STARS Academy was established in September 2000 as a means to enable high school students with disabilities to gain independence and transition into the workplace. The school serves students ages 14-21 with learning, language, and multiple disabilities as well as mild or moderate cognitive impairments. STARS Academy serves as an in- district resource for students with disabilities. Rather than outsourcing students to various parts of the state, Paterson students have the opportunity to receive instruction within their own community in an accessible and relevant manner.
Instruction at STARS Academy is centered on life skill development and vocational readiness programs. Students learn core academic subjects through the authentic application of everyday life and career skills necessary for living in an independent fashion. Students are also provided with the opportunity of engaging in Structured Learning Experiences in which they work and volunteer at various established work sites to achieve the experiences necessary for gainful employment. STARS Academy's Structured Learning Experience program is established through a direct partnership with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The vision of the Structured Learning Experience Program is to create a partnership between students and their community. While students learn various career-readiness skills, community businesses and organizations recognize the abilities and credibility of hiring students with special needs.
STARS Academy has developed a focal point of language- based education. Students are challenged and expected to comply with academic standards as outlined in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards. They are provide with a non-discriminatory, rigorous, academic program in which they are given the opportunity to engage in an equal and appropriate education commensurate with their peers in other schools. Classroom- based instruction is provided throughout a great part of the day to supplement the community- based instruction. Students engage in state-mandated alternative assessments, which are used as the criteria for graduation. Students receive high school diplomas upon completion of their high school career at STARS Academy allowing for increased opportunities to attain a job and positively impact the community of Paterson.