Beacon Day School


No longer in business
Private School
English, Spanish
140 students
Email: adotson [at] beaconday.orgPhone: 510-436-4466
2101 Livingston St. Oakland, CA 94606
Program Type: 
Independent study
Editors' Notes: 

Beacon Day School motivates students to be life-long learners, who develop the courage, competence, and knowledge for success now and in the future.

Parent Reviews

Parents, Sign in to post a review on this page.

My child transferred to Beacon from another elementary school. We have been extremely happy. Within weeks my child has made friends and gone out on play dates. The transition has been such a smooth success due to the kindness and exemplary teaching skills of the staff. It’s also made possible because class sizes are small and students are friendly and well-adjusted. Here are some of the specific reasons why we love Beacon:

Other schools talk a lot about social emotional learning. Teachers at Beacon walk the talk. They take the time to nurture the students.  If there is a disagreement among the kids, the teachers turn it into a teachable moment. For example, if my child does something that can be felt as hurtful to another child – or vice versa, then the teachers step in, enable the students to see the incidence through each other’s perspective and help them process their emotions. In turn, students learn empathy, kindness and respect. Teachers are warm and engaged, and students model that. 

Classrooms are well-run because the teachers are connected to their students and they are attuned to the students’ individual needs.  Because class size is small, teachers know students’ strengths and areas of concerns. For example, my child has attention issues. The teachers figured out what is the best approach to keep my child on task and engaged. Classes are combined (K/1; 2/3 and 4/5) with math taught separately for each grade (6 students in my child's math class) so each child gets a lot of individual attention. For reading, my child’s class is divided into 3 very small groups based on each student’s level. Whether a child needs extra help or she is reading at an advance level, she can be supported in a small, quiet environment.

Because students are so well integrated into the classroom, my child doesn’t feel singled out for having learning differences.  Beacon has a learning specialist who can work with the student/parents on specific concerns. Beacon has been most supportive on creating an environment where difference is accepted and my child can thrive academically and socially.

My child has befriended students from all grades, a big plus for social-emotional learning. Beacon is also one of the most diverse schools. What I especially like about its diversity is that is reflected in the teaching and administrative staff as well as the student body. Children from K-5 share the school yard during recesses. They also are grouped together in the after-school program, the 1st half comprising of arts led by a wonderful arts teacher and 2nd half outdoor activities. The outdoor area is huge for a small school. There's a large grass area where my child plays soccer, plus a garden where the highlight this year is the birth of 50 praying mantises. My child even showed me the egg case! 

There are students who started from kindergarten as well as those who transferred in from public or private school.  From talking with the other parents, they switched to Beacon for a number of various reasons. Some told me their children weren’t doing well academically at their old school. Or their children were being bullied. Or their children found their old school too large or overwhelming. Or their children were advanced academically and they wanted a school that can tailor to their level.  As parents, we fell in love with Beacon because our child can thrive in a kind, nurturing environment while receiving a solid academic foundation.      

We joined Beacon after the transition and there are a number of changes.  However, it does not affect the quality of the teaching or impact my child. My child loves his school, and as parents we feel the same. The only thing I could think of (as being seen) as a disadvantage is that Beacon does not spend its resources on fancy marketing. If you want bling, Beacon might not be the place.

We have had two children at Beacon for the last three years. Although those have been years of change, as the school got a new leader and the student population shrunk, the impact on my children and their education has been minimal. In fact, we've thought of the relatively small classes (15 or so) as a benefit. The teachers have been attentive and excellent. There has been a reduction in some enrichment activities, but my children still get Spanish, music, art and dance every week (alternating a bit through the school year). The thing I probably love most about Beacon is it is a very kind place. Children are nurtured and bullying is not tolerated (as in it doesn't happen or gets nipped in the bud when it starts, not as in they say they don't tolerate it but it happens anyway, which has been my experience at other schools).

I can say that Beacon truly treats children as individuals. My children are quite different and the ways they are taught and nurtured are adapted to their needs in a way that to me is the very best of what teaching should be.

My daughter just moved on to a different middle school, because I wanted a larger and more challenging environment for her than what the Beacon Middle School offers at the moment (in my opinion), but her years in the elementary school were excellent and I can't imagine a better place for her to be. My son is still there and will be there through 5th grade.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

March 2016

RE: Time to figure out a school for next year

I am not sure if you are considering for the 2016-2017 year or the following year because
EBISA acceptance letters have already gone out for the 16/17 year and commitments are due
right now but in any case, I just wanted to put in a plug for my son's school Beacon Day in
oakland near coast guard island. If you are looking for 16/17 we might be an option for you
over other schools b/c we have openings and give tours all through spring since we are year
round at elementary and open through summer. Anyway if you are interested in thinking about
Beacon re. your questions:

I am wondering how high-energy behavior and conflict between kids is handled
in each school-both in outside (free-time) space and in the classroom?

Beacon is highly focused on socio emotional learning as an integral part of the curriculum and
child development and responds from an empathic problem solving relational place to all
conflicts. Teachers are never punitive and have loved my opinionated, intense boy for the past
5 years. 

What is the overall attitude or climate regarding material possessions?

Beacon is super chill, not pretentious at all, genuinely diverse on many demographic matrices
including SES. My son is sort of a messy, shlumpy, wear whatever falls out of the drawer type
kid and he fits right in. I don't really see the kids as interested in stuff much. Beacon kids
are sort of more artsy and friendly and unique in my opinion. Beacon feels more like an
excellent public school than a private school in some ways.

How would you describe the balance between structured and unstructured
learning styles and how does that influence either organization and/or
creativity in the classroom.

Beacon's philosophy is that every kid learns differently and that they support the individual
learning styles and pace of each student.

How would you describe the overall academics, particularly in math and
reading, and how is it modified to meet individuals who might benefit from
more challenge?

Each kid is tracked for mastery individually and there are always several learning groups in
each class so kids can move up at their own pace when they genuinely understand something, not
arbitrarily when it is time to move on. In Middle school the kids mix up and down a lot b/c we
are a smaller school so they all know each other and are in mixed grade advisories. The
students see this as a benefit.

What efforts are made to facilitate friendships between different personality

Hard to answer. When classes are smaller, the kids mix it up a lot. My son is friends with
kids of all different personalities and at different grade levels too.

Finally, about how much homework is assigned to students in 6th and 7th

Beacon doesn't have any homework til 5th grade (in accordance with evidence based research
that homework doesn't improve learning below certain ages) so in middle school they are just
getting used to homework and have some but not an overload.
Happy Beacon Day parent

Oct 2015

RE: Re-locating, looking for progressive charter K-8

Take a look at Beacon Day School in Oakland-we have been very happy there since K and are now in the 4/5 class. Beacon was built with a focus on integrated socio-emotional learning and attunement. Small classes, school goes through summer (no weird extended breaks, just extra school), very flexible with parents and kids, individualized learning where kids move ahead at their own speed, excellent teachers and education, happy, kind, friendly kids who are always super excited to get a new kid! We have great arts integration, music, dance, gardening, great outdoor space. Very close to Alameda, kids come from all over: Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro, Berekely and all the way up, El Cerrito, El Sobrante. I think open houses are available throughout the fall. Good luck! Happy parent, happy kid, happy teachers

July 2015

Hi parents, I am hoping to hear current reviews from parents at Beacon Day School in Oakland. I know the school has been through many changes recently and there isn't much that is current online. Thanks so much! considering Beacon

I am a current parent at Beacon and we love the school! We have an upper elementary child who has been there since kinder. Some great things about Beacon include:

  • families and kids are very diverse and down to earth
  • the teachers are all happy and like teaching and give our kids the individual attention they need to thrive
  • the classes are small
  • school is year round!!!! (no weird breaks, just ''normal'' school schedule and then we go all summer too with a break the end of Aug for about 2 weeks so they get tons of extra learning days and families are able and encouraged to go on vacation/take time off whenever they want (non-holiday vacation times-yippee) b/c the educational philosophy is to track each child's mastery individually so they are always working on their own level anyway even if they miss a week, so no summer camp patching together dance of insanity!!!
  • no homework in elem (which I believe is in line with evidence based practice)
  • the school has a kind, warm feel and the kids are generally kind and happy
  • teachers respond to kids with an appropriate socio-emotional focus rather than being punitive when kids are having an hard time with something-they try to help and restore-rather than punish
  • a lot of arts integration-music, dance, art, motor, and spanish every week-fun showcases for parents that let us see the kids perform poetry, plays, instruments, singing

While the school might be considered in a time of transition due to just finishing our first year with a new head, really schools are always experiencing many transitions and this has not negatively impacted my child at all. My kid loves Beacon and I know they are taking good care of him there and he loves to learn b/c of Beacon! And as a parent I don't have to arrange summer care, don't have to deal with homework battles, can go on vacation when its cheap if I want, and have a kid who loves school-can't beat that! happy Beacon Day year-round school parent

Hi there, my daughter is at Beacon in the Middle School.

