Alameda Public Schools vs. Private School

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Park Day School vs Alameda public schools

Feb 2012

Does anyone live in Alameda but send your kid(s) to a private school? My son is five now and he goes to a bridge k program in Park Day School in Oakland. We love that school and there isn't a single day when he doesn't want to school. However, it sounds like Alameda, the town where I live, has great elementary schools. So should I save my money by sending my son to public school? The main difference is the class size -- 16 (private) vs 25 (public) AND kindergarten is only half day in Alameda. By the way, Paden is our neighborhood school. Well, I'm going to do the intra district transfer request to get my son into Bayfarm. Help! I can't make up my mind! One more year at Park Day School or just start kindergarten in Alameda???? Tina

Alameda public schools are great! Paden is a very good school, so not sure why you would transfer over to Bay Farm. Yes, the test scores at Bay Farm are higher, but they are good at Paden, and likely lower because of the more diverse socioeconomic neighborhood there compared to Bay Farm.

I've known quite a number of people who have had their kids at Park Day and it is clearly a fabulous school. As a parent in Alameda with kids thriving in public schools, the cost, driving, and lack of community would not feel worth it. Class size of 25 seems to work, though 16 does sound nice! Alameda K is a bit more than half day - three times a week until 12:40pm and twice until 1:40pm for smaller groups. Most school sites have onsite aftercare to cover the remainder of the school day for a fee, and kids love it.

Lots of people who live in Alameda send their kids to private school, either in Alameda or in Oakland/Berkeley. But the majority use the public schools, and many of us actually moved here for that purpose (quality public schools from K - 12). You will love having your kids' friends close to your home, especially as they get older and more independent.

Looking at private schools, don't know much about public

Nov 2008

I've just started touring private schools looking for the appropriate kindergarten for my almost 5 year old daughter. I think perhaps I've ruined myself for other schools since my first tour was at Park Day School in Oakland. I love, love, love it! The biggest factor there is financial aid. Does anyone have recommendations about more schools with their type of progressive education? I'm looking for diversity, character building, strong community and non-test driven academic standards.

We're also considering Alameda public schools which I'm completely in the dark about. When do they begin enrollment and is there a touring schedule? I tried to find info on the web but was unsuccessful. Any advise is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

As a mom of two now teen aged kids, I say if you live on Alameda's East end there are schools like Edison elementary(where my kids went) which could not be better!! Not sure if there is now a lottery to get in or not. Go and check it out!! i know there are other excellent schools in Alameda (I just don't have personal experience with them) In addition, by staying in ALameda your child will have the wonderful experience of having her neighbors become schoolmates and friends and so will you!! Walking my kids to kindergarten each morning with 2 or 3 other moms (sometimes dads) and their kids, knowing the crossing guard by name, doing PTA projects and becoming friends with these folks who I also see at community events, the supermarket etc. proves it's worth it's weight in any competition with a private school no matter how attractive the school is ( yes, I do know Redwood Day is a great school) BTW I am not anti private school by any means (my kids went in high school) but Alameda's elementary schools are just too good to pass up. alameda mom

I looked at a lot of private schools and chose a public school in Alameda for my Kindergartner, and it has been a great choice. The AUSD website has school boundaries on it, so you know which neighborhood school your child would go to, then look at for parent ratings and test scores. Alameda Education Foundation (AEF) is hosting an information night for parents of children who will enter K next year. Please check AEF's website for details. The frustrating thing is that public schools don't market themselves, so even though there are some amazing public schools in Alameda, you'll end up phoning/emailing PTA parents and school offices for more information, rather than getting that info from well designed webpages, brochures, and marketing events/tours. Heather

Researching Schools

Nov 2003

We live in Alameda and I have just started researching schools as my son will be ready for kindergarten in fall 2003. Based on where we live, we fall in the Otis-Lincoln and Alameda High district. From what I have heard, generally, elementary schools in Alameda are good, but middle and high schools may be so-so. But this is just hear- say and I haven't heard of any specific examples to back this up or challenge this.

