Doing Poorly at Berkeley High
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Our BHS sophomore is floundering academically
- Junior is failing at Berkeley High
- Sophomore son is doing poorly academically at BHS
- Son's negative experience at Berkeley High
My daughter went to Maybeck after her 9th grade at BHS. She had done very well academically at BHS but it was overwhelming and unresponsive in a number of ways. Maybeck is a wonderful, creative, caring school, with high ( but not lethal) academic standards. Classes are small and engaging so kids cannot get lost in the back of a room. It is pretty much an antithetical experience to BHS. It is a small school for better and for worse. No competitive sports teams; few if any AP classes (though some students take AP tests). Socially, can feel too small by the end. But it is warm and friendly, and diverse. My daughter and I were both happy to see (after BHS) that the girls actually wear casual, 'appropriate' clothing to school. There are whole-school camping trips to start and end the year. Special programs for two weeks each spring (this year including Bay Area Hikes, Zen Buddhism, trips to the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and scuba certification.) The Administration, faculty and staff will know and care about your daughter - and all the other students - and help her make the most of her years at Maybeck. The college advisor is also outstanding and kids and families are in great hands going through the college process. I encourage you and your daughter to visit Maybeck to see if she would be happier and more successful there. Mom of a thriving Maybeck student
Check out Tilden Prep. I have heard that people will sign their kids up for H.S. courses at Tilden because their kids don't get the help they need from their own teachers. Their child gets more individualized attention, learns more and can better manage their schedules. I believe your child can do one or two courses as needed or take up to a full load and make that their whole H.S. experience. They can also do it for a semester or a year and return to their school once you get they get their legs up under them. I've got it earmarked for my own daughter who's in 9th grade now (in Piedmont) in case she needs it in the future. Always Open to Options
This was our experience, too. BHS is great for very self-directed kids, but my stepson wasn't and he nearly flunked out by the end of sophomore year. He switched to El Cerrito High and got straight As for the last two years of high school. But you're right, this does impact college: as a sophomore he said he didn't care, but when he was applying to colleges he was gutted to realize how he had short-changed himself. Even after explaining the issues that distracted him and pointing out the radical shift in his grades, he couldn't get into a UC school. My opinion? Get her the hell out of there.
Big RED Flag: smart but forgets to turn in work, ''a lot.'' This sounds like ADD or ADHD. Get her evaluated stat. anon
I can't say whether another school might be a better fit for your child but I wanted to let you & other parents know about a Support group for parents at Berkeley high, led by BHS parents for kids who may have or do have Learning differences. BHS does not assist parents in determining whether their child has learning issues unless the parent initiates an inquiry into their child's poor academic performance. Even once a parent begins an inquiry there are numerous obstacles to sorting this out and helping your child.
We have a freshman at BHS who has Inattentive ADD which means even with meds he doesn't have enough focus to finish a test during class. He does really well on tests as long as he has enough time to finish them, and he has a 504 plan that lets him turn in work late and have longer to finish tests. All of his teachers know about his 504 and are on board with it. But it requires a grown-up to plan the How and the When, because he has no ability to be proactive or plan. Some of his teachers are great about setting up a time with him to finish tests, and he has As and Bs in those classes. But some teachers leave it up to him, which means it never happens, and he has F's in those classes until we parents notice it on Powerschool, email the teacher, arrange for a time for him to come in, and make sure he shows up. Then his grades come back up in those classes. Repeat every few weeks. It's exhausting.
My takeaway is that BHS has the expectation that kids will advocate for themselves. The problem is there are lots of kids who just can't do that, for whatever reason. They are at a big disadvantage at BHS, even with heavy parent involvement and a 504 Plan, and not all of them have that. We are worn out, our kid has been teased for being ''dumb'' and for slowing down his group (BHS is big on group work, which is fatal for our ADD kid) so we have applied to Bayhill HS for next year. They specifically support ADD kids, know how to teach to them and what kind of structure and support they need.
