School with diversity and strong academics

For the last few years we’ve been very fortunate to be a part of a small private school community that has emphasis on diversity and social justice. While it’s been wonderful to have a school reflect the values that we feel strongly about and teach at home it’s frustrating that the academics aren’t equally strong. We’ve had these feelings pre pandemic and the pandemic has really reinforced our feelings. We are parents of a soon to be middle schooler and we are very concerned that the middle school program doesn’t adequately prepare our child for high school, be it a small private school or a large public school. We are seeing Math, Science, and English take a back seat to Cultural Studies and Social Justice classes. For example,  Cultural Studies is every day for 45 minutes. Math and Science are only once a week for 30 minutes. Is it possible to find a school that is academically rigorous and includes our values in the curriculum? Also is there a school with openings for sixth grade next fall? 

Any parent recommendations? 

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I have a fifth grader at Prospect Sierra and feel like the academics are stronger than our local public option (I can't speak to comparison with other private schools), and there is a strong commitment to diversity weaving in the entire curriculum. (OK, maybe I haven't seen it in math or PE... ha ha.)

We are a progresssive family of color, and my daughter is in middle school at Park Day School.  I continue to be very impressed with their committment to social justice as well as foundational academics.  All tought to be critical thinkers vs rote learners.  

Why not just let your child live the curriculum in a diverse public school?

Public schools always have openings. 

We have a child at The Academy. The Academy has a very strong academic program, especially in the middle school. Also there is a lot of diversity in the school. In 6th grade, students take Pre-Algebra  (5x/week for 50 min each session), Science (4x/week for 50 min sessions), Latin (3x/week for 50 min sessions), French (3x/week for 50 min session), English (5x/week for 50 min sessions), History (4x week for 50 min sessions), Music (2x week for 50 min sessions), Art (2x week for 50 min sessions), PE (3x week). The classes are small but most importantly you should have your child visit to make sure it's a good fit for them. Also, just FYI...they do get a lot of homework in middle school.

My son is currently a 7th grader at The Academy in Berkeley and we can't say enough about the school. Our oldest also attended from 6-8th grade and is currently in HS doing very well, and we're confident it's due to the preparation he received in middle school. The rigorous academics at The Academy is actually one of the top reasons we were attracted to the school and we have not been disappointed. The teachers are so committed and dedicated to the students. The curriculum is focused on making sure the students are adequately prepared for the next level. We also love the community and the school has definitely focused on creating diversity as part of its culture, which is also very important to us. Even through the pandemic, the school did a great job being prepared for distance learning, making it an easy transition for us, as parents, and the students. It's a small school but so well rounded and has been a perfect fit for both our boys. I definitely recommend it. Here is the school link if you'd like more information,  Best wishes!

Prospect Sierra school fits the bill.  My child was a student in Prospect Sierra for 9 years, from K-8.  As you already know, Prospect Sierra places a big emphasis on social emotional learning and diversity.  It is also very strong in academics, at least during the 9 years we were there.  I can come up with two major differences between Prospect Sierra and public schools: 1) they teach kids how to learn, not just content but soft skills of learning; 2) they provided sufficient flexibility to students who have superior academic abilities.  My child graduated a couple of years ago from PS and went to a top private high school known for vigorous academics.  Even in this setting, my student got to the top of the class easily. In retrospect, my student commented that PS did a great job preparing its students for high school and beyond. Many projects and activities they do in high schools (private and public) have already been done in 7th and 8th grades in PS. More importantly, PS graduates are already well trained in study skills that make them easier to adapt to high schools. It is perhaps the best school (K-12) in the area.  We were lucky to be a part of it. 

Hello. If you're looking for a school that prides itself on its academic rigor AND its commitment to social engagement, then the Academy in Berkeley is the school for you. We have been parents there for over ten years and we can't say enough great things about the teachers as well as the small but mighty administration that supports them. Classes are no more than 15 people (yep, 15!) and yet the student body is extremely diverse. Coursework ranges from a comprehensive STEAM program to learning Latin, debating historical perspectives and reading and performing a Shakespeare play. We are also lucky enough to have an incredible Music & Arts curriculum that is meant to enhance studies of rhythm, history & world culture.

Our first child graduated in 2019 and could not have been more prepared as she entered University High School in San Francisco (another quite challenging program). Our second child will be entering 6th grade next year and has had a different but equally rewarding tenure there. Though schooling-from-home last year was tough on our young student, the school adapted in the fastest and safest way possible to bring the kids back into the classroom putting strict testing protocols into play and insisting on no contact between students. And, of course, masks. All this is to say, reach out to the Academy if you're looking for a unicorn of a school that challenges the student while still supporting the student's socio-emotional well-being.

By mrkendal on Feb 3, 2021