The Academy

Community Subscriber
Berkeley

Private School
Language(s): 
English, French
Grades: 
K-8
Capacity: 
110 students
Website: http://www.theacademyschool.org
Email: admissions [at] theacademyschool.orgPhone: 510-549-0605
Address: 
2722 Benvenue Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705

Uncommon Excellence of Thought and Character in a Vibrant School Community

The Academy's mission is to develop thoughtful, ambitious and deep learners. We honor each student's individuality, develop their sense of personal responsibility, respect for others, integrity and commitment to service and citizenship in a global society.

We are a small, independent K-8 school with an almost 50 year legacy of providing our students with a rich and rigorous curriculum in a fun and nurturing environment. Each class K-5 has no more than twelve students, and each class 6-8 has no more than fifteen. We believe that our small class sizes best allow our experienced and passionate teachers to engage all of our students in thoughtful exploration and discussion of foundational concepts across subjects and grade levels.

Our traditional approach to education, which includes extensive STEAM courses, immersive French instruction K-8 and Latin instruction 6-8, is complemented by our commitment to fostering social-emotional intelligence in our students, and instilling within each student a capacity for global awareness. Students leave The Academy not only exceptionally well-prepared for the next phase of their studies, but also well-equipped to understand and address challenges on local and global scales. 

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SCHEDULE A TOUR: We offers tours weekday mornings, by appointment.

To schedule a tour, please email admissions [at] theacademyschool.org, call our office at (510) 549-0605, or click here to use the form provided on our website.

Parent Q&A

  • We are considering sending our middle school daughter to The Academy.  Previously, she attended public elementary at John Muir.  She is very academic and studious, so we felt Academy might be a good option.  We do have some concerns about the size of the school and opportunity for social growth. Additionally, we wondered if there is a high teacher turnover. Any recommendations?

    Hi Emily, we have 2 daughters that attend elementary school at The Academy who are also academic and studious. We’ve founded the school to be a great fit. The teachers at The Academy are excellent and most have been there for over a decade. John Lynch, the upper school dean, is a real treasure as you can sense from his welcome letter (http://theacademyschool.org/upper-school-curriculum-3/welcome-from-upper-school-dean/).  We find the size of the school to be an advantage, allowing for a close-knit community / village in which kids of all ages and adults treat each other with respect and kindness. In our view, The Academy has been operating for over 40 years the kind of "micro-school” that visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Sal Khan are now investing their treasure and time into.

Parent Reviews

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My daughter started kindergarten at The Academy in Elmwood this year, and we’ve been thrilled at the environment. The school is small - class sizes top out at 12 for the lower grades, and in all of K-8 there’s probably about 100 kids. We love the community. There’s a welcoming spirit among the students and teachers, and our daughter feels so much at home there. Because it’s small she gets to play and interact with the older kids as well as her class, which is a great mix of experiences.

The engagement of everyone - students, teachers, parents - has been so impressive. The school helps kids grow by learning and interacting. A few weeks ago our daughter sang us poems from a Maurice Sendak book, and she’ll happily tell me how to pronounce the French alphabet or ask me about subtraction problems. We’re always looking forward to what she’s learning next. 
 

We liked a few schools in the area, but ultimately what made us settle on The Academy was the feeling that the school spoke to us and the kind of experiences we wanted for our daughter. The head of school, John Lynch, is especially good and communicating the school’s goals and vision for its students.

Hello there, 

We discovered The Academy ten years ago, when we moved our older son out of our local public school.  We sought an environment that was both academically rigorous and socially welcoming, a rarity amongst the schools we visited.  The Academy ticked off all of our boxes and we worked with the administration to get him enrolled mid-year.  It was the best school-related decision we ever made for him.  He grew into a hardworking, mature young man and was accepted into the College Preparatory School, where he was well prepared to deal with that school’s rigorous classes and expectations.  

Fast forward to last year.  Because of our older son’s great experience, we enrolled our little one into The Academy. The school has changed quite a bit since our older son began, but very much for the better.  The administration is responsive and professional, a fair number of teachers have been added on (primarily in the upper school), and the school is overseen by a board of dedicated parents who place intellectual and social development first.  And while these changes have been wonderful, a certain core has remained constant, one that is rooted in a strong sense of community and teaches the children to care and look out for each other both in the classroom and on the play yard.  Our older son, initially a shy and introverted boy, grew out of his shell and felt that The Academy was a second home. Our younger son, a vivacious and extroverted kid, feels as comfortable playing with his classmates as he does playing with kids in other grades and gets a total kick out of the fact that upper-schoolers (he is in the lower school) greet him in the mornings and check in with him during recess.  I highly recommend you check out The Academy for your daughter.

Here is a link for more information: https://theacademyschool.org

Best, Shirley

We chose this school after moving from Seattle because our children needed to retain a challenging enough curriculum. The Academy values academics and deep learning, which seems pretty rare these days. My children are growing intellectually by leaps and bounds and are eagerly learning about the world around them. The teachers respect the students and strives to get them to be thinkers, not parrots. Children get to participate in lots of discussion.

One of the things that struck me the most is the positive social environment. Here it is like a big family, even between the parents and staff members. Everyone is warm and welcoming, and children of different ages are encouraged to intermingle and even learn from each other. Bullying of any kind is strictly not tolerated and kids can feel safe and healthy in this learning environment. Everyone is very kind to each other.

We too removed our child from The Academy due to lack of a solid Social/Emotional Curriculum. The focus of this school is to "teach" the kids a year ahead and issue TONS of homework (work sheets copied from text books). There is no comprehensive Literacy/Language Arts program like other private schools and they use Saxon Math starting Grade 2.  The Science Program is great but they've had 3-4 new science teachers the past 4-5 yrs. If you're an overzealous parent, this is school for you.  Yes, class sizes are small but the amount of incomplete worksheets sent home at the end week was unacceptable. Based on class size alone, you'd think the students would have ample time AND SUPPORT to complete in-class assignments. NOT!! The school is very cute, charming and the after school teacher, Catherine, is very sweet but she needs help managing the kids and all of the social issues they encounter on the playground. Overall enrichment and resources are NOT on same level as other private schools. 

Good Luck!

We had our child at The Academy, and we were not happy with our experience. Academically, it was fine. Socially/emotionally, it was not. The class sizes are really small, so just consider the impact on your child of having a very limited number of children to be friends with and what happens to your child if they are on the outside. There aren't other options for them. The kids in my child's class had an "I Hate (Kid's Name) Club," and while the teachers always said everything was fine in class, for our student they really weren't. After therapy for our kid and switching schools, we are having a much more successful experience with school. Primary school is about more than just learning academics; there is a lot of social and emotional growth that needs to be tended to also, and The Academy's strict focus on academics doesn't make room for that. Indeed, I got the feeling that many parents at the school were happy that the school didn't "waste" time on things other than the traditional European-style academics. That said, Catherine, who runs the after school program, is great.

We were in quite a similar situation you are in, and looked at all the schools you have been looking at as well. Our son was brought up with three languages, and learned a fourth language while living for a year in France. After looking at all the pros and cons of the various schools, we chose to send our son to the Academy and could not be happier. In the end we decided that given that our son was already quite advanced with languages, we would focus on other aspects, such as academics and overall environment of the school. 

One major advantage of the Academy is the small class sizes, with at most 12 kids per class in elementary school and at most 15 in middle school As they state, they do teach one year ahead, but I don't think any of the kids in our sons class are struggling. We are very impressed with what our son has learned during his first year in Kindergarten. Another thing that was quite important to us was that our son did not get a feeling of being privileged by going to a private school. At the Academy, the socioeconomic status of the parents is not something that stands out at all. Furthermore, they teach the value of enjoying to learn, rather than the value of learning to get ahead in life, if this makes any sense.

I should also mention that the after school program has been great so far, and as others have mentioned, Catherine is absolutely wonderful. But on top of that kids can sign up for extra classes such as coding, lego, chess, soccer, arts, piano. It is true that the yard is a little small, but the activities make up for it.

When it comes to academic rigor, we don’t have direct experience with other schools as both of our children have only attended The Academy, where we’ve been extremely happy. I recall when touring other schools, though, that they made claims that they also teach a year ahead. A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, became dissatisfied with her son's math curriculum. Out of curiosity, she asked for me to collect some math worksheets and tests, so that she could compare what our children (in the same grade) were learning.  I provided her with samples throughout the year and she acknowledged that The Academy was true to its word. I can also tell you that I’ve been told by parents whose children come from other schools (even during the early years of elementary school), who tell me that it took time for their child to “catch up” to the students at The Academy, so I assume it is true beyond just the math curriculum.  As far as the aftercare/enrichment programs, I can't speak to those, because we don't really use them.  Hope this helps!

We toured EBI and the Academy.

For us the Academy was it! The school embodies the values we hold dear – encouraging curiosity encouraging hard work and grit, that learning is fun and independent thinking is a life skill , as is finding solutions through creative and iterative problem solving. The school community believes that children are capable of a lot and that being challenged appropriately is the way to grow and therefore the way to go.  Teaching tends to be Socratic- Kids are taught to wonder, question, experiment and figure things out all the while building on the knowledge they have. Education is revered and there is a culture of respect.

The Academy is not for everyone- if you don’t really believe that it’s approach is right for you and your child, I would guess that it would be a hard road (though you might come to believe in it).  The school work is rigorous but each child is engaged and challenged at the level they are at- there is no judgment by the school of kids rather encouragement and high but appropriate expectations of what they can achieve albeit through hard work. Our daughter really benefits from the small, intimate and therefore safe environment of a school community that shares and reinforces the same values we have. 

After care at the Academy is an extension of the educational philosophy where are you will have to try new things work hard play hard learn and grow. There are enrichment classes which are fun and enjoyable but are limited enrollment and are not as elaborate as at other schools. The kids have fun, learn to adapt and manage in a larger group and also do homework together. 

Hope this helps

I have a son at the Academy and he is very happy there. We have been very pleased with his education. My son is adamant that he wants to stay at The Academy through 8th grade. From my experience these are the pros and cons:

1) The school is small and the kids in my son's class are very close friends. Also, the parents also get along very well. It's a tight-kinit community. Of course, the small class size could backfire if your child does not click with the other kids.

2) There is a lot of diversity at the school. My son's class is small, but the student's are ethnically diverse. There could be more diversity with the teachers.

3) The curriculum is 1 year ahead. This has been great for my son, but I know that some kids struggle. If your child isn't at this level going into the school, I wouldn't recommend it. No reason to make him/her struggle.