Regarding Realm, my son has a couple of friends who go there, and the big advantage there is it's much smaller and not as academically demanding as BHS. So you might visit it and see if your daughter likes it. Maybeck is a great school, but may not be a good fit for a student who is not especially enthusiastic about academic topics. You might take a look at Holden too. It's walkable from the Orinda BART and we liked it, but it didn't quite fit for our kid.
Good luck. It's hard! Don't give up hope though! My older son flunked out of BHS as a freshman, then was asked to leave a private HS, then dropped out of BHS Independent Study, and then flunked the HS equivalency exam. After a few years he did the CC route and is now finishing up at UCSC with nothing but A's in all his classes! mom of 3
My BHS freshman has had a tough year, first in a small school where classroom management was greatly lacking. She was depressed and anxiety-filled because the disruptions prevented her from learning. Switched to Independent Study mid-year, where she can do the work well, academically, but is too disorganized to manage her time, so I'm having to be very hands-on with her learning... We just found out she's reassigned to IB next fall. She's nervous because friends have said it's ''too hard'' and she will have no electives except a language (When do IB kids satisfy their PE requirements???) Our kid has always loved school (been in Berkeley her whole life, and BUSD since K), the scene, her friends, and has had some wonderful teachers... up until this year.
If possible, I'd recommend a transfer to the Academic Choice program. There are fewer requirements in AC and more opportunities for electives. My daughter was able to take full year courses in drawing and ceramics, both of which she enjoyed very much, as well as finish all the required courses for college admission. Good luck! msf22
Sounds like your daughter has a lot of positives in her life, and a challenging first year of high school. You ask how to change her attitude, but it sounds like a normal reaction to her first year. Why not let her sort through her feelings and concerns, and then know that you cannot predict how next year will go for her. All you can do is let her know what strengths and support she has, and then see what happens. It is good practice for her adult life. Anon
My son, also smart and active in sports, became lost after attending Oakland public schools since K. There are so many reasons high school is challenging for teens. We felt he needed a smaller school environment and Holden Alternative High School in Orinda came highly recommended. There he found his love of learning again; in a very individualized, nurturing environment; and discovered his passion for life after high school. Worth checking out, Holden could be a good fit. Parent of now happy and independent high school graduate
I have two kids in IB, and I have heard from MANY others that the small schools have too many unmotivated kids (I have seen it first hand to when a Writer's coach at the old Green Academy). Your child has gone through a hard stretch of the small school and then independent study, but IB is great!! I have this feeling she may really love it, once she is adjusted in there. If your kid does okay in school, IB is really, really not that hard (I have a Senior and Sophomore in it). Junior year can be tough, but that's really the only one. Thanks. Happy
We need advice on a new high school environment for our 16 1/2 yo son at Berkeley High. He has ADD, has been on and off meds, did OK in middle school, and passed most classes in his 1st 2 years of high school with C's and D's. For junior year he lost all motivation and failed the 1st semester of all 4 core classes. He is bright, but has trouble focusing unless he is interested. He is in AHA, but still seems to be able to check out and not do the classwork and isn't motivated to do homework. Now we are dealing with regular marijuana use and are in a recovery program for that.
We are seriously thinking of another alternative school environment. We are going to look at Holden High in Orinda, but I heard recently that there might be a big marijuana problem there. Can anyone confirm or refute this? Also looking at Mentoring Academy in Rockridge which is very new (they only have 9 students total) and possibly Bayhill in Oakland. The things that I think would help my son in school (besides getting off marijuana) are engaging him in things of interest to him, no busywork, not sitting in a classroom all day, hands-on learning and making new friends (he is very social and a sweet kid). He feels most things he is learning now are of no relevance to his life, which is probably a common feeling among teens.
Any information or suggestions would be appreciated. Worried Parents
You and your son may want to check out the Alameda Community Learning Center (ACLC) in Alameda, CA. (www.alamedaclc.org) ACLC is a small (300), dynamic, community-oriented public (tuition-free) charter school serving grades 6-12. They are hosting a student/parent High School Information Night on Monday, Feb 25, from 7:30 - 8:30 pm, and a High School School Tour on Tuesday, Feb 26, from 11:15 am -12:15 pm.