We have been very happy with Beacon and are so glad we moved our daughter there. Here are a few of the things we like:

Director: Suzanne Abbey is friendly, down-to-earth, organized, and super experienced (came from Head Royce)

Teachers: Very happy with the teaching staff who engage really well with the students and are professional and communicative. Every teacher is highly qualified, most seem to have an easy connection with the kids, and they are also diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age, which is nice.

Academics: Beacon is a warm, friendly community where my kid has been able to focus on her academics (few classroom distractions, good quality content), without feeling pressure or anxiety. The pacing and content of classes has been really appropriate - challenging without the stress that a middle schooler doesn't need. My kid is really good at math and reading, and has had opportunities to get extra work in those areas.

Atmosphere: Kids mostly get along and come from a real range of backgrounds and personalities. Here's an example of something they did well this year: I was informed that there had been the beginnings of a potential online bullying situation. Suzanne immediately nipped it in the bud and also responded by increasing online literacy education that the school was providing - but in a respectful, drama-free way that didn't call out anyone publicly. This literally never came up again. I loved that they took it seriously and solved the problem before it really became a problem, in a way that benefited the whole school community.

I love that Beacon is small - they still get to do intensive and interesting work, but have the benefit of being a small community. For example, at the end of the year, my daughter's class all went to the Warriors Parade. A last-minute experience that would have been hard to pull off with a very large group. Most importantly, my daughter loves Beacon and has not only stopped feeling the blues she had at her last school, but is really flourishing there. Felix

Sept 2014

Re: Public school not working; any private openings?

I would highly recommend checking out Beacon Day school in Oakland. It has small class sizes and really engages the kids in learning. My 1st grader leaned over my book, Harry Potter, and read a sentence last night - it made me so happy to see his progress and love of reading. It's a year round school and the semester just started. Spots are still available. The after school program is great; my son does not want to leave. He always tells me ''Mom you picked me up too early''. It's the highest form of praise from him. I highly recommend calling and taking a tour (510) 436-4466. Not too late HappyBeaconParent

April 2014

Re: Elementary schools with no homework?

Check out Beacon Day School: Oakland independent school, NO homework until 5th grade, year round school, terrific arts program. My children were very happy there until we moved to Berkeley and public school. They regularly debate whether they would trade summer vacation for no homework, but from an educational perspective, the no homework year round program is excellent for all kinds of learners. Happy former Beacon parent

No homework in elementary school is no utopia! The school you are looking for is Beacon Day School, a K-8 private school by the Oakland Embarcadero. It assigns no homework until 5th grade so that children are free to be with their families and/or pursue their hobbies after the regular school day is over. Also, the school is year-round so there are 40+ extra school days over which to stretch the curriculum. This allows the students to engage in academic practice, i.e., ''homework'', IN school and supervised, with immediate feedback from the teachers. Beacon Day School believes wholeheartedly that young children should be allowed to be creative and be given time for play and leisure, not to mention the arts. Beacon also offers a strong music, visual art and dance curriculum.

Our daughter loves Beacon. She has attended Beacon for the past 4 years, and we find that the developmental-progressive and wonderfully warm and diverse school culture has allowed her to thrive both academically and socio-emotionally. Please check out Beacon: For further questions about our family's experience, please feel free to ask the moderator for my contact information. A happy Beacon Day School parent

Check out Beacon Day School in Oakland! No homework for kids in grades K through 4. Our daughter is in the third grade and we have been delighted with this very sensible policy. Beacon is a year-round school running on a trimester system, so kids get 225 days of school a year (50-60 more days than other schools). Take a look at Beacon's website for more information. Ann B

March 2014

Re: Have you left Beacon Day, Park Day, or St. Paul's?
We are a former Beacon family and were prompted to look at other options because of our growing lack of confidence in the school's ability to grow (much less sustain) long-term.

Here is an example of why we lost confidence: In 2008-09, there were about 220 students schoolwide, and in particular, over 40 students in 4 preschool classes. In early 2011, the board fired the head of school and filled the position with another board member on an interim basis. This board member was not an educator, nor did they have any experience running a school. For two years, the interim head of school continued in that position and enrollment continued to drop. The administration and board put the blame on either the former head of school or the economy for the decline in enrollment or overall fiscal health of the school.

By the fall of 2012, enrollment was at 175 and a member of the board announced that Beacon needed 250 students to be in stable financial health and the goal would be to get there in about 3 years.

During this time, the interim head of school hired a new admissions person who would need to recruit about 60 students per year over the next three years to meet this goal. In early 2013, the board advised that Beacon was stable with 175 students and the 250 students was a ''goal.'' The enrollment of the preschool, a natural feeder into the lower school, dropped drastically (during 2008-2009, there were over 40 children across four preschool classes, today -- one class of less than 10).

Before the end of the 2013 school year, Beacon received 46 applications for admission and enrollment was at about 140, but the board claimed that [even though the school had lost more students than it had enrolled], there was ''momentum.'' By then, the interim head of school had resigned and the board appointed the admissions person as the new interim head of school while a permanent head of school search finally and officially started.

Having said that, the leadership issue will probably go away as a new head of school has been hired to take over in the summer. As in many of these cases, new leaders bring their own team of people -- so one could expect a new admissions staff and new school assistants who know and will subscribe to the new head's administrative philosophy, who will appeal to the current families. It is often the case when new leadership comes into the school, that the board will be replaced as well, and so there could also be significant changes on the board.

To be fair, our child received a wonderful education at Beacon, and had we been confident in the operations, we would have been happy staying there at least until middle school. We ended up leaving Beacon because during our search to check out our options, we simply found a school that was a much better fit, financially strong, active parent community, dynamic and inspiring leadership and much more. Beacon has tremendous teachers, but unfortunately, there are not many teachers or students left and due to the many budget cuts, layoffs and under enrollment over the past two years. The current lower school model is split classes -- this year, there is a pure K, and there may be a pure 1st grade, but everything else is split: 2/3, 3/4, 4/5 -- one of each. That model leans a little too close to the one-room school house for me, but it may it work well for others.

This is a great question, and I hope that the new head of school does the same thing -- by interviewing families who have left the school in the past few years, looking at the trends for leaving, taking their answers to heart, she and a new team could implement change that could mean the difference between sustainability & growth v. closing. Former Beacon Parent

Feb 2014

It's going to be decision time soon for schools. What can people tell me about Beacon day school in Oakland? It's so close to Alameda, but I'm not sure that it's worth the money. other than catholic school, it seems to be the only private school close to alameda. Is it more for kids who are troubled? How is the accreditation process coming? The surounding area looks a little shady (lots of grafitti, trash) although there is a numi tea room and a starbucks just down the road _- and the playground looks like its all cement. I have not met the new head of school I know those aren't the only things that matter, it seems like it's real easy to get into lots of openings and only about 140 kids and maybe that's better than public school

Great questions about Beacon Day School, and I'd love to help you out. My daughter is in her fourth year there. * Worth the money: Yes. It's very competitively priced and kids are in school 50-60 more days per year than other Bay Area schools (not to mention you won't pay for summer camp since school is all year). The low student-teacher ratio is worth its weight in gold. The school is able to nicely adjust lessons to individual student needs (my child is good at math, for example, so we are talking to them about making it more challenging for her -- they can do that with small classes). Money also goes toward fantastic art programs - your child will have weekly dance, art and music classes and develop great performance/speaking skills as well as confidence. But the school is also worth the money in more intangible ways. Beacon is a small, safe community where every teacher will know your child, and where kids truly feel free to be themselves, enjoy learning and become an advocate for their education. Beacon is committed to whole-child development, which many schools are just beginning to get a grip on. Beacon kids are thoughtful, critical thinkers who develop amazing skills in teamwork and respect. I know that sounds like hype but it honestly is true there. It's a wonderful place.

