Park Day for middle school

Hello, I need some recommendations about Park Day School in Oakland. I am thinking of enrolling my daughter in 6th grade. I would like to hear about how prepared (academic) they get to high school. How is the transition for new kids? I already read wonderful things about community, inclusion, and social justice. Thank for your help


Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

We have a current middle schooler and are so happy with the program both academically and socially. Often progressive schools get misunderstood as soft on academics, but that has NOT been our experience at all. Our child has always been strong academically and the teachers definitely challenge him in the academic arena, including math extensions and pushes to go more deeply in the Humanities. The teachers truly know the kids and the kids feel like they can go to them - in middle school especially that relationship is KEY. One of the best parts about the academic and specialist programming is that it’s integrated across the curriculum so students get really engaged in what they’re learning and go deep and think critically as opposed to simply memorizing a bunch of facts in isolation that they forget. The Park Day grads we have known are truly prepared and thriving - at Head Royce, College Prep, Bentley, O’Dowd, Maybeck, and Lick Wilmerding, as well as Oakland Tech and Berkeley High. The range of high schools students attend is actually pretty amazing and speaks to the fact that the school works with your kid and family to find a school that’s just right for your kid. We couldn’t be happier as parents, and best of all our kid is thriving and thinks Park Day is the best school ever. Finally, the way Park Day has handled the pandemic is AMAZING - our middle schooler is on campus full time!! - and our new Head is phenomenal. I hope you join us! 


Our daughter is in Middle School (6th grade) at Park Day and we’ve been incredibly happy with the academic rigor, and how engaged she is with her work. She loves science and has been diving deep on their studies of weather and atmosphere, but I think what is most exciting for her is their upcoming unit on the carbon cycle and human impact on the climate. Real world scenarios are woven into so much of the curriculum at Park Day, and I think the relevance to the kids own lives helps them lean into their work. The math curriculum covers all the content areas you’d expect but in addition to assessments and all the more traditional stuff, they learn concepts with games, projects, “Math Talks” and other engaging ways to pique the kids’ interests. 

We don’t have to do a lot of nagging around homework or studying. Our kid is motivated and takes her assignments seriously. The teachers know their students well, and I think the relationships they form with them helps with student motivation. Our daughter’s humanities teacher sends her home with new books regularly and is tapped into my child’s interest areas in a way that is meaningful to both her and to us. 

You asked about the transition for new kids, and while our daughter started at school in one of the lower grades, she is friends with students who started this year. She is only in 6th grade, so I can’t speak to the high school transition yet, but she is an academically focused kid and already has expressed interest in one of the Bay Area high schools that is known for its academic rigor and focus. I have no doubt she will be prepared to get into her top choices given what our experience has been thus far, and based on alumni we know who came from Park Day.



Park Day is wonderful about understanding that 6th grade is both a common grade for students to switch schools and the beginning of middle school/cusp of young adulthood. It’s a double transition that the school fully embraces!

My daughter is currently an 8th grader at Park Day (started in K), and my son is now in 10th grade and attended K through 8. They both have friends who started Park Day in various grades. And in all honesty, I can’t remember which kids started when because they are simply just one wonderful cohort.

The school will pair new students with one or two current students before school starts so there can be some hang outs over the summer. Often times, those hang outs will include one or two other current students. It’s a great way for the kids and parents to get to know each other. Once school starts, the teachers pay close attention to cohort dynamics and are intentional about what pairs or group work together, and pretty quickly the students settle in.

The middle school also has some athletics teams and that’s a great way for kids to mix across 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. No one is cut from the team and all kids get to explore the athlete within themselves. My daughter used to be afraid of any game with a ball, and at Park Day, she played ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and volleyball. I mention the athletics because it’s a place where even the kids who have been at Park Day for a bit may feel new/nervous and share in that experience of what it’s like to be new.

In terms of being prepared for high school, my son is at a public high school and feels Park Day prepared him well. He didn’t know what to expect going from a cohort of 36 to a cohort of 600, and he has done well. He found clubs and sports, and his lowest grade has been an A-.

Honestly, irrespective of his grades, what we appreciate about Park Day is that he learned how to have agency over his education; ask questions from a place of inquiry; and navigate new situations. IMHO, those really are the key to long-term academic success and a lifelong love of learning. 


I am a parent with two kids that joined Park Day during this tumultuous year and my family has been incredibly happy. We had a 6th grader and an 8th grader transition in this school year and I feel like they have been academically challenged and very supported by the teachers and staff. The small class sizes mean my math-inclined 8th grader has been able to move ahead in math for the first time in her academic career and my writing-inclined 6th grader has been able to tackle complex writing projects with strong teacher support and guidance. They have had a lot of individual attention and been able to stretch academically in ways they haven't previously. I do not have any concerns for my 8th grader moving into high school next fall and both kids have felt welcomed and gotten to know their peers (although that has been understandably more difficult this year). I have no doubts my 6th grader will also be prepared for high school when the time comes. We weren't totally sure what we were jumping into this year but we are very glad we made the decision to join Park Day.


