Berkeley vs Piedmont Public Schools

Hello BPN Community,

We are considering buying a home in the area and even though we like Berkeley and have had one good year of experience at a BUSD elementary school (son in grade 1), I hear that Piedmont is a much better school district. I do not see any recent reviews comparing these two school districts on BPN.

We want to make a decision considering middle/high schools as well, and wondering if anyone has had experience with both, or have any inputs on this topic nonetheless. While diversity in Berkeley is definitely a plus, I wonder if lack of adequate funding cuts down music/art programs at schools, compromises on teacher training hence impacting teacher capacity in the long run, and STEM opportunities at middle/high school? On the other hand, some of the older posts say Piedmont is 'insular' and not diverse at all, and I wonder if things have changed over the recent years. Does a smaller district do better integration of its elementary, middle and high schools? Are the teachers in Piedmont consistently good (while I hear in BUSD one could go either way)?

The online ratings do what they do but I'd be thankful to hear opinions and experiences from the community.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Piedmont is more like a school in a very expensive suburb.  It has high test scores, high achievers, involved parents, and kids with lots of resources.  There is diversity in terms of ethnic background, but not in terms of income.  Rich kids have one set of problems.

Berkeley has a true mix (which is pretty rare in the U.S.).  It has problems that are different.  One thing I liked about Berkeley was that in high school, there was not one "cool" group.  It seemed like there was someone for everyone.  

Hi, there. We do not have any physical experience in the Piedmont school district, but we do have 13 years of experience in BUSD. I hasten to say that anything I say about Piedmont USD is not to cast any aspersions upon them at all - I'm sure they have a fine school district. But it's important to really consider what's important to all the facets of a child's education.

Let's just unpack "I hear that Piedmont is a much better school district." What does a "much better school district" mean - to you, to those who state it, or objectively? Quite often, people mean test scores. But test scores are NOT a measure of the quality of the school district or the teachers or the education to be had there. 

Quality of teachers: in 13 years in BUSD our child had something in the range of 24 teachers (1 teacher for K-4, 2 for 5-6, 4 or so for 7-8, and 6 each for 9-12.) Most were extraordinary, a few were pretty good, and perhaps 3-4 were real duds. A great teacher is an amazing thing. But frankly, a dud teacher can be a learning experience, too. Life will not always hand you extraordinary bosses or professors or coworkers or neighbors.

Diversity, including socio-economic and all kinds of life experience, gives all kinds of very real, very valuable, and sometimes challenging situations. When it comes to diversity, just have a look at what Piedmont's website says: 


The Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) strives to provide a stimulating educational environment for approximately 2,700 students. The student population has become increasingly diverse and includes 20 percent who are Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, 3 percent African American, and 74 percent Caucasian. On California Standards Tests (CST) and STAR, PUSD is among the highest ranking unified school districts in the State, and over 95 percent of Piedmont UnifiedSchool District graduates pursue a college education.

Meanwhile, BUSD has around 10,000 students, and a much more diverse student population. BUSD has a fantastic music program. Could they use some more money to fund other arts programs? You bet. So parents who can need to help.

STEM education: right off of the top of my head, I can list at least 20 kids who graduated from BHS and are majoring in STEM areas at UCLA, Duke, MIT, Harvard and Cal Poly. (Mechanical engineering, pre-med, cellular biology, mathematics, etc.) Word is that most of them felt really prepared for those programs, too. It is true that right now there are some issues with the math program at BHS; but this really should be cleared up by the time your 1st grader gets there.

I hope this helps. Good luck weighing your options.

Piedmont has recently broken ground on a new STEM building, if that is of particular importance.

ps - I'd be fine sending my kids to Berkeley or Piedmont schools (or Albany, Alameda, etc...)