Seeking a Diverse Preschool

Parent Q&A

  • Looking for a preschool in Berkeley prioritizing diversity

    (10 replies)


    My family and I are moving back to Berkeley and I'm a little overwhelmed with preschool options. I'm looking at schools that prioritize diversity with students and support it with a culturally competent curriculum. (that has good structure, not just free play) Also, I really want  a preschool that has diversity amongst its teachers. Any recommendations? 

    Thank you!

    Step One School in Berkeley has a diverse community.  They stress inclusion and compassion, no matter what type of household you come from.  I've found the staff, teacher and parents to be open minded and supportive, and their own staff reflect a diversity of gender, ethnicity and age.  Fortunately, I think you'll be able to find many preschools in Berkeley that value and promote diversity.  Time to begin touring school!  :D

    New House Day School on Hopkins is great in this respect, and in pretty much every respect. Mabel Perez, the director, can answer any questions you have about how they manifest and teach diversity. You can tour the school with your child and see how it feels to you both. We love it and miss it (2cd and K now).

    Both of my children went to preschools of Berkeley USD. There are 3 of them (King, Franklin, Hopkins). They are both affordable, diverse, sensitive and attentive. Because they are part of the USD, they know and carry responsibility to prepare children for the Berkeley USD schools. Actually they are called CDC-childhood development center- for some legal reason...

    DEFINITELY check into The Berkeley School Early Childhood Center on Francisco. Not only do they have a commitment to diversity, their program is founded in civic engagement.

    New School and St John’s both in Berkeley- we have experience with both. Prob others too. 

    They might be full or running a wait list, but if you are North Berkeley you should look at The Good Earth School in Kensington.  It is extremely diverse, not just in terms of the teachers, director, and students- but as a priority of the curriculum. For example- right now they are doing unit on Women's History, and my daughter comes home and tells me about Mae Jemison (the astronaut), Selena (the Tejano singer), Coretta Scott King, and Malala Yousafzai (among others). It's located on the grounds of the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Church but is not affiliated with the church. It's outdoor (as much as possible), nature-based- so my kids are out on hikes everyday and learning about their world. Plus, they include a healthy vegetarian lunch everyday, eating stuff like dal, tacos, and pasta and veggies. Most of the families are from Kensington, North Berkeley and El Cerrito.

    It has been awhile, but Rockridge Montessori was a good fit for my bi-racial grandchildren.  They are now at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland which is very diverse and has such a good school culture.

    My son went to Step One (he is now in Kindergarten) and for us it was such a wonderful experience. The staff is diverse and every single teacher prioritizes diversity, cultural competency, and the gender spectrum. There is solid emergent curriculum planning around many topics of diversity and inclusion. And my son, who is an extremely shy mixed Asian race boy, completely bonded with his teacher of color - she is to this day his favorite teacher. Each child is taught “love is love” as well as the meaning of equality, equity, and justice. If you’re moving back, I’d definitely look into Step One! 

    We absolutely love Step One School in Berkeley!! Our family is mixed race and we feel so happy about the diversity our kids get from both the students and staff. We love that our kids have had men, women and all different races and religions surrounding them. They even have a few Spanish speaking teachers and our kids have learned some basic  Spanish. Step One is structured, but a play based preschool. They have a curriculum, but the kids  often steer where that might go. We are finishing our 5 and final year there in Aug. I can’t imagine not having Step one in our lives. It trully is a magical place! We have recommended it to many friends and family.  Good luck and feel free to ask my any other questions you might have!

    Sounds like you are talking about Monteverde school in Berkeley. Its where my youngest goes in the Elmwood district. It’s a super diverse school and practices a non-bias curriculum. It’s also a lovely space with lots of art and creativity. Check it out :)

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Full day, diverse preschool

August 2010

Hi BPN! My 2.5yr old is currently in preschool but i'm ready to find another one for her. I feel like her current school is too too play based. I don't believe she is learning all that she should/could be learning. However the plus is that she loves the kids and teachers and the tuition is affordable for me. so where can i go? I want her to be happy, yet i want to make sure she is learning and prepared for kindergarten (i know its a few years away) My other issue is my daughter is mixed (black & mexican) and i'm having a hard time finding a school with a diverse atmospher. lastly i work full time so i will also need a program from 7 - 5;30/6pm. Lindsay

We love the diversity of families and teachers at Rising Star Montessori School in Alameda. You can look at their website: The Cottage Campus near Webster Street (and downtown Oakland) is great for the younger students. The main campus on High Street (closer to Fruitvale BART) also has preschool classes, but usually for older kids because they need to be fully potty trained there. - appreciating diversity

First of all, I want to say that I don't think that a pre- school can be too play-based for a 2.5 year old. I suggest you read this article about the benefits of play on psychological development:

Second, I want to throw out Lakeshore Children's Center (LCC) as a possibility. While it is definitely play-based, my daughter was right on the edge of reading by the time she started K--she knew all her letters, all their sounds, etc., etc.

