- Bentley's elementary and middle schools are in Oakland; Bentley High School is in Lafayette: 1000 Upper Happy Valley Road, Lafayette, CA 94549
Give the Bentley School a call. The school is close to UC Berkeley with children of professors in attendance. It's a well-rounded program with strong academics, plenty of art, music, PE, and foreign languages.
I have one child at Bentley and another at Urban. We choose to send our son, who was admitted to both, to Bentley over Urban.
We find Bentley to have very good academics without having quite the homework load of Urban. There are definitely differences in homework load at the schools on your list! For example, CPS and Urban have more homework than Bentley. At this level of school, there really isn't any busy work at all. So those CPS/Urban students are actually learning more during those extra hours of work. The question you have to ask is how much homework do you think would be good for your child. We find that Bentley has been much more willing to consider and often honor our requests in term of things like class schedules. We find that Bentley is much more open to meeting with parents, while Urban insists that students advocate for themselves, This sounds good in theory, but when confronted with a panel of teachers/administrators who have all the power, it is extremely difficult for a lone 14-year-old to argue with them. (This occurred because the student wanted to take a higher level science course, not because the student had done anything wrong.) There is also the issue of the commute. Not only does this take time from the student's day, it impacts their social life. My son gets to spend more time with his Bentley friends because they are all in the East Bay. If you send your student to school in San Francisco, most of their friends will be less accessible. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My son attended private schools through elementary/middle school, but we were seriously considering Berkeley HS for high school. We ended up choosing Bentley high school, and so far we are very happy with it. You did mention Bentley in your list, but I feel like it's an undiscovered gem for Berkeley residents, many of whom don't seem to have even heard of it. People are always like, ''Lafayette?? Isn't that far away?'' but in fact if you live near or in the Berkeley Hills you can get there in 20 minutes; or 15 if you live in the Elmwood or Rockridge area. They also run a shuttle to/from BART. We visited a number of private schools, and were very impressed with the quality of the teaching at Bentley. CPS is excellent too, but harder to get into, and reportedly the kids there get TONS of homework. So far the homework load at Bentley seems quite reasonable. Berkeley Bentley family
RE: which private middle school?
Hi, I spent a substantial amount of time researching and ''getting to know'' the schools you mention , as well as others. I found that speaking with current parents is perhaps the best way to really get to know a school. We ended up choosing Bentley. So I can speak a bit more specifically about our experience with the areas you are asking about:
In contrast to some of the other schools you mentioned, Bentley has historically been an elementary/middle school, and only in the last few decades has it added a high school. The high school is very strong and upcoming. But it's not as prestigious as Head-Royce or College Prep. The elementary school is small, and feels small, on a quaint, tightly-knit campus separate from the high school. Bentley is all about this elementary experience. It's warm and challenging, and you really do feel that every administrator and teacher really knows your child. The scale suits an elementary school.
Quality of education is great. Work is individualized. The teachers truly know your kids. Feedback, in terms of progress reports or parent-teacher meetings, is highly specific and consistently conveys the sense that work is being tailored to your son or daughter's strengths and weaknesses. It's a challenging program--not *the* most challenging: that title might go to The Academy in Berkeley. But rigorous and meaningful.
Diversity: so so. It's a very warm and welcoming campus, and parents get along great. Plenty of families of color and a student body representing the socioeconomic range. But not a *strength* of the school that would put it ahead of other independent school options. SP is the winner in this category, for sure.
Visual Arts: extremely strong. A major point of emphasis. Ask for samples of what kids are working on, or published materials of kids' work from years' past. Talk to the current art teacher, Faye Kendall. She's great.
Sports: it's a ''sporty'' school. The high school has phenomenal facilities and the teams do well. The elementary school is small, so there's not a ton of room for sports. But kids definitely get out for basketball, soccer, football, four square and the like.
After school program: Lots of great offerings (math, language, chess, sports, etc., etc.), or supervised free time at ''no charge''.
Critical thinking: Really good. A sense of STEM thinking that permeates all classroom experiences, not just those geared toward science or math per se. Kids are challenged to think, hypothesize, create, engineer, test, re-engineer, and assess. In a very supportive atmosphere.
Inclusivity is strong. I have not seen or heard of incidents of bullying, which in my experience is rare there. The kids genuinely seem to care for each other. It's just a warm, intimate setting.
Best of luck!!! BentleyParent
Bentley Middle School Question
I have heard different reviews regarding the Bentley Middle School. How are the academics these days? Are they still the best around? And while it seems that many of the teachers are excellent, it also seems that turnover is high. Does anybody have any insight regarding the current state of Bentley Middle School?? anon
I have a child in the Bentley Middle School and yes, the academics are still the best around. The academic rigor provided by the teaching staff is well balanced with thoughtful electives such as theater, sports, STEM, art, etc. The children who graduate from Bentley MS are well prepared and adjust easily to the area's most rigorous high schools. They possess strong organizational skills, along with strong reasoning and writing skills, and an advanced math foundation. More importantly they are well rounded, caring young people. The faculty takes the time to truly know and support each kid, and to cultivate their individual passions. While there has been some turnover in the past, I don't believe it is any more than any other Bay Area private middle school. In fact as I write this, I can only think of two new teachers this year, and both have been phenomenal additions to the teaching team. Couldn't be happier
Hi I currently have a 7th grader at Bentley (and 2 kids at the high school) so we're now on our third time through the Middle School. We've found the academics continue to be excellent. All 3 of our kids are different students with different interests and the curriculum is both thoughtful and challenging. With foreign language offerings like Mandarin and Latin (in addition to Spanish and French) several levels of math, lab sciences, a wide range of electives and an active sports program - to just name a few things - it's really just a great school. As far as teacher turnover, I haven't find there to be a lot. There may be one any given year due to maternity leave (the science and math teachers are women!) or relocation - the Bay area has a lot of transition- but it's not any more than I think you'd find in any other school. One of the History PhDs at the US was taught as a Bentley 8th grader by the still-teaching History teacher! And he came to the MS to school to teach a history class! Jennifer
My child is currently in 6th grade at Bentley. I don't know what previous reviews have said, but we've found the academics to be excellent, with one exception. The science teacher is currently functioning as the middle school head, and the science curriculum is suffering. I'm not sure why they haven't filled in that gap yet, and I was very sorry that their former middle school head left the school; he was fantastic. I don't know why they have asked the science teacher to serve in an administrative capacity while also attempting to teach science. I hope they'll address it soon. They had some complaints about the humanities curriculum in the fall, and they addressed that issue right away. The new humanities teacher is fantastic.
All the 6th graders take Latin and one other language (Mandarin, Spanish, or French). Latin has been great for the kids both for their other language (if it's Spanish or French) and for humanities (e.g., vocabulary development, which they learn by also learning and studying their root meanings), and somewhat for science.
Math is GREAT. There are fewer than 40 students in 6th grade, and they are separated into 4 classes for math. There are two math teachers. Ours is amazing. I don't have direct experience with the other, but I've heard she's great too. The students are all pushed as hard as they are able to go, and maybe slightly farther than they'd think, and with such small classes, which they separated very carefully by skill level, the students are pretty much getting individualized and very challenging math appropriate for their own skill levels.
Some of the electives (e.g., Robotics) are also more academically oriented, and even the ''fun'' electives (e.g., drama) can be pretty rigorous (they are known for their performing arts, particularly in the upper school). And while they don't talk about it much, even things like gardening elective covered some of the science curriculum such as life cycles, plant growth, ecosystems, and they also covered some agriculture, nutrition, food prep, and tasting everything edible.
My child has been working hard at the homework, which is rigorous, but the teachers are also very good about answering questions that come up (and yes, they answer email!), and they seem to explain things well, and go over issues that didn't sink in the first time. They also have an academic prep elective, which is basically QUIET homework time. I've been surprised how many students take it, and I'd guess it's so they don't have to spend as much time doing homework after school--particularly good for kids who have other commitments like music lessons or sports teams.
So, short answer: yes, the academics are great, with the one exception I mentioned. We haven't had every single class and elective, but the things we've had are going well and students are definitely given an opportunity to learn a lot, and learn quickly. And they can go beyond the basic requirements and the teachers will support it.
I'd suggest bringing up your concerns and questions with the head of school, and the interim head of the middle school (although I'm not sure she could give you an objective answer about the 6th grade science curriculum).
I have heard very good things about the 7th and 8th grade science teachers and curriculum from other parents, but can't answer those questions directly as I don't have direct experience with it.