* Is it for kids who are troubled: No. I think some people have this impression because the school is good at adapting certain things to individual kids. So yes, if you are a wiggly 5-year-old, Beacon might be especially good for you because they can work with that. And the teachers/staff are great at helping identify issues and guiding families. But truthfully, kids with serious problems need dedicated programs to help them, and Beacon is not set up for that. My daughter's schoolmates are each unique but generally very typical. Beacon kids ARE wonderfully diverse -- from all kinds of religious, ethnic, socioeconomic and family structures. I love that about Beacon because I feel like my child is getting wide exposure to the real world, more so than at our neighborhood school (which, while also very good, would be much more homogeneous).

* Accreditation: The school is beginning this process. Accreditation involves many factors beyond academics (which are top notch at Beacon), and the school will begin a self-study when the new head of school begins later in the year.

* New HOS: Is Suzanne Abbey, coming from Head Royce to Beacon. Beacon families are very excited.

* Location and playground: Industrial, yes, but I have never feared for safety there. Buttercup diner is around the corner, and police officers often dine there, so my family sometimes jokes that Beacon would probably have faster emergency response times than any other school. The playground is undergoing improvements. A parking area was recently demolished in preparation for grass, and there is a lovely new deck the school uses for some outdoor performances and class activities. The garden inside the playground is amazing, as well. Beacon embraces it's urban location, but families do desire more green space on the playground and the school is working toward that.

* Gymnasium: Is so important and used for many activities, including a family potluck this week! Last year the graduating class purchased new theater lighting for that room, which has already been a fantastic addition to various arts events.

* Small: You know the saying ''the best gifts come in small boxes''? They meant diamond rings, but it applies to Beacon as well. It's really a terrific school and community. My child has thrived there. I hope you'll give Beacon serious consideration. summer

My family has been nothing short of thrilled with our Beacon experience!

We are an Alameda family and our son has been at Beacon for several years. The classes are small. Each child gets challenged in his/her own way. It amazes me how the teachers are able to hit the right ''sweet spot'' for each child, encouraging them to be the best they can be. Respect is the modus operandi, not only between teachers and students, but within the entire community. The academics are excellent. It is very well respected in high school admissions.

We have loved that Beacon does not assign homework until it is developmentally appropriate. No need to spend early elementary school evenings wrangling with your child to do busy work when you could be spending quality family time together.

Beacon is a true year-round school in the elementary grades, and middle schoolers have an extended year. What a joy it was not to have to try to fill up my son's summer with boring and costly summer camps!

I'm not sure where you got the idea that Beacon is for troubled kids, that made me LOL. It's a small school and its population is extremely diverse.

Beacon is in the process of installing green space.

As an Alameda resident, the location is very convenient. Yes, it's in a mixed-use area with residential lofts, artist studios, commercial businesses and professional offices in the mix. It has been a very comfortable place for us and we have never been given need to worry about the area.

I would strongly encourage you to visit Beacon Day School. Happy Beacon Parent

We are a Beacon family and very, very happy with the education and care that this school has provided our daughter. This is our 4th year at the school. We joined Beacon for Kindergarten. Our daughter is now in 3rd grade and thriving. For her personality and educational needs, small class sizes (capped at 17 students) a wonderfully warm and friendly atmosphere and the progressive-developmental approach to learning have made a huge difference in keeping her engaged and excited about learning. Our daughter loves her school. The teachers are very dedicated and truly care about their students. Since it is a small school community, the staff know all the students. It is like one big family.

Positive discipline and regular class meetings in which kids get to work on socio-emotional skills make for a cooperative and very tolerant and friendly school atmosphere. And Beacon truly exemplifies the developmental-progressive approach to learning. Kids are not pushed into ''one-size-fits-all'' learning but rather get to learn at their own pace. There is room for the gifted and for the academically slower learners - all in one school. How? Through pace groups, a lot of individual attention in the classroom and room to experiment. Since Beacon is a year-round school (with 40+ extra school days compared to the typical school),children have more time to learn, practice and explore - in school!

There is no homework until 5th grade so kids can still be kids after the regular school day is over. And families, especially 2-income-earners, do not have to worry about the long summer period. No need for camps. Hence, no concern about children un-learning academic material over the summer. At Beacon, summer break is 2.5 weeks long. If families want to take more vacation, Beacon is always flexible to accommodate. Classroom material is sent along or other arrangements are made. That is Beacon: a school with a very flexible and family-oriented mindset.

Also, I want to point out that financially Beacon is a relatively ''good deal''. If one takes into account the savings from not needing summer camps, Beacon's tuition is very competitive indeed for a private Bay Area school.

There is so much more to say. For families who care about the creative arts, Beacon offers a well-rounded music, art and dance education as well. Which other grade school has its own dance studio (along side a fantastic music and arts studio)? My daughter loves these classes. Expressing herself creatively is a real passion of hers and a lovely balance to the ''brain'' work in the classroom.

Please give strong consideration to Beacon in your enrollment decision for your child. We toured Bentley and Park Day, but they weren't for us. For our daughter, we care very much about the ''vibes'' and ''feel'' of the school, beyond the scripted selling points. Maybe you should consider another, more extensive, classroom visit at Beacon to get a sense? Feel free to contact me via the moderator to share more thoughts about Beacon versus other private schools in the area. A very grateful Beacon parent

Hi, Since we relocated to Berkeley, I was looking for an upper elementary and middle school, and I can share with you why I choose Beacon over Bentley and Park.

I was looking for a school where children ''love to learn'' - which for me translates into a pedagogy where all forms of learning are accepted and allowed to flourish. Bentley was therefore eliminated, due to its predominant focus on academic excellence. Please do get me wrong, my children are bright, would have sailed through the admission tests, but I did not want them in an environment where one area of learning is emphasized over others. Rather, I wanted them to be in an environment where emotional security is given equal emphasis, as I believe the best will then emerge. Beacon does this extremely well. My children came to Beacon (we relocated), after being at a school they loved. The bar for Beacon was high and Beacon matched it.

I was also looking for a school where children ''learn to learn''. I believe, schools can demonstrate this in various ways. For me, Beacon's no homework policy up to grade 4 was a critical one. Beacon believes that learning happens outside its boundaries, at home, with neighborhood friends, in free-play, aspects that have continued to flourish in our home, because my elementary child is not saddled with home work. My middle schooler grabbed the homework mantle with a sense of responsibility and personal achievement. Beacon's policy dove tails with my belief that homework has to be introduced at a developmentally appropriate stage - viz. when children can be more responsible for their own learning. I think Beacon is the only school that goes against this a very strong mainstream current, which unfortunately parents too share in the blame. So hats off to the founder for her vision and hats off to Beacon for continuing with it, despite low enrollment during this recession for most independent schools.

I was also looking for a school where children play an ''equally active role in their learning''. That I did not find in Beacon, but for that matter in no school, except for a few Montessori schools. I was also looking for a school where children are ''actively engaged with their world'' - where learning about their personal and collective rights and responsibilities, is not limited to within their classroom. That too, I did not find in Beacon. There were other schools - Black Pine, I think, that has a strong community orientation. However, to Beacon's credit, they did not make any such claims, and therefore was able to make an informed choice. And one that I have no regrets. My children continue to love to go to school, continue to love to learn, and continue to believe and grow in the company of their teachers and classmates

Wow - did not realize how much I got carried away! Anyway, my quick attempt to answer your specific questions- I too, like you, was concerned with the ''warehouse look'', but it fades when you see the happy and welcoming faces of the children, teachers and staff. The accreditation process is currently underway, but Beacon standards are way above CA standards. Finally, if a school gets labeled ''for troubled kids'', which I do not believe it is, then it does not speak well of our education system that rejects children because they do not conform to a ''one size fits in all'' standard.

I wish you all the very best in your search. A content Beacon Parent

Beacon = relaxed families! Surprised to read first impressions of Beacon were worrisome but as a parent of a first grader at Beacon, I can assure you that Beacon is worth every penny. Has to be the most diverse private school. Families here are very open and easy going. Kids are not troubled! Kids are taught at their own developmental level and the small classroom size helps teachers keep on top of what kids need. The all-year-round program is awesome because you pick when you take a vacation and you don't have to scramble all summer for camps. And they don't have big breaks during the year leaving you without childcare. I heard other schools are looking at this strategy. Because of extra classroom time there is no homework until 5th grade. Relax at home! And my daughter is at the same level as (if not ahead of) kids in other schools. The school does have a large indoor dance room, music room, and art studio plus a large community room for shows and events. The playground is large and covered in plenty of soft rubber under play structures. A grass field is being put in this year - if recess is a priority. They have permanent flex teachers so your class is never stuck with a stranger sub if teacher is out. Their aftercare program is one of the best, as they have dedicated teachers and activities- it's not just playground time. The neighborhood is fine and cleaner than most of Oakland, just urban. Kids can be accepted any time since they are year round so you can relax about ''getting into'' a good school. lilla

Hello, We are Alameda residents and new Beacon parents -- our daughter is in the Kindergarten class. We could not be happier about our decision to enroll her at this wonderful school; our daughter is thriving in her class of 10 (yes, 10) and within the broader Beacon community. I wanted to respond to the specific questions you posed in your message, and I'd also encourage you to schedule a school visit to meet with Jackie Ortega, the Executive Director.