4) They have excellent special teachers. K-5 kids have French, Science, Music, PE and Art. Older kids also are taught Latin. Overall we have been very impressed with the special teachers. Although my son feels the music teacher (although she is very talented) could make the class a little more fun. It's a little too serious for him and I wish she would make this class a little more enjoyable to meet the needs of all the kids.

5) Catherine, who handles the afterschool care is wonderful. She is a very sweet person and has an amazing connection with the kids. She knows them all very well. The negative is that the playground is small and there aren't any organized sport teams. They do offer some fun afterschool classes though. 

7) My son's biggest negative about the school is that he feels that the playground is too small. 

Before choosing the Academy, I visited Prospect Sierra, Crowden and Saklan. They all seemed like very nice schools. My son is the one who ultimately chose the Academy. He spent a day visiting the different schools and felt he just fit with the class at the Academy. It was the right choice for him.

I suggest checking out The Academy in Berkeley and if your son really likes math the Proof School in San Francisco. I have children at both schools. The Academy is a small school, but very academically oriented. I feel my child is getting an excellent education there.  Proof School is also excellent school with a math emphasis....They also have strong science and computer science classes. Many kids at Proof School live in Berkeley and commute on BART. If your son really enjoys math, I would suggest visiting. I've also heard good things about Black Pine Circle. 

The Academy is a really unique school. It's an incredibly warm, but also diverse community, where kids of different age groups often mix and interact. But it's also a place that teaches kids to love learning and really enjoy school. We couldn't be happier! 

For what you were looking for – rigorous academics In a supportive environment I would look no further than the Academy. This is a small school in Elmwood which teaches children from kindergarten math, reading,  science, social studies,  French, music,  art and of course PE. The emphasis is on a growth mindset and the joy of learning. School encourages creative and independent thinking. It is a diverse environment with financial aid possible. It has a wonderful after school teacher who the kids call ‘mama’who keeps the kids busy and happy while staying disciplined. They have summer camps.  Our daughter is challenged at the right level and she loves going to school.  In fact when we toured my husband and I wished we could go to school there too. And you know what because of the sense of community within the school and because it’s small we kind of do! Check it out at Theacademyschool.org

I have a child in the Kindergarten class at the Academy and we feel very fortunate to be a part of it.  The teacher, Ms. Crippen, strikes the right balance between supporting the kids and giving them the freedom to make mistakes, while always challenging them to improve.  The class moves at a fast pace, there is a little bit of homework every night (usually a 10 minute math or reading exercise).  A distinguishing characteristic of all the teachers I've met at the school is the obvious sense of intention behind everything they do.  Ms. Crippen and the subject teachers all have thought hard about their teaching and what they want the students to get out of each exercise.  I like that the subject teachers at the K level focus mostly on exposing the children to a variety of ideas/methods/tools and allowing their innate curiosity to develop, rather than drilling them with facts or boring exercises.  The school is not for everyone, in that expectations for the children are quite high in terms of behavior and performance, and parents need to be involved and dedicated themselves to make it work for their kids.  But if you believe that your child will thrive in a challenging environment, the Academy is really a special school.   

Check out The Academy on Benvenue in Berkeley. It is a very small but academic school. I know of a few very shy kids that started in K and really bloomed at The Academy. The class size is small, so she will get a lot of attention.

We are going to The Academy this fall for our 6th grade. At the recent open house for new familiar. I met two LGBT families. Everyone seems welcoming. It’s s private school and maybe more progressive with civil rights and open framework. The school is academic teaching French and Latin in middle school. Also they teach 1.5 grade above level. Hope this is helpful!

I'm sorry to hear that your current situation is not working for you. From your description, it sounds like the teachers in your current school are not able to connect with your son and that the curriculum may not be engaging enough. Currently, my wife and I send our kids to the Academy in the Elwood district of Berkeley and we can't say enough good things about the teachers and the administrative staff that supports them. The class sizes are no more than 12-15 students which affords teachers the ability to give students the attention they deserve. Do they use Chromebooks? Yes, but they are used as tools to enhance their day-to-day lessons. Technology and the internet are incredible tools that are purpose-built for creative & curious minds. That being said, a tool only works well if you know how to use it. And that is where we, as parents and teachers, come in. We must teach them how to navigate technology's vastness, be critical of its content, and appreciate it as a knowledge base. And, because of the school's small class size, there is rarely a time when students can meander off on the internet.

If you're interested in learning more about the school, please check out the website at http://theacademyschool.org/ or give them a call at 510.549.0605. Hope this was helpful.

KB

Your child sounds like the perfect Academy student.  Not the Academy of Alameda, but the Academy School in Berkeley, http://theacademyschool.org/.

The Academy has been around since 1969, and since undergoing some changes a few years ago, it is once again thriving and continuing to grow.  It has been a wonderful middle school for our brainy, project-oriented, child who started off somewhat socially-awkward and now in the 8th grade, has blossomed into a confident, socially adept and thoughtful young man ready to take on the world.  The recipe for success?  The small-size classes (10-12); low-turnover of staff; outstanding teachers who are both challenging and nurturing (a difficult combo to achieve); engaging curriculum including specialist classes 3-4x/wk in science, language, art, and music from kindergarten up.  There is no danger of any child slipping through the cracks.  Each child is encouraged to develop his/her own voice and taught to speak up for themselves. Students become part of a strong cohort and build solid long-term relationships.  Our son, who had problems making friends early on, has made friends for life.  Additionally, because this is a smaller school (K-8/100 students), the relationship between the middle (upper) school and the elementary (lower) school is loving and familial.  There is no stigma of mixed ages playing together.  Older kids are protective and are looked up to by the younger ones.  Bullying is non-existent.  Cliques are rare. The families are welcoming, diverse and down-to-earth. Truly, I have never seen a community like this.

The Head of School, John Lynch, is not only a former parent, but is a long-time teacher at the school.  As a former college professor, he chose to work specifically with this age group because he understands them so well and partners with parents to help navigate these tough middle school years.  He is an extraordinary teacher and role model.  He expects a lot from his students and they happily rise to the challenge. The other middle school teachers are also outstanding with unbelievable credentials.  These are well-respected teachers who develop great relationships with the kids, and whom we are grateful to have during these formative years. 

We are preparing ourselves for the heartbreak in leaving The Academy after graduation.  

The Academy is truly an amazing school.  I honestly cannot say enough positive things about the school and our experience thus far.  My husband and I are so thankful that we found this school for our daughter, who is in kindergarten.  The process of finding a K-8 school for her was stressful, as she seemed to hate every school we looked at...except The Academy.  She fell in love with The Academy from her first visit and has been engaged and excited every day.  She often tells me how much she loves her school.  She comes home exuberant and is often heard sining in French, or she'll try and "quiz" her dad and I on math or spelling.  She is already becoming a confident learnerThe teachers are amazing!  Truly amazing.  And the administration is equally amazing.  From academics to social and emotional learning, The Academy is a rare and unique gem.   

When searching for a school for our boy / girl twins, our highest priority was to find a school where they would be able to develop logical and critical thinking skills, problem solving, and a love of learning. These are the tools that will help them no matter what they are interested in pursuing, no matter where they go in the future. We looked for a supportive environment to develop their curiosity - one where they could be engaged in the learning process, not just learning by rote. We found all of this and so much more at the Academy.The environment is welcoming, comfortable, diverse and personal. Because of the small class sizes, students are able to develop excellent relationships with their teachers as well as interact with students and teachers across all grades.Though they are the same age, my children are very different learners.Their teachers are able to engage them and keep them on course. The dedication to limiting class size and the critical development of the teacher/student relationship creates a wonderful, supportive environment for learning.I have been amazed not only by the relationships the teachers have with the students, but the relationships they have with each other. They are a group of passionate educators who seem to enjoy working with each other and share a visible dedication to the school and its students. It is a joy to drop my children off each morning - they are absolutely excited for the day ahead. I know they are happy, safe, engaged and truly enjoying school. 

Our child started at The Academy last year, and we couldn't be happier.

We extensively considered all of our options, including several of the local public and private schools.  When we visited the other schools, it became evident to us that other high profile schools in the area clearly focused on high production values at the expense of substance. For us, The Academy stood out because it was immediately clear that its values and priorities matched ours. And we realized that the most important focus of the school was the quality of the content. When we were looking at schools, we never really thought that we'd want an academically rigorous setting for our kids.  And although The Academy pushes the students to perform, we've never encountered a child who acted as though they were pushed.  Instead, The Academy fosters an atmosphere of curious kids who love to learn. The school is a true community.  At first, we worried somewhat about the small size of the classes, but we quickly realized that there are so many opportunities for interaction, and so much cohesiveness between grades, that our child gets the benefit of a small class size while also getting to interact in bigger groups frequently. The other things that stood out to us were the low teacher turnover, the school's commitment to diversity and its generous approach to financial aid. The head of schools, Buzz Heinrich, is a terrific leader and is committed to the school's success.   The Academy was a perfect choice for our child, and we truly feel fortunate to live in a community that has a school like it.

The Academy is a very unique school.  We feel incredibly lucky to have found it and, after thoroughly considering many other options and even trying out another school (and having worked at yet another school), we are thrilled to have our son enrolled here. We highly recommend The Academy to parents looking for an inspiring, challenging academic environment with a very rare family-like feel.  The teaching has a depth that is unusual at the elementary level, yet is not overwhelming. For kindergarten, we toured practically every other school in the Bay Area but found nothing that came close to what Ms. Crippen offers in terms of  interesting, challenging material with equal parts nurture and warmth. Even as he gets older, our son comes home from school excited about what he has learned and eager to learn more the next day.  There is low teacher turnover, and the teachers are very experienced. In addition, because of the small size and the type of students The Academy attracts, I have been told by nearly every teacher in the school how much she/he loves the job and would never teach anywhere else.  This happiness and joy among the teachers and students makes for a lovely environment and one that creates a love of learning in the kids.  At The Academy, it's cool to be good at and interested in school!  This vibe is very important to us, because we never wanted our son to feel he had to pretend to hate school or not to be smart just to fit in.  There also is a very special community that develops across the grades, owing to the school's small size and the fact that all of the teachers make it a point to know each and every student by name, from kindergarten to 8th grade.  I have not seen anything like this at any other school.  The only small issue we have is that our son loves school so much that he refuses to miss a day, even for a family vacation.  We took very seriously the decision about where to send our child to school and agonized for many months about where was the right place for him.  In the end, we are confident that The Academy is the perfect fit for our entire family.