I did not see the original post so my apologies if I am not right on the mark. Our daughter attended Bentley through MS and ''graduated'' the lower school 2 years ago. Unfortunately unlike the other posters, our experience was not entirely positive. Some of her teachers were excellent and caring, some of the curriculum challenging and interesting for her. There were other teachers she could not connect with and whom she reported seemed to play favorites. She felt like no matter what she did, she would always come up short. We were quite disappointed with the quality of some of the assignments she received, and -- more importantly -- with the quality of the feedback she got from those assignments. Knowing how you fall short of expectations set for an assignment is a critical learning opportunity, and she often did not get that. Also there have been WAY too many changes -- in the administration and the faculty -- over the last several years. In some classes we went through more than one teacher in a year! We never received formal notification when a teachers left midstream, let alone some kind of explanation, or an introduction to the new teacher. On a number of occasions we scheduled appointments to speak with teachers or the MS head about some of these issues. Initially we felt that the responses were very constructive and positive, for example we were told that a specific issue we raised -- a teacher who yelled at the students (which made our daughter very uncomfortable, even when she wasn't the one being yelled at) -- was legitimate and would be addressed, but over time we realized that nothing was actually happening (in the case of the teacher who yelled, she kept right on yelling). Disappointed in Bentley MS
Re: Compare Beacon, Bentley and Park
Bentley is definitely more academically oriented, although they also take great care of the kids' social development. We came in at middle school, so I can't tell you much about the elementary school, except that the kids all seem sweet, and the kids seem to respect differences, and they all seem to LOVE school. And while the lower & middle schools are kind of ''together'' - eg they all attend ''town hall'' together - they also address the needs of the middle school kids specifically (and very well, in my opinion).
Not all of the kids are academic geniuses, but they will also accommodate very smart kids easily, and they work with kids who are struggling. And I don't think there's a limit to what a child can learn there. All the elementary kids take a language, and some of them end up fluent. They were slightly ahead of us in math--though the middle school math teachers are fabulous, and we have caught up and sailed ahead already. All the 6th graders also take Latin, from a GREAT teacher, who's also a lot of fun--and this helps in English as well. And all the classes are really well connected--sometimes I can't tell if a homework assignment came from Latin or Humanities or something else. We are very happy at Bentley, and the academics (AND social/emotional support) have been great! The classes are small: 15-18 in K-5, 20-21 in 6-8. There are only 2 classes per grade at this level. The big kids seem nice to the little kids, and the big kids don't have to grow up too soon-they still call it recess for them, and sometimes they play with the little kids.
Other considerations: if you're in Alameda, Bentley has a bus from there--it would be a long ride, and it's not free, but at least you won't have to do the drive. They were talking recently about a return bus as well. I don't know the outcome of that, nor the routes or times or anything, but they can tell you. Also, before and after-school care is INCLUDED in the tuition, which means not only do you not have to add on more to what you'll pay, but your child can go into the after care, or not, whenever you feel like it (or if you're running late). And even if you're a non-working parent, you can still take advantage of it (or let your kids have an afterschool playdate at school). And no stigma about kids who use the after care. Also, Bentley has a high school, so you won't have to do it all over again if you don't want to, although the high school is in Lafayette, which seems like a bit of a trek from Alameda (though they also have a bus)
Good luck with the process.
Re: Entering 8th & 5th Grade from overseas
I hope you will strongly consider Bentley School. This is our 5th year and we are delighted with it.
The combination of ''strong and progressive academics'' you seek can be hard to find (it's easy to find one or the other) but it defines Bentley. The school has an emphasis on academics and yet at the same time stays up-to-date on improved pedagogical thinking, as is supported by solid research, without chasing flavor-of-the-season trends. The teachers are, of course, amazing (I would think that's true of all the schools on your list) and highly engaged -- they are not hired unless they have a strong interest in additional personal training and development.
Fitting with your international backgrounds, Bentley has a atrong language program -- K-5 kids all study Mandarin, Spanish or French; your middle schooler would have the additional choice of Latin. Also, by way of example (and again this is likely true of the other schools on your list), the kids in my child's grade have parents and/or grandparents born in China, Israel, Korea, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Greece, Germany, The Caribbean -- and those are just the ones I know well. Many of those families are mixed, like yours.
Social responsibility and social/emotional development is woven into the curriculum, daily classroom experiences, and personal interactions; there are overt programs in place as well. K-5 participate in a program my daughter loves, called PACT (Positive Action Character Team). Middle schoolers focus on community service, and at the upper school the social responsibility emphasis is on the global community. On top of that, throughout the year you'll see multiple student-originated initiatives to raise money and awareness, maybe also collect goods (food, gym shoes, school supplies, etc.), for a wide range of local and global causes.
Regarding your transition -- just yesterday I introduced a mom who was new last year to one who's new this year, and they immediately started talking excitedly about how well the transition has gone for their children and their families. I hope you'd have the same experience.
Those are all good schools on your list. Come and visit as many as you can -- just make sure you don't miss Bentley! OAK mom
Re: Prospect Sierra, Bentley, or Redwood Day?
As the parent of a former Bentley daughter (1996-2005), I can't speak to how good the school is for boys (and enough of the teachers she/we loved are gone that I doubt our experiences would be very relevant at this point), but I would suggest you consider a factor that I seldom see mentioned: distance. We lived on the north side of Berkeley at the time. The daily schlep across town (with or without carpool) was a strain, and the distance definitely factored into our decisions whether or not to attend certain after-school & evening events. And, although all the schools draw from the greater East Bay, it seemed to me that there was a core group at each school that lived nearby -- which affected everything from play dates in kindergarten to parties in middle school. Just something else to keep in mind as you try to choose between three great schools. Glad not to be doing that drive any more
Re: Bentley and Head Royce 2nd and 3rd grade teachers
Our daughter is currently in second grade at Bentley and she is having an amazing year. Both second teachers are truly excellent - at the top of their games - and I have not heard one single complaint about either since the beginning of the year. On the contrary, I hear comments like ''Ms. B really gets my child and she is so caring'', ''With Ms. L's positive comments and annotations on my child's homework, my son is so motivated to practice what he has learned in the classroom at home'', and ''You can't go wrong with either teacher - my child is so happy''. The amount of feedback that we receive in meetings, weekly letters, and most recently in the parent-teacher conferences has made us feel so connected to our daughter's classroom experience. Along with top notch academics, there has been a strong emphasis on creating an environment that is supportive,respectful, collaborative - all in all, a great environment for our daughter.
My daughter is in the 1st grade at Bentley and I specifically chose the school because I know the teachers to be intelligent, creative, and kind. I have been a teacher myself for 13 years and understand the importance of these qualities in the folks my child spends so much time with every day! I can't speak to HR, they probably have very engaged teachers as well but I CAN tell you without a doubt that at Bentley the teachers (Not just classroom--- Art, Creative Movement, World Languages, Library, P.E. and aftercare teachers--) will ensure your child is well-known and nurtured. My daughter loves school and her teachers. Parent of a Happy Kid
Re: Bentley vs. Head Royce for K
I have 2 girls at Bentley. I have a child in the Lower School and one in the middle school. We really like the teachers. If you have any questions for them, they get back to you within 24 hrs. Both kindergarten teachers are really good at teaching kindergarten. I know that Bentley gives the teachers lots of opportunity to do professional development. The teachers really seem to care about all of the students in there classes. I like how my daughters teachers have been able to teach to a variety of learning styles. The teachers really keep the kids challenged and engaged while teaching. The Bentley school has a well rounded program. I also have to say that the location is great and I like that before and after school child are is included in the tuition. Hope this helps. We really love Bentley. Adrian
My child has been very happy at Bentley and so have we. It's a wonderful, joy filled, school with excellent teachers, staff and parent community. They are brilliant, with communication and feedback. Teachers, parents and students have access to a website that outlines classroom business, homework, pictures, news, report cards...you name it.
It is smaller than Head Royce both in area and population but for us that has been a bonus. You will know our Head of school. You will know your child's teachers, all of them. And you will know many, many or our Bentley families. A smaller campus naturally results in familiarity. Our child feels extremely comfortable in her surroundings. She has made friends with many students and teachers in the upper grades. They invite her to play, and help her with homework when she asks. This strong community is fostered through buddy programs, and PACT (positive action character teams) family groups. PACT families bring together students from K thru 5 to work together to brainstorm on campus issues, ranging from recycling to conflict resolution. Imagine 5th graders helping Kindergartners put together a presentation for the entire lower school? I could go on...but suffices to say, It's really a special place.
As far as academics, they are terrific. The curriculum is delivered in an exciting and creative way. Teachers are encouraged to explore and find what works best for their students. Lessons are frequently woven into games, challenges and puzzles that generate great excitement at home. It is rigorous, but not overwhelming.
As far as commute, I don't remember from your original post which direction you are driving from, but if you are in Berkeley, Bentley is an easy commute. The drop off system is well oiled and efficient. You don't ever have to leave your car unless you want to. If you are headed to SF from here the traffic on 13 can be ugly, but it's not going to be any better from Head Royce. A quick shot down Ashby and you can hop on BART. Thats what we do and it's easy. Hope this helps. Best of luck whichever school you choose. Happy Bentley Parent
Re: Considering Head Royce and Bentley for kindergarten
My children have attended both Head Royce and Bentley lower schools and I have only good things to say about each. Both schools have extremely nurturing environment with involved parents and teachers, and there is no dearth of art, music, science, math, all incorporated in a variety of ways into the curriculum. Additionally, the kids are wonderful, bright and exuberant, and the teachers by and large committed to their classrooms!! I believe the HRS lower school may have a few more students than Bentley, although the class sizes were the similar when my kids were in elementary school. The parents at both schools are devoted to their kids and come in many stripes and colors so it is not difficult to make lasting friends.