What can people tell me about Beacon day school in Oakland?

We are happy with our decision to enroll our daughter here, and plan to keep her there through 8th grade. The teachers and staff are impressive, inspiring, and committed to an open, diverse culture of multi-faceted education that treats kids as citizens and not simply students.

It's so close to Alameda, but I'm not sure that it's worth the money.

It's very close to Alameda; we live on the West end and it takes a mere 12 minutes to get there. My husband and I both commute to work, so the easy access to 880 is also an advantage. And I would say it's well worth the money; I'm watching all of my friends whose kids are in public schools begin to scramble to find camps to cover their summer break. Our daughter will be in school through August 21, will start up again after Labor day, and we'll easily cover the brief break with our family vacation.

Is it more for kids who are troubled?

The school accommodates children with special educational needs, but that does not take away from the main curriculum. Beacon prides itself on an open, diverse community and I can already see the benefits that has for our daughter.

How is the accreditation process coming?

It is the top priority for the new Head of School, who starts in July and is coming from the very prestigious Head Royce Academy.

The surrounding area looks a little shady (lots of grafitti, trash) although there is a numi tea room and a starbucks just down the road _- and the playground looks like its all cement.

The school is in a somewhat industrial section of Oakland across from Coast Guard island; it is a safe area and the school takes extra security precautions. The school grounds and inside the school are immaculate. I've never had a concern with the area. The playground is cement but the school recently raised money to begin developing an additional grassy area. The Beacon Community Room, where the kids gather for assemblies, performances, and motor class, is lovely.

I have not met the new head of school.

I have not yet, either, but her credentials are impressive:

it seems like it's real easy to get into lots of openings and only about 140 kids and maybe that's better than public school?

The admissions process is straightforward and includes an in-person assessment. Beacon really wants to know your child before they admit him/her. Our daughter is in a class of 10 and no class is bigger than 18. That's about half the number of kids in most elementary and middle school grades in public school. The extra attention, special classes (gym, dance, music twice a week, art, Spanish twice a week), longer school year, quality before- and after-care, staff, and so much more make Beacon the right fit for our family. You should check it out as you compare schools!

Signed: Beacon Parent

Nov 2013

Re: Dyslexia and private versus public school
Our 9 year old daughter has dyslexia and we've been very happy with the response and support we've received from Beacon Day School in Oakland. The school noticed that there was an issue as early as kindergarten and we confirmed it in first grade. Beacon's learning specialist provided support, including information about testing and options for helping our daughter. We have an accommodation plan that our daughter's teacher has been very diligent about implementing. The school has been willing to coordinate with our outside (privately hired) Educational Therapist which has been very helpful. Beacon's approach for all students is to offer flexible pace groups so that students can progress at their own speed. This system seems to be particularly well-suited to someone with a learning difference. We have received excellent support from Beacon - but we also have had to be self-motivated about getting our daughter help and following through with the recommendations we received both from Beacon and our daughter's doctor. And, yes, the whole process has cost us money but we've felt that dealing with this early is essential to keeping our daughter on track in school. Beacon's very supportive environment has been an essential component to our daughter's success. And she has shown strong improvement - reading at grade level and feeling confident about her ability to succeed in school. Best wishes to you. Happy Beacon Parent

August 2013

Re: Looking for the right school for my daughters
You may want to look at Beacon Day School in Oakland. Social emotional development is a big part of their curriculum (link to webpage about the program below) and I must say, the children there are some of the most confident, poised, respectful and conscientious kids I've ever encountered. My child is going into second grade and her social development has been incredible to watch.

Their academics are top-notch and the teachers are excellent. One of the best parts of the school is how nurturing and close-knit the community is. My daughter feels safe and loved by many teachers/staff members, she is known by everyone (perks of a small school!) and is a confident and energetic learner -- I know this is because of the way Beacon approaches education.

For these reasons, and because Beacon takes a developmental approach to academics, it's possible this is a good match for you. I would highly encourage you to check them out. Letter on soc/emo devel. from Beacon -- ) Summer

March 2013

Re: Beacon Day, Redwood Day, Black Pine or Park Day?

My son is absolutely thriving at Beacon. When he was in elementary school, it was great not to spend our evenings nagging at him to do homework! We got to spend time as a family, talking about that day's events, learning to cook, going for walks in the evening. I treasure every memory of that special time.

Being a truly year-round school, he didn't have to waste time at summer camps. Instead, that time was spent continuing his education (all the while having fun doing so!). It was great to see him getting out of the car and skipping toward the front door in the morning. He loves school and is a very eager learner.

Now that he is in middle school, I greatly appreciate the time the teachers spend teaching skills I never learned in school like time-management. Beacon's entire staff respects the whole student and as a parent I feel respected every time I walk in the door.

Kids learn to resolve conflicts with their peers. Whenever he has friends over and a disagreement occurs, I have to pick my chin up off the floor because I'm amazed at how well they resolve the situation. Several times a day, I'm reminded that Beacon was a wonderful choice for our child. Happy Beacon Parent

My daughter is a first grader at Beacon Day School, so I admittedly don't have upper grade experience, but this is what I've seen:

1) Guide children to be BOTH good learners & good people *There is no better place. Kids learn from preschool to *think* rather than just memorize. They are critical thinkers and this shows in their interpersonal skills as well. Beacon has a whole part of their curriculum dedicated to social-emotional growth (conflict resolution, etc.). The kids are so respectful of each other and adults. One of my first experiences there was a boy about 5th grade, who probably ''should'' be totally awkward around adults. He opened the front door and held it for me. I've also heard the 8th grade graduation speeches (any graduating student has the opportunity to speak). The poise and maturity they show is amazing. Beacon is clearly turning out good kids, not just smart kids.

2) Allow children to learn with & from each other, both academically & socially *There is tons of group and partner work. Classes are small, which I think makes it easier to have group projects and discussions. I know there are many opportunities for kids to bring in what they know (about a culture/holiday, as well as more complicated topics, I'm sure, in the older grades) to share with their class. Just last week my little first grader did a survey for math -- she had to go to older kids and ask them to answer her questions. She learned how to politely and clearly ask her questions, and the older kids (again with the amazing social development) treated her respectfully and as though this was as important as any of their math assignments.

3) Practices to support childrenÂ’s love to learn, e.g. self-directed physical movement, self-directed access to learning materials across core subjects, absence of regular testing, homework etc. *Beacon is totally committed to supporting children's love of learning. They believe that state is natural and everything that can be done should be done to foster it. No homework until 5th grade (when it become developmentally appropriate), no regular testing (at least in the lower grades), etc. A perfect example of Beacon's open access is their library -- it's not in a room. It's in every hall -- the library lines the school halls so that kids can get a book on whatever subject interests them, at any time.

4) Gain deeper understanding of issues by organizing around problems, projects as opposed to memorizing facts, skills, separate disciplines *Short answer: YES! I am continually surprised and satisfied at the way Beacon focuses on understanding concepts, solving problems and doing projects. They also do a great job at intermixing disciplines -- subjects overlap in real life and Beacon embraces that.

6) Active learning where children inform curriculum & school functioning - formulate questions, seek answers, evaluate themselves & teachers *This is probably best answered by the parent of an older child, but in short, I know there are Beacon events, projects, etc., that have been instigated by students. Faculty LISTEN to the kids, and kids are encouraged to speak up, find answers, etc. I was amazed at how much they had focused on this when, in kindergarten, my child walked up to a bookstore attendant on her own and asked where to find a particular book. She is naturally shy, so I nearly fell over. Beacon has helped teach her she can be a leader in her own education and that she, even at four feet tall, can get business done!

