Public or Private School for Middle School?

My child currently attends a private middle school with small in-person classes and it's going great. We are thinking of transferring to King next year.

Does anyone have any advice or insight about whether the challenging middle-school years are better served in a small cohort of peers or withing larger social groups?

I am less concerned about academics, and more with peer pressure, use of social media too young, smart phones... None of that is happening in our current school yet. 

Parent Replies

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

In my experience, it really depends on the kid, class size, and in-school opportunities to find your people. My daughter attended a medium-sized public middle school (600 students) which was just about the right size overall. She found small groups without too much peer pressure in music, cross country, and debate. The problem was the class sizes were way too big for her comfort level (35-40 kids per class). So those would be some things to consider.

This is a great question. The experience at King vs a smaller private middle school will be vastly different. And I'll say that the choice really depends on your child. My daughter went to King, then Berkeley High and then a large UC and thrived at each school. Knowing what we knew about King, we didn't send our son there. He instead went to a great all-boys school in Berkeley (East Bay School for Boys) that focuses on teaching the whole child, maker culture, self-advocacy where he would be seen and held to account, among other things. Both are good schools. But not the best options for each of our kids. (And a side note, one of my son's classmates decided that after a year at EBSB he wanted a bigger pool, and transferred to King.) Good luck to you.

I hear you. If you are concerned about those things (and your child’s school has managed to keep social media, etc. in check so far), I would not recommend King. Students there are exposed to a lot early, and almost all of them have phones. Issues about social media use are inevitable and there are of course many pros and cons to the increased exposure to life’s realities, which kids do need to learn and know how to manage, but the questions are when and how. If I were to do it again, I would have chosen private for middle school, and public for high school. My two cents.

We are just finishing 8th grade at a small nurturing private school where the teachers really know my son well.  We have been very happy with the school and feel that we were able to put off some of the harder parts of the dominant culture pressure on boys.  Although we certainly got a fair share of it but it's our hope that it was in more manageable doses.  Why I wanted to write back though was our current dilemma... we were really hoping to send him to a public high school and get a break from paying tuition.  Our local high school is 2,000 kids and my son really does not want to go somewhere that big.  We are wrestling with if we can pay for private Catholic since it's more affordable but it's not optimal with their conservative views so  he may have to go to the public school  but certainly the transition would have been a lot easier from a large public middle school.  It's kind of like if you can't afford all private,  the bandaid has to be pulled off at some point and when is the best time.... not sure we picked it.  

If it’s going great, I would not switch schools. I have an 8th grader at King. It’s been fine for him, but it was not fine for my daughter. She hated it. I would see no point in moving my child, especially for the last year of middle school, if things are currently going well.

Our older child went to King, had a great time, went on to BHS and then Cal. Our younger child was distracted by the somewhat chaotic atmosphere at King - somewhat the students but even more so the teachers, as she had subs constantly. She went to a small private school and loved that, then on to BHS, which she's thriving in. So it's child-dependent. Regarding peer pressure and behavior - the private school was worse - kids with privilege seem to misbehave more. Vaping in school, smoking weed, all of that. But it was all avoidable; she never got involved and had a very supportive friend group and involved teachers.
 

I can respond from the opposite perspective. My child was at Longfellow in sixth grade when they switched to "distance learning" last spring. We switched her to a small private school where she has been able to attend in person classes all year. When I asked about 8th grade she wanted to remain at the current school and not return to Longfellow. (This was before it became clear that BUSD was not making in person classes a priority for next year either, although in retrospect maybe the writing was on the wall.) From my perspective she has also been noticeably happier at the smaller school. 

As to phones specifically, according to my kid virtually every child at Longfellow had a smart phone and was on it constantly. The new school makes active efforts to keep the kids off screens, and no phones are allowed. (Technically, I don't believe they were allowed at Longfellow either during class, but just from pick up and drop off I can say that they were everywhere.) There is also far less discussion of "dating" at the new school. So from a parenting perspective, if you value keeping the kids off screens and social media, based on our experience I would stick with the small private school. If you've found a middle school where your kids isn't dealing with peer pressure, use of social media too young, smart phones, etc. it's probably worth sticking with it another year if you can afford the cost.