The main difference is that Bentley tends to be a bit more rigorous in lower school, and does not have a pool or tennis courts, which HRS kids enjoy. HRS is K-12 on the same campus, and is bigger overall, which is a plus for some and not for others. Both lower schools are extremely good. Feel free to email me [the moderator will give you my info] if you would like to know more. Grateful for, and happy with, Bentley and HRS
We too had the opportunity to experience both lower schools. They are both excellent academically. My sense is B may be slightly more rigorous with homework and class materials (one grade ahead in each grade is often quoted). At HR homework did not begin until second grade and in a very relaxed manner. At B language in lower school include French, Spanish, and Mandarin starting in K. HR only French and Spanish, but I think they plan to add Mandarin. I do like that at HR middle school doubles in size. At B the only new addition of students (due to campus size limitation) is from attrition until high school. Some like the fact that the high school is on a separate B campus, but I like the one campus location at HR which allows students to interact academically, benefiting both the younger and older kids. Having a pool is nice for the lower school kids and also access to tennis courts, etc. I also feel that over the past several years there has been more stability in faculty at HR than at B. There has been some issues with instability of the administration at B including the admissions department and head of school. This may be improving. HR head who was phenomenal retired after ~30 years 2 yrs ago and a new head, Rob Lake, joined HRS and his 2 kids enrolled in school. Seems like a good fit. Teachers at both school are excellent and I think it is really important to meet them and get a sense of their methods as well as how they feel about the school. Also really important to meet as many parents as possible, though overall I do not see a significant difference in the personalities, socioeconomic, ethnic diversity between the two schools. Possibly a bit more diverse at HR at least socioeconomically. In these economically challenged times you need to look at the financial stability of schools as well (like the Windrush school bankruptcy scare). B had plans to start building a new middle school, but they halted those plans few years ago. HR already finished the construction of a beautiful high school 4-5 years ago. Parking (neighborhood relationship) is an issue with both schools, but I think a bigger headache at B. I did not like that Friday's were short days at B, and also school being out the entire week before Thanksgiving (though rumor has it HR may close for the TG week in the future). Both are excellent schools. We did end up moving our Bently child to HRS as it was a better fit for us. You will know too if you spend the time to get to know the schools which is a better fit for your child(ren). anon
I have two children at Bentley - a fourth grader and a first grader. Both children started at Bentley in Kindergarten.
I know your child will enter kindergarten next year, so I will certainly address Bentley's K program. But since this first year will go very quickly, it is important to carefully consider and evaluate the educational experience beyond kindergarten.
First, Bentley's kindergarten program is excellent. There are two classrooms, and the teachers are quite creative and collaborative. 5 and 6-year olds require entertainment, structure, and discipline, and Robb Hedges and Stacey Norman weave together a program that caters to children at different learning stages. The children learn and progress quickly, and their love for these two teachers is more than apparent. My first grader had an excellent K experience, and is now quite enjoying 1st grade.
The early grade levels set the stage for more focused learning as the kids develop and mature. I am amazed at some of the work my 4th grader is doing. Yes, I think she is bright, but the instruction, mentoring, and nurturing she is receiving makes her excited about learning - and her favorite subjects are math, science, and Mandarin. Actually, there aren't any subjects she dislikes.
Bentley is truly a special place. The teachers are fabulous. The student population is quite diverse. And the students seem truly happy and engaged.
Assuming you have the opportunity to select between Bentley and Head Royce, you can't go wrong with either. Both are excellent K-12 private schools. Spend as much time as possible at both schools. Get to know the faculty and administration. Think about what will be best for your child now, several years from now, etc. Meet as many current parents as possible to see how you would fit in. This will become your community too, not just your child's. If you prefer one school - tell them they are your first choice.
Good luck with the process. Try and enjoy it, and remember that the selection process is mutual and both you and the schools want to make the best long-term decision. A Happy Bentley Parent
Re: Head Royce or Bentley?
Both our children are at Bentley and really enjoy it there. Our son just started kindergarten and our daughter is in second grade. It is an intimate community and the kids receive a great deal of attention from their teachers. The quality of teachers and the curriculum are also very impressive. The tours are stating in January. I would suggest joining one and seeing the school in action. Hope this helps.
Bentley Upper School
Does anyone have any experience with the Bentley Upper School? We have an 8th grader who has some learning differences (slow processing, dysgraphia) and are considering Bentley for high school. Our current option is our local public high school, which is an excellent school but is very academically competitive and perhaps not the best fit for our son. Bentley is very impressive, but am curious as to how they really work with kids with his sort of issues. (FYI, our son is a sweet, conscientious kid with no behavioral concerns.) Any thoughts/perspective appreciated. Many thanks. (BTW, we are also looking at Orinda Academy, but have some concerns that he might not fit in as well there socially.) MiddleSchoolMom
We have had two teens attend Bentley. One son started at Orinda Academy and then transferred to Bentley and has done well there. The other son had slow processing and needed some accomodations. Bentley was very responsive to his needs and he had a very positive learning experience there. I would be glad to talk to you further about this decision since we too vacilated between the two schools. Feel free to contact me.
Re: Middle School for son with advanced math & science
Since we were in a very good district, we tried public kindergarten for our daughter after 3 years of preschool at our Temple. K was fine so we continued there to first grade. This school's API rating is in the 900s. We volunteered to ''help out'' at math time once a week and what we saw caused us to look for a private school for our child - and she started in third grade at Bentley School, K-8, which is located at the bottom of Hiller Highlands (Oakland/Berkeley border). No school is perfect but we got the main thing we were looking for - a school to challenge our daughter academically. She continued there through middle school (6, 7, 8). The classes are small which can be good, and can be bad!
Then we made the mistake of deciding to send her to the local public, very highly rated high school, for 9th grade. After a month it became clear that in fact Bentley K-8 school does prepare students 1-2 years ahead of the public schools academically. She was bored and not challenged at all. We quickly fixed that mistake and sent her to Bentley High school after about a month at the public high school.
In summary, Bentley K-8 school teaches 1-2 years ahead of the public schools, so if your child is not challenged and likes academics, I would highly recommend Bentley, and the high school seems great so far! (Bentley high school is in Lafayette). Anon
Re: Choosing a high school for our daughter
My daughter had been diagnosed with Asperger's, was very shy and also had low self-esteem. We sent her to Bentley and she had a very good experience there. It's a small school and we found it both rigorous and ''touchy-feely'' (for lack of a better word). The teachers were very good, very kind and always ready and willing to help with any problems.
Because the school is so small, my daughter was able to form friendships with students in all the grades, not just hers, which I think provided her with social interactions she wouldn't have had in a bigger school.
My daughter did not have learning disabilities per se, though she had trouble with executive function. Bentley was very helpful in that regard, because they taught organization techniques to the students and there was a lot of one-on-one teacher/student interaction.
We have not had personal experience with Orinda Academy, but two of my friends sent their children there and quickly removed them when they found that the school did not seem to know that their kids were leaving campus during the day and getting into all kinds of trouble.
Good luck with your school search. In hindsight I will say, don't worry about your daughter being in the perfect school. As long as she can get the attention she needs from the teachers and can meet some friendly kids, she will be OK.
Reply to query about Bentley Upper School Dec 2010
1. The basic curriculum is not easy but not especially demanding either but if you take honors and AP classes, especially in math and science, it can become very demanding. I gather CPS classes are uniformly demanding.
2. The problems of a few years ago concerned the then headmaster who has since left.
3. Bentley has many strengths and most students get excited about something--academics, arts, sports. Students may not be motivated when they arrive but become motivated because they become interested. My daughter loved the school and I had only a few problems with it. First, their inflexible college prep requirements, which go beyond the UC a-g requirements in several respects, are largely academic and should not be for everyone. However, Bentley just will not alter them unless a student fails a class. Second, they have a sports program but required PE program. Finally, they require a lot of jumping through hoops to establish minimal accommodations for their LD students. Bentley alum parent
This is in response to several postings soliciting feedback on Bentley Upper School. Our daughter is a senior and has loved every minute of her 4 years there and these are the things she (as well as we) especially like.
1. Teachers are amazing- involved in the school, engaged with the students, and great in the classroom. The academics are top notch with challenging AP and Honors classes but there are also choices for a less rigorous academic course.
2. Brian Thomas, the current Upper School head (for the past 3 years) is immersed in the school at all levels, interested in every student, and really strives to make the upper school a special place. Arlene Hogan, the current Bentley Headmaster (after serving as acting head for a year) is very experienced, well connected and dedicated to making Bentley a superior school.