Our family feels so fortunate to have a child enrolled in the upper school at the Academy. This has been the best experience. Because we have several children, we have had first hand experience with other independent schools. We have dealt with schools that presented an attractive written philosophy that did not match their practice, and with schools where their eloquent philosophy was poorly executed. I have found The Academy to be an institution that truly maintains the integrity of their philosophy. The rigorous curriculum is traditional, the expectations are clear, and their process is transparent. Students and parents can view assignments and grades electronically at any time. Teachers are fair and do a wonderful job of giving students the tools to become, or grow as self-directed hard workers. We also appreciate that the school treats parents like stake holders in their child’s education. Teachers and administrators are always willing to dialogue when needed. My child could not be happier, and neither could we.

Our 9-yr old daughter had been attending one of the better OUSD elementary schools since kindergarten and, at least for the first few years, we were pretty happy. Unfortunately, when our daughter entered the third grade we saw a definite shift in the amount of attention that she was getting from her teacher. In part, this was due to last year’s labor problems between the District and the teachers, where teachers expressed their frustration by staging a slowdown for most of the year. This translated into no homework for all of third grade. On one level we supported the teachers, who we agree are horribly underpaid, yet on another level we saw a steady decline last year in our daughter’s engagement, interest, and performance at school. The situation was exacerbated this year when she was placed in a split class with roughly one quarter 4th graders and three quarters 3rd graders. Again, no homework so far this year, and in fact, seemingly very little actual 4th grade level instruction. While I understand the funding reality of OUSD, and the dynamic that it creates, we definitely felt that our daughter was basically coasting for the last year and a half. Combined with clear problems that many of the teachers were having with the new Common Core math, this led us to decide that it was time for a change. We recently moved our daughter over to The Academy just after Thanksgiving. The difference couldn’t be more striking! While our daughter was a little sad to be leaving her friends back at her old school, she nonetheless hit the ground running in her first week. When I asked her how she liked it, her response was heartbreaking, “Daddy, it’s nice to be at a school where the teacher actually pays attention to me.” Our daughter was still significantly behind in mathematics, but with extra attention from her teacher, and a lot of math homework in the first few weeks, she is catching up very quickly, and is much more engaged with her schoolwork and her teachers. The entire Academy staff have gone out of their way to make her feel welcome during the transition, and even our daughter has commented that she now understands why her Mom and I moved her to the new school. Different kids have different needs, and no school is right for everyone, but if your child is bored and unchallenged in their current situation, I can’t recommend The Academy highly enough! It has totally transformed our daughter’s experience with school and learning, and we could not be happier!

We love The Academy and honestly cannot imagine our kids at another school. Our older daughter is 8 years old and in 3d grade. She started at The Academy in Kindergarten. Our younger daughter is 5 years old and in Kindergarten. They LOVE going to school every day. They clearly feel like they are part of a family at The Academy because of the strong culture of kindness and inclusiveness. Every time I visit the school, I'm struck by how diverse the student body is (in terms of ethnicity, national origin and socio-economic status) and how they accept each other as they are without judgment. The older kids, including the middle schoolers, are kind and gentle with the younger ones, and they play together across ages. It's a surprisingly warm and harmonious place. That is in part due to the excellent teachers and staff, who are extremely dedicated, engaging and involved with the students. They are kind, but set clear expectations for the kids and communicate with them warmly and clearly. It is an inspiring place to see how people (even quite young people) can treat each other with respect and kindness. I believe this is a significant factor that allows the curriculum to be fast-paced and demanding at each grade level. The kids feel comfortable, protected and loved, so they can focus on scholastics without fear of failure or being criticized. They freely take risks and stretch themselves academically. In the classroom, which are often run similarly to a college seminar with a high amount of student participation, the kids are eager to speak to their minds, share their ideas and ask questions both of the teachers and themselves. They love to learn, solve problems and discuss issues substantively, and this finds its way back home. Our kids really engage with us at the dinner table about what they learned during the day and what's happening in the world. In other words, the kids are not afraid to speak their minds, even in front of large audiences. It seems like there is always a project to be explained to the class, an opportunity to share personal interests with the class, or a performance. My favorite event at the school has always been the talent show, in which are huge percentage of the kids take the stage either alone or in small groups to perform music (singing, piano, violin), dance, read poetry, perform short theatrical pieces, do gymnastics etc. It's astonishing how excited and comfortable they are to share their talents and ideas with each other. There is a very strong emphasis on creativity, both in artistic expression and problem-solving, at the school. Our kids enjoy doing their school work, whether its reading or math, whether it's at school or at home. Basically, I'm hard-pressed to find any place in our society that provides a better environment and more opportunities to adequately prepare our kids for their future in this world than
The Academy.

My family and I were new to the Bay Area and our children had previously attended a small, high quality private school. We were looking for something similar; intimate environment, great academics, strong faculty and caring parents. We found all this and more at The Academy. The Academy is known for dedicated teachers and that students work a year ahead. That is, a child in Grade 2 is working at the Grade 3 level. We now have 2 children in the school and have truly seen them flourish. They are very different learners; one very hands-on and pragmatic and the other more conceptual. The team at The Academy has brought out the best in them by taking the time to understand how each child learns. The output is quite amazing!

We have also found the administration to be note worthy. Buzz Heinrich is a top-notch school leader and has over 30 years of experience. He is extremely thoughtful, articulate, energetic and knowledgeable. John Lynch has also returned to The Academy as Head of the Upper School, and he is both a great instructor and administrator. Finally, parents at The Academy are down to earth and all working together to make the school exceptional. One may think that as a small, private school, there would be a certain amount of 'snobbery', but we have never seen it. Instead, parents are truly committed to their child’s learning experience.

Clearly, one may suggest this is a biased review, and I would fully concur. The Academy is the right place if your child is looking to be fully engaged, surrounded by great teachers and administrators, and part of a tight knit community.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Reviews of the Academy


May 2016

RE:  Feedback on Park Day School for a Gifted Child?

I can't speak to Park Day but we've been happy at The Academy in Elmwood. Small classes, they teach a grade ahead, not competitive but rigorous--our son is also gifted, and had a hard time getting accepted at some of the more traditional independent schools because he was so far ahead of the other incoming kids. We turned to the Academy in desperation when a school admitted they'd turned us down for K because our son could already read. Anyway, we've been very happy with the Academy and suggest you check them out. You'll find a small friendly school that expects much from its students, but does so in a loving yet firm way. In addition to small class sizes, The Academy has specialists for science, music, art and PE, even in the lower grades. I don't think you can do better for a gifted Kid without going to Marin or the South Bay. Good luck! Happy Parent
 


Sept 2014

Re: Elementary School for advanced learner?

You definitely should check out The Academy in Berkeley. Our son started kindergarten three weeks ago and couldn't be happier with the combination of challenging academics and a nurturing environment. He literally glows every day when he comes home from school.

When we were in your position a year ago, we visited several fine schools whose kindergartens did not seem to be much ahead of our son's excellent preschool. The Academy was different. The kindergarten teacher is as challenging as she is warm, a gem. The students plunge into reading and writing (at their different speeds) while learning addition and subtraction with a little pre-algebra flavor. We are astonished at how much our son has soaked up in so little time.

The core curriculum is more or less a year ahead of the norm, using first grade materials in kindergarten and so forth. I don't think anyone in that class has the first answer all that much; they are all very sharp. And the classes are small--capped at 12--so differentiated learning is real, not just a slogan. And there is just one class per grade, so you always get the right teacher.

Among the best features are the specialist classes. The kids have a science specialist once a week in kindergarten, twice a week in the other grades (in addition to the science they learn from their homeroom teacher). They have art and music twice a week, tapping into other forms of intelligence. Even the kindergartners have French four times a week; our son has learned enough to keep his grandmother and me on our toes trying to recall our high school French, and his accent is way better than mine ever was. And he has PE every day. You don't see that much any more. This is truly a school for the whole child.

The school's small size results in a family feel. The teachers are as warm as you will find; the kindergarten teacher is off the charts in that respect. And the older kids are exceptionally nice and gentle to the younger ones on the playground.

When we enrolled our son for this year, our only misgivings were about the administration and management, which seemed below the quality we observed in every classroom when we visited. That has changed. Now there is new and far more dynamic and responsive management after the parents created a nonprofit and literally took over the school (retaining the teachers).

It's well worth a visit to see if The Academy might be the right fit for your child. Academy dad


If your child is an advanced learner, you definitely want to check out The Academy in Elmwood. It is a great place with a small and nurturing environment and outstanding teachers. It offers an advanced curriculum, which is ideal for motivated learners. The Academy also offers specialist teachers in science, French, art, music, and PE. My son went there and is well ahead of his classmates in middle school. My daughter is thriving there too. Check it out. Very happy Academy parent


I saw that several people mentioned The Academy as a place for advanced learners. My 2 cts: My son went there for elementary school and was bored to tears. The curriculum was *not* challenging for him, and his teachers were not doing anything to challenge him, either (with a couple of exceptions, of teachers who have since left the school). His interactions with some teachers at The Academy increasingly turned him off of school, despite his excellent grades. Whenever we tried to talk to his teachers or to the (then-) head of school about what we were seeing, we were told that The Academy had ''always'' been excellent, and that was that.

My son has since moved to a different school. He is still well ahead of his classmates, but at his new school, teachers keep him challenged. He loves going to school now.

Of course, things can change.

I don't have a good answer to your question about an elementary school for an advanced learner. One possibility might be a Montessori school with mixed-aged classes, meaning your child can act his or her age socially while tackling whatever academic material he or she is ready for. Montessori Family School has mixed-age classrooms, but I can't speak to their success or otherwise. Or GATE Academy in San Rafael? YMMV


Sept 2014

We love this school! We were at another private school previously and it became apparent that my children are accelerated learners. We were faced with either skipping them both (with all the problems related to that) or finding a school that can keep them challenged. The Academy is the only school I've found that delivers on the promise of academic excellence. We also love the fact that all of the teachers are extremely well educated and the diversity of the student body. A Very Happy Mom


Sept 2014

The Academy school is a real gem. It is located in Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley. Both my children thrived there and are still thriving. A great place for an inquisitive learner and a child who needs to be challenged. Do not let the advanced academics scare you away. Children have an amazing ability to learn and enjoy learning. This becomes second nature to them at The Academy. This school is a truly unique place with outstanding academics, topnotch teachers, and a diverse community. Glad to have chosen this school for my children


Sept 2014

Re: Public school not working; any private openings?

If your daughter is not engaged by her current school, The Academy on Benvenue in Berkeley (www.theacademyschool.org) is well worth a look and has openings. Our kindergartner also came from a solid private preschool and couldn't be happier in his new class. Among the private kindergartens we observed last year, The Academy's seemed to be the furthest along academically. It certainly has kept our son challenged now that he's there. The students have plunged into reading and writing (at their different levels and speeds) while learning addition and subtraction with a little pre-algebra flavor.

