Best bay area high schools for Twice Exceptional/LD kids?

Parents: we're Berkeley parents of an 8th grade kid who we just learned is both gifted and has lots of learning differences (twice exceptional is the term). Berkeley High now seems like it might be a battle, if not a disaster (please tell me if you have an opinion on this). Private school is not in the budget but we'd consider anything, even moving for four years, if there's a bay area (or slightly beyond) school that can both inspire my kid to explore her natural gifts (mostly creative) and support her in her challenges with math and reading, etc. I thank you in advance for any recommendations for public or private or parochial options that have worked for your 2e kid, or your kid with learning differences.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Berkeley Independent Study might be a good option for your kid, especially during this time of remote learning. My non-2E kid went there several years ago and thrived. BIS is already set up for individualized instruction, and they know what they are doing. If your kid wants some classroom experience, after the pandemic is over, she can take one or two classes at the regular Berkeley High school and still be enrolled at BIS. My 2E kid went to Maybeck, which offers a rich program for kids that learn differently. 2E kids vary quite a bit. It seems that many are self learners and just want the freedom to explore areas that interest them. BIS could provide enough structure and flexibility for this. Good luck! I know it’s a long road.


Check out Millennium High School in Piedmont.  I have heard good things about the program.

Our daughter is 2E, having a high IQ combined with ADHD, slow processing speed, and specific learning deficits in some areas, especially math and spelling.  We knew she had ADHD by 2nd grade, but didn't understand the extent of her intelligence and deficits until several years later. She was in a private school through 8th grade and now attends Berkeley High, where she has a 504 plan.

Private schools are not required to deal with learning problems.  Most will do what they can, but since they are typically small and operate on a shoestring, their options are limited.  Our daughter's private school gave her the informal equivalent of a 504 and some additional help.  We were OK with what we received, but some other parents of kids with ADHD were deeply dissatisfied.

The teachers our kid had at Berkeley High in 9th grade were uniformly excellent, and she loved them.  In our short experience we have found BHS teachers on average to be as good as the best we encountered in private school. What gave our some difficulty was the sheer size and hubbub of BHS, because she's not very good at screening out noise and stimulation.

On the advice of the people who did her private, pre-BHS neuropsych assessment, we sought an IEP.  BHS denied this because, even though in some areas our kid is at least two years behind what her IQ should allow her to achieve, she's not behind her average peers.  Special ed at Berkeley High, moreover, deals with unilaterally and often profoundly disabled kids.  While there are enough 2E kids at Berkeley High that they should be able to give them targeted support, given budget constraints this isn't happening.  So far we are OK with her 504.

Regarding the choice between private and public schools: in general neither one is really set up well for 2E kids, and that's sad given the potentially unrealized potential of these kids.  A private school may be more likely to listen to your concerns but won't be compelled to deal with them.  There are a few private high schools out there for 2E kids but I suspect they're very expensive.  Some friends of ours have found that Bishop O'Dowd High School has been quite supportive of their kids with ADHD.  O'Dowd is a large parochial school and charges (I think) around 2/3 the cost of most local private high schools.  For any private school, make sure you know what they can really do for your child before you hand over the money.

Finally, if your kid attends public school, you can put some of that private-school tuition money into targeted tutoring for your child.  That's the choice we made.