I would like to hear from some families with children in Otis, Edison, Lincoln, Alameda High and St. Joseph and their experiences with these schools. Why did people choose St. Joseph, or not, over a Alameda public school? Would you consider a transfer from a Alameda public school at any time, and if so, when would be a good time to do this, where to (not necessarily, but preferably in Alameda), and why? Thanks, Ann-Marie

Parents who have concerns about their neighborhood public schools and or interest in private alternatives really need to do their homework prior to passing judgement and making decisions. Doing your homework does not mean talking to those who have passed judgement without looking around the entire island.

While it is true that the farther east you travel in Alameda, the more homogenous the population is in terms of income, there are schools in all areas of Alameda that are exceptional. All schools have a range of teachers from so- so to exceptional and Otis, Bay Farm, Earhart, Edison, etc. are no exception. Ironically, Woodstock school which may be the lowest income school in town has one of the most exceptional programs around.

Parents should look for a school where both the Principal and staff understand how to teach reading as well as what to do when a child is having difficulties, encourage parental involvement, create a culture that is safe both physically and emotionally for all children and can explain what the data (test scores, etc) really mean and what their school is doing with the data.

Unfortunately, the test scores that are used to judge schools are not fully explained to the public. Parents tend to see which school has the highest scores but do not know what the schools ''like school'' score means, have not tracked the data over time and do not know whether the school is using the data to inform decisions.

The reading program that all schools in town are using has the potential to be amazing if implemented correctly with the goal being all children reading at or above grade level, the problem with it is that it is in its first year of implementation and teachers are at the ''mechanical'' stage of use. With time, they will get to ''refinement'' as is true with anything.

I was raised in public schools in Alameda, graduated from UC Berkeley and have been an educator for almost 15 years. I also went to the ''wrong'' schools in town as judged by many. My mother chose these schools and moved from the east end to the west after doing her homework over thirty years ago!

alameda parent and educator

I live in Alameda and am the parent of an eight month old and a four and a half year old who will start kindergarden at an Alameda public school next fall.

The short version of what I have to say about your question is that Alameda is blessed with a whole bunch of good schools and good teachers, including the high schools. My own view is that, except in extreme cases (e.g., inept principal, unsafe facility (neither of which I am aware of in Alameda)) the particular teacher your child will get is far far more important than the ''overall'' quality of any school.

The difficult thing for those who would like a simple answer is that both (1) good/great teachers and (2) not so good/great teachers are spread around all over the place, at both private and public schools, including at schools that conventional wisdom in Alameda holds to be ''good'' as well as at schools considered ''not so good'' schools. I think Alameda schools overall have far far more of (1) than (2). In any event, this all makes one's job as a parent harder because I don't think parental responsibilities can end with a determination that a particular school is ''good'' or ''not so good.'' Rather, they should involve efforts to find out about particular teachers and programs at particular schools and then to go there and get involved.

School quality and even teacher quality are not static, fixed, and unchanging. Involvement of parents (particularly of parents like those who care enough to read stuff like Parents Network postings), even a very few parents, can significantly change/improve a school or a classroom in a relatively short amount of time. So, if you and a few people like you go to school X, school X will be far better than if you don't. Don't underestimate the power of parental involvement in schools, particularly elementary schools!

Finally, I have to say that Alameda High is a great school.... (see Alameda High School reviews for the rest of this posting.)


I am the mother of a kindergartner at Otis and I just wanted to write a few words about my budding thoughts on private versus public schools. I have almost no experience with private schools, as I went to public schools in CT as a child. We did investigate several private schools in the East Bay before deciding to send our daughter to Otis. (In fact, originally we really wanted to send her to Paden, but didn't get in.)

I'm happy with our public school situation for a number of reasons. First, I love being able to walk my daughter to and fro every day. Second, public schools offer ample opportunity to get involved, as a parent, whereas the private schools did not seem so welcoming. I am currently volunteering as a room parent, an art docent, and a lunch/recess monitor and I have learned *so* much more about my daughter's school, her teacher, the kindergarten experience, and her classmates. (I now have about 30 new little friends, too, which is quite lovely!) I also like to think I am contributing to the general environment at the school, if only in small ways.

Third, my daughter (and my entire family, frankly) is now interacting with a diverse population--not only racially, which I think you can get at private schools, too--but economically. My daughter now knows that some children come to school hungry; she also knows that some children have far more than we have. Having grown up in a not-very-wealthy farm town in New England, this is very, very important to me.