The kindergarten teacher is warm as well as challenging. Because classes are capped at 12, students get genuinely individual attention. And the whole line-up of teachers seems very strong.

The kids have a wide array of specialist classes. In addition to the science they learn from their homeroom teacher, the kindergartners have a science specialist once a week. (The other grades go to the science lab twice a week.) Art and music are twice a week. And French is four times a week even in kindergarten. Our son has learned a variety of phrases and counts to twenty already; they are not fooling around. And he has PE every day, too. This is truly a school for the whole child.

The school's small size results in a family feel. The teachers are as warm as you will find, and the older kids are exceptionally nice and gentle to the younger ones on the playground.

Completing the picture, there is new and far more dynamic and responsive management after the parents created a nonprofit and literally took over the school (retaining the teachers).

I encourage you to check it out and see if it is the right fit for your family. Academy dad


I'm sorry to hear that your current public school is not working for your child. We've been there. There is nothing worse that watching your bright, eager child who loves to learn growing bored and disengaged by the minute. Within weeks of attending the Academy, we had that happy, motivated child back in our lives who was so eager to share his knowledge with other children and learn from dedicated and compassionate teachers. The small class sizes are purposely capped at 12 students to provide individualized attention. As a result, we saw our son's confidence soar and his thirst for learning grow exponentially. The Academy admits students on a rolling basis as they have quite a few Cal faculty children, who relocate to the Berkeley campus on an ongoing basis throughout the school year. The Academy is still assessing students for all grades for the current school year and is even offering financial aid for motivated learners! Email admissions [at] theacademyschool.org to learn more or call 510.549.0605. Happy Mom of a Challenged Academy Son


Yes. The Academy in Elmwood has openings for the current school year. I strongly encourage you to take a tour. You won't regret it. Also, ask the kindergarten teacher to show you a sample of students' progress during that year. You will be amazed at how much these students make progress in one year. In addition to excellent academics, The Academy offers a diverse community where children quickly feel at home regardless of their differences. After school care is awesome!


July 2014

I was sitting at a school event recently at The Academy, listening to the children play with each other outside across all of the grades, and it struck me how much I valued this unique aspect of my school and wanted to make sure that the BPN community knows about it. When my daughter first started school there as a kindergartner, I knew that she was going to have more interaction with all of the grades because the school was small. I wasn't expecting her to claim friendships with people across all the grades, and that these friendships were based upon a great deal of respect for each individual. My daughter is learning that being a ''big kid'' means treating people of all ages with respect and kindness, allowing little kids to be little, not judging others, and finding joy in all types of play. It's really something to be seen!

Because The Academy is such an academically focused school (and there is no doubt that the education is top notch), people seem to not think of it when they are looking for nurturing, child-focused environments for their children's schooling. I want it to be known that it is both a place for advanced academic work and the safest place I can think of for my kid to be a kid.

As for the academics, I'm so pleased at how often my daughter brings home something that she discovered at school and wants to continue the exploration. She creates ''homework'' for herself because she wants to learn more! This happens with math, science, and social studies---she creates games, chooses non-fiction books to learn more, and asks to visit museums and go on other learning ''adventures.'' I know that she's ahead of her peers at other schools, yet she doesn't feel pressured by this---she thinks learning is fun. It's the special environment of The Academy that has nurtured this. Happy Academy Parent


Our son is currently enrolled at the Academy and over the last two years has truly thrived with an accelerated curriculum taught by outstanding and dedicated teachers, committed to educating the “whole student” at every grade level in an intimate, small-classroom setting.

We took him out of an outstanding Montclair public school in third grade when it became apparent that the tremendous class size and unchallenging class work were creating a bored and disengaged kid. We tried working within the system, but quickly learned GATE programs don’t really exist at OUSD, and as long as your child is doing well academically by OUSD standards, there is no incentive on the school’s part to challenge them further.

We looked around for a long time before we found this gem of a school. The Academy has a diverse, multiethnic and multinational student body with outstanding academics. It does not have the facilities of Head Royce or Bentley, but it is as academically rigorous as either of those schools at a fraction of the price. Academy students get into any high school of their choice, including College Prep, Berkeley High’s IP program, Athenian, Bishop O’Dowd, University HS, etc It has an international feel due to the parent community and the European model of learning (which includes a strong Math and Science focus, teaching French from kindergarten on, and introducing Latin in middle school.) The Academy fosters a true sense of community, while teaching tolerance, respect, and responsibility. There is truly something magical going on in these classrooms. We personally couldn’t be happier.

No school is entirely perfect, however, and the Academy has had its own set of challenges over the past few years, primarily with the day-to-day management of school affairs. The family of the visionary educator who founded the school 45 years ago, ran the school as a for-profit entity and were somewhat insular in their management of the school.

Throughout these challenges, the school remained committed to the most important constituents—the children. The quality of the teachers and the high quality curriculum never wavered. Just recently, the founding family decided they were no longer interested in running the school. A few talented and committed parents, along with the entire teacher community decided that this special school must remain open, and did everything in their power to make it happen -- and they succeeded! In record time, the community created a non-profit entity, wrote by-laws, obtained an agreement from the founding family to continue to conduct business under the Academy name, leased the same space and all supplies, honored the teachers’ 2014-15 contracts, and the new parent-teacher board is operating the school this fall without interruption.

The Academy is open, with a revitalized parent-teacher community for the 2014-15 School Year. In addition to many returning families, they are also assessing new students at all K-8 grade levels.

There is newfound passion in this community, as families, teachers and administrative staff work hand-in-hand to continue and improve upon 45 years of academic achievement. I urge you to take another look at the Academy and be part of a proud tradition and a promise-filled future. Best, Sharon


We toured a number of East Bay private schools for kindergarten. There was no question that The Academy was our first choice because of its academic atmosphere and accelerated, integrated curricula. We were especially impressed with the fact that French was taught four times a week starting in Kindergarten, Science was taught by a specialist K-8, and Latin was part of the regular upper school curriculum. This kind of program offering was unparalleled among peer schools.

Two years into the program now, we are extremely happy with our choice of school and the overwhelmingly positive experiences we have had so far. Here are some highlights of what we like:

1. Fabulous Teachers. Ms. Crippen (kindergarten) and Mrs. Labarca (1st grade) are both top notch teachers who have been with The Academy for over a decade. Kids love them and find them caring, funny and approachable. Ms. Crippen's classes are fun and creative. Mrs. Labarca's classes have more structure, more singing, and more international flavor--the students sing greeting songs every morning and they count numbers daily in 8 different languages! The daycare ''Mama'' Ms. Sampietro is many kids' favorite character, who is very talented in sports and music, and has a special way to engage and entertain kids. The music teacher Ms. Alexander provides excellent music classes and organizes high-quality annual events like the holiday show, spring concert, and 4th- 5th grade musical. My son also loves Mrs. Drobny's art classes and Ms. Manson's P.E. classes. The list just goes on and on.

2. Talented and Kind Students. Because of the school's reputation and screening process, as well as self-selection by parents, the students here tend to be academically oriented and motivated. My son's class is blessed with an ideal size and perfect gender balance--5 girls and 4 boys in kindergarten and 5 girls and 5 boys in 1st grade. The kids in his class are all very active, bright, and well-behaved. They have different talents and interests, yet they all get along really well and are kind to each other, which makes every school day and birthday parties very enjoyable.

3. Rich and Effective Programs. Each day in kindergarten and 1st grade is packed with age-appropriate activities and exercises aimed at improving the students' academic, social and physical skills. The phonics and math textbooks they use are all one grade-level higher. The majority of the work is done in the classroom. Homework is very manageable. There is no homework on Fridays in kindergarten--during the weekends, the kids are only supposed to share with their family their Poetry Journal, in which they have collected new poems and songs learned during the week. This leaves ample room for them to pursue extracurricular interests or activities. There are many special occasions and events--monthly library visits, holiday fun centers, rehearsals and performances for various holidays and assemblies, field trips, international month, spirit week, French day, Science Fair--all serve to enrich the students' school life and make their educational experiences more memorable.

4. Warm Friendships across Grades. Because of the small school size, kids across all grades play together in the backyard during the recess and after school. Each week, the 1st graders have one P.E. class with the kindergartners, one with the 2nd graders, in addition to two P.E. classes by themselves. The kindergartners and 2nd graders are reading partners, and so are the 1st and 3rd graders. Thanks to these unique opportunities, warm friendships are forged across grades. It was very pleasing to watch a couple of 8th graders patiently helping my son and his classmates improve their basketball skills after school. My son also got very interested in geography just by watching a 4th-grader friend doing his homework in daycare.

5. Manageable Parent-Participation Expectations. Many of the parents here are busy professionals. The school's parent participation policy and requirements--20 hours or $400 a year--is very reasonable and manageable.

In my opinion, The Academy offers the best environment and programs for academically-oriented, ''gifted'' kids in the area. I think ''gifted'' kids, if left alone, have the tendency to follow their interests and develop unilaterally. The Academy provides an advanced yet balanced structure for educating an all-around scholar accompanied by intelligent and similar-aged peers. Happy Academy Parent


May 2014

Re: Kindergarten openings in private schools?

Check out The Academy. The K and 1st grade teachers are first rate and the art teacher, Ms. Drobny, is excellent. It's a small and academic school with a real community vibe. anon


May 2014

Looking for recent experiences with The Academy in Berkeley. I checked reviews but they are mostly from the last few years. Thanks!


You asked about recent experiences with The Academy.

We used to like The Academy and believed in it, even after many other families left. They used to have a wonderful Science teacher. That teacher left the school last year (and was replaced with someone who didn't last the school year), as did the French teacher. About three years ago, a terrific English teacher also left.

In advertising, the school has repeatedly claimed to teach ''a year ahead'' in Spelling and Math (e.g. using the 2nd grade texts in 1st grade, and so on). Well, the reality in our kid's classroom was that the teacher had the kids spend a lot of time on ''review'' sections in each text, i.e. ''reviewing'' material that should have been covered in the previous grades.

We eventually talked to the head of school, about an issue with the classroom teacher. The response was what led to our decision to leave the school.

The list of issues we experienced (academic issues, social, logistics) was long, and I wish I had taken my kid out of that school much sooner.

If you visit the school, don't just ask about enrollment figures, but ask exactly how many of the current families in each grade joined the school within the past year or two, and how many are believed to be coming back next year.