ACLC provides an innovative, hands-on, project-based curriculum that emphasizes student engagement in a democratic society through leadership, independence, self-direction and personal exploration. Learners participate in unique educational experiences including internships, community projects, and college classes at the nearby College of Alameda.
ACLC has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best High Schools in the United States for the past four years. It is consistently ranked as one of Alameda's top middle and high schools with an API of 827, and a statewide rank of 9. The ACLC curriculum meets all University of California-approved A - G college prep courses, and over 90% of ACLC graduates are admitted to four year universities. Parent of 12th-grader and 8th-grader
My story may help you: My brilliant son was failing at BHS because he had no respect for his teachers, (unfortunately, with good reason), and didn't see the point in putting in any effort. We looked into Independent Study, Tilden Academy, and other school possibilities, none of which seemed like they would be any better. Finally, he took the CHSPE and tested out. The following year, he took trade-type classes in community college, no pressure, no homework, just time to figure out what he wants for himself. He took a few academic community college courses the following year and applied to the college that had the program he was interested in. He's now a freshman at that college making mostly A's and is very happy. Our role in all this was to be supportive and let him be who he was. High school is not for everyone, and there are many paths to adulthood. Been there
We have an ADHD son who attends MetWest High School in Oakland. It is an Oakland public school but very different from any other Oakland school. It's mantra is ''real world learning.'' All students work at an internship of their choosing every Tuesday and Thursday. They attend school on M-W-Fri. It is a very small school - 2 classes per grade, each class no more than 20 students. Enlish and social studies are taught as an integrated block by an Advisor. The Advisor knows every kid and stays on top of each and every one of them. The Advisor stays with the same group of kids for two years. Reading and writing demands are heavy and were very worrisome to us because writing was our son's greatest weaknesses. He does have a private tutor who along with his motivation to be at this school - because he loves his internship - has greatly helped him develop as a writer. Each quarter, each student must demonstrate their learning through an exhibition, which is an oral presentation accompanied by some type of visual presentation, based on very specific guidelines. Parents are required to attend 2 of the 4 exhibitions each year. The next exhibitions are the week of March 4 - 8. You would be welcome to attend if you made arrangements in advance. They do have space for and are looking for more juniors. A number of kids left last year due to a very bad teacher, who is no longer there. The school is very much a college prep program and teaches the kids a lot about how to apply to college and for financial aid. The school's phone number is 510 451 5902. Check out these links: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/education=7475688 OR http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/23/met-west/ OR http://oaklandlocal.com/article/oaklands-midwest-high-school-students-learn-through-internships Write back if you want more info and we can arrange to talk. momofjesse
As a current parent at Holden High School I am not aware of any big problem there and I'm pretty confident I would know. I think it is very important to remember that at any high school public or private certain kids are going to be drawn to trying and or using drugs and/or alcohol. In my son's previous private high school they brought in/bring in drug sniffing dogs. I do understand the concerns you have with what is currently going on with your son. I'm just not sure that you will find any perfect place.
I would encourage you to look at the significant strengths of Holden High School as it relates to the needs of your son. We have been very pleased with the support and guidance ours receives there. The staff are utterly amazing with teens. They understand their psyche in a way that you won't see elsewhere. They tackle issues head on and in a way that allows the kids to learn and grow. Ultimately they work with them to succeed in school and life while helping them consider their next steps after graduation.
Each student is matched up with a skilled counselor who is enrolled in or has graduated from an accredited Master's program. They meet with them once a week. Holden also includes 8 family counseling sessions as part of the tuition.
If you want to speak to current parents there, the school has a list they can give you. Best of luck in your decision. An understanding parent
My son, a sophmore at BHS, skips as many classes as he attends. He is doing poorly academically. I believe that the current program is not right for him. He wanted to be in the Arts program but was not admitted.