7) Gain practical life-skills like fund-raising, internships etc *There are opportunities, particularly in the middle school, for fundraising (especially for 8th grade events but I'm sure others as well). The 8th grade also recently returned from an exciting trip to Washington, D.C. -- not an internship but a big adventure for those kids. As far as other life skills, everyone has computer and Spanish class, as well as art, music, dance, and access to gardening. I would argue those are life skills if only in the sense that a well-rounded adult understands the basics of art, music, etc.

8) Learn & act on issues of social justice *Here again, in first grade this stuff is limited, but their social studies projects have touched on some things, like civil rights. I do know that the middle school ''advisory'' classes sometimes touch on relevant, heavy subjects, so I sense kids of that age are engaging on these things. Beacon itself is an extremely diverse place, with all kinds of families, races, religions, etc. There is an expected acceptance of everyone, and that is an important social lesson in itself.

Good luck in your search for the right school of your kids. Beacon truly is a great place, and please feel free to contact me if you want more information! summer

March 2013

Re: Berkeley/Oakland private school recs
The outline you wrote almost precisely describes Beacon Day School in Oakland not far from Jack London Square. Beacon has a truly diverse (and in the elementary program, very stable, long-term) faculty and works hard to attract and sustain relationships with diverse families. There's no homework in the younger grades, with transitional expectations of homework starting in 5th grade (though that still wasn't enough for my kid to prepare for real homework loads in 6th grade, but that's a different story). Every kid K-5 every week has art (1x), music (2x) AND dance (1x). Spanish is a rotating class throughout elementary grades, with computer technology. Classes are small and recess is reasonably long. The afterschool program is specifically non-academic, devoted to play, projects and social skills. In the recent past, there were admin personalities that didn't match the school's proclaimed philosophy, but I hear that a long overdue turnover resolved that problem. Definitely worth checking out. We left the school because our kid wasn't a good match overall, but we loved the teachers, admired the curriculum, and have friends who stayed through middle school and have found it a very good place for their kids. Parent who did a lot of research

Feb 2013

I wanted to say great things about Beacon Day School. This is our 5th year there, starting in the preschool with our son at age four (now 4th G) and followed by our daughter when she was three (now K).

Both of them have really benefitted from the small class size, individual attention from wonderful teachers and the integrated arts program. They have had weekly art, dance and music classes since the beginning and have added motor, computer and Spanish classes as they have gotten older. Our son has been doing poetry presentations for a couple of years now and the elementary school's presentation of Martin Luther King, ''I have a dream'' speech moved me to tears.

With a year-round schedule and before and after care on site (with staff that work in the classrooms and know our children) Beacon is a school that actually helps parents. Please visit the Beacon or contact Jacqueline Ortega, Admission Director at 510.437.2311,jortega [at] with questions or to schedule a tour. Leah

Dec 2012

My son has been in both public (OUSD,horrific experience) and other private schools and is diagnosed ADHD, currently in 5th grade. Beacon is over the top amazing and the most wonderful school ever! They had an immediate and deep understanding of him, recognizing and ACCEPTING his strengths and weaknesses - teaching him academically and socially according to who he is and now he learns. This is his first year, and his is more engaged in school than I have ever seen him. Before the school year started he received a letter from each child in his class in the mail describing who they were and what they love best about the school. The kids also made him a banner which hangs in his bedroom to this day welcoming him to school. Brilliant! This removed completely any first day of school jitters he had. On his first day, my son got in the car - I asked him ''how was your day?'' His response - ''I'M SUPER IMPRESSED!''. Me too! Much of the staff has been with the school 10-20+ years, every staff member with a deep, true love for children, and they have all quickly become extended family! All year round school year works fantastic, structure and routine is important and no more worrying about summer camps! Also, very little homework, a huge + for all! If your considering private school for your child, no need to look anywhere else! Email me for more information/questions. karen1

Dec 2012

Re: Seeking excellent music program for 8 year old
I would strongly encourage you to take a look at Beacon Day School. It has very strong music, dance and art programs. The teachers are excellent, and they are extremely supportive and encouraging. Prior to Beacon, my son had little interest in music. Within months, he was not only learning to play various instruments, he was happily giving up some of his free time to participate in an ensemble.

As he has progressed to middle school, he is learning new instruments, more music theory, and being challenged in ways that perfectly complement the excellent academic courses at Beacon. What I also love is that, due to small classes, students who come in already playing an instrument (or already mastering a particular instrument) are challenged in new ways appropriate to their interests and skill-level.

Beacon is a fantastic school, and its music program is one of just MANY reasons it has worked out so well for my son. Check out for more information. Very Happy Beacon Parent

Dec 2012

Re: Schools that foster creativity?
Dear Lucky Mom of a Creative Peanut, I would *strongly* encourage you to check out Beacon Day School in Oakland. My son started there five years ago, and the arts curriculum has been a wonderful experience for him. It nurtures the creative side of him, and it's great to see how this enhances his growth in the traditional academic subjects. Check it out Happy Beacon Parent

Nov 2012

I am a parent of a 2nd grader attending Beacon Day School, and I would like to chime in about how the school has helped our family. Our son completed his kindergarden at a local elementary public school. The experience was difficult to say the least. The direct instruction, behavior management, and complete lack of student centered learning was a recipe for disaster. In no time our son lost motivation to learn, to go to school, and engage in academic work. When we wrapped up the year, we knew we needed to switch him and find a fit for his 1st grade. We researched, visited, and applied to several schools. We selected Beacon because we saw real mastery in their arts integration, differentiated instruction, and approach to social emotional development. The school has been around for a long time, and such consistency really makes a difference; in other words, they ''have it down''--- the teaching staff, curriculum and school culture is solid. Our son loves his school. Earlier in the year (2012) he was assessed and diagnosed with ADHD- he is not hyper, or has trouble socializing, but he is definitely challenged with holding attention in the subjects or topics he is not interested in. Beacon has provided our family with support and guidance. He is a thriving student; for example, he moved from below level in his reading (as it was the case when he started 1st grade) to a 3rd grade reading level (and he is a 2nd grader). The arts provide an additional outlet for tangible successes which is fantastic for motivation. The year-round academic calendar is also super helpful for us. It is a private school, so it is expensive, and even with the financial aid, it is a struggle- but the investment is totally worth it!! nico

Any recent reviews of beacon day school?

July 2012

just wondering if anyone has any recent info or experience with the early childhood program at beacon day school. we are considering switching our child from the model school in berkeley for more diversity, and more focus on the arts but the reviews are so mixed and from last year. we wold appreciate any insight. puzzled about pre-school

We are extremelly happy at Beacon. They welcomed us in a way that was very meaninful to us as a family and to my child starting middle school. My daughter's 1st year experience in public middle school was a total disaster, we decided then to look for private schools and start all over. Fortunatelly we came accross Beacon which my child chose to be her school. We couldn't have made better decision. She is thriving beautifully, got her learning confidence back, changed her eating habits to healthier one, improved her grades, has made close friends, enjoys doing homework (quite a milestone). There are about 15 children in each class in 6th grade (not sure about other classrooms but the ratio is excellent). Teachers and staff are very friendly, cheerful, they work closely as a team to the best interest of the child. It's a great community. The school schedule goes until mid July. You know the school is right to your child when you have to keep them from school for some reason and he/she says ''But I want to go to school, we are going to be doing this's fun''. The tuition is a challenge for us even with financial help but we think every penny is worth it. Check it out! I hope it works for you the way it worked for us. mom of kids in College and middle school

Oct 2011

Re: School for socially anxious 9-year-old with ADHD

Try Beacon Day School (510) 436-4466. Not only the number of children in each classroom is very small compared to other schools but they have incredible activities. The staff and teachers are thoughtful, knowledgeable and they really care about each child. Express your concern - I am sure they will address it and work with you to provide the best. narniaph

May 2010

Re: Race to Nowhere - Questioning Public Schools
Yes, there is a school that does not stress out children with too much homework and rote learning. That school is Beacon Day School.

As an administrator and parent of a 7th grader, I can tell you that our goal is for every student to be successful and that doens't mean they all need to have straight A's. Our curriculum is designed to have students work in pace groups (these are fluid) until the skill has been mastered.

The Elementary School is year-round with a continuous progress education model and we do NOT assign homework until Upper Elementary. Even then the homework is somehting that the student can do independently. Our Middle School operates on an extended year with block scheduling. Students are not stressed out with hours of homework. They can actually enjoy outside activities such as scout meetings and sports practices without worrying that they are behind with their homework.