3. The feel of the Upper School is quite dynamic and diverse. Things like Town Meeting, the drama productions (many student led), the student philanthropic involvement in projects like Bay Sudan, Debate and of course the Friday BBQ club create a vibrant student culture. Bentley Parent
Our son has been going to Bentley School for kindergarten and has had a fantastic experience. Bentley's program is solidly academic, yet allows the children a chance to explore areas of interest, engage in social learning and use creativity in every classroom setting. Everything about the school is praiseworthy, from its language program (the children are exposed to Spanish, French and Mandarin) to its core academic program (which includes a fabulous science program) to its arts and music program. In addition, the children get physical education and movement classes three days per week. The after care program is bundled into the tuition and is marvelous! There are both indoor and outdoor games, arts and crafts, free play and additional classes. My son is taking ''Crazy Chemistry'' this semester and loves it. Choices for after care are abundant--everything from basketball to cooking / gardening to dance to karate to chess to music (the music program is exceptional). Finally, the Bentley campus is a safe, beautiful spot where children can explore and learn among highly qualified and vibrant faculty. We're so happy to find our son thriving at Bentley. I highly recommend the school! CR
My daughter is 14 and started at Berkeley High in the IB program this year. In the past, she loved school, but it's gotten increasingly more difficult socially over the years. She excels in school academically (this is a kid who read The Hobbit in first grade) but is bothered by the general attitude of most of the students and teachers who don't care about actually learning. She is also suffering under a huge load of busywork. We're looking into alternate options, especially Maybeck, for next year. Is there anyone who has transferred their child from BIHS to Maybeck?
When my daughter was applying to high schools we visited Maybeck and liked it very much. It's small enough that you can actually get to know the other kids, and the teachers and staff seemed very friendly and concerned. In the end we chose to send our daughter to Bentley which is somewhat larger, and has tons of extracurricular activities like drama, sports, and art both during and after school. She's very happy there, and seems to enjoy both the academic challenges and the social aspects of high school. VG
Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
Interesting question to pose...I have experience only with Bentley and would say you son will likely learn something new everyday in all subjects. Further, the desire to learn is expected and supported from administration, teachers and fellow classmates and your son may find making friends easy in this environment. Social and emotional growth is also supported with guidance from a staff psychologist. Bentley mom of an 8th grader
We are in the midst of the high school application process, and our daughter has expressed a strong interest in Bentley upper school. We have questions we don't feel we have clear answers to, and are hoping for feedback from people with some exposure to the school about:
1. The academic rigor/homework load. My impression of the lower and middle school is that they are very rigorous, but the upper school is less rigorous than say, CPS or Head-Royce (which are both great institutions, but need kids who are motivated to be there). What do you think?
2. I'm under the impression that the school went through a fair amount of turmoil a few years ago - what were the issues? Has it stabilized since then?
3. Any feedback or comments overall?
Thanks; we'd love to get some recent feedback - we're trying to figure out what would be the best match for our daughter, and are daunted by the volume of choices! 8th Grade Parent
Bentley is plenty challenging. Our son is a sophomore, he works very hard and gets good grades. The classes are small and the teachers know the ''kids'' really well. The list of college acceptances is diverse and spans the range of opportunities.
The head of school is a warm and intelligent man. The staff has had some turnover, but teachers like to move around a bit.
I feel that Bentley is the right school for our son. Your child will likely know which school feels right for them and there is no formula. However, Bentley is competitive and rigorous while maintaining a warm friendly atmosphere. Happy
1.) The academic rigor/homework load: The homework is fairly significant but clearly tied to what is being taught in the classroom. The school is academic without a doubt but also has a sense of where the balance should be for a student seeking to have a full and enriching high school experience. My son is in 9th grade now and chose Bentley over Athenian and Head Royce because he felt an intrinsic fit for his values. He has been exceptionally happy and so have we. Our daughter hears such great things from her brother that she has set Bentley as her school of choice for 2012. Re: the homework load, keep in mind that the block schedule provides a great deal of opportunity for students to work on portions of this during the day as well as meet with faculty to get questions answered.
2.) Turmoil in the past: yes, there were a few years of transition for the school overall but wow, the team that is in place now is dedicated, full of energy and enthusiasm and you can just feel the electricity from the team. Any school will have the transition years and I have to say that Bentley is better for having gone through the self review process and they have emerged with style. I am excited to be a part of the new Bentley.
3.) Comments overall: Great school, nice parents, a sense of place, dedicated teachers, kind students, very amazing group of talented kids...we were at the Winter Concert last night listening to Jazz, Choir, Strings and a bit of rock and roll, very inspiring. Bentley is a place where your child can be who he/she is and live up to their own dreams.
I would say that the one area still being worked on is email communication. At this point there are too many emails from too many folks on too many different days. I believe they are working to correct the lack of communication from the past but it is a process in transition and I think this will get better. kd
We are looking at Bentley Lower School for our son and are wondering if someone can give us their opinion. We've heard some good and not so good things. We are looking for a nurturing environment that also challenges our son academically but is not inappropriately rigorous. What about teacher turnover, administration, homework load, diversity (ethnic and socio-economically)? Is it a warm place? Are teachers approachable? Any thoughts are appreciated. concerned dad
Dear Concerned Dad,
Your questions are good ones, and similar to the ones we had when looking at the school. We have several children at Bentley, our oldest being in 3rd grade, and we couldn't be happier.
The curriculum is rigorous and academic, no doubt, but not to any degree where a child might feel overwhelmed. The teachers make the difference. They form a strong bond with the kids and are able to work not only with the group on a core curriculum, but also individually with kids who may need support in certain areas, or for those who need to be challenged ahead of the group. We have a range of learners in our family and throughout the years the teachers never cease to amaze me in how they understand and provide what each child needs developmentally.
This is true for languages (a choice of Mandarin, Spanish or French), physical education, computers and music. I have had each of those teachers stop me and tell me something about my different children, how they're helping them with an area or proud of their progress.
As for the administration, there have been changes. Arlene Hogan is a very experienced and thoughtful new Head of School, we are lucky to have her. The campus has a Diversity Committee and I've seen a greater range of ethnicities here than I have on other campuses. Economically, scholarships are discreet and any show of financial advantage is infrequent. It's very much a community to be a part of -- if that's what you want. For two working parents, the before and after school programs are wonderful and resemble my old neighborhood where all the kids mixed and had a great time.
All in all, we feel lucky -- and most importantly -- our kids feel lucky every day to be at Bentley. Lisa
I have to disagree with the previous poster on the Bentley curriculum as 'rigorous and academic.'. Depends on what your standards are. After several years in the lower school we had to leave as our children were not being challenged at all by the curriculum. We found the school taught to the middle and the really bright kids were left bored in class. There are several teachers who, in our opinion, are not able to provide an advanced curriculum. In May of 2nd grade the children were just starting to do basic division (in the school we moved to, 2nd grade in March was doing long division). There was almost no science curriculum in the lower school as we experienced it. There was no writing instruction, just write a story and edit for capitalization. Our children love to write and were frustrated with the lack of content in writing instruction. And yet parents were complaining that students were too pressured and there was a strong push to eliminate homework in the lower school. I think whether a child will thrive at Bentley depends on parents' own standards of what is rigorous, and these will differ for parents depending on their background, as well as on the child's own nature, ability and interests. Our children are cognitively thirsty thirsty thirsty and Bentley did not quench that thirst. Greener pastures
Our experience at Bentley for our two children has been overwhelmingly positive. We have found the Lower School teachers to be warm and nurturing, and highly skilled at making learning interesting and fun. The school seems to hit the right balance regarding academic rigor; the teachers are invested in helping our children succeed and they partner with us to ensure that they are on track to do so. Homework, thus far, has been manageable and enjoyable, although at times both of our children have complained about it. The parent community is amazing, and very diverse. Though, many families receive financial aid, it is not apparent exactly who does which we see as positive - everybody seems to be accepted. Our new Head, Arlene Hogan, is very approachable and experienced.
