Comparing great schools: EB, EBI, Academy, Heads Royce, Bentley

We have two children that would thrive in a rigorous academic environment, and can likely afford private schools. We have toured many and the Academy, Bentley, Heads Royce, EBI and EB all looked great and work for us geographically. I've read all the threads for these schools, and seen parents give rave reviews of each school, so I know that we can't really go wrong. But I would love to hear more about some trade-offs, and how parents addressed any limitations of their chosen school. Also, if you're able to answer any part of the questions below, I'd be very grateful.

The Academy: It was intriguing to hear that all kids are given materials one year more advanced than those of California public schools. Do other private schools effectively do the same thing? Or is this unique to the Academy? Also, were you happy with the aftercare/enrichment options at the Academy?

EB/EBI: We are thrilled by the immersion curriculum. But, for families that speak a third language at home, was trilingual education possible? Did you need to supplement language instruction in one or more of the languages, and how did you do this? And did pursuing three languages come at the cost of other academic subjects (e.g., math) or hobbies?

Heads Royce/Bentley: We were very impressed by the facilities and afternoon activity options, especially as we will need to leave our children at school relatively late every day. As these are large schools, was the administration able to accommodate individual requests, e.g., for acceleration in particular subjects, or is this not done? 

Thank you for reading through this long post! If you're able to talk about the pros and cons of the school you chose, how you chose this school over other options, and perhaps what you did to address any cons, I'd be most grateful. 

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

We are an EBI family. Just speaking to your question re families with multiple languages at EBI, there are a number of EBI families with different languages at home.  There also are teachers that speak more than two languages.  Our children speak three languages.  We did not have to supplement any language.  But every kid is different.   You don't mention your children's ages but you should keep in mind that kids start to learn Mandarin Chinese in elementary school at EBI.  So they get English, Spanish and Mandarin at EBI. Depending on your home language, that may mean learning four.  That said, one thing we really appreciate about EBI is that, as a small school, we find the faculty really willing to accommodate and respond to individual and unique student needs.  Maybe that is something to discuss with them. I also would note that in terms of academic challenge, EBI is an IB school.  So it's hard to compare to the California Core curriculum as IB teaches things in a different way and sometimes a different order.

I have a son at the Academy and he is very happy there. We have been very pleased with his education. My son is adamant that he wants to stay at The Academy through 8th grade. From my experience these are the pros and cons:

1) The school is small and the kids in my son's class are very close friends. Also, the parents also get along very well. It's a tight-kinit community. Of course, the small class size could backfire if your child does not click with the other kids.

2) There is a lot of diversity at the school. My son's class is small, but the student's are ethnically diverse. There could be more diversity with the teachers.

3) The curriculum is 1 year ahead. This has been great for my son, but I know that some kids struggle. If your child isn't at this level going into the school, I wouldn't recommend it. No reason to make him/her struggle.

4) They have excellent special teachers. K-5 kids have French, Science, Music, PE and Art. Older kids also are taught Latin. Overall we have been very impressed with the special teachers. Although my son feels the music teacher (although she is very talented) could make the class a little more fun. It's a little too serious for him and I wish she would make this class a little more enjoyable to meet the needs of all the kids.

5) Catherine, who handles the afterschool care is wonderful. She is a very sweet person and has an amazing connection with the kids. She knows them all very well. The negative is that the playground is small and there aren't any organized sport teams. They do offer some fun afterschool classes though. 

7) My son's biggest negative about the school is that he feels that the playground is too small. 

Before choosing the Academy, I visited Prospect Sierra, Crowden and Saklan. They all seemed like very nice schools. My son is the one who ultimately chose the Academy. He spent a day visiting the different schools and felt he just fit with the class at the Academy. It was the right choice for him.

HI, 

I have been a teacher for over 30 year, my daughter is going to be a senior in BHS. I visited so many school before she started Kinder. I decided for one of the private schools that you mentioned in your email because the high academics. In second grade I moved to EBI because I was unhappy in the importance that the school gave to emotional program and also because the Spanish program was really bad. I also love the IB program at EBI. As a teacher I believed every child is different and you need to look at the personality and necessities or you child first and what school will be better fit.

If you apply to Head Royce, be sure to get the name right in all of your correspondence with them. It's *Head* Royce, not "Heads.*

We toured EBI and the Academy.