I too saw the film last week. Although much of it was hard to watch, I am very thankful that my daughter is being educated in a school that does pay attention to homework load and is more focused on making sure students love to learn. In fact, Beacon is mentioned in Sara Bennett's book ''The Case Against Homework''. Sara was one of the experts interviewed for the film.

Please call me in the Admissions Office at 510-437-2311 if you would like to learn more about Beacon Day School. abaroni [at]

Oct 2009

Re: Elementary schools where African American boys thrive
My African American son is absolutely thriving at Beacon Day School! Beacon is a fabulous school where ALL children are treated with kindness and respect. The entire faculty and staff continuously works hard to create an environment where every child is nurtured and challenged to be their best selves.

When I drop my son off in the morning, he joyously runs into the building. When I pick him up in the afternoon, it's the best part of my day. Besides seeing my son, it's great to see all the other kids. I'm continually amazed at how the kindness and respect shown to the kids by the faculty and staff continues to be on display as the kids interact with one another.

My son previously attended another private school in Oakland where, sadly, AA children (especially boys) were treated horribly. I'm thankful every single day that we were lucky enough to find Beacon. I'd encourage you to pay a visit and see for yourself. Beacon Mom

Dec 2008

We live in Alameda and currently have a child enrolled in kindergarten at an Alameda public school. Our child is doing well but we are not sure if it is a good match for us, and are considering Beacon for 1st grade.

Our main concerns with our public school revolve around the lack of supervision of children at lunch and recess which is not only unsafe but has enabled a culture of bullying to develop unchecked. Also the nearly total emphasis on academics (reading and writing, math) at the expense of other subjects or interests. In addition there has been a heavy reliance on worksheets and other ''traditional'' methods of teaching that have not seemed to change since I was in kindergarten 30+ years ago; there seems to be little room or desire for change or more progressive ways of educating.

I would love to hear from any Beacon parents that may have made a switch from public schools for similar reasons. Also anyone that can advise us on whether or not Beacon would be a good choice for us considering our concerns with our present school. Thank you for your time! parent

My son survived a fancy private school, a ''top-rated' public school, and is now a very happy Beacon student.

In the public school, his time was spent studying for the test. Math and reading, math and reading.... and the homework was geared exactly for the test, and was way too much, IMHO. The public school after school program was not bad, but I thought it could have had a higher teacher/student ratio. And no P.E.-- I found that shameful.

Our family is THRILLED with Beacon. There are so many reasons we love it:

1) My son now loves to learn. He's reading everything he can get his hands on;

2) there is no room for bullying--it's a community, and they work really hard at maintaining that;

3) the afterschool care program is nicely structured--there is obviously a lot of work that goes in to deciding which after-school class your child is in, and it's well-organized (but the kids still have options!);

4)It's obvious that the teachers and staff are HAPPY to work there!;

5) It's a year-round school--12 weeks a year for which I don't have to find a camp! And we can take vacations when it works for our family. (Plus no stupid Ski Week! Arrrgh!).

6) No homework 'til the 5th grade. I never realized how wonderful this would be--I have time to actually PLAY with my kid, and have him cook dinner with me, etc... Happy Beacon Family

Oct 2008

Re: Middle school for bright active shy boy
You should consider Beacon Day School for your middle school son. Beacon is a small school with many fine features. The students are challenged academically and go on to the finest high schools. There are sports teams, instruction in the arts (dance, music and fine art) for every student and a staff that really understands the needs of middle school kids. Contact the Admissions Office at (510) 437-2311. They are holding an open house on Nov. 19th at 9 a.m. Middle School Mom

Oct 2008

Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
If you are looking for a K-8 grade school in Oakland, please consider Beacon Day School. Beacon has been educating children for 26 years by teaching teaching them how to learn now what to learn.

My daughter is now a 6th grader who loves school. In fact, she tells me this daily. All students at Beacon are given opportunities daily to be successful so that they will continue to take risks in learning. Every student receives hundreds of hours of arts instruction that is part of the year round curriculum. Families can take vacations when it is convenient for them.

Please call Admissions at (510) 437-2311 to learn more about this wonderfully diverse school where students love to come to school. Happy parent of a happy 6th grader

April 2008 Re: Creative Welcoming School for 6th Grader?
Beacon Day School in Oakland is exactly that. The middle school is small and expertly run. The head of school and teachers all know exactly where each child is; the social environment is considered quite important and everyone is welcomed with open arms. The kids seem happy and open and engaged. They might be full for next year already but you could get on their waiting list. Parent of happy elementary student

Dec 2007

Re: Archway School Homework, Flexibility?
You should consider Beacon Day School's middle school program for your daughter. The Academic Mastery component of the curriculum prepares its students well for high school and beyond. Students are expected to acheive mastery in all skill levels.

More importantly this curriculum was designed with adolescents in mind and the Block Scheduling component allows for more time on task. Homework is given but is age appropriate and coordinated by a team of teachers. The emphasis on learning skills and mastery is taught by the teachers during school time.

My daughter is a current Beacon 5th grader and we are so fortunate that her all important middle school years will be spent here. A Happy Beacon Mom

Nov 2007

I have been encouraged to look at Beacon for next year for my child, for reasons that I won't go into now. Does anyone have feedback on their experience in the last couple of years that you would think might be helpful? searching for the right place...

Beacon Middle School is small and nurturing. The staff and administration take great care in providing a curriculum that fosters success in adolescents as well as addressing the social/emotional component. Beacon grads go on to a variety of high schools and are prepared when they get there. I don't think you will find another school that walks the walks as well as Beacon does as far as providing a curriculum that is really designed for adolescents of this age. Anon

Our son began attending Beacon Day School in the Early Childhood Program and is currently in first grade there. We have been extremely pleased with the school and have nothing but praise for all the teachers -- especially in the early childhood program. Our son was never made to feel that he had to ''sit down all the time'' and had ample time to play. As a very active little boy, he especially enjoyed the morning and afternoon recesses! While he learned a considerable amount in the Early Childhood program, it was never at the expense of free choice or play. He LOVES going to school which makes our busy lives much easier!! A Family Happy to Have Found Beacon Day School

Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Have you looked at Beacon Day School? A private school in Oakland. It's extremely diverse, lots of African American students as well as teachers. Your daughter might feel much more comfortable there! Ellen

Hi, I am so happy to be able to write to you. I feel like I have the perfect answer! Please check out Beacon Day School in Oakland. It is so very and genuinely diverse; Afr-Amer, white, Asian, Hispanic, and lots of melting pot kids, lots of different family structures and also economic diversity. In my son's class, let's see, out of 17, 4 are Afr Amer, 1 Filipino, 2 Hispanic, 2 Asian, 7 white, and 1 I don't know. Plus diversity is reflected in the teaching staff not only racially, but male and female. They have a big emphasis on social skills- kindness-esteem and I guarantee she would not feel lonely or singled-out. Plus if she is academically advanced she will do quite well there, advanced kids are encouraged to 'work ahead' and the system accommodates that. In my son's class in math, for example, some are working on subtraction and some are up to 3 digit division. It is so wonderful, I hope you check it out. Even if they say they have no room, go on the tours and apply, then when a spot opens up you'll be ready to go. If finances are any sort of issue, please apply for fin. aid, if they have money left in the pool they will help you. Happy Beacon Mom

Sept 2007

Re: Private middle school that will be challenging for daughter
I would look at Beacon in Oakland. It is small and very solid. Not as glitzy as other schools with big campuses, but a great place for a middle schooler to be. Socially comfortable, and small enough where every student is fully known. anon

April 2007

We're trying to make a decision for our 9 year old regarding schools. Has anyone had experience, good or bad, with Beacon Day School in Oakland? Our daughter has a learning disability, dyxlexic type, so we are trying to figure out if this would be a good fit. Thanks. Judi

We moved our son to Beacon for fourth grade and he stayed there until he finished 8th grade this past June. He had a good experience overall. There were some incredible teachers and a couple of duds. (The administration did remove the duds so we were pleased with their leadership.) Overall, my son was accepted at 6 incredible high schools for 9th grade and now attends Head Royce. He is performing well and was definitely prepared academically to compete. Having said that, we feel Beacon is a safe, nurturing environment that provides the academics students' need without the aggressive competitiveness we felt other schools had. My son also enjoyed the art and dance programs that were integrated into the Beacon curriculum. That, plus the year round school year make it a wonderful place for our child to blossom. Good luck
Pleased Beacon Parent

Feb 2007

We've looked at past postings on Beacon Day School, but most of them are several years old. Does anyone have recent or current experience with this school? Our child will be entering 5th grade, and it's been suggested that we look here. Specificially, we are looking for thoughts on:
- quality of teaching
- thoughts on the year-round program and how it has/hans't worked for you
- does anyone have experience with a child who learns differently there
- what are the highlights and lowlights of this education
- any experience with the middle school experience?
- what are the social experiences like?
And any other feelings would be appreciated. E.