I am the parent of a kindergartner and second grader at Bentley Lower School. We are a two parent working family of Indian origin and specifically selected Bentley for it's diversity, challenging academic curriculum, and art/music program. Bentley has far surpassed our expectations in all areas. During our selection process, a diverse environment and challenging academic curriculum was on the top of our list. In addition to living up to those expectations, we are so pleased to find that Bentley is also a nurturing and loving environment for our children. The Bentley community has essentially become a family to us. We have found the teachers to be in tune with our children and aware of their needs beyond just developing their love for learning. My only criticism of Bentley is that they were not located in an area convenient for me to attend as a child! The Bentley teachers are creative in their approach and do not expect each child to be at the same level. We have found the kindergarten through 2nd grade curriculum, to date, to be hands on (as opposed to just book learning as I was taught as a child). The new Balanced Literacy program, where children read at their ''just right'' level, and the Handwriting Without Tears program are amazing additions to the lower school curriculum. For example the approach to first grade science was not learning about seeds and seedlings from books and pictures; the kids each planted their own seeds (multiple varieties), they sliced the flower stems and kept each in different colored water vases to see how the flowers were affected, the highlight was that each class had their own incubator and watched chicks hatch in their own classrooms, and they also studied pond habitats when learning about frogs by actually creating their own ponds. On the social front, the teachers are very aware of the social dynamics between kids and teach them the right tools to deal with conflict. The PACT family program merges children from different grades to role play and play games to deal with various issues including bullying, conflict, and conflict resolution. Although Bentley's reputation is founded on its challenging academic curriculum I can honestly represent that the needs of ''the whole child'' are clearly addressed. My children look forward to school and are happy. They do have homework starting in kindergarten, but there have been no complaints so far. The homework typically is reading for 15 minutes (by parent, child, or together) and 5 minutes for reinforcing handwriting a letter and/or number that was the focus of the class for the day. There is not enough space here for me to continue to express my thoughts about Bentley, but I truly encourage you to contact Erik Silk or Wendy Berardi in the Admissions Office to answer questions, arrange for a tour, attend an open house, or even ask to speak to a parent (including me). Thanks, Anjali
After reading the comments from ''Greener pastures'', we feel to respond, not to defend, by giving our perspective. We have a daughter, currently in 2nd grade, who was bright at a very young age. Even though she is an entire year younger than some of her classmates, the school admissions director assured us that she would fit right in. Bentley provides an environment where appropriate academic standards are being applied and every child is helped to develop his/her intellectual potential. In the kindergarten reading workshops, the students are placed in reading groups with others who are reading at the same level. Entering into kindergarten, our daughter could already read simple books, and by the end of that school year, she was reading chapter books The reading program does not seem to us to be rigid, but rather flexible and individualized. This year in 2nd grade, I know they have been discussing what makes a good reader: making predictions, connections to personal experiences, comparing one book to another, etc. As far as science, there is a definite curriculum, with plenty of hands-on activities where they employ the scientific method. Recently my daughter's class has been studying the three states of matter, and did a baking soda-vinegar experiment producing carbon dioxide, which they observed in a balloon-covered bottle. Last year in first grade, my daughter wrote a research paper (albeit a short one!) on a dinosaur, and her class had a field trip where they dug up fossils. According to our observation of the math at Bentley, there seems to be a strong effort in making sure the kids have a firm grasp and of the basics so that they can move on to more advanced levels without stumbling. I don't view this as being necessarily ''unchallenging.'' For example, my daughter has just finished a unit on place values up to the trillions and adding these big numbers together, but they still do speed competitions and timed drills of more basic arithmetic so that 7+8 becomes automatic. They've also done statistics (graphing, averages, mode) and combinatorial math! In social studies, they have been doing a unit on maps, learning to read them, the different components of a map, drawing their own treasure maps, and world geography. I believe the curriculum is challenging, yet age-appropriate. There's much more to say about the music program (they do theory, music appreciation, as well as performance), languages, and art. The breadth of the instruction at Bentley is so well balanced and we don't feel these children are short-changed in any way. W&J
This is in response to a previous question about Bentley Lower School and whether it provides a nurturing environment. Our daughter is currently enrolled there and we are very happy with our experience. While there is a strong emphasis on academics, we have never felt it was too rigorous. Homework is usually one worksheet and 15 minutes of reading each night -- very doble even with lots of after-school activities. The teachers are caring and attentive and they really get to know each student and his/her strengths and needs. Diversity is a special concern for us since our daughter is a minority and we could not be happier with the class make-up. We feel very comfortable at Bentley and overall, we highly recommend the school. Satisfied Bentley parent
Re: Which middle school for CPS students?
You asked ''which middle school your child attended?'' Bentley. ''Do you feel that the middle school did a good job preparing your child to succeed at CPS?'' Yes, but I think it was more her than anything about Bentley. ''How does the CPS homework load compared to that particular middle school homework load?'' She felt the workload was actually a lot less her freshman and sophomore years than she'd been used to at Bentley; then it ramped up. ''Are there any academic areas that your child felt he/she wasn't well prepared for CPS?'' No. Did the middle school prepare your child for study skills needed at CPS (or any high school for that matter)?'' Absolutely.
Re: Elementary schools where African American boys thrive
I personally think that the Bentley School is an excellent school for African American boys. I have 2 girls and a baby son. My 2 daughters go to Bentley and love it. They have teachers of color at the Bentley school that are fantastic as well as amazing white teachers who have a love for diversity in the classroom. My son is just a baby, but I will have him attend Bentley when it comes time for him to go to Kindergarten. You should really check the school out. I am sure that you would love it. anon
We have a 2nd grader and soon to be in Kindergarten next fall. I am torn in between The Academy and Bentley School.
1- French Foreign Language from Kindergarten onwards Both schools offer this but I would like to know which has better foreign language program in terms of teacher (native speakers) quality of teaching, curriculums. And if the class is conducted in French only or English or both? How would you rate the proficiency level of a child by the time they reach 8th grade?
2- Science I understand that Bentley School use the hands on approach, thesis, experiments and project base. Is this the same case for The Academy? And at what grade do they start using this method, from kindergarten onwards or only until they reach at a higher grade?
3- Are the teachers specialist and experts in the field they teach for all grades or teachers that have at least a Bachelor's Degree?
3- What is the classroom ratio for both schools? I understand that Bentley has a maximum of 20 per class. Do they have a ratio of 20:1 or 10:1?
And of course, the fees between this two schools is about $6k.
4- Financial Aid for Bentley is it given out only to middle school and high school or do they offer it to lower school as well?
5- Middle class income parents do you feel uncomfortable or have you ever been put in that situation among other Upper class/Rich Parents? I am torn... Anon
We are a former Bentley family now at the Academy. We left because we felt our children were not being challenged enough at Bentley. To answer your specific questions:
1. When we were at Bentley, it was French 1/2 year, Spanish 1/2 year til one of the higher grades. Our child came away not learning much as a result. Don't know if Bentley still does the same split now or not. As for the teachers, I believe Bentley has a very new French teacher, so I can't comment on French there now. But the French teacher at the Academy is superb. She is a native speaker and in the earliest grades runs a very oral immersion sort of program, so the children have very good comprehension and accents. As the grades go up, she gives them more written/reading work. And in all cases she has high standards and demands excellence from her students. She's very warm with the children but the same time runs a tight ship. The Academy has a French spelling bee every spring; the children are given a word list with over a hundred words to study for a few weeks, and then there's an all-school competition. It's wonderful fun and the children rise superbly to the challenge. Bentley had nothing like this. In our experience the French program is of extremely high academic caliber.
2. There is simply not enough space here for me to rave about the academic excellence of the science program at the Academy. For one thing, there is a specialty teacher just for science. When we were at Bentley, science was part of the regular classroom curriculum and didn't go into much depth. At the academy, not only do kids do hands on work from the get go, it's detailed, sophisticated science that they are doing. Among many other topics: sophisticated planetary science & plant biology in the 3rd grade, human biology & electromagnetism in the 4th grade, chemistry in the 5th grade (this list is not exhaustive for these grades). The teacher is imaginative, dedicated, inspires the children immensely. He encourages creativity, insists on excellence in written work too. Every March there's a science fair where every child designs an original science project. As of this year, there's a beautiful new large science lab as a result of renovations this summer.
3. I'm not sure what you mean by 'specialist and experts in all grades': in the lower school there are specialists for French, Science, Music, Art,P.E. Beginning with 6th grade there are specialist teachers for math, history, literature, latin as well. The teachers bios on the school website lists their credentials.
3b. Academy class size maximum is 16, our grade currently has 12. Kindergarten is usually somewhere around 8-10. While there were 16 in kindergarten at Bentley, Bentley had more than 20 children in the class in the grades above that when we were there, I think it was 22 or 23.
4. My understanding is that financial aid is available at Bentley for all grades.
5. Atmosphere: we at times were uncomfortable with the 'country club' atmosphere that can be perceived at Bentley, the Gala and the $$$ bidding that goes on there, recognizably different financial cultures in different families. Folks there just had a lot more money than we did and were focused on different things. There are some awfully nice people there we got along well with, but there was enough of an atmosphere to be noticable. When we first visited an open house at the Academy to explore moving there, we felt ''Ahhhh, this is where we belong''. Lots of parents are scientists, programmers, faculty at Cal, drs. We're an academically oriented family and what we perceived at the Academy felt like the right culture for us.
We have no regrets about our move to the Academy, only wish we had started there in kindergarten.
One final comment: as for the social scenes, our child was pretty lonely at Bentley, easy to get lost on the big playground among 40+ people in your grade. At the Academy no one falls through the cracks. At least in our grade, the class is like a family, everyone interacts well, and, crucially, everyone interacts. And the children get to know the children in higher & lower grades well as they have music & P.E. together. Our child has blossomed socially at the Academy. Glad we moved to the Academy.
My child had a negative experience at The Academy. It's a very small school, there were few students in her grade, and she felt the social aspects of school were difficult.
She went to Bentley. Socially there were more students to choose from and she felt she could be herself and choose friends with similar interest. Yes, Bentley is a small school but bigger than The Academy.
My daughter did not like French at The Academy, she felt there was too much busy work and as a result, hindered learning. She love science, lots of hands on work, and says Mr. Aho is the best science teacher ever!