I am glad we left. My kid loves going to school now. Part of the exodus


I can't speak to the other parent's experience with math at The Academy, but I can say that yesterday my child brought home her math workbook (which is for the grade above hers) and she had finished every single page in it. Her class definitely worked a year ahead all year! Had the class not been capable of this, I can imagine that there might be more review, but our experience each year is that they have taught a year ahead. We are of to celebrate French Day at The Academy today. I can't wait to see what the children have learned this year, followed by crepes for all!


Feb 2014

Re: Moving to east bay in March; school options?
You didn't mention what age/s you child/ren are but The Academy in Berkeley's Elmwood district is a private school K-8 that may consider taking your child/ren in March. They are used to the kids of visiting academics to UC and are small enough to accommodate. But it really depends on your child/ren as the school is fairly academic. anon


Jan 2014

We toured The Academy a year ago. While I saw some drawbacks to the school, it was/is one of my top choices for my son. He will start Kindergarten this year in 2014, so I need to prioritize the schools we have applied to and might get into. I liked the very small class size at The Academy, and it seemed the children were really focused and engaged as a result. I loved the science teacher. I was also impressed with how articulate the middle schoolers were, who gave a quick speech about the school.

Compared to a place like Head-Royce, The Academy obviously doesn't have all the bells and whistles that go with the big campus, but some of those things are important. I'm also at a loss as to whether the progressive or whole child approach is the right way to go (as appealing as it sounds on paper) vs. a place like The Academy. If you have any input there, I'd love to hear it.

In any event, I am interested to know what current Academy parents think of their school. It seems there's been a LOT of turnover lately. When we toured a year ago, there was a brand new head of school, who is now gone! I also found out that at least two teachers have left the school in the last 12 months. What is going on over there? When I toured Head-Royce a few months ago, I recognized a HRS parent that I had met as an Academy parent last year! He was reluctant to tell me any specifics as to why he pulled his children out of The Academy. I'd love some current input on the school. /s/ Future Kindergarten parent


We have one child that is currently in middle school at The Academy and started from Kindy so we have seen a lot of the changes; some good, some not so good.

The pros:

1) The Kindergarten (Ms. Crippen) and 1st grade (Ms. LaBarca) teachers have been at the school a long time and both are first rate so you cannot go wrong. The new French teacher has been well received though the science teacher is very new and I cannot speak to her skills. Overall, the academics are very high.
2) I don't know what the 'whole child' term really means but if you want a school that cares about your child's academic progress, their integrity as a person and with a focus on caring about others, then I say this is a great school.
3) Tuition is not nearly as bad as some of the other privates and fundraisers are not a focus at this school (no calling and asking you for more money).
4) The families are really nice - parents are interested in the academics and progress of their children but no one cares what kind of car you drive or where you vacation.
5) The community is multicultural. Many of the kids speak another language at home. One year I counted 6 different languages in my child's (small) class alone. I think all the spoken languages gives the kids a sense of the bigger world around them.
6) They offer Latin! Fewer and fewer schools offer it now.

Cons:

1) There has been a lot of turnover. Some of the changes have been good and others have been unfortunate. I think there is a lot of unknowns at the school right now and that freaks people out.
2) It's a no frills school - there isn't a swimming pool or tennis courts.
3) Class sizes for some grades are incredibly small. It really varies a lot by year and some of the low enrollment has been due to the economy and some has been due to all the changes.

Overall, most of our years at the school have been very good and it has been a good fit for our child. Even with all the changes, we will miss the school when our child graduates. anon


I can't imagine a better place for a kindergartener than with Ms. Crippen at The Academy! Your child will feel so fortunate and loved if you choose it. I had to look up what you meant by a ''Whole Child'' approach to education. I would say that The Academy definitely matches this!

There are many things about the school that I value as a parent, but one thing is the personalized learning that my child gets. The small class sizes really facilitate this, and it occurs even in kindergarten. The school is very diverse and international. As the poster mentioned last week, it is a school of many languages (my child is in a different class than hers, yet we also have 7 different languages spoken in a class of 10) and nationalities, and my child is learning so much about her place as a global citizen. This might seem like a trifle, but to me it is so important that they have morning snack time (and running around time), because I can clearly remember that mid-morning hunger that would make me fuzzy and cranky and impaired my learning.

One of the things that most impresses me, though, is how caring the community is. I am amazed at how respectful the children are to each other. As a kindergartener, my child would say who her friends were in each grade, even in 8th grade, and I would see those older kids treat her with respect and affection. The older kids support the younger ones in a way that I think has big payoffs for the older kids---they are so mature and kind. The younger kids get to stay little---nobody is going to make fun of them for playing this or that on the playground. Nobody is going to make fun of them for dressing this way or expressing this like or that like. As a result, my child has had the chance to really explore who she is without outside influence and have fun being a kid in her play. The after-school care provider is amazing, and she really fosters this respect and creativity too. There are lots of great organized after-school activities (math club, cooking club, sports, art, adventure club, ukelele club, etc.) As for the teachers, I've found that they really want to ''get'' our kids. And, you have all the teachers looking out for your kid, not just the teacher for their grade.

While it may not have fancy facilities, the kids are incredibly active! They are always on the move when they are outside, and they get outside to play several times a day.

I could go on and on, but I hope that I've given you a flavor of some of the things I value about our school. Best of luck with your school search!


We have been at the Academy for two years now. My child is in Middle school currently. Yes there have been some teacher turnover. Very unfortunate. However some of them were out of the administration's control and can happen anywhere. Since it is a small school, impact is larger when such events happen. Fifth grade teacher Mr. Cochran is awesome. Very engaged and open to ideas. For middle school Ms. Wolley (Math) and Ms. Jondle (History) are top notch. The new English teacher Ms. Lazarus is very experienced and is doing very interesting writing projects with the class. The science teacher is too new for us to know her impact. The French teacher is well received and has the children motivated. Latin teacher provides lot of out of school options to develop love for all things Latin. Mr. Ruff, Arts/Humanities teacher is currently having students work on a Mosaic project. The academics is top notch and teachers are engaged. The school has regular assemblies, annual musical,field trips to museums/labs, trip to Marin Headlands, participate in math competitions. It is a no frill school. That could be an issue for those who want their kids to have lot of options for organized sports, fine arts or other activities. Nothing wrong in that. It really depends upon the experience you want for the child. Thanks Anon


The original post asked for input from families who are currently at The Academy, so I didn't respond. But I feel I ought to respond to something in one of the responses you got. It saddens me to think that the misleading response may cause others to have go through what we went through.

I agree with the positive feedback you got regarding the K and 1st grade teachers. However, after that, The Academy was never academically ''top notch'' for our child, - very far from it.

I am happy to say that the quality of the academic work at the school we switched to is substantially higher, in the Humanities as well as in Science and Math. My child is happy and once again loves school.

Different families want different things, of course, but if you are looking for a school with a stable, strong academic focus, you can do a lot better than The Academy.

Moved on


Oct 2012

Like many Bay Area parents, we spent a considerable amount of time deciding whether to send our children to public vs. private school. We looked at many different private schools as we got our last choice in the Berkeley Public School lottery, and we even considered moving through the tunnel. Overall, we have been very happy with our decision to send our kids to The Academy.

The Academy is a K-8 school located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley. The Academy has a diverse student population and a traditional academic program. Each class has a maximum number of 16 kids per class which allows the teachers to focus on and give assignments to each child's ability. The teachers are wonderful; the kindergarten teacher is energetic and the kids hardly know that they are being taught a wealth of information. The first and second grade teachers are also fantastic and supportive. Our oldest child currently is in second grade (started at The Academy in kindergarten) and youngest is in kindergarten.

The program is academic and will support accelerated learners.Creativity is fostered and encouraged.The school has a large art studio in the back of the school.PE is four days a week, they have an excellent science teacher, and learn French starting in kindergarten. The kids go on monthly library walks. They have school assemblies where the kids learn to speak and sing in front of an audience (the school and parents).The school has a yearly science fair focusing on age appropriate projects teaching the scientific method at an early age.There is a yearly talent show for all grades along with a fashion show where the upper school kids design clothes made of recycled goods.Field trips have included multiple plays per year at the local Berkeley playhouse, the Marin Headlands, and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Upper school kids have the option to go to Washington DC or France.

The school is small, emotionally supportive, and student interaction across grades is fostered. Overall, the group of children are kind, thoughtful, and respectful. Each day I asked my children what they liked best about their day and what they liked least. Both answer that they liked everything best and nothing least relating to their school day.

The parent community is strong. The parent club organizes movie nights which serve dinner and show an age appropriate movie. The evenings are fun for the parents to mingle and the kids to enjoy each other outside of regular school hours.

The graduates of the school typically attend high school at Berkeley High, CPS, Head Royce, Bishop O'Dowd, Bentley, and the Lamorinda high schools and do very well secondary to the student's strong academic background.

I hope you will consider this gem of a school! Happy Academy Mom


Sept 2012

Re: Relocating to Berkeley from Marin (Mill Valley)
Hi! We are also in middle of re-locating to Berkeley but have already moved our daughter's school. She recently started 5th grade at the Academy in Berkeley. It is located on Benvenue Ave. We looked at few private schools in the area but really liked the Academy. It is a small school with really great academics. Our daughter spent some time at the school before we made a final decision. And after visiting the school she didn't want to consider any other. You should definatley check it out. The student body is super diverse and the parents club is actively engaged with the school administration on all aspects of the student experience. I have enjoyed interacting with other parents. No body is snotty. Basically come as you are.. No flaunters!! Definately check it out. I also like the fact that they have curriculum for art and music. And good luck on your move Amy


May 2012

I have two children attending The Academy and I've been very happy with the school. The teachers are excellent! The school has a casual and friendly atmosphere. My kids love it and are thriving there. If you have questions or need more information about the Academy, please fell free to call me. Rana


May 2012

Re: School for ''gifted'' learners?
You may want to check out The Academy school in Berkeley. It does not claim to be a school for gifted children, but depending on how your child is gifted, he or she may thrive there. The school is clearly academic. They have small classes (max 16) and GREAT teachers. They are also starting a differentiated instruction program in math and language arts at the elementary level to better place advanced students where they need to be. Most families I have met who transferred to The Academy said that their child was bored in his/her previous school, but not at The Academy. Having said that, the school has a friendly atmosphere and kids interact across grades (K-8) in a very positive way. Very happy mom at the Academy!