My son transferred into Beacon Middle School and has been there for a full year. I have asked him about transitioning into a school with many students intially enrolled in preschool or kindergarten. (My perception of his tranisition was that it was very smooth.) His reply confirmed that students had welcomed him from day one. They remembered him from his initial visit, offered to show him to classrooms, and he feels very at home. Beacon does a really good job integrating new students socially and academically. Beacon staff is very supportive. The student advisory system is strong and positive, and Exploratory Classes offer students exceptional opportunities. Gale

Based on three years at Beacon, from K though 2nd grade, I would say that the quality of your child's education will probably depend on which teacher you get. Our son had very good teachers for two years. For the third year, there were only 14 kids in the class, but in 12 months they never sent out one summary of what the kids were doing in class, and I am one of those parents who likes to be informed. When I complained to Beacon's administration about the disciplianry approach with my son, who has ADD, they sided with the teacher 100 percent. Also, after we transferred to our local public school in third grade, we discovered that our son had not been taught certain key math areas that are covered by the California state standards for second graders. On the positive side, we liked the idea of a year-round school, and there were very good art and music teachers. Karen

Beacon is an exceptional school where all children learn at the appropriate pace for their particular learning style. That is to say, all children have learning differences because they are all unique, and Beacon respects and encourages these characteristics through their developmental approach to learning. The teachers are very experienced, focused and thoughtful in their teaching methods and pair students who can learn from each other. The social interaction is second to none! I have never met a nicer, more respectful group of kids anywhere! While it can be hard for us adults to imagine that middle schoolers are nice, these kids go beyond all expectations in behavior. The year round schedule for the Elementary School is a blessing for the kids and for working parents as well. It is true that summertime is too long and that students do forget what they have learned. The notion I grrew up with that summer break should be 10 weeks long is really outdated and overrated. A Happy Beacon Mom

Feb 2007

Re: Private middle school for arts and sports?
Might I suggest Beacon? It sounds like a great fit for your daughter. They provide a fabulous developmental foundation for all academics; they take their time and can afford to do so because it is year-round. They have 240 instructional days vs. 180 in public or other independent schools, and for the same tuition as other independent schools. They take great pains to make sure each step is mastered before the child goes on to the next step. By 7th grade kids on average test 2 grades above averages. They have a big arts program too. You would not get the sports there; she would have to pursue track in another venue. But she could go to 4th-8th grade there and then go on to high school. Happy Beacon mom

Jan 2006

We just started Beacon School this year. It is fantastic. What a dramatic change from our public school. It is warm and friendly and the educational structure is based on research, not the latest trends. It is developmental so kids are able to work where they need to be. They get computer, music, dance, art, motor and some Spanish. The classes are small and the teachers are excellent. They don't rush the kids thru like our public school. No homework til 5th grade has been a godsend to our household. The kids test 2 grade levels above norm at 4th grade. They test below grade level before that point because they let the kids develop the way they should rather than cramming stuff down their throats. But it pays off later. Also they teach great social skills and self-confidence. Can't say enough.&nbs p; Don't let the semi-industrial setting put you off. If you can't afford it apply for a scholarship. Oh, also, it is very diverse and reflects the community at large in every way - racially, economically, academically, family structure. They are trying to build up the middle school so get in now while you still can.
Happy Beacon parent.

October 2005

Re: Oakland Elementary school for possible learning delays
Beacon Day School not only systematically nurtures social and emotional development but has staff members who are well trained in understanding learning differences. Beacon's prgoram is based on the knowledge that children have varying learning styles and that children of similar ages often learn at different paces. Often times a child's learning difference is discovered during Beacon's assessment process which is brought to the parent's attention immediately.To learn more contact Alexandra Baroni in admissions at (510) 437-2311. Weekly tours are now being conducted for the 2006-07 school year. A parent of a 3rd grader

Jan 2004

We are looking into the elementary program at Beacon in Oakland. I have read the reviews but there are not many recent ones. Specifically, I am concerned about the ''no homework'' policy that they have. Can anyone speak to the quality of their academic program? How inclusive are they of children with differences, such as learning disabilities? I would appreciate positive and negative info, as our time is running out to make a decision on which schools to apply to this year. east bay mom

Hi. My kids are 14 and 17 1/2 and both went to Beacon. We left when my elder completed 4th grade and my younger completed 1st. I thought the school was a great place for young kids. My son is in the middle of applying to college and has been accepted everywhere he applies. They both know how to use their imaginations and creativity. And the school does well with kids with special needs (from what I could see.) We left as my son was going into 5th grade, b/c by then I didn't feel like they were giving him everything he needed. He was academically advanced and they didn't always have the time to move at his speed. THis was 10+ years ago, so I don't know if they are better about that now. Barbara

Our daughter just started at Beacon this year, as a first grader. She was in a very academic program last year (East Bay School for Girls) so it was a shift for us to move from an ''academic'' to a ''developmental'' school. We couldn't be happier!

First, the homework issue. As a year-round school, Beacon is in session 48 weeks a year. There is plenty of time to learn/teach. We love it that the afternoons/evenings are for family, play and other activities. We love not nagging, reminding, and fighting over homework. At her school last year each girl was pushed to be at least one grade level above her age in math. Our daughter was at the top of her class, always finishing her work first. At the end of kindergarten she completed 1st grade math. When we got to Beacon, her teacher, who is wonderfully warm and perceptive, immediately realized that although she is fast, she really doesn't have the basic concept of numbers and that she was adding by counting her fingers (under the table at the old school, since they weren't allowed to do that...) Her teacher then had her work with manipulatives to help her have a strong foundation of numbers up to ten, even though she was doing way more ''advanced'' math last year. Our daughter is learning a lot, but with ease rather than pressure. School is about the whole child: math, reading/writing, as well as, and just as important- dance, music, art. Our daughter's creativity and joy of the arts has mushroomed this year.

We find Beacon to be extremely individualized. The class is divided into three pace groups- groups that are constantly changing based on on-going assessments that the teacher performs. Flex teachers are full-time employees of the school and they know the children and the children know them. Between the classroom teacher and the flex teacher there is plenty of individualized attention to the kids' learning needs. Thelma, Beacon's Executive Director, is a treasure. She has amazing insight to kids, knows each and every child in the school (of apprx. 250 students!) and is extremely accessible. E-mails are answered within hours, and any concerns are addressed with compassion, understanding and kindness. Beacon staff is enthusiastic and caring and they are there to work with families- both parents and children. There are many children with different needs at Beacon and Thelma will be the one to assess your child. If she determines that Beacon is the right environment for your child, you can rest assured that it will be just so- whatever your child's needs might be.

The diversity at Beacon is amazing: kids with all kinds of needs, kids of all races-truly, kids with gay parents, kids that are raised by grandparents, adopted kids, kids with guardians of all economic classes, and mostly- very content kids.

I wish you luck in your search and hope that you will decide to join the Beacon community. NF

Nov 2003

I was reading the general Q and A in the November Schools Issue and I would like to recommend Beacon School in Oakland. I would like to comment on is whether it is possible to more from public school to private school in a grade other than K or 6th. At Beacon, we do take students at all grades as long as we have space and we feel that we can meet the studnet's needs here. We have had many families successfully transition at 3rd or 4th grade. Beacon School is aware that a new school can be a hard transition for many students and we will work with the family to make it as smooth as possible.