Bentley classes were much more structured, expectations were clear and although her teachers knew her, they didn't know her intimately, and as a result, did not judge her. She felt she was treated fairly by her teachers. Anon
I personally really like the Bentley school. I love the small campus feel, teachers, and children. I like that all the specialty teachers love what they do and are specialist in there fields. anon
Re: A Kinder, Gentler High School???
I'm a parent of 2 Bentley Upper School Alums and absolutely love that school. We made it through OIS but after 1 child with 1 year at Miramonte that was enough for us and my daughter transferred to Bentley. My son followed 3 years later. It's a great school - the teachers are excellent and very caring and interested in their students. They typically have gotten alot of kids from Seven Hills. There have been some administration issues there but they are definitely working on those issues. My son graduated last year and my daughter in 2005. I'm more than happy to talk about Bentley if you want further info. Judy
I certainly understand how harsh the social scene at Orinda Intermediate is after sending my son to Miramonte. He now attends Bentley Upper School which is definitely a kinder, gentler school. It is small and the administration and teachers take the time to help nurture healthy social dynamics.
Re: Considering alternatives to public high school
My son went to Miramonte in Orinda for his freshmen year and became very depressed. The kids were cliquish and cruel. He did like his English class because the teacher, Mr. Lytton, was creative and inspired, but my son was not impressed by his other teachers.
We are sending him to Bentley this year and he has a lot of respect for all of his teachers. Also, he is a guitarist and he is thrilled with the music program. Socially things are OK - not great - but the Bentley administration and faculty take the well-being of the students very seriously. Intolerance and the kind of teasing that goes on at Miramonte is not allowed. It may be a better place for your son - I don't know - it is so hard to know what to do when your child is depressed. I hope things work out for you. Bentley Mom
Hello Parents, I'm writing to ask about folks' experience with Bentley School, the K-8 program. I'm interested in a school that has a multicultural philosophy and curriculum, a school where social justice and inclusivity is important and noticeable, in the air- the curriculum, school culture, faculty/staff, student body, and families. (Multiculturalism to me goes beyond the number of families of color, it is an appreciation of diversity that includes race/ethnicity, socio-economic positions, and family configurations.) For those of you with direct and/or indirect experience with Bentley can you give me your honest opinion? We are currently at a school in Berkeley, and due to lack of financial aid we are looking to move. We are looking at other schools, where their commitment is more evident, but there is a question mark about Bentley, and for certain reasons at this time it remains on our list. Please give your straightforward opinion, and if you have any recommendations about a particular school please add that as well.
I can't speak for the Bentley of today, but I can tell you this. Thirty years ago, I was an elementary student at Bentley. I have never been happier, nor felt more at home, at any school. I felt as though nearly all the adults knew who I really was, not just my age and grade level. My closest friends were an African-American girl who lived a block away from me and a Greek-American girl who lived two whole bus rides away. If a class was hard, I could count on a teacher working with me to make it make sense; if it was boring, I could reliably ask the teacher for more interesting work and get it!
The only downside was that I was acutely aware of being the only poor kid at school. At least, I thought I was; perhaps I was only unaware. I never felt that race was an issue, and neither was family structure, but the economic divide was seriously harsh. I never felt that I could fully forget it. It was clear to me, all the time, that these kids had money and I didn't. There was an undercurrent of economic/class division that was impossible to ignore, at least for me.
Of course, all this should be taken with plenty of salt. It was, after all, thirty years ago. But the point is, I loved Bentley. I still do, in the way you love old stuffies that you played with as a child. But perfect? Nope, it was never that. Kathleen
We have been delighted with our family's experience with Bentley and find it to be a warm, nurturing environment for our child. The Bentley Lower School (K-5) recently launched a new program related to character education. It is called Positive Action Character Team (PACT) and the children join ''families'' led by a teacher and students of grades K through 5 to study values, conflict resolution, service learning, and citizenship. My daughter has come home with some very insightful and thoughtful messages from the program. I think the PACT families meet once per week. Also, her class has learned about a large number of cultural holidays such as Dia de los Muertos, Diwali, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa.
I read your question carefully, ''I'm interested in a school that has a multicultural philosophy and curriculum, a school where social justice and inclusivity is important and noticeable, in the air - the curriculum, school culture, faculty/staff, student body, and families.''
Bentley provided many things for our son, including an exciting and vibrant academic environment. But no, it was not a school that embodied a multicultural philosophy in the way you define it. The positives: there have been efforts to ethnically diversify the students and faculty, often achieved by Caucasian and Asian American families, some international families, and unfortunately, only a few African American families. The school also increasingly respects diversity in terms of working constructively with children with learning disabilities. An interest in world cultures is fostered at all grade levels, and fiction and nonfiction readings on issues social justice have been incorporated into the regular curriculum. But if you are looking for a social justice oriented school culture - community projects, awareness of wealth and poverty within the student body, day-to-day problem solving related to interpersonal issues and parent involvement in dialogues on multicultural issues within the school, there are better schools to provide this in the East Bay. We don't think of Bentley as a racist institution, but we would not consider it a multicultural institution. We are Caucasian. I hope this helps you weigh the pros and cons. Bentley parent
Re: Head-Royce and Bentley lower school
We looked at 6 schools and were torn between HRS and Bentley but ultimately decided we wanted a nurturing and smaller school setting with a strong math, science and foreign language program for our family and therefore picked Bentley as our top choice. We also thought our children would probably benefit from a campus change as they grew older rather than being in the same setting for 13 years.
However, you really can't go wrong with either school. The pace of academics IN THE LOWER SCHOOL is higher at Bentley than at HRS while it still manages to have an awesome language, arts and music program as well (I know the latter two are true for HRS as well).
The teachers are extremely warm and the lower school head at the school has an open door policy. Beth Crowley is a former teacher and still loves to be in the classrooms mentoring new teachers and helping with any issues pertaining to children. I can't say what a difference it makes having someone who is so involved and the kids love her.
What is amazing is that Bentley really tries to emphasize to parents not to overschedule kids with activities and has taken steps to ensure that the children are challenged but not stressed out and I've seen this attitude in the middle school as well. I was very pleased to see how our kindergarten teacher focussed so much on the overall well being of our daughter rather than where she was academically during our first parent teacher meeting. She told us we should cut back our extra curricular activities to one or two/week and make sure our daughter had access to sand play and given opportunities to continue her imaginative play. When visiting the school, you really do see that the children are enjoying themselves but still learning at a steady pace.
Anyway, we love the school and have become a part of the active network of parents - its a very involved community and you find folks of many different backgrounds there. But again, I don't think you can go wrong with either school. We know parents that are quite happy at HRS as well and satisfied that they made the right choice for their family.
You may want to contact Arlene Hogan in the admissions office and have her set you up with a follow up tour as it really is inspiring to watch the teachers in action.
Good luck with your decision! - Pleased Bentley Parent
We have been very pleased with Bentley Lower School. Although the pace in the classroom is brisk, the teachers work hard to make sure each student succeeds. The enrichment classes round out a very strong academic program (Chinese, French, and Spanish, art, music, computer, PE, and library classes). But perhaps most importantly, Bentley is a friendly, accepting community. The children and their parents seem very down to earth and the teachers and childcare workers are genuinely kind and warm.
Re: Math for gifted kids
Bentley's lower school (grades 1-8) has a great math program, especially for middle schoolers, who take two years of Algebra (7th & 8th) from two extraordinary teachers, Saul Gerry & Nick Grener. Bentley isn't for every child, but it is fabulous for the academically gifted child, especially those who excel in math. mom of gifted child
As a parent of Bentley Upper School for 8 years I?d like to express my appreciation for an outstanding experience for my two children. I value Bentley?s challenging academics, honest communication and skilled and caring teachers. My children were offered and enjoyed participating in many cultural, athletic and artistic endeavors that they would not otherwise have joined. I was struck by the enthusiasm, eloquence and accomplishments of Bentley alumni who came back to speak to current parents and students about the college admissions process and their college experience. I?ve seen this high school grow from its first class of students to full classes and I am grateful that my now adult children have learned academic and life skills that carry them through their years. This school is a great addition to the choices for HS and has served our children extremely well- including its growing pains. Thank you to the teachers who are talented, caring and creative- you are wonderful adult role models who will be remembered for all you gave to us. The school has been great for our family and I'm sad to have my youngest graduating. Grateful parent
I have read all the existing reviews on Bentley, have toured the school and am very impressed with what they offer. I just wanted to pose a couple of questions to existing or former Bentley parents:
- When touring the school we saw the 'open court' textbooks in the classrooms. We were very surprised since that's one of things we are trying to get away from by going to private school. Unfortunately, we did not ask the school about it while we were there.
- We have heard some comments that in addition to the already steep tuition there is an excessive amount of fundraising and an obligatory donation event once a year. I understand that all schools have fundraising activity, but I am just trying to gauge how much that is and whether it is more than other schools do any input is very much appreciated. anon
My children both went to Bentley and had a great educational experience that prepared them very well for the next stages of their academic careers. I'm not sure what you mean by a mandatory contribution to fundraising... I certainly never had this happen. anon
Without really having a thorough knowledge of how the Open Court readers are used in public schools I can't really compare the two. However, I will share our experience of Bentley's 'reading program'. Our child started Bentley in Kindergarten unable to read more than your basic cat, hat, sat kind of books. I believe that many Bentley kids start Kindergarten able to read early chapter books. In fact, I remember several in her class reading Harry Potter in Kindergarten.
