Arrowsmith Academy


No longer in business
Private School
Berkeley, CA
Editors' Notes: 
  • Arrowsmith Academy closed in June 2006

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

February 2003

Re: School for dyslexic middle schooler
Arrowsmith Academy is a high school near the UC Berkeley campus. It is a warm and welcoming small school (100 students) and many of the students have what we call, ''issues'', which range from dyslexia (my nephew who is seriously dyslexic went to Arrowsmith and flourished) to emotional problems, neurologic glitches, or just that they don't fit in with the regular mob at Berkeley High. The staff is supportive and willing to adapt curriculum, make recommendations, deal with IEPs, etc. Tobie

May 2002

Re: Looking for alternatives for 15-year-old boy
My fifteen year old son is just wrapping up his freshman year at Arrowsmith Academy in Berkeley. Although he misses the breadth of social options that would be available to him at Berkeley High, he is having a good experience at Arrowsmith. Until this year he spent his entire academic career in the Berkeley Public Schools, having been identified with learning differences in Grade 2. The public schools were getting to be a real struggle for him, even with the resource class. The small classroom size at Arrowsmith, combined with teachers who have been educated to cope with kids with learning differences, have resulted in the development of his confidence and equally importantly his academic achievements. He still struggles with reading and organization but he's in an environment with many other kids who similarly struggle. I highly recommend you give them a call and have your son visit the school. Dave

Nov 2001

I am considering sending my child to Arrowsmith Academy next year. I read the relevant posts on the other Berk. Parents sites. I would appreciate any comments, pro or con, from parents whose teens currently attend Arrowsmith. How much attention does your teen receive from instructors? Quality of instruction? Social life? Tips on admission? My student in not thriving in a public school with too many kids in each class; in fact, he has learned to hate school since beginning middle school. Thanks.

Hi, Our daughter started at Arrowsmith this year. She had previously attended public schools. Her grades were awful and she felt like her teachers didn't care. She believed that the teachers tended to intentionally turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment, and were not interested in helping less than stellar students achieve. She also felt isolated in large classes and overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of the very materialistic and conformist culture.

Arrowsmith has made a big difference. We had reservations, but she is happy to be in smaller classes and genuinely likes her teachers. We have found the climate of the school be accepting and affirming. All of her teachers are great so far. They may not be educational professionals but they are intelligent and caring, and work hard to help the students be excited about learning. Also, communication and dialogue with parents is an important component of Arrowsmith's program.

Her social life is not extensive but she has always been a shy girl. Other kids who have been at Arrowsmith for years have strong social connections to classmates and many of them spend a lot of time together outside of school. Homework can be challenging but the teachers are flexible and willing to work with kids to help them be successful. For the first time in years, she is happy about school and starting to talk about College.

As far as admission, visit the school, talk with the kids and teachers and the administrator. Make sure it really is a got fit for your son. We needed two letters, one from a math and one from an English teacher. Lynn

Arrowsmith didn't work for us - not so much because of any problems with Arrowsmith, more of just being a bad fit. My son got off to a good start at Arrowsmith as a mid-year freshman (following a bad first semester at BHS). We were mostly pretty happy with the change. He got glowing reviews from his teachers at the Oct. conferences his second year, but things started to deteriorate shortly thereafter, and we (and Arrowsmith) decided to part ways at the end of his sophomore year. The problem was my son's very low academic motivation -- he doesn't mind showing up for class without homework, or taking tests without studying. If he doesn't think an assignment is interesting, he won't do it. My son is mild-mannered but stubbornly uncooperative. This was a problem in public school too, which I thought might be solved in a smaller school, but it wasn't. Teachers don't like teaching unmotivated students, understandably so, and he soon irritated nearly all his teachers to the point where personality conflicts with teachers was a bigger problem for us than academics. He hated almost all his teachers, and they were not too happy with him either. In a small school (Arrowsmith has only around 100 students), there is no good way around this. Classes are small (8-12 kids) so the uncooperative students stand out more. The faculty is small, so everyone knows the troublesome students. Most teachers teach more than one subject, so a conflict with one teacher may mean trouble in more than one class. My son had the same teacher for two key classes, and so vexed this teacher that he would not answer my email or return calls. So two classes suffered, not just the one. Another very young but enthusiastic social sciences teacher, fresh out of grad school, was so annoyed with my son's unwillingness to passively accept the prevailing class views, not to mention his failure to do assignments, that she called me several times to complain in long phone calls (including one at 9am on New Year's Day!) [As an aside, really, would you do this assignment?: "Do you feel that you are more a male-identified female, or a female-identified male?" My poor 15-year-old, clueless enough about any kind of sexual issue, was at a total loss with questions like this!] My son's other teachers at Arrowsmith were mostly pretty good, including one great English teacher who figured him out, got him to read, and even enlightened me a couple of times about things that work with him. My few dealings with the administration were similar to my experiences at the public schools - some good, some bad. So, all in all, I would give the usual advice that it depends on the child: most kids probably will thrive at Arrowsmith, unless you have one like mine!

Sept 2001

From the discussion "Transferring to Berkeley High from private school ...

I wanted to let the mom looking for a new school for her 10th grade daughter know that Arrowsmith Highschool in Berkeley may be an alternative. I have only gone to visit it once, but it does seem to have a mix of kids and they also seem willing to work with kids that have learning problems. I know one 9th grader there now and her mom may be willing to share more with you. If you want her number, write me back. Also, I have heard that Maybeck can be pretty vigorous and I must say that the woman who talked at the most recent information night (last May or June?) was pretty discouraging to parents of kids with LD issues. Good luck! Karen

Jan 2000

My daughter is a junior at Arrowsmith, and we have been happy with the school. The classes are very small (her Spanish III class has about 4 students). They are conducted seminar-style, and mentor relationships often form between student and teacher. Communication between school and home can be excellent - with notices sent home at parental request for late homework, etc. There is an underlying, benevolent structure that keeps kids on track but does not set off a headstrong teenager. Many kids who did not fit into a standardized program blossom there. I especially like the way there are no exclusive cliques (respect for each other is a strong value enforced in the classroom). My daughter, who considers herself very shy, has found a real social home there.