Finally, by being able to volunteer, I feel like I'm helping lots of children (again, if only in small ways), not just my own children. Schools are a vital part of our community and if we want to have a healthy community with stimulated, engaged, responsible children, I think it's important to get involved with the schools and make some effort to help.

I'm not thrilled with the new standardized reading program, because I'm not thrilled with a standardized approach in general (hence our original longing to be at Paden). But I am very happy with my daughter's teacher and I know that her warm, humorous, experienced personality infuses the lessons she has been told to teach. My daughter is also thriving at Otis--she is happy, interested, delighted with her new friends, and learning at a nice pace. She sees some stuff she doesn't like (children who use their fists instead of their words; parents who yell at their kids; even teachers who have ''angry voices,'' as she puts it), but this gives us a chance to talk about choices, family cultures, stress, and ways to handle these situations. Those are pretty important life lessons. Susan

I am writing in response to both of the postings about Alameda schools. First I think it is important to include a bit about my background. I attended Berkeley public schools until the teachers went on strike when I was in 5th grade. After a couple months of being out of school due to the strike, my parents put me in a private school. I spent two years in private school and then returned to public middle school. My parents got fed up with public schools when my sister became diabetic and the staff at the public schools would not refrigerate the insulin she needs to take. So, my sister and I both attended a private high school, the College Preparatory School, in Oakland. My parents were very involved in the schools we attended regardless of whether they were public or private schools. They attended sports games, served on the board of trustees, helped out in the classroom, participated in fundraising, etc.

There are many points I want to make. One point is that the research is very clear that parent involvement is critical to your child\x92s success in school regardless of where or what type of school your child attends. Another point is that there is no perfect school. There are pluses and minuses to all schools and perhaps even more importantly, different schools may suit different children\x92s different needs. I learned valuable lessons in both public and private schools. I may have learned more academically and felt more cared for in a private setting but I also learned critical life skills (how a system works and how to get my needs met within that system) that served me just as much when I went to college and in becoming an adult in general. Also, it is important to remember that your child could have a great teacher at a mediocre school and a not so great teacher at a terrific school.

Aside from having attended both public and private schools growing up, I am also a teacher. I taught kindergarten in Alameda public schools for 10 years \x96 5 years at Otis School and 5 years at Paden School. Last year I had the arduous and stressful decision to make \x96 where to send my daughter to kindergarten. First of all, I would like to acknowledge that even with the majority of children attending preschools, the process of looking at and starting kindergarten is probably one of the most stressful experiences for many parents and children. Perhaps the best advice I can give prospective parents is to look at a lot of schools.

We looked at both public and private schools. We looked at several of the public schools within the Alameda Unified School District. Keep in mind that although there is open enrollment in Alameda, there is no guarantee that your child can get into any school other than your neighborhood school. Before you put your house on the market \x96 go look at several schools during the Alameda Unified School District kindergarten tours, which are usually held in February. Private school tours are often held earlier \x96 November through January. When you tour schools have your child not just yourself in mind. It is important to think about the type of environment in which your child will thrive.

In the end we chose to enroll our daughter in our neighborhood school, Otis School. (see Otis Elementary School for the rest of this review.)

Every parent has the potential to make a difference in his or her child\x92s education. It takes commitment to and involvement in whatever school your child attends to make the most of your child\x92s education.

As a final note, my husband teaches at Lincoln School and I would be happy to continue this discussion if anyone has more questions, comments, concerns...


Here is the deal. I grew up in Alameda. I substituted in Alameda and I now substitute in San Leandro but have friends and family still in Alameda. Otis is a fairly fine school. It isn't a super modern school like Bay Farm and Amelia Earhart (both which have very active parental involvement) Lincoln Middle has a pretty good public reputation. Again, parents who are involved have kept it functioning pretty well.

Alameda High....again as public high schools go...a pretty good reputation.

All that being of my kids goes to St. Joseph for his middle years. We didn't like the crowded middle school environment in the public schools (there were over 600 6th graders in the one near us in San Leandro) There is one class per grade and the children are not lost in the crowd.

Getting into a private or parochial school is based on space available in that grade during any given year, the child's previous report cards and how well they get along with other children and educators. HTH