Now many years later, my child has 'caught' up and is reading proficiently, prolifically and is on track with her classmates. The children who were prolific earlier readers still seem to be prolific readers. I believe that the way Bentley supports such a broad range of learners is that the classrooms are stocked with a broad range of books of different levels of difficulty. When the students have assignments like their reading challenges (read as many books as you can in the Month of May) or book reports they are encouraged to read at their 'comfort' and interest level. So while Open Court readers are used I don't think that they represent the only tool in their arsenal of reading tools. As a parent of a student that was slightly 'behind' the core class we were asked to set her up to succeed by reading often with her and to encourage her to read books that were 'comfortable' and interesting to her to build her confidence and her vocabulary. In truth I don't think I remember seeing the Open Court reading books much at all. I saw lots of library books of my child's own selection.
In regards to fund raising. Yes it is a part of life with any private school that does not have some source of revenue generator like an endowment. Unfortunately I believe that for most schools the cost of annual operation is not fully covered by the already high tuitions. Like any school, Bentley would love for every family to give lots of money so that it could continue to fund growth, improvements, pay for good teachers and programs, etc., etc. There is strong encouragement to give to the Annual Fund. The more the better, but participation from all families at any level of giving is also encouraged. The annual 'Gala' is not a mandatory event. Many of us go to support the school and because it is a lot of fun!
Bentley is a great school. It has some issues as I imagine any school does. I wish I had millions to give to the Annual Fund. I don't so I give what I can. It seems to work out ok for our family and the school Bentley parent
We have been extremely pleased with the school - I have to say, well beyond our expectations. Our daughter, who was on the shy side, is thriving socially and has gotten a very well rounded education. She enjoys everything the school offers, especially the art and language programs as the teachers are so fantastic. And I'm always surprised how effortlessly they seem to pick up the academics. Everything just seems to flow smoothly.
As for your question on Open Court, Open Court is a reading series used in 3-5. They also read many other age appropriate novels. The K-5 uses the McMillan series as their anthology. They also read many other age appropriate chapter books that tie in with the Social Studies and Science curriculum. As far as financial aid, there was a letter and a follow up email asking for a donation. Definitely not overbearing and we're grateful for that. You can decide to give whatever you want whether its $25 or a lot more but we haven't felt anyone pressuring us. The school seems to enjoy great resources from existing parents as well as former families and corporations giving.
Overall, we've been extremely pleased with our daughter's happiness here and the fact that she's getting a strong overall education is definitely the added bonus! Bentley Parent
We'd be grateful for any information on Bentley (esp. 5th grade and beyond): atmosphere, teachers, workload, kid dynamics, anything. Older postings indicate concern about the administration focus on the new middle school site, problems in parent-administration communications, etc. Is this all over and done with?
My daughter is a current fifth grader at Bentley, and she absolutely loves it! Bentley is a truly remarkable school with top-notch teachers. While the school is justifiably known for its strong academics, many people don't realize that it also boasts an exciting visual art program. The vocal music program is also outstanding. The field trips are fantastic. For example, in middle school, the kids travel to Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare festival and to Catalina Island for a marine biology program. We have not found homework to be burdensome, and the assignments are generally meaningful and interesting. The kids do work a year ahead of grade level though, and some kids have been unable to keep up with the brisk pace. The program is really tailored to meet all the needs (academic, social, creative) of a bright child. The faculty is the best you will find anywhere in the Bay Area. The teachers are simply amazing. Bentley parents are, for the most part, involved and interested. There are lots of fun family activities throughout the school year: a carnival, holiday craft bazaar, diversity celebrations where performers representing various cultures perform, concerts, plays, movie nights, and much more. The before and after school child care program is a gem, and is included in the cost of tuition. You don't even have to sign your child up for childcare. If you are more than 15 minutes late at the end of the school day, your child just signs him or herself in until you arrive.
The past issues with the administration seem to be resolved for the most part. In particular, the middle school head is amazing. Parents are very pleased both with his communication with them, and with the way he interacts with the students.
My daughter has lots of wonderful friends at school, although they do live all over: Oakland, Berkeley, Kensington, Orinda, and Lafayette. We have found the social environment to be considerably more nurturing than that of a typical public school. Of course, this varies class by class, but the kids in the fifth grade are supportive of one another, and have minimal social conflicts.
Bentley is a pretty academic environment, and my only caution is that it may not be right for every kid. The teachers are skilled at helping every student meet his or her potential, but the classroom pace is fairly fast. Bentley is the perfect place for bright students who want to learn. I can't imagine a better school for my daughter!
The Bentley community has settled down about the prior conflicts with administration, and the wonderful teachers are the point anyway. 5th grade is amazing there, with 2 ''camps'' away from school (Mosaic peace/communications camp and Headlands nature Institute), and 2 excellent teachers. My kid started in 3rd, and has had excellent teachers and exciting curriculum every year. Bentley is not for every child, though. I would not send a child there in 5th grade unless he/she is excelling at or near the top of his/her school already and is self-disciplined about homework -- the stress would be a problem for kids who struggle at academics. The academics are very challenging, they have very good arts programs but not such strong athletics. good luck!
happy at Bentley
Our daughter just graduated from the Bentley High School in June of 2006. Communication issues have not improved with the Bentley administration. Some senior parents wrote a letter to the Board of Directors expressing their concerns that the school was not responding adequately to parents' written communications. I wrote about a school sponsored event where I felt my daughter was in danger and never heard back. I also sent numerous emails about problems with a teacher that was not resolved until I went directly to the Headmaster of the Bentley School and complained to him. The parents at the final senior parent meeting decided not to give a class gift to the school in honor of the graduating class unless there was a specific account set up for the parent gift. anon
My daughter is a 9th grader at Bentley. We chose the school for the academic and arts programs but had misgivings because we thought the school valued academic performance to the exclusion of anything else. Happily, it is not really the way it seems. The school is demanding but also caring and fun. It is a good choice for a motivated kid. There are problems with communications but this seems to be a function of the fact that the high school is not yet 10 years old and has grown rapidly. The right systems are not in place yet but they seem to be trying to get it right.
Although I agree with much that has been posted about the Bentley administration, I must weigh in with some comments about the school. My daughter is a student at the lower school, and this will be her fourth year at Bentley. We have found the school to be an enormous gift to our daughter, who is bright, highly academic, and was not challenged by our excellent public school. The teachers are wonderful, dedicated, and skilled. In our experience, they have all been highly responsive. E-mails are answered promptly, and teachers make time throughout the week to meet with parents by appointment. The students work one full grade level ahead (i.e. the third graders work from fourth grade texts). The math program is outstanding. Social studies is also very strong. For example, in second grade when the kids study pioneer life, they participate in ''Pioneer Day''. The students come to school in pioneer costumes, and experience an entire day of pioneer activities--everything from leather tooling and hoop rolling to lemonade making and ice cream cranking. Bentley students start out with exposure to both French and Spanish. In third grade, they choose one language to continue. My daughter is in the Spanish program, which is excellent. Again, the teacher is incredible, and the children love her. Bentley also has a wonderful art program. The art teacher is a much beloved character at the school--the kids adore him. The art curriculum includes art history, as well as amazing projects. The kids work with a variety of media to create sculptures, carvings, oil paintings, and much more. Often, art projects tie into what the kids are studying in other subjects (i.e. making paper mache penguins when they are learning about penguins in science). There is an all-school art show each year. The music department is also outstanding, although at the lower school it is focused almost entirely on vocal music. The kids participate in concerts twice a year. There are many other wonderful aspects of the school, but by far its greatest strength is its teachers. Even though some teachers left the lower school last year, there are many, many outstanding faculty members remaining. There were no staff departures this year, and the last year's new hires are also excellent. I believe that despite the weakness of the administration, the school is an amazing place for kids to learn and thrive. A Happy Bentley Parent
Re: Which private school?
As a parent who has had a child in Bentley and in Piedmont (and examined several of the other alternatives you mention), I would emphatically recommend against Piedmont for a gifted child, and especially a shy one. Being a public system that must take all residents, and hew to state and federal goals, Piedmont's focus is on the average (or, really, slightly below ave! rage) child. ... Before you decide against Bentley, please visit. For my child, Bentley was freeing, and a place where her interests and talents were valued and supported. Bentley fan
We are looking for the right Kindergarten/Elementary school for our daughter.
I have heard some good things about Bentley but also some questionable things about the new administration and would love to hear from parents who already have kids there about what is really going on.
Specifically, is the school well run? Are teachers happy and are retention levels a Bentley similar to other schools? When there are issues, are parents able to give feedback to the Bentley staff and is it responded to?
We would be in this for the long haul and wouldn't want to get our daughter enrolled if the school isn't clearly headed in a positive direction. Many thanks, Ian.
