Thornhill vs. Chabot

Hello, I am a mother of a would-be 3rd grader, moving to Oakland Hills in the summer. We just received an offer from Thornhill and remain on a waitlist for Chabot (and Hillcrest). Would you please share your experience/ views on both Thornhill and Chabot (in terms of environment, academics, etc)? I am looking for a supportive, academically strong program, versatile curriculum and extracurricular activities, green campus, etc. Thank you!  

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RE: Thornhill vs. Chabot ()

Long time Chabot parent here...

Chabot has very strong academics in the sense that across the board all the teachers do a good job at making sure kids meet the state standards. Opportunities for going beyond state standards and/or engaging in more creative project-based work vary widely based on which teachers you happen to get. Chabot's 3rd grade team, in particular, is excellent and features 2 teachers (of 4 total) who have been recognized as OUSD teacher of the year.

In terms of social/emotional stuff, the school has done a really good job at getting all teachers on the same page in terms of approaches to disclipline and the language they use with students to build community and to manage "unexpected" behavior. But it is a really big school (580 students), and there just aren't enough adults in the building to always have adults tracking whatever interpersonal issues might come up among the kids. There have been times when I was really frustrated by that, but in hindsight, I think it really helped my kids develop people skills that they might not have if there were constantly adults coming to their rescue.

Chabot used to have many extracurricular activities available, but as of last year, they shifted to a new aftercare provider, and all extracurriculars are now provided through that program. Which would be great, except for the fact that the aftercare program cannot accommodate anywhere near the number of students who wish to be a part of it. So... the school culture has really shifted, and if you are not a part of that program (about half of Chabot students are not), then you are on the outside of a fair bit of social goings-on, and you are no longer allowed to just hang around and play on campus after school. It has been a huge bummer for the families not lucky enough to get a spot in that program. (The old program couldn't accommodate everyone either, but at least the school campus was open for other extracurricular activities after school or kids could even stay and play on campus if they had a parent or caregiver with them. So the school was a community hub even after school hours. All that is over now.)

I can't really comment on whether Chabot has a green campus. There is a school garden, and every teacher has a dedicated garden space. Some use theirs; others don't.

I also don't know what you mean by "versatile curriculum." Are you asking about differentiation? My sense is that this varies by teacher and happens much more in the older grade levels, where students are able to work more independently, which allows teachers to be able to offer more tailored instruction. I think the school administration would say that all Chabot's teachers are trained to differentiate, but our experience has been that it happens sometimes but not all the time. The school definitely has access to great tools to help with that. The PTA is very active and raises a good deal of money, some of which goes to the school technology program, so the teachers have plenty of tools at their disposal for things like allowing students various ways to access a math concept (For example, my daughter's 3rd grade teacher would have them spend math time shifting among different stations over the course of a week: pencil and paper, individual math game on a computer, individual math drills on a computer, group work, and group games were all part of how math was taught).

Good luck sorting it all out!