Oct 2011

Re: In Need of Current School Reviews/Recommendations
You might want to check out The Academy (located near the Julia Morgan Theater). Our son is very happy there. There was some turnover among teachers in the lower school last year, but the teachers who are there are fabulous, and many of them have been at the school for a long time - so teacher retention generally doesn't seem to be an issue here. Our son is younger than your daughter, so I haven't experienced what things are like in the middle school grades, but I'd definitely recommend that you check it out. Happy at The Academy


May 2011

My family had a very negative experience with this school, where we sent our first daughter with a real positive outcome, and expected the same for our second daughter; to our surprise the school really changed, the educators and administrators were replaced by the owning family's members, the teachers we thought were best were gone, the class size issue became a conflict with us and many of the parents, and a teacher they newly hired had little to no experience teaching young children, having taught only in ''tough'' high schools and now headed for our 2nd grader's class. We pulled our daughter out the third day, but as we remained on the parent's e-tree, we regularly read about the way the parents and school administrator continued to have conflicts over class size, the questionable teacher (who was either fired or quit within a few months) and more. The worst was that the HeadMaster refused to meet with us about our concerns. A.


I saw the review describing the negative experience somebody had with The Academy in Berkeley. I wanted to respond by saying we are so glad we moved our son to The Academy this past year. Our son had always been very happy in preschool, but seemed utterly bored and frustrated when he started 1st grade (well, ''year 1-3'' at a Montessori school). As soon as we switched him to The Academy (1st grade), we had our happy, interested, engaged child back! Our son goes to school with excitement every day, and he has been learning a lot. Yes, the class size is very small, but kids from all grades interact and play together during recess and in the afternoons. Our son really likes this, and it's wonderful to see a lot of the older kids being great role models for the younger ones. Happy at The Academy


I am a parent of two children who currently attend The Academy in Berkeley. While I understand the frustration this parent felt I had a very different experience. I have a lower school child in 1st grade and an upper school child in 7th. This year we did have a few teachers leave from both the lower and upper school, all schools experience this. Yes, the children (and parents) had to readjust to new teaching styles and yes we did have concerns. Not only did the headmaster and new Dean of Upper School meet with us she implemented changes, many of which were recommended by parents. We saw changes before the second quarter ended. Sometimes it is how you approach a situation that makes all the difference. The new second grade teacher is wonderful and both the parents who remained and the children are happy and learning. I am looking forward to my child advancing to her class. All the teachers have the children's best interest at heart and are more than qualified to teach the accelerated program The Academy offers. My suggestion is to look around and compare. Take the time to come in and tour the school and meet the teachers. Then decide if this school is a good fit for your child. We love it here! Diane


Dec 2010

Re: Ecole Bilingue, Head Royce, Prospect
I am writing regarding your question about EB, Head Royce, and Prospect. We have friends in all those, but no first hand experience. If you are looking to move your child to a school for the gifted, may I recommend the Academy in Berkeley (Elmwood district). It is academically excellent, small, socially diverse, and a very supportive and respectful environment. They combine the academic rigor of a traditional European education with a modern value system of debate dialogue and discussion, mutual support, and cooperation over competition, which we love. Our two children are in the lower (elementary) school, love their school and learning, and they are quite advanced academically and socially. We know at least one family that came from EB, and several that came from Bentley, all are very happy. The Academy also offers a great French program, which you might appreciate coming from EB. For some reason the Academy is not as famous as other private schools, it is a gem we are blessed to have in our area. Please feel free to email me if I can help with any questions. farshid


Oct 2010

I'd love to hear from parents about their children's experience at The Academy in Berkeley. While the accelerated curriculum is a parent's dream, how do kids continue to thrive if they begin to ''fall behind'' for whatever reason? What support system is in place for this situation? I also recently saw ''Race to Nowhere''. Have you encountered issues with homework load, stress, etc., especially starting around 3rd grade? Thank you so much. Sarah


We have two kids at The Academy in 5th and 2nd grades. Overall, we have been very happy with the school. There is a great community and family spirit about the place. All of the kids know one another and there is a lot of respect. The school is academic in its approach and a lot is expected of the kids (sorry, didn't see Race to Nowhere so don't really know your reference point) but it isn't excessive. I love that the kids are taught another language (French), read music, sing, conduct science experiments, and learn Latin. There are a lot of European families at the school and many of the kids are multilingual; the diversity is pretty good for a small school. My kids are not 'brainiacs' and, yes, sometimes we struggle with homework but not often. I love that they are getting a solid foundation in the three Rs and have a school they love. -anon


My three children went to the Academy. It is a wonderful ''community'' and my children received a very solid foundation, including study skills and a broad knowledge base (science, latin, music, arts). My Children are now all in their 20's and our kids experienced occasional gaps in consistency in the mostly excellent teaching staff. I believe that the current owner / director of the school has done an excellent job of stabilizing the teaching staff. ~ O.


April 2010

Re: East Bay Private K-4 Recommendation
Our son is at the Academy which is small, intense and very warm, with a community of parents who are very diverse in styles and professions but who all seem equally eager to support and nurture their kids at the school. I'd recommend you take a look! It's in Berkeley but not West Berkeley. anonymous


Nov 2009

Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
My son is extremely interested in science and attends The Academy, in Berkeley on Benvenue. There is a specialty teacher, Mr. Aho, just for science for all the grades. We were discussing his science class recently and my son commented that every time they meet for science class Mr. Aho has them do a hands-on experiment. My son is constantly building models, doing crafts, 3-D art - very kinesthetic, and his science class has been a good match for him. Mr. Aho is an extremely gifted teacher and brings science education to a new level. Also, there's a science fair every spring where children dream up and carry out their own projects, your son might like that. Parent of a kinesthetic child


Nov 2009

Re: Which middle school for CPS students?
My daughter just graduated from CPS and loved it. It is, however, not for everyone. Most of the kids are very bright and academics are everything. My daugher attended the Academy for middle school and they, at the time, did an adequate job preparing her (she is in college now). My son now attends The Academy and it is much better now than it was five years ago. They have beefed up the science and math programs tremendously, as well as French. They have also hired a teacher to come in exclusively to help with writing(one area that has been a bit of a concern to parents). I would highly recommend the Academy. CPS, in my opinion, is the best of the private schools in the area and one of the best in the country. sc


Oct 2009

We have a 2nd grader and soon to be in Kindergarten next fall. I am torn in between The Academy and Bentley School.
1- French Foreign Language from Kindergarten onwards Both schools offer this but I would like to know which has better foreign language program in terms of teacher (native speakers) quality of teaching, curriculums. And if the class is conducted in French only or English or both? How would you rate the proficiency level of a child by the time they reach 8th grade?
2- Science I understand that Bentley School use the hands on approach, thesis, experiments and project base. Is this the same case for The Academy? And at what grade do they start using this method, from kindergarten onwards or only until they reach at a higher grade?
3- Are the teachers specialist and experts in the field they teach for all grades or teachers that have at least a Bachelor's Degree?
3- What is the classroom ratio for both schools? I understand that Bentley has a maximum of 20 per class. Do they have a ratio of 20:1 or 10:1?
And of course, the fees between this two schools is about $6k.
4- Financial Aid for Bentley is it given out only to middle school and high school or do they offer it to lower school as well?
5- Middle class income parents do you feel uncomfortable or have you ever been put in that situation among other Upper class/Rich Parents? I am torn... Anon


We are a former Bentley family now at the Academy. We left because we felt our children were not being challenged enough at Bentley. To answer your specific questions:

1. When we were at Bentley, it was French 1/2 year, Spanish 1/2 year til one of the higher grades. Our child came away not learning much as a result. Don't know if Bentley still does the same split now or not. As for the teachers, I believe Bentley has a very new French teacher, so I can't comment on French there now. But the French teacher at the Academy is superb. She is a native speaker and in the earliest grades runs a very oral immersion sort of program, so the children have very good comprehension and accents. As the grades go up, she gives them more written/reading work. And in all cases she has high standards and demands excellence from her students. She's very warm with the children but the same time runs a tight ship. The Academy has a French spelling bee every spring; the children are given a word list with over a hundred words to study for a few weeks, and then there's an all-school competition. It's wonderful fun and the children rise superbly to the challenge. Bentley had nothing like this. In our experience the French program is of extremely high academic caliber.

2. There is simply not enough space here for me to rave about the academic excellence of the science program at the Academy. For one thing, there is a specialty teacher just for science. When we were at Bentley, science was part of the regular classroom curriculum and didn't go into much depth. At the academy, not only do kids do hands on work from the get go, it's detailed, sophisticated science that they are doing. Among many other topics: sophisticated planetary science & plant biology in the 3rd grade, human biology & electromagnetism in the 4th grade, chemistry in the 5th grade (this list is not exhaustive for these grades). The teacher is imaginative, dedicated, inspires the children immensely. He encourages creativity, insists on excellence in written work too. Every March there's a science fair where every child designs an original science project. As of this year, there's a beautiful new large science lab as a result of renovations this summer.

3. I'm not sure what you mean by 'specialist and experts in all grades': in the lower school there are specialists for French, Science, Music, Art,P.E. Beginning with 6th grade there are specialist teachers for math, history, literature, latin as well. The teachers bios on the school website lists their credentials.

3b. Academy class size maximum is 16, our grade currently has 12. Kindergarten is usually somewhere around 8-10. While there were 16 in kindergarten at Bentley, Bentley had more than 20 children in the class in the grades above that when we were there, I think it was 22 or 23.

4. My understanding is that financial aid is available at Bentley for all grades.

5. Atmosphere: we at times were uncomfortable with the 'country club' atmosphere that can be perceived at Bentley, the Gala and the $$$ bidding that goes on there, recognizably different financial cultures in different families. Folks there just had a lot more money than we did and were focused on different things. There are some awfully nice people there we got along well with, but there was enough of an atmosphere to be noticable. When we first visited an open house at the Academy to explore moving there, we felt ''Ahhhh, this is where we belong''. Lots of parents are scientists, programmers, faculty at Cal, drs. We're an academically oriented family and what we perceived at the Academy felt like the right culture for us.

We have no regrets about our move to the Academy, only wish we had started there in kindergarten.

One final comment: as for the social scenes, our child was pretty lonely at Bentley, easy to get lost on the big playground among 40+ people in your grade. At the Academy no one falls through the cracks. At least in our grade, the class is like a family, everyone interacts well, and, crucially, everyone interacts. And the children get to know the children in higher & lower grades well as they have music & P.E. together. Our child has blossomed socially at the Academy. Glad we moved to the Academy.


My child had a negative experience at The Academy. It's a very small school, there were few students in her grade, and she felt the social aspects of school were difficult.

She went to Bentley. Socially there were more students to choose from and she felt she could be herself and choose friends with similar interest. Yes, Bentley is a small school but bigger than The Academy.