I do not know about the lower campus. At the high school one of the best teachers in the school was suddenly fired mid-year. He made a mistake and was fired over a vacation. When my daughter returned to school she and the other kids in the school were very upset. He was teaching AP classes so the kids did not do as well as they could have done had the teacher been allowed to stay for the rest of the year. anonymous
We are current Bentley parents and there are many very good things about it, but it's changing quite a bit and unfortunately I'm not sure where it's heading today.
Among those are many good teachers. The classroom experience is still wonderful. Really dedicated, passionate talent. The enrichment activities, art, music, foreign language, are fantastic. The lower school campus is lovely and well maintained. Our question is how much longer this great classroom experience can last. Sixteen teachers and staff left last year.
The focus of the new headmaster and the Board seems to be on building a new middle school: parents hear a lot about raising money, but it is telling that in presentations to parents, almost nothing is mentioned sustaining and building a great learning environment that supports and nurtures teachers. (There seems to be no understanding that if you have a happy school that is on fire with learning that parents will send in money by the buckets-many families are not contributing to the annual fund this year as the only way they have of making their discomfort felt.)
We've also found that at Bentley, there is no way for the parents to express concern. Letters to the Board signed by large groups of parents have gone unanswered. The old "Headmaster's Forums" where the Headmaster would meet with Parents have recently been renamed "Community Nights" and the Headmaster does not take any questions or open discussion. Parents are told to not talk to one another and trust that they Board will handle all, but we have no insight into the process of how things are being resolved.
There has been a clause inserted into parents' contracts stating that if there is not a "positive and constructive working relationship between Bentley and the parents" Bentley can suspend or terminate a student at any time (plus the parents is still responsible for the full tuition). Teachers were asked to sign a document stating that they wouldn't talk to parents privately about the school.
I want to applaud the Bentley parent who was brave enough to express what many parents feel about the current administration at Bentley. But I also want to add that the school is still the perfect place for my son. The art, music, drama, math, science, English, Latin, and history programs are all superb. (hope I didn't leave anything out!) anonymous
My son spent nine years at Bentley, and the experience was very good for him. He was a serious, academically-oriented child who fit in reasonably well. In retrospect, I think that the math program may have stifled his creativity somewhat, but all in all it was a good fit.
For my daughter, however, Bentley was a disaster. She didn't respond well to the rigidity of the academic program. In the later grades she developed health problems related to depression. Ironically, my pediatrician had warned me about ''Bentley burnout'' when my daughter was younger, and I had paid no attention.
I don't know whether Bentley was to blame for my daughter's problems, but I believe the counseling staff handled them very badly. Although my daughter was never disruptive in any way, both she and I sensed a spirit of blame rather than compassion.
The moral of all this may be that you should be really sure that your child is a Bentley child before you choose it. You should also be more watchful than I was for signs it isn't working out.
To protect my daughter's privacy, this has to be ... Anonymous
My son is a junior at Bentley Upper School and it has been perfect for him. It is small as high schools go--the junior class is about 50 students, but I hear that subsequent classes are a bit larger (~75?). The campus is absolutely beautiful. There is a brand new gym and classroom wing. The new perfoming arts and student center is scheduled to be ready for next semester. The faculty is dedicated, enthusiastic, and very caring. The students are friendly and welcoming. I just read an article in the student newspaper interviewing new students and all of them said that they were very happy and surprised at how friendly everyone was. The academics are pretty rigorous, but as the school is small, it is difficult to fall into a crack. There are tutoring periods and frequent progress reporting.
I knew that Bentley would be a good school for my son when he was in the 8th grade and went to Bentley for a visit day. He was so excited about the classes he sat in that he had taken pages of notes! Later, when my husband took him to the open house there, the teachers remembered him. In middle school my son was more of an introvert, but at Bentley he has competely blossomed.
A Bentley mom
Re: Middle Schools with a strong math/science department
There are two middle schools that I can say with certainty have fantastic math programs: Black Pine Circle and Bentley. They both have fabulous dedicated math teachers, Mr. Gulimovskiy at Black Pine, and Mr. Lubliner (I think that's his name - they call him Mr. L) at Bentley. Both schools just placed first and second in the East Bay Math Counts competition and will be sending teams to the State competition. This has been the case for years now. Lucy
My daughter has been going to Bentley for two years. I was hesistant at first about even applying to the school, because it did not seem to address diversity in any way. I live in a community where diversity only means White and Asian ( I am not implying that these groups are less meaningful - but in the Bay Area getting to know and learn about these cultures is a bit easier). Anyway, what I have found is a place that wants to produce well educated and informed, responsible, well rounded students.
The enviroment is warm, fun, and friendly to students. The teachers are supported in an environment where students want to learn. The students form a community or better yet a neighboorhood with aftercare, (which is included in the tution) afterschool activities, forums, town halls, communication committees. The parent association is very active and you can get as involved as you have skills and time (no Mandatory volunteer hours yet).
The Diversity of the students, staff, and faculty is also flourishing. The academic curriculum is fun and challenging to keep my child stimulated and working on applying concepts to the real world as she grows. It is worth checking out the school for your child. Parent in 2A
I'd like to invite all parents of fall 2002 kindergartners to the Bentley Kindergartners' information sessions on Saturday, Nov 10 from 10-12 pm and Thursday, December 6 from 7-9 pm at their Hiller Campus, located at the juncture of Tunnel road /Ashby and the entrance to Highway 13, just past the Claremont Hotel. Hiller is a sharp left. Bentley's Hiller campus is a private K-8 grade school. I hope to be at one or both session with my prospective Kindergartner.
My older daughter is in her second year there after spending three years in public school. She had a good experience in public school but she loves Bentley. She enjoys all the students in her class, both the boys and the girls. She cannot wait to go to school each day, and she even enjoys doing her homework-- complaining occasionally, but never failing to do it.
The parent groups at the school are very active. I am a part of the Diversity Committee and the parents on this committee are incredible. All have the same values and principles I hold important for my children. Community. Family. Education. Diversity. As the parent of biracial children, I am very concerned that my daughter continues to have a positive self-image. So far so good.
I must admit, prior to applying to the school, I read the information about Bentley on this website and I was a little discouraged. My husband and I both wanted a more structured academic environment than our public school had to offer but we didn't want to sacrifice the richness, diversity and sense of community our local public school had to offer. While Bentley still has a ways to go in that regard, The new headmaster and many committed parents have made it their goal to ensure the richness of the Bay Area is reflected in the school.
To refute the previous comments about Bentley School, my daughter not only cares about the academics, she enjoys the music, arts and language programs as well as her girl scout troop. She also enjoys the healthy competitive atmosphere of the school and their athletics program. Last week, she decided she wanted to win one of the fitness awards and now does sit ups in the evening.
My 4th grader is a normal healthy child who loves soccer, scooby doo and all manner of cartoons--not an exceptional genius, but given the stimulation and supportive atmosphere at Bentley, my husband and I feel she will certainly grow up to be an exceptional person.
My daughter is currently a third grader at Bentley School. We have been extremely happy with the school. She started as a kindergartner. The school has an undeserved reputation as a tough, unfeeling school. That couldn't be farther from the truth. The school places a very high emphasis on academics, and the kids generally work at about one grade level above (for example in 2nd grade the math book was grade 3, this year in 3rd grade the math book is for grade 4.) However, all of the teachers have been great, kind, caring individuals who watch out for the whole kid. there is a new headmaster this year who is fabulous. He talked in the beginning of the year about how Bentley has a reputation of only working with kids from "the head up" meaning only emphasizing academics and avoiding the social, developmental aspects. I do think this was the emphasis of the past headmaster, although it was not the case with the teachers. Anyway, this headmaster in maintaining the high academic standards, but making sure that the social elements are not forgotten. the last comment I will make is that while academics are emphasized, the art and music program are also excellent!! Holly
Bentley is divided into the lower (K-8) school in Oakland and the upper school (9-12 --highschool) in Lafayette. Although I know little about the lower school , I can speak about the upper school, which opened about 3 years ago. My daughter is a 9th grader there, and its been a positive experience. The teachers are well-qualified, and professional, many with Masters degrees. Classes are small, and there are about 50 students altogether in her grade. The classwork is rigorous, but not overwhelming. The focus is on a "traditional" education--for example she is learning ancient history and is reading The Odyssey in her English class. There are many school activities and clubs, so I don't feel the focus is just on academics. For someone who likes a small, intimate school environment where all the teachers and students know each other, a classic education, and a fair amount of nurturing and oversight, Bentley is a good choice. Because this high school is so new, teachers are willing to try new things and the students are from all over, most have not attended Bentley lower school. The lower school has a much longer history, and a more intense academic and social environment. As the upper school grows, I suspect it will probably become more in line with the lower school. I rather enjoy this phase, where its growing and defining itself. -- dorfro
About Bentley...from the two years that my older daughter went there, your observations seem right, lots of pressure to learn and test well. We say that Bentley does a good job from the neck up, but what about the whole person? It's a good school but lots of pressure and the community is very status concerned. - Anon.