Berkeley High vs. other schools for nice nerdy kids

After sending our kid to private school for elementary and middle school, we decided on Berkeley High to give her a broader experience before she goes off to college.  There absolutely seems to be every kind of group at this school including the nice nerdy kids we would prefer for her to hang out with.  I should mention she has always excelled academically so we thought she would kind of gravitate toward that group of people.  Alas, we aren't crazy about the friends she is choosing. And being in universal 9th grade isn't helping as she isn't always surrounded by kids without her academic inclination.   And while staying at Berkeley High, could be a great social learning experience, it could also derail her.  And we obviously want the best for her.  That makes me wonder what our options might be.  More private school is probably out of our budget but maybe we could make it work.  I'm also wondering about other high schools in the area and thinking that perhaps we could try for a transfer.  But I'm not sure if other schools in the area are any better.  The two I might want to try for would be Albany High School or Piedmont.  Anyone been here and found another school?  Please no haters in the response.  I know BHS is a good school, just maybe not a fit for my kid. 

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Every school has its warts, and sadly, Piedmont High School is no different.  That said, my daughter's sophmore peer group is pulling her up in terms of college readiness (i.e. collaborative vs competitive) and there have been opportunities in this district that would've been denied in our previous school district.  Inter-district transfers start in your home district though.  If they do not approve the transfer, it is a non-starter.  I wonder if it'll go through given that you are able to afford private school anyways.  (i.e. the school district will lose your family either way)  PUSD starts accepting paperwork on March 1st.  I think some 60%+ of families attending PUSD donate to the Annual Giving campaign.  The ask is under $3k per year per student to help fund a diverse offering of AP classes, access to these classes, and smaller class sizes.  I'm under the impression that the state only funds about 60% of PUSD's budget, so there will always be compromises that you might not see in a well-heeled private school setting.  I think ideally, your daughter would have her future courses, athletics, and extras mostly mapped out to see if PHS can deliver.


“…we decided on Berkeley High to give her a broader experience…” “…the nice nerdy kids we would prefer for her to hang out with.”

It seems to me that you, not your daughterweren’t ready for your daughter to have broader experiences. Part of her having broader experiences is going to mean that she will interact with people she might not have otherwise encountered. Not to be mean, but I get the impression that you believed she would see the diversity of the Berkeley High population, but as a spectator. Instead, she is engaging with kids she might never have met otherwise, spreading her wings a bit, and finding out for herself what the world has to offer and where she wants to be.

 I am not saying that your concern about her academic performance is inappropriate. On the contrary, I think it is important that you support her commitment to being a good student, and remind her that she is intelligent and should continue to invest in her intelligence. However, I think you need to have faith that she can be a good student and socialize with people of her own choosing.

If her grades have dropped off some, don’t take this to mean that she needs to be moved to some other school (I want to point out that you are considering moving her to schools in places that are wealthier and whiter than Berkeley.) It isn’t uncommon for a student’s grades to take a dip when starting at a new school, especially high school. They are managing a lot of new experiences - the expectations for high schoolers are more challenging and complex. More subject matter choice, very different time management approaches, greatly different social experiences. This is the first step towards learning to be an adult. Sheltering her will only mean she’ll have to learn all of these things in college, instead of having had some time to acquire and practice these skills. Remember, college freshmen are confronted with a whole new set of situations to manage and for which they need to develop skills. School isn’t just about the academics.

It may help you to know that colleges aren’t especially concerned with 9th grade transcripts. If her grades aren’t great they look for steady improvement. They are interested in extracurricular activities too. 
So, my advice is to leave her at BHS. One semester isn’t enough to see how she is functioning in this new environment. Continue to place emphasis on your expectations of academic performance (but be supportive). And don’t try to manage her social relationships. She will make the decisions about with whom to spend time regardless of what you want. You are fortunate that she feels close enough to you to tell you about (and even have over where you can meet them) her friends. Expressing disapproval won’t cause her to stop seeing these people, but it will almost certainly cause her to be more secretive. And remember, your concerns are about your discomfort more than being about her choices.

Good luck!

SF Mom

The good news is, at a school that big BHS has EVERY type of kid and there definitely are plenty of nice nerdy kids! The bad news is that your daughter isn't gravitating towards them. Is she interested in theatre or the arts, yearbook or journalism? Or music/band/choir/dance production? Those are usually good places to meet the cool but quirky kids. When my son went there a few years ago there were a plethora of special interest clubs which are another good way to meet kids and do activities other than just "hang out and get high". Chess or board game clubs come to mind as a likely place to meet " the nerds" LOL. Encourage (or force?) her to join a club or participate in a sport. Sports are a great way to connect with nice kids who are focused and have a common interest. My advice for getting through high school is just keep her busy with activities she's interested in, too much down time is a recipe for trouble. I don't have advice on other schools but if the main issue is that you don't like the friends she's picking she may just end up finding those same type of kids at a new school. Albany High is usually accepting transfers if you can get BUSD to release you. But no guarantee it will be any better, that school also has social challenges.

Keep her busy and engaged, also look for opportunities for her to connect with kids outside of BHS. My son made some cool (but kinda nerdy) friends through his involvement in 4-H, Sea Cadets, Scouting, Karate and volunteering with East Bay Regional Parks. Best of luck- high school is tough but BHS really is a great place for learning if you can keep her on track.