My daughter did not like French at The Academy, she felt there was too much busy work and as a result, hindered learning. She love science, lots of hands on work, and says Mr. Aho is the best science teacher ever!

Bentley classes were much more structured, expectations were clear and although her teachers knew her, they didn't know her intimately, and as a result, did not judge her. She felt she was treated fairly by her teachers. Anon


I personally really like the Bentley school. I love the small campus feel, teachers, and children. I like that all the specialty teachers love what they do and are specialist in there fields. anon


Oct 2009

Re: Move from Berkeley to Lafayette for the schools?
Instead of a move, you might consider checking out The Academy, an independent school in Berkeley's Elmwood district. The school has the best academic program in the east bay, hands down. Many children there, like ours, came from other schools, sometimes the ''top'' private schools in the area, where they were bored (in our case to literal tears). Your child can visit the school for a day and attend class with their grade - after his visit, our child came back just glowing, a glow that lasted for a good 4 days he was so happy at the school!

At the end of second grade in May in our old school, the children did one week of simple division. At the Academy when we visited second grade, the children were doing long division - happily and eagerly. In addition to excellently taught math, the science program is phenomenal - they have a fantastic specialty teacher just for science, with a science fair in the spring. The creative writing program is taught by a well-known children's author who happens to live nearby. Social studies and literature in the lower grades is intellectually rich and challenging. The French teacher is also exceptional - my child can actually speak French now to a basic degree and he uses it spontaneously, which I find amazing. Class size is max 16, but often smaller - right now our grade has 12 students. Lots of individual attention, teachers can recognize where a child needs more challenge and give it to them. And to top it off, the school has a warm, wonderful community. I feel like I'm home when I'm there. The school is having an information event for families on Sunday Oct. 25 from 1-3 p.m., so you can check it out, meet the teachers and ask current parents about the school, curriculum and community. Here is their website: http://www.academyk-8.com/index.html Love The Academy


May 2009

Re: Looking for a wonderful kindergarten
Our son is in kindergarten at The Academy, which is a K-8 school in Berkeley. We've been extremely happy with our experience there. It's a very small school (with a maximum of 16 kids per grade), so everyone gets a lot of individual attention, and all of the kids seem to know everyone in the school. The academics are outstanding, and the teachers are wonderful. I would highly recommend that you consider it. Happy Academy Parent


April 2008 Re: Creative Welcoming School for 6th Grader?
The Academy, on Benvenue in Berkeley, may be the school you are looking for. The school is small, one class of 16 students max per grade, academically high-achieving - in fact, hands down the best academics in the East Bay - and full of interesting children with all sorts of off-beat interests. In our experience the smaller student population is one of the school's greatest assets - it means that individual personalities are embraced by teachers and students. We ourselves were looking for a school where our 'different' child could stay different - thanks goodness for The Academy!!! love our school


Jan 2008

Re: Seeking Diversity & Top Academics K- 12 Bay Area
We chose The Academy for its small supportive atmosphere and strong academics, but the diversity is also amazing--not only different American ethnic groups but many nationalities-- children from all over the world, with many languages spoken in the homes, etc. It's a fantastic school, and I highly recommend it. I didn't see the original post, but only the replies, hopefully it is a place that will work for you! a very happy parent


You may want to check out The Academy in the Elmwood. It's a gem of a school. The school has diversity, strong academics and a great sense of community. We choose the school primarily for the academics but have been pleased with the wide range of activities and opportunities our children have had to grow. The school is diverse in many ways. There are children of color but also many children with varied backgrounds. Among my daughter's classmates , 7 different languages are spoken in the home. Take a tour. One other great feature of the school is the application process. Once children are assessed for readiness, applicants are chosen on a 'first come/first served' basis. A rarity in the Bay Area. Academy Parent


Jan 2007

Re: Individualized instruction for advanced student?
The Academy in Berkeley has a fair number of academically gifted children. They teach to the child and, because of the small class size, can work with each child's level of skill. Your child would be hard pressed to be academically bored. The program includes Latin and French so an older child coming from a less rigorous program would have to work to catch up. Our child has attended for two years and we have been quite happy. She's not one of the astoundingly advanced kids but she is working well above grade level and, best of all, she's having a lot of fun. The parents and kids are a warm and welcoming community as well. Best of luck in your search. - Academy Parent


January 2005

We've been touring private schools in and around Berkeley and really liked The Academy. Our daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. We'd love to hear from Academy parents about the current goings on at the school (the archived reviews are a couple of years old). - R.K.


We are looking at The Academy School in Berkeley for our fourth grade son. He is bright, very introverted and needs a smaller school environment. He tends to rebel against the rote work in his current school and would benefit most from a creative curriculum that will stimulate him and allow him to work independently. We would appreciate hearing from current/former families about whether The Academy School would be a good fit.


We have a daughter entering kindergarten this Fall and have applied to the Academy. The academic program looks excellent and we think the structure would work well for our child. Besides the academics, how are the programs like art, music and French (do the kids become fluent by 8th grade) ? Also, do kids that enter in kindergarten tend to stay through 8th grade ? - (soon to be) Kindergarten mom


My son started at the Academy in kindergarten and is now in second grade. The kids adore the art program. The after-school art classes are always very popular. The two art teachers love a variety of materials and the kids cover a wide range - from making creations out of ''junk'' to studying the work of individual artists. The upper school also studies architecture and art history. Art is not restricted to art class. It is used frequently to bring out ideas in social studies, science, etc.

All the kids learn to read music and all of them sing. It's a small school and they put on a lot of shows, so everyone performs all the time. The Gilbert&Sullivan shows put on by grades 3-5 have been remarkably good. In the regular school curriculum there is no individual instruction in instruments (many kids get that outside school, and I seem to remember some kids getting individual music lessons in the after-school program). There's an after-school chorus which is very popular.

Fifth grade is holding monthly poetry-reading sessions this year. We hope that this will soon spread to the rest of the school. The upper school puts on a Shakespeare production each year.

As for the French, most of the kids have good accents and are solid on grammar by 8th grade, but they don't speak fluently. When they enter high school they place very well (skip a couple of classes) and do very well, even compared to the kids who come from French-immersion schools. I think they should speak more, and better, but there's no problem with the reading and writing.

The kids are physically active and very fit. We were worried about the size of the yard but it doesn't seem to matter. They use Willard Park as well. They have an enthusiastic but perennially losing basketball team, and good soccer and volleyball teams. Again because it's a small school, pretty much anyone who wants to can get on a team.

The fraction of students that stay till 8th grade varies quite a bit by year, but is at least 50%. Families go through many changes as their kids go from age 5 to age 14 - job transfers, separations, etc. Those are more common reasons for leaving a school than dissatisfaction with the program. There is always some back-and-forth with other schools, e.g. some families leave to go to School X and other families move from School X to The Academy.

My son is happy at the school, enjoys a variety of activities, and is hardly ever bored. Academically he and his classmates are very strong and have already developed good work habits. They know that practicing a skill is not a punishment - it's the only way to develop the skill. So there are no battles about hw, or about practicing piano. At least there's nothing more than occasional grumbling.

Hope this helps. Good luck in your search. Academy parent


December 2003

Re: School for highly gifted 7-year-old
Try ''The Academy'', small private school in Berkeley. I know quite a few very gifted children, who came to ''The Academy'' after being frustrated in other schools, and who are very happy now. Call the school and go see it yourself. Sit at the class your child will be going to if you decide to send him there. I will be happy to answer your questions. A happy ''Academy'' parent


November 2003

The school has very high academic standards, small class size (at most 15 kids per grade, about 120 kids in all), ethnic/cultural diversity, an international community, and an informal family atmosphere. Details are available on the school website: www.academyk-8.com.

The lively arts are an integral part of the program. All the kids perform in musicals and plays, all learn to read music, and all do arts and crafts and study art history and music history.

I recommend visiting the school when the kids are in the playground. You'll get a real sense of community - big kids playing with little ones, groups of friends of both genders and all ethnicities. No cliques, snobbery, or ugly language.

My son and his first grade classmates treat the school as an extension of their homes. In addition to the three R's (as well as French, art, music, science, computers, and PE, all taught by specialists starting in kindergarten) the school teaches them to treat others with respect and affection and to be tolerant of differences. The teachers are nurturing and supportive, and the small class size enables them to ensure that each child rises to the high expectations of the school.

It has been a delight to watch our son grow in confidence and ability over the past year. I'll be happy to answer questions about the school by email, but please put ''Academy'' in the subject header. Ani


January 2005

We've been touring private schools in and around Berkeley and really liked The Academy. Our daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. We'd love to hear from Academy parents about the current goings on at the school (the archived reviews are a couple of years old). - R.K.


We are looking at The Academy School in Berkeley for our fourth grade son. He is bright, very introverted and needs a smaller school environment. He tends to rebel against the rote work in his current school and would benefit most from a creative curriculum that will stimulate him and allow him to work independently. We would appreciate hearing from current/former families about whether The Academy School would be a good fit.


We have a daughter entering kindergarten this Fall and have applied to the Academy. The academic program looks excellent and we think the structure would work well for our child. Besides the academics, how are the programs like art, music and French (do the kids become fluent by 8th grade) ? Also, do kids that enter in kindergarten tend to stay through 8th grade ? - (soon to be) Kindergarten mom


My son started at the Academy in kindergarten and is now in second grade. The kids adore the art program. The after-school art classes are always very popular. The two art teachers love a variety of materials and the kids cover a wide range - from making creations out of ''junk'' to studying the work of individual artists. The upper school also studies architecture and art history. Art is not restricted to art class. It is used frequently to bring out ideas in social studies, science, etc.

All the kids learn to read music and all of them sing. It's a small school and they put on a lot of shows, so everyone performs all the time. The Gilbert&Sullivan shows put on by grades 3-5 have been remarkably good. In the regular school curriculum there is no individual instruction in instruments (many kids get that outside school, and I seem to remember some kids getting individual music lessons in the after-school program). There's an after-school chorus which is very popular.

Fifth grade is holding monthly poetry-reading sessions this year. We hope that this will soon spread to the rest of the school. The upper school puts on a Shakespeare production each year.

As for the French, most of the kids have good accents and are solid on grammar by 8th grade, but they don't speak fluently. When they enter high school they place very well (skip a couple of classes) and do very well, even compared to the kids who come from French-immersion schools. I think they should speak more, and better, but there's no problem with the reading and writing.

The kids are physically active and very fit. We were worried about the size of the yard but it doesn't seem to matter. They use Willard Park as well. They have an enthusiastic but perennially losing basketball team, and good soccer and volleyball teams. Again because it's a small school, pretty much anyone who wants to can get on a team.

