and in the process, cultivates environmental awareness and commitment among students.

As the only school in the district, it provides an education to about 130 students in the region who wouldn’t otherwise have access to formal pre-K to eighth-grade learning. The school’s predominantly low-income student body has a 96 percent attendance rate and meets the state’s annual measurable objectives in reading and math.

The STAR School’s students will soon expand their environmental awareness beyond the planet Earth. Kiril Kirkov, a Coconino Community College student, received funding from the NASA Space Grant Program at Northern Arizona University to bring the elementary school students to the CCC campus twice a month. There, they will be able to work with astronomy experts and use scientific equipment to study the stars.

Many schools employ revolutionary teaching methods, such as flipped classrooms (Clintondale High School) and gamified learning (Quest to Learn). A few have reconceptualized the very idea of a school by creating inspiring learning environments in unexpected places, including within a public library (e3 Civic High).

In addition to their revolutionary approaches, all 41 schools have demonstrated impressive results across a range of categories — beyond test scores alone. Some (Alliance School) have created supportive, bullying-free environments, while others (Interlochen Arts Academy and Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences) graduate accomplished scholar–artists. They all share one feature in common, however: They have created new, aspirational models of what K–12 education could — and should — look like.

“Innovative schools are about opportunities rather than problems, regardless of circumstances,” said John Chubb, president of the National Association of Independent Schools. “Educators who work in innovative schools envision an ideal future and then pioneer approaches to learning, teaching, and community-building that other schools can try out in their own settings. The schools recognized through the Innovative Schools Award show that experimenting and taking calculated risks to serve their students more effectively improves education for all children.”

Each of this year’s top 41 institutions received a plaque from Noodle, along with other materials to showcase their designation as an Innovative School.

There are nearly 140,000 K–12 schools in the U.S., and Noodle has profiles for accredited public, private, and charter school across the country. Our team of education experts culled the 41 most interesting, innovative, and impactful institutions from among tens of thousands of excellent schools. In the research process, Noodle experts consulted with education leaders; pored over state-reported test scores and other data; analyzed academic studies on the efficacy of various pedagogical approaches; read and conducted interviews with teachers, administrators, students, alumni, and parents; and tracked years of news coverage.

About Noodle
Noodle is an education website helping parents and students make better decisions about learning. Using our interactive search tools, families can find the right preschool, college, tutor, or any other learning resource. In addition, they can read expert­-authored articles, ask questions and get answers from some of the leading minds in education, and connect with others in their communities.

For more information, please contact Karin Unger at Noodle at 646-515-6933 or

Video: Aerial tour of STAR School by 7th and 8th grade students Madison and Joshua flying a quadcopter with a go pro with help from NAU Communications students Graham, Beth, Allen and Saylor