To learn more about Beacon School, please phone us at (510) 437-2311 to arrange a tour or attend an open house. Beacon School is located on the Oakland waterfront, south of Jack London Square. We are accessible from highway 880 and city streets. abaroni at

Oct 2003

Re: Racially Diverse Private Schools

Yes -- Beacon Day School in Oakland. It is an extremely diverse school in every which way. The diversity extends to both students and teachers. Beacon has a preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Contact Alex Baroni at 437-2311 or admissions at I have 2 children at Beacon -- one in Kindergarten and one in 5th Grade. If you want to talk about my experience, email me. Linda

Beacon School in Oakland is TRULY reflective of the community in which it serves! Diversity of every kind is well represented in the staff and in the students/families who are active participants. Do yourself a favor and call Beacon to arrange a tour. You will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of kids and families that are here. Beacon also offers tuition assistance to all families in need of aid. You can call the school 's admissions office at (510) 437-2311. A parent of a 1st grader

Try Beacon School in Oakland. It's quite diverse, and has lots of African American students and teachers. There are lots of kids from single parent families, lesbian/gay families, etc. It also has an excellent before and afterschool program, which is important to single working parents. Our son started there in first grade, so I can't speak to the preschool, but we love it and our son is thriving. The Admissions Director is Alex Baroni; her number is 437-2311. Good luck with your search.
Happy Beacon Parent

May 2003

RE: Elementary Schools with Pre-K Programs
I suggest checking out Beacon Day School. My son has been at Beacon for about 18 months in the pre-k program and is moving to their kindergarten in September. They work with kids whose birthdays fall in the September-December time-frame. I've seen them move pre-schoolers into kindergarten in January as well as make adjustments to the pre-school curriculum where appropriate.

What I like best beyond the basics (good teachers, safe): True diversity - economic, racial, religious, same-sex parents, single parents, ''traditional'' families,.... Year-round school, no scrambling for summer camp. *Real* child-centered curriculum, they do understand how kids develop and learn and they teach to this, not to test scores. ''After-care'' is covered by better qualified staff than what I've seen elsewhere and they group kids by age, kindergarteners aren't on the playground with 6th graders, etc...

Things I don't like so much: The playground (it is adequate, but there is much room for improvement). The pre-school feels at times like it comes in second to the day school (K-8th grade), pre-school communication in particular has not always been timely. I'd like to see more ''outside'' classes for after-care, (my kid wants to play T-ball, soccer, karate, etc...) even if they are extra cost.

Bottom line, my son has thrived at Beacon. Beacon works particularly well for full-time working parents, but anyone looking at East Bay private schools should check it out. Happy Beacon Parent

2002 Recommendations

Re: School for HIGHLY spirited child (September 2002)
Our daughter is a very high-energy kid. She was at Beacon School for kindergarten last year, and we were delighted with it. The classes are quite small, and the teachers are excellent. She learned a great deal -- both socially and academically. Things were a little bumpy in the beginning as she adjusted to all the changes -- new school/teacher/kids and the tremendous difference between of the expectations/program of pre-school and those of kindergarten. However, she came to love her teacher and the school. We were particularly impressed with how they were able to set firm but loving limits with her, reasonably accomodate her needs, and encourage/support her strengths. For example, she loves to do cartwheels and does them all the time -- down the street, in the supermarket, and at school. It does not work to simply tell her that she cannot do them. You have to figure out how she can do them but be safe. When she began to do them in her classroom last year, the teacher talked to her about it and worked out an agreement with her that if she needed to do cartwheels, she could go to the dead-end hallway that adjoins the classroom, do them there, and then come back to class. This worked out very well and prevented the issue from becoming a big deal. Good luck with the process of finding the right school. It is difficult, demanding, and important. I hope you are able to find the right place for your child. bernie

January 2002

I have 3 children (baby, 5 and 8) and thus I am very interested in finding a school that might be terrific for our whole family someday. Specificlly, has anyone had any experiences recently with this school - including the preschool, dayschool and highschool? My 8 year old has some mild physical disabilities which can make finding the right school for him difficult. We need a school that individualizes education, offers a strong arts curriculum, welcomes diversity and offers innovative programs to benefit all types of learners. elizmckoy

Our 5 year old son is in Kindergarten at Beacon and we are very happy with it so far. We plan to send his younger brother when he turns 5. It's a bit expensive, but seemed a good value for us.

They seem to do a very good job academically, grouping kids by ability rather than age. Each child focuses on a subject till they have the proper level of mastery to move on to the next level, how ever long or short that takes. It strikes me as a good approach for kids with a wide range of ability levels. They also stress the arts, with every child having music, art and dance every week, at every grade level.

Diversity is another reason we chose Beacon. Our boys are both black, while we are a pair of gay while males. We wanted a school that makes diversity and tolerance a central part of the curriculum.

Beyond the academic and social aspects, there were several practical advantages. The school is truly year round - they have only a few weeks off a year, and they offer full early and after care, so we can drop off at 8 and pick up at 6. The fact that we don't have to plan for (and pay for) supplemental care every summer was a big plus for us. They also offer after some after school programs - we did piano lessons this year. Another nice factor - with the longer school year and longer school day, they don't give homework till the sixth grade. peter

I have two boys, 9 and 11, at Beacon. This is the fourth year our family has been there, and it has been terrific for all of us. My sons are very different learners and I've been really pleased with the flexibility and adaptability of the curriculum. The arts, dance and music instruction is excellent. And the community of parents couldn't be more welcoming and affirming. Please feel free to stay in touch if you'd like to know more. Julia

March 2001

Beacon School has year round enrollment, and we are seriously considering sending our daughter there next year. I would love any feedback on the school.

Our daughter started kindergarten there this year and I can't tell you how happy I have been. We also live in Oakland, and the thought of finding a school in our district was overwhelming. Also, although we thought maybe we could find a good K-6 school, the Jr. High situation was bad. We looking into many schools and turned them down for one reason or another. We fell in love with Beacon for the following reasons:

  • Year round classes and hours and policies geared towards families with working parents and/or hectic lives
  • Small classes (our kindergarten class has 6!)
  • Placement in classes based on Student's needs and abilities, by the headmistress Thelma.
  • Diversity (including many scholarship students that help with financial diversity)
  • The amount of time they took to give us a tour, talk about their school and answer questions
  • The non stop availability of the teachers
  • The 'Specials' (music, dance, motor, art, computer science)
  • Focus on learning, not grades or grade levels
  • And really key, the ability for Bailey to go to Beacon from K - 12th grade. We really love that she will be with most of the same kids in the same school for her whole career!
    I will be happy to share more info or answer specific questions if needed. Michelle
    From: Jennifer (9/98)

    Hi, I went through the whole interviewing process, met all the teachers and toured Beacon Day School at the beginning of the school year. I felt that it was a wonderful program! I would have put my daughter in immediately but could not afford the tuition at this time. I was particularly impressed with the psychologist who works there who has a great deal of knowledge surrounding girls and whole science and math problem. I highly recommend the program to anyone who is interested!

    From: Julia (9/98)

    Regarding Beacon Day School, my two children (ages 5 and 7) just started there this summer. It wasn't our first choice of schools-- we really wanterd to send our boys to St. Paul, but they couldn't take both of them and I wasn't up for a double commute. So why did we choose Beacon?

    (1) They were able to take both of our kids. This is good and bad-- they have space because their recruitment is not as successful as it was 5 years ago. There were some serious organizational problems about 3 years ago and they lost a lot of families. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the quality of education has not been adversely affected.

    p (2) The price is good. For non-religious private schools, Beacon is the best deal around. 12 months of instruction at Beacon costs the same as 9 months anywhere else.

    (3) Class sizes are great. My five year old is in a class of 11, seven year old is in a class of 17-- but with 2 teachers.

    (4) Year round instruction. As far as I am concerned, this is the jewel in the Beacon crown. Its much more convenient for working parents (don't worry about summer-- families are free to take their kids out for travel, camps, whatever-- at their convenience), and the instructional continuity is much better for kids.

    (5) Diversity. Beacon has a lot of racial diversity for a private school. This was important to us because our seven year old had been in Berkeley Public Schools and we had positive feeling about the racial mix there. Beacon really isn't that different.

    From: Z (9/98)

    My daughter attended Beacon for four years. She will be attending a new school this fall. The preschool staff is excellent and she really enjoyed the first year there. I would feel comfortable recommending the preschool but, my son started Kindergarten this year and we did not consider it as an option, nor could I recommend it. They have changed directors four times during that period; they have greatly reduced staff (My daughter's first year was in a preschool class with 9 students and one teacher AND aide. All of the classes are larger and there are no aides, the "flexes" fill in while teachers are absent instead of actually assisting.) There is a considerable problem attracting and maintaining girl students (my daughter's 3rd grade class had 2 girls and 12 boys for the first 6 months before a third girl arrived); there seems to be a large percentage of ADD/ ADHD students in the upper grades (there was a full time resource teacher for children with learning disabilities when we started but she also lost her job due to budget cutbacks) and several teachers have been leaving and looking for work elsewhere which is what we finally decided to do. If you do decide to send your daughter to the preschool, I can speak highly of Donnell Thomas & Eli Kirk Moffett as teachers. They were my daughter's first and excellent.