The fraction of students that stay till 8th grade varies quite a bit by year, but is at least 50%. Families go through many changes as their kids go from age 5 to age 14 - job transfers, separations, etc. Those are more common reasons for leaving a school than dissatisfaction with the program. There is always some back-and-forth with other schools, e.g. some families leave to go to School X and other families move from School X to The Academy.

My son is happy at the school, enjoys a variety of activities, and is hardly ever bored. Academically he and his classmates are very strong and have already developed good work habits. They know that practicing a skill is not a punishment - it's the only way to develop the skill. So there are no battles about hw, or about practicing piano. At least there's nothing more than occasional grumbling.

Hope this helps. Good luck in your search. Academy parent


December 2003

Re: School for highly gifted 7-year-old
Try ''The Academy'', small private school in Berkeley. I know quite a few very gifted children, who came to ''The Academy'' after being frustrated in other schools, and who are very happy now. Call the school and go see it yourself. Sit at the class your child will be going to if you decide to send him there. I will be happy to answer your questions. A happy ''Academy'' parent


November 2003

The school has very high academic standards, small class size (at most 15 kids per grade, about 120 kids in all), ethnic/cultural diversity, an international community, and an informal family atmosphere. Details are available on the school website: www.academyk-8.com.

The lively arts are an integral part of the program. All the kids perform in musicals and plays, all learn to read music, and all do arts and crafts and study art history and music history.

I recommend visiting the school when the kids are in the playground. You'll get a real sense of community - big kids playing with little ones, groups of friends of both genders and all ethnicities. No cliques, snobbery, or ugly language.

My son and his first grade classmates treat the school as an extension of their homes. In addition to the three R's (as well as French, art, music, science, computers, and PE, all taught by specialists starting in kindergarten) the school teaches them to treat others with respect and affection and to be tolerant of differences. The teachers are nurturing and supportive, and the small class size enables them to ensure that each child rises to the high expectations of the school.

It has been a delight to watch our son grow in confidence and ability over the past year. I'll be happy to answer questions about the school by email, but please put ''Academy'' in the subject header. Ani


Summer Program at the Academy


Jan 2010

Dear fellow parents, Have your children attended the summer camp at the Academy private school in Berkeley? Could you, please, write about the experience. Our daughter is currently in Kindergarten in public school. Since we do not speak English at home she was labeled as an ESL student, but does not receive any additional instructions from the district. She is considered to be early advanced, and they only have one teacher for 3 elementary schools. We would like our girl to strengthen her reading skills, but do not want to spoil her summer. Is the Academy summer program too rigid? Who is teaching the classes? Looks like they group all kids entering 1 - 3 grade together. Was it a problem for the younger ones? Please advise.


Our daughter attended The Academy last summer before going into K and had a great time. They have the academic program in the morning and play in the afternoon. The academics were focused to each child's ability. We didn't notice any problem with several grades in each classroom. The kids were very nice and respectful of one another. We liked that the program allowed all the kids to interact and the older kids were especially good to the little ones. It's a nice intimate atmosphere. -mom


Feb 2009

Re: Summer math catch-up class for 8-year old
The Academy, a K-8 private school on Benvenue Ave. in Berkeley has a summer math program exactly geared for children in situations like yours (i.e. aimed at children who need to catch up). The Academy itself is an academically accelerated school and many people assume the summer program is accelerated & for math whizzes, but in fact it's not the same as the regular academic curriculum and Academy children do not generally attend the summer program (sometimes children do who are switching into The Academy for the fall & need to catch up). Contact them and see if it fits your needs. Very happy Academy parent


May 2005

Re: Summer Academics for Gifted 7yr old
My son had a wonderful experience with the summer camp at the Academy, around the corner from Willard Park in Berkeley. The morning consists of an academic program. Incoming 3rd and 4th graders will be taught by an author of childrens' books (and popular but occasional subsitute teacher at the Academy), Doug Evans. My son took the program for entering 5th and 6th graders, half of which was taught by a math teacher, the other half by the English teacher. Both programs were very structured and paced according to the skills level of the individual child. Both teachers were great. One can pick up one's child at noon or childcare & other programs, such as swim lessons (or just water play at Willard Pool), are available until 6 PM, and there are outings such as ice! -skating on Fridays. You pay for extras, but the basic childcare of hanging around the yard is also good. The after-care staff (who work year-round) have been with the school, one for 20 years, the other for about 10. One of them is an older man who helps kids with basketball. You are charged only for as much after care as you actually use, though you get a better price if you pay for it in advance. (But you'll be refunded whatever portion you don't use). My athletic kid had more fun there than he did at Golden Bear, which he went to the previous summer. xp


Jan 2003

We only spent one year at the Academy. My children met the academic challenge pretty easily, but the extremely limited social environment was actually damaging for one child, while the other made the best of it. Neither wanted to go back. We now realize how important the social environment can be as an integrated part of their academic experience. They are happier in the public charter school they now attend with three 3rd grades. Mary


2002

After reading about another parent's experience at the school (not signed or dated - her son attended for one year), I would like to post my opinion of The Academy K-8 school in Berkeley. My son began in Kindergarten this past September (2001/02). He has been challenged academically. While he excels in certain subjects, there are others he is not as interested in. The Kindergarten teacher has done a wonderful job in channeling his energy to work harder in those subjects he needs help. The Academy is certainly an academically based school but because of the small classroom size, each child gets very individualized attention. There is an expectation that each child completes assignments and participates in classroom discussion. My son began in Kindergarten and the level of expectation is formed right from the start. As for the social aspect, the school has one play yard which is used by all grades, at first this was hard for me as a mother to let my son mix in with much older kids. What I have found is that many of the older kids are mentors to the younger. My son enjoys the social exchange with the older kids. Our experience has been very positive from both an academic and social perspective - we think our son is being adequately (not overly) challenged. The teachers and headmaster have a genuine concern for the students and have been very open to discussing individual issues. Jill


1999

My son was only in this school for one year, fifth grade, so I do not have as much experience with it as a longer-term family. But here is my opinion:

This is the kind of school that only a certain kind of kid will thrive in. It is targeted toward the child who is highly motivated to spend most afternoons reading and writing and studying, and whose classroom behavior is very orderly, compliant and predictable. (Or, it's for the parent who is motivated to make the child be like this. It was kinda sad - the kids who were not into it at all, but whose parents were.)

The school is academically oriented, and children are tested before admittance is granted. There is French beginning in Kindergarten, and Latin begins in 6th grade. The school is K-8. It's very small, one class per grade. My son's 5th grade class had fewer than 10 students. This appealed to me originally. But it turned out that the school's expectations of students were so rigid that small class size made no difference in the way the teacher responded to each student. Every student was taught in the same exact way, regardless of learning style or background or special talents. There was no tolerance for anything outside of the school's model of how students should learn and how they should behave.

My son couldn't keep up with the homework demands, even though he was starting on homework right after school, and doing nothing else till bedtime. If all the homework was not turned in, the child's parents were called and the child stayed after school for detention. This got to be a regular everyday thing for my son, which is not exactly encouraging to a kid. Worse, the teacher began to ridicule him in front of the class. She would say "Well, I see ____ has managed to finish all the math problems for a change." I confronted her about this - I couldn't believe my son's stories - and she confirmed them by saying "Well, what do you expect me to do if he won't do his homework?" This really surprised me - I never saw anything like this in public school, where teachers had many more students and kids who really needed help. Here, there were 10 kids, all smart and all well-behaved, but there was no individual attention at all.

I think we had a rather bad teacher, which may be more a reflection on the teacher than on the school. Nevertheless, the school had kept her on board for many years. And other teachers were similar in their intolerance. The French teacher graded my son as if he had been taking French since Kindergarten with the other kids, even though she knew this was his first exposure to a foreign language. The headmaster had assured me when we first applied that this wouldn't be a problem, but it was, and there was never any attempt by the school to catch him up. He just got Fs. The playground supervisor asked my son repeatedly "Why do you want to look like one of those drug dealers down on Telegraph?" referring to my son's Berkeley-post-punk taste in clothes. He just didn't fit in.

I know that there are children who thrive on a demanding and highly focussed academic environment. I might have liked the school myself as a child. But it's not for everybody. If you have a child who spends a lot of time quietly reading, drawing, etc. and who is very conventional in habits and tastes, then this might be the school for you. But for other children, it may be a very unhappy and discouraging place. Anonymous


This is in response to a parent who wanted to know more about the Academy. I am glad someone asked about this fine school because there has been no mention of it in the past discussions that I have seen.

Our elder daughter attended the Academy for the 7th and 8th grade. Before the Academy, she attended a good local public elementary school. Our younger daughter also followed the same track and now attends the 7th grade at the Academy. Obviously we have been satisfied with our daughters' experience at this school.

Before either of our daughers commited to attend, they spent a day at the school attending all classes to get a flavor of the school environment. Children are tested before school admittance to determine if they are significantly behind the rest of the class in any area.

The classes at the Academy are small, about 12. The school puts emphasis on academics, which we parents liked. Students get homework each day for almost each subject. The homework load is average 3 hours every day at the 7th and 8th grade. As one parent reports in the Jan 14th digest, it is possible that a student who often brings in unfinished homework may face ridicule in class.

The enrollment is quite diverse in terms of national origin and ethnic mix.

Both our daughters started in the second year of Latin class (7th grade) when they joined, with no prior exposure to Latin. The school made some accomodations for easing their entry into the language. The elder daughter attended the 6th grade Latin class and the rest of the subjects in the 7th grade classes. The younger daughter attends the 7th grade Latin class, but seems to be doing fine.

The French language classes teach at a pretty leisurely pace, so only about 65% of one year's coursework (one book) is covered over the 6th, 7th and the 8th grades. Both the daughters picked up 7th grade French directly joining the 7th grade class with no prior exposure to French.

There is an informal dress code. If a student puts on make-up, hair-do, or clothes that are deemed unacceptable by the principal, the student is sent home to change clothes or asked to wash off the make up before attending classes.

We were looking for a school that would provide a solid academic foundation for going to high school, and we were not disappointed. - A Dad


April 1999

The Academy (2722 Benvenue 549-0605) has 6 weeks of academic program from 9am to 12pm, 6/21-7/30. The academic program is divided into Math and English session and the classes are small. I asked the teacher to give my son the 2nd grade Math when he went to the 1st grade class last year (they are flexible but you will have to initiate the request). I believe the English program for 2nd grade will also have some writing besides reading. The Academy also has other recreation program/daycare in the afternoon so you can leave you child there full day. Yuteh