I've tried talking with the counselor, and I believe that the counselor is unable to help because he seems uninterested in my son in the first place and hostile to me. I've requested from the deputy principal that a different counselor be assigned and was refused.
Therefore, I am considering:
--other schools, including arts academies
--the BHS independent study program.
Anybody have a suggestion for an incredibly intelligent young man who is not successful at BHS?
Looking for Alternatives
A while back, some parents were meeting as a 'school is not for boys' support group, and we archived the notes and resources from those meetings at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/schoolsnotforboys/. Hope you find something useful there - several of the entries include other schools to consider, including a new charter school in Oakland. The group is now defunct, but maybe it could be resurrected with new members (and the group might consider including parents of daughters as well). I don't know why the group was short-lived, must be many reasons. Our situations were quite different (family composition, finances, ethnicity, sons' ages, schools...); it's difficult to share these stories with strangers (and perhaps the conversations are better handled by a professional); some of us were experiencing some success and others saw little change.... I wish we could have helped one another more. The problems are real and need raising and addressing. Best of luck to you. anon
I highly recommend the East Bay Waldorf High School. Some kids think it's too small, but the education is excellent and the kids can't hide - which can make all the difference - so much attention is paid to each child and I have found my interactions with the faculty to be very informative and helpful - I know it's not close, it's in El Sobrante - there is a bus and there are carpools from Berkeley and other cities. There aren't lots of sports and clubs like Berkeley High but there are some and they are working on making more. Kids can visit the school for a few days to get a feel for it.
A Happy EBWS Parent
My son is a senior and about to graduate from BHS - but in hind site I consider the last three years very detrimental and think we should have removed him - if only to take the high school equivalency exam and move on. He has been cutting class (significantly) since his sophomore year - and no one gives a damn. He has been very depressed and has received an unbelievably poor education. In his first two years of English - they read maybe six books (one of the small schools).
Through monumental efforts on our (the parents) part he is going to a private four year university, but considering his negative experience and what he has learned at BHS (you don't have to do anything - and who cares) we have no idea how he will manage.
If we could do it again - we would have removed him from BHS - at least to independent study (where he is completing his senior year).
My advice is - if your kid is struggling, unhappy, truant or depressed - get him out of BHS. I do think Michele Lawrence will turn things around given time - but having a healthy, happy and confident kid should come first - even before high school.
sign me anonymous
Advise to BHS parents - My son wanted to attend Berkeley and I was quite happy to give it a try. He started off good, but as time went by his grades dropped from A's to C's and D's. He played truant, locked himself in his bedroom and refused to come out. In the beginning like most parents we thought it was his teenage mood swings, but then it became obvious something was really wrong when he began to slash his wrists.
He hated the B.High culture and claimed school was a waste of his time as far as getting an education. The depression went on - we sought counseling - like many parents we thought what the hell can I do. I can't afford a private high school on my salary.
Then one day - our relationship with B.High was over - my son was asked by a group of three males for a 'pocket check' that is 'empty your pockets' he said and 'no' and consequently got beaten up pretty bad. Clothes torn, black eye etc. Might I add that it didn't help the fact that he got so depressed he stopped hanging out with his group of friends and was alone while this took place. Nevertheless, I cried, how could I let my son go to a school where his physical safety was at risk.
Cut a long story short - I somehow found the money to send him to Bishop O'Dowd. As much as it is a hardship for us to find the extra cash - I can honestly say in the three months that my son has been there I have a totally different child. He has gone from failing and falling through the cracks to being an up beat motivated kid that loves school. His grades this semester are four A's one B and a C - such a miraculous improvement over B.High.
What is the difference - lower class size - strong values for respect for each other - child held accountable by the school - text books (which we have to buy of course) - closed campus - high levels of professional security - more counselors per child and the obvious no government budget cuts.
What more can I say those stories you here are true and there is no denying that there is something terribly wrong with our school system - that is not to say that all kids are miserable and physically threatened at B.High.
Bottom line - I think you just have to listen to your kid and find some way to get them out of B.High if you have to. Anon