For us the Academy was it! The school embodies the values we hold dear – encouraging curiosity encouraging hard work and grit, that learning is fun and independent thinking is a life skill , as is finding solutions through creative and iterative problem solving. The school community believes that children are capable of a lot and that being challenged appropriately is the way to grow and therefore the way to go.  Teaching tends to be Socratic- Kids are taught to wonder, question, experiment and figure things out all the while building on the knowledge they have. Education is revered and there is a culture of respect.

The Academy is not for everyone- if you don’t really believe that it’s approach is right for you and your child, I would guess that it would be a hard road (though you might come to believe in it).  The school work is rigorous but each child is engaged and challenged at the level they are at- there is no judgment by the school of kids rather encouragement and high but appropriate expectations of what they can achieve albeit through hard work. Our daughter really benefits from the small, intimate and therefore safe environment of a school community that shares and reinforces the same values we have. 

After care at the Academy is an extension of the educational philosophy where are you will have to try new things work hard play hard learn and grow. There are enrichment classes which are fun and enjoyable but are limited enrollment and are not as elaborate as at other schools. The kids have fun, learn to adapt and manage in a larger group and also do homework together. 

Hope this helps

We are an EBI family and will be starting our 6th year this Fall. Our household is bilingual English/Spanish, so I cannot personally speak to the trilingual aspects, but I can share that we know many families that speak a 3rd language at home. If you reach out to EBI directly, they may be able to connect you with one of those families.

Pros about EBI are their:

  • IB curriculum (which I was initially skeptical of - what if my child doesn't inquire about math, but has completely won me over as robust and I'm very pleased to see how they foster curiosity and love of learning to ensure even the subjects my child may struggle with they still grasp and advance with grade-level expectations)
  • Spanish immersion
  • Approach to differentiated learning (I've seen how it's helped my children when they were more advance in one area like math and also when they are weaker in another area like reading)
  • After school enrichment programs available (science, coding, sports, arts, music, etc)
  • School Community
  • last but NOT least the Teachers - who are the ones making in particular the top 3 happen day-to-day

Cons:

  • It's a younger school than the other's you've listed and some of which we also considered
  • Two campuses since we have 2 kids that for 2 years will be at different locations

Ultimately, we chose EBI based on our experience there - as we began in preschool. When it came time to evaluate staying or leaving for Kindergarten, I was more than satisfied that the IB curriculum does provide the rigorous academic environment I expect when sending my children to an independent school. Regarding how we addressed the Cons, we ultimately considered the Pros significant and important enough for our family to deal with those Cons. As for the two kids on two campuses, we're not the only ones, so we've been able to coordinate with other families in similar boats to do shared pickups where the families meet at one campus after the picking up at the other, so at least most afternoons you do not have to figure out two campus pickups.

LP

When it comes to academic rigor, we don’t have direct experience with other schools as both of our children have only attended The Academy, where we’ve been extremely happy. I recall when touring other schools, though, that they made claims that they also teach a year ahead. A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, became dissatisfied with her son's math curriculum. Out of curiosity, she asked for me to collect some math worksheets and tests, so that she could compare what our children (in the same grade) were learning.  I provided her with samples throughout the year and she acknowledged that The Academy was true to its word. I can also tell you that I’ve been told by parents whose children come from other schools (even during the early years of elementary school), who tell me that it took time for their child to “catch up” to the students at The Academy, so I assume it is true beyond just the math curriculum.  As far as the aftercare/enrichment programs, I can't speak to those, because we don't really use them.  Hope this helps!

I am writing to say thank you for all these comments! I've learned a lot - starting with minor items, like getting a school's name spelled right (Head Royce!), to bigger items, such as considering pick up from two campuses, or getting used to a small playground. And it hand't occurred to me to ask for math worksheets to get a better sense of math levels - what a great idea (though of course schools teach math in different sequences.)  I also liked the idea that not all schools are good fits for all families - good to know (from the academy parents) - that the focus on academics and one year advancement might not be for everyone. Thank you again for all these comments, and especially mentioning the trade-offs. The positives of each school are well-advertised, by the schools themselves and by happy parents, but as we are lucky enough to live an area with many great schools, it's great to be able to anticipate the negatives too. Thank you again! And of course the more responses the better, as I imagine many parents are also trying to compare schools, as choosing a school is a big commitment of time and money.