Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS STEM?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Although we are a STEM school, we are dedicated to the development of well-rounded students who can succeed at anything, and are citizens of the world. So we provide a robust liberal arts program in literature, languages, world culture, history and art. Neither science nor humanities exist in a vacuum - they are inseparably linked to each other. STEM education provides a unique approach to teaching and learning that fosters innovative thinking in all students across all disciplines. STEM education emphasizes collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity- skills that all students need to be successful in today’s world regardless of specific interests or career goals.
WHY DOES THE CURRICULUM INCLUDE A STRONG FOCUS ON STEM LEARNING?
Less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science
About a third of bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States are in a STEM field, compared with approximately 53% of university degrees earned in China, and 63% of those earned in Japan.
More than half of the science and engineering graduate students in U.S. universities are from outside the United States.
We want every student to feel confident pursuing any aspiration - including technical fields. And we know that the sciences influence every aspect of our everyday lives. So even if one isn’t going to be a biologist or physicist, an understanding of genetics, and principles of flight and geography and radio waves, will be key to being an informed participant in the world. Ask any artist how much technology influences their profession!
WHAT IS PORTSMOUTH STEM ACADEMY'S GOAL?
We aim to continuously improve STEM curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher quality, leadership and community engagement. STEM education is about developing globally competent talent, and our educators and community partners play a vital role in helping us ensure our STEM learning experience.
IS PSA A CHARTER SCHOOL?
No, PSA is a private non-profit school. We are not a charter school, and do not receive public funding. (Ohio uses confusing terms, and we do have an Ohio Board of Education license stating we are “chartered” - which just means we are inspected by the State, and comply with all requirements for a private school, including passing reviews of our curriculum method/content, hours of instruction, safety, health, and teacher credentialing.)
In other words, we maintain compliance with the Operating Standards for Ohio Schools. This ensures that our students’ transcripts and education are recognized by other schools, and students have the right to participate in various programs such as scholarships, College Credit Plus, using school bus transportation, etc.
IS PSA A MONTESSORI SCHOOL?
No, although we emphasize hands-on, collaborative and experiential learning, similar to Montessori schools, we are not a Montessori-affiliated school. We have developed our program based on best practices and innovative successes found in schools throughout the US and globally. We provide a comprehensive, cost-effective education mindful of the challenges of our region, while providing a world-class educational experience for grades K-12.
ARE PSA STAFF LICENSED TEACHERS?
All teachers are licensed and qualified by the Ohio Department of Education.
Our classrooms operate with teacher-student ratios no greater than 15:1, and are often under 10:1.
IS THERE TRANSPORTATION AVAILABLE FOR PSA STUDENTS?
Local school districts are required to provide transportation for all students to and from Portsmouth STEM Academy as long as the student lives no more than 30 minutes away from their neighborhood school.
WILL MY CHILD HAVE HOMEWORK?
Because of our focus on individualized learning, and a continuous learning path, there is no assigned homework. Everything is accomplished during the school day, which is a bit longer than the traditional day. By the time kids are done with school, they need their rest and play time, and research has shown there is not any achievement benefit to routine mandated homework at the elementary level.
We want to remove the stress and fatigue that homework adds to family life. You’ve finished your day at work when you pick them up. We think the kids should be done too. Relax. Be a family. Go for a walk. Have some fun.
CAN MY CHILD STILL PLAY TEAM SPORTS?
Portsmouth STEM Academy students that wish to participate in team sports or extracurriculars not offered by PSA, such as football, may play on teams in their home public school district.
WHAT SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE FOR MY CHILD?
The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program provides scholarships to students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). We are an official Peterson Scholarship Provider, and can assist parents in the scholarship application process.
EdChoice Expansion Scholarships are also available to incoming K-2 students whose family income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. We can assist parents in the application process.
WHAT IS SUMMER ENRICHMENT SESSION?
The focus during summer session is on fun enrichment activities for every grade. This includes field trips locally and regionally, COSI hands-on camps, Kids on Campus at Shawnee State University, special museum activities, theater camp, trips to the park, treasure hunts, and more. Although summer semester is included in year-round tuition, attendance is not mandatory, and students are welcome to set off on a 3-month vacation to Europe (take us along!). However, students will have a very fun summer, which is a bit shorter than the other semesters. Students who want to jump ahead, or need a little extra time to finish up their learning goals for the year will have time for that in the summer. And students who want to take on a bigger project, do a great science fair project, immerse themselves more.
But the focus during summer session is on fun activities for every grade. This includes field trips locally and regionally, COSI hands-on camps, Kids on Campus at Shawnee State University, special museum activities, theater camp, trips to the park, treasure hunts, and more.
WHAT DOES TUITION INCLUDE?
Tuition is an annual cost, regardless of total days of attendance. Early morning drop-off and after-school care is provided at no extra cost, whether you use it periodically or every day. The cost includes all transportation for events, all school supplies, and a school-issued personal laptop/iPad for every student.
Students are never asked to sell candy bars or flowers, nor do they need to buy Kleenex, wipes, crayons, or anything else for the school.
DOES PSA INCLUDE FINE ART EDUCATION?
We embrace and recognize the importance of the arts. In fact, because of our commitment to creating well-rounded students who can pursue any field of study or interest, our students get more fine arts hours and activities than most other schools!
HOW DOES PSA ASSESS STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT?
Student achievement is fundamental to our mission, enabling students to reach their individual potentials. In addition to graded coursework and exams, students are given standardized assessments to ensure competency (such as NWEA MAP, Measurements of Academic Progress). By using tools like these, we are better able to define and document individual student performance goals, monitor their progress, and identify areas where they excel or need additional help/reinforcement.
Assessments are given at the beginning of the year, and at the end of each semester, and allow us to benchmark each student against their own progress, as well as against state and national scores. Scores are shared with parents, and teachers use the results to modify, improve, and expand our curriculum to address identified weaknesses.
It is important to note that we do not design any of our curriculum around the standardized tests. We believe our curriculum and educational process stands on its own. We use the standardized tests to allow everyone, from teachers to parents to students to regulators, to be confident that our students are receiving a first-class education.
Seriously, some people worry about it and ask us, “are you sure they’re learning, they seem to be having too much fun?” We are able to say yes, they are absolutely learning - and we can show you the data! We think learning IS fun!!