My daughter entered PDS in 6th grade just before the pandemic.  It is a great year to enter, as it is the beginning of middle school, and there are other kids entering then too.  PDS did a great job of hosting many social gatherings --on campus and off campus -- before the start of the year, so that there were familiar faces on the the first day of school.  When school starts, there is a very warm plan including an assigned peer buddy to help the new student orient.  Overall, PDS is a GREAT social-emotional environment!  I also love the academics in that they teach the students critical thinking vs just rote learning to pass tests.  Subject matters are integrated to each other, and relevant to the student's interests and lives, as well as the the larger socio-political environment.  I am a highly critical person, but there is not one substantive area that I am unhappy with at PDS -- on quite the contrary, I am very pleased and happy.


Hello, my twins just started sixth grade this year. Given all that's going on in the world (i.e., a global health pandemic), they are thriving at Park Day School. They have had no issues with adjusting to a new school even with being partly on Zoom and partly on campus. The transition has been eased by the school communicating very clearly, regularly, and compassionately about the logistical and emotional stuff that's going on. And the sixth grade teachers (and I imagine all the teachers) do a fabulous job of holding space for conversations and are very attuned to each kid's needs and personality. Middle school in a pandemic is not ideal, and, I couldn't think of a better place I'd rather have my kids. 


My daughter attended Park Day K-8 and is now at Bentley. She would tell you that she was challenged and very well-prepared for high school, perhaps even over-prepared in math (thank you, Jeff)! Freshman year, she landed in three honors classes, including Spanish 3H. But more importantly, I think, her eagerness to learn was nurtured all along the way. Her middle school years stand out in particular for me because, at a time when girls may become quieter or less sure of themselves, my daughter just blossomed. She became more motivated than ever and grew in confidence, self-awareness, and self-expression. I attribute this in part to her teachers and advisors, who truly know and care about each student. They are masters of their craft, as well as creative and fun. 

There were several new kids along the way, though it's hard to remember in which grade, because they were quickly brought into the fold. Two of these girls, who came in 5th and in 6th grade, immediately became two of my daughter's best friends. Later, I heard them describe how welcomed they felt, on more than one occasion. The school does an excellent job with this.

On both counts, then, I can't speak highly enough!


There are lots of wonderful things about Park Day but, as a parent who sent their child there in middle school, I would also caution that I don't think it is a good fit for all kids. My spouse and I are both very progressive and value tolerance above all; but in fact we found little tolerance for our kid who questioned authority and spoke out and, quite unlike PDS' philosophy and intentions, mostly shut him down instead of working with him, as they might have with the shy kid or other personality types. The hypocrisy was not lost on him.  Further, I found the academics in middle school to be largely mediocre with a few bright spots in science, music, and drama. My mother was an expert in progressive education; when I told her some of the ways his English and his social studies teachers had handled his learning, she said "Well, progressive education is really difficult; if it were easy, everyone would be be doing it."  Our family spent only one year there but I note that other families with older siblings who went all the way from elementary to graduating from 8th grade there did not have their younger children continue there as the younger ones rose to the middle school. This was several years ago now, and I see that the head of school and the middle school director as well as most of the middle school teachers have changed, so my specific information is out of date.  But, based on our experience, I recommend that you ask PDS lots of questions about how they would nurture, guide, and respond to your child's particular personality type and interests, how tolerant they really are about 'differences,' and how their middle school curriculum and teachers have evolved over the last 5 years.


Hands-down Park Day School has been a gem in my daughters lives and my family’s as well. Nowhere have I seen a school so dedicated to the wellbeing of both the child and the family. My two daughters have been attending PSD since they were in 1st and 4th grade. They have different learning styles and PDS has been stellar in accommodating them. My oldest, now graduating from 8th grade, needed more academic support and PDS stepped in immediately to help scaffold her learning needs. She has thrived, loving all subjects, excelling in math. The school, based on its small sized classrooms, has the capacity to accommodate curricula based on the student’s abilities. She speaks up for herself, participates in all subjects, has been mentor to lower grades, and has importantly loved learning. She got into her three top private schools this year, a testament that PDS wholeheartedly prepares these teens for the next level of education. My youngest will be entering middle school and I have no doubt she’ll too thrive and succeed. All subjects in the middle school are built on a rock-solid foundation with dedicated staff and faculty. Lastly, one more plug for PDS. What I love is the absolute inclusion and acceptance for all children present. Never seen is violence, no bullying, and importantly for my family no “glam girl” competition. My kids play, hangout, and socially engage, having built strong lasting friendships.