Anyway, LCC is geared toward working parents. It is very diverse, with a high proportion of mixed race kids (black/white and other combinations). The teachers are black, white, hispanic, Asian and Moroccan. And it is pretty affordable. Carrie

Culturally Diverse Preschools

May 2002

I've researched fairly thoroughly the postings on the site for preschools and it appears they don't go beyond 2000. I'd like to know what experiences people have had with preschools over the last year or so. I'm looking for a place for my child that emphasizes art and movement as well as respect and cooperation. Also a site that is not small and crowded. Cultural diversity would be a big plus as well as bilingualism, but not a must. Thankyou, MB

Recommendations received:

May 2000

Can anyone recommend a pre-school with an understanding of what it means to affirm cultural identity in young children, and addresses issues of cultural diversity in deeeper and more thoughtful ways than celebration of holidays. I'm a single Jewish mom of an adopted daughter from China and am looking to enroll my daughter in a pre-school by January when she'll be 2.6. (I'm open to September 2000) We live in El Cerrito so programs in our area, Albany, Berkely, Richmond would be possible but I have yet to find anything even close. Are my expectations realistic? If I hear one more instructor respond to my concerns saying 'Well we celebrate Chinese New Year, Cino De Mayo, Chanukah.....' I think I'll scream or cry. While it is important to me that the kids in the pre-school come from diverse racial,cultural AND class backgrounds, (something that is also hard to find in these geographic areas) it is also important to me that the books, visual images, music and styles of teaching also reflect that diversity in a CENTRAL way. As a parent and an educator myself I bring this into my child's life and have seen the positive impact it has on my daughter in many ways, and would like to see this as part of her pre-school experience as well. The closest thing I know of is HEADSTART which while our economic situation is not pretty,we don't qualify for. I do see pre-school as a time for her to play, create, explore, develop and strengthen social skills and am less interested in an academic emphasis. Any recommendations/ suggestions would be much appreciated.

I am Chinese American educator and have just finished selecting a preschool for my 2 and 1/2 year old son so I recently visited the schools I will suggest. Although I did not pick either of these school, I thought they might be possible for your daughter. When I toured Step One (with its infamous long waiting list) in Berkeley, I was favorably impressed with one of the teachers in particular who had activities and images throughout her classroom of racially diverse people. Also, Step One has a small scholarship fund and likes to recruit children and families of diverse background. You seem to fit. In addition, I understand that there is a program in downtown Oakland but I don't know its name which also has instruction in Mandarin and Cantonese and there is a Cantonese English Bilingual preschool in Oakland Chinatown, probably too much of a schlep for you. While I know it is difficult to pick the perfect preschool program, I would encourage you to pick a school or perhaps other enrichment that would allow your daughter to be exposed to or learn some Mandarin Chinese if you do not speak the language yourself for the simple reason that language and culture or so inextricably tied. Logically, your daughter will have better access to her country and culture of origin later in life when she may have more questions and issues with cultural identity if she has some facility with the language. Kudos to you for considering such an important issue.

I'm not sure how much this preschool provides an understanding of cultural identity, but the school has a very diverse staff from many different nationalities and also has several men working there. Try New School of Berkeley , 548-9165. I totally love New School.

I recommend Cedar Creek Montessori School on Sacramento Street at Cedar. (see Cedar Creek Montessori School page for the rest of this review.)

I'd recommend you check into Via Nova . When looking for pre-schools I found Via Nova, located on MLK in Berkeley, to have a real understanding, appreciation of and participation in diversity. Ages 2 to 5. Minimum 3 full days.

Have you looked into Children's Community Center on Walnut Street in Berkeley? I don't have a child there, but I did my dissertation research with their children a few years ago, and I remember the teachers talking about something they called a "diversity curriculum." It's a parent co-op, so if that appeals to you, you might want to look into it.