Berkeley Arts Magnet School
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We were disappointed to receive our third choice in the Berkeley elementary schools lottery (Berkeley Arts Magnet), but maybe it will be ok. The morning drop off situation seems somewhat chaotic and the school feels very large. Can any current parents weigh in on their experience at BAM? Also, anyone with recent experience with how much the waitlists move? Carrie
Just wanted to write that we have been very happy at BAM! (Our daughter is in Kindergarten). BAM isn't a small school, but it is also not large compared to the other elementary schools in Berkeley. For us, the size has been perfect. With three kindergarten classes, it is small enough that our daughter seems to know everyone in all three classes, and big enough that she has lots of social options. (She has made friends in all three classes.) And we've enjoyed the parent community. Happy BAM Mom
RE: BUSD Northwest Elementary Schools
Hi there fellow BUSD parent, thought I'd put my 2 cents in about Berkeley Arts Magnet (aka BAM). My older kids went there back in the day, and my youngest is there now. While I was mostly satisfied w/my older kids' experience, I think that many things have gotten even better. Before the previous principal left, she gently helped move along a few so-so teachers. We now have a new principal who seems really on the ball, tho this is his first year and he keeps a fairly low profile. The vast majority of the teachers are excellent and a few are actually stellar. There is an active and engaged PTA and although I find much of their behavior to be clique-y, they raise a huge amount of $ for needed programs and I am very grateful. There is huge economic, cultural, racial and intellectual diversity, with all of the excitement, teachable moments and discomfort that that can bring. There is an awesome afterschool program run by some of the nicest people on the planet. You could do worse than consider BAM! back for the 3rd time
We're in the first stages of looking at kindergartens for next fall, and right now BAM is the front-runner (we are in the Central zone). Im a little concerned about the fact that the principal is brand-new, though, and am wondering if current families have any opinions. Also would love to hear current experiences with the PTA, how much family involvement/volunteering they see, and whether they feel the arts are really as prominent in the kids daily lives as is advertised. kindershopper
Hello potential BAM parent, Both of my kids went to BAM-one's in HS and one's at BAM now. I've seen 3 principals come and go, and Mr. Molino seems to be making a good start. It's a good school; it's also one of the largest in BUSD. The arts were a big selling point in the past tho at this point I don't think that there are any more or less arts at BAM than any other school in the district; see the BAM PTA website for how BAM got its name. Overall good and caring teachers; a stringent anti-bullying policy; a very active PTA and fundraising program; a school yard program for improving the green spaces at BAM; terrific (PTA-funded) afterschool programs such as hip hop, chess, ceramics, and Spanish; and a BUSD afterschool program that's wonderful. Both of my very different kids mostly adored BAM and I feel that the vast majority of their teachers really are dedicated to their student's learning. A few really need to retire. mostly ok w/ BAM
Our child has been at BAM for several years. Our child has had a couple of great teachers, and some very, very disappointing ones. I'm hopeful now that the old principal is gone (not a fan) but it's kind of too early to tell about the new one. He seems more behind the scenes so far- less visible, so it's been hard to know what he is doing. The PTA is very active, and parents are involved, but they seem very, very cliquey. It honestly doesn't feel like a very inclusive school to me. For us, the parent's cliques have influenced kids friendships a lot- maybe that's common in the early years, but it's not fun to re-live the clique scene or to watch your kid go through it. As for arts, it's been disappointing, but maybe that is just the state of public education now. Overall- not thrilled, though some parents and kids love it. anon
Re: Berkeley elem. in Central zone for gifted 3rd gr?
As the parent of a gifted student, I can recommend Berkeley Arts Magnet in the Central Zone. It was a good fit for our kid, and contrary to what was stated in an earlier post, if you request it, I believe that you have a good chance of getting in, at least eventually. I would try in 3rd grade rather than 4th, because there should be more room in the classrooms (they consolidate in 4th). There are a lot of academic families from all over the world passing through, so spots do open up, especially at the end of semesters.
While no Berkeley Public School can offer you a gifted Program, as I'm sure you know, BAM has lots of gifted/academically advanced kids, maybe in part because of the proximity of the University, or maybe that is true for all the Berkeley Schools, I can't say. Anyway, our kid found friends who enjoyed the same kind of imaginative jokes, games, etc., which was huge, and not found everywhere, in our experience.
Gifted kids are known to be more sensitive (our kid definitely is), and the environment at BAM really worked great for us. Now I know other families have different experiences, but we found that BAM did a great job at keeping negative behavior in check, even with challenging scenarios. This was huge, too. The school works hard at this, with a variety of positive reinforcement strategies, recess supervision, etc.
Before BAM, our kid went to an ''elite'' private school, the type which may seem to offer more for a gifted child, but the competitive scene was not good for our sensitive one. The aggressive kids were not kept in check with the same consistency, there was more of a tendency to sweep things under the rug.
Like most schools, the innovation of the teaching will rest with the teacher. There are some great teachers at BAM. There is an effort to keep some of the Arts going, they have visual Art class for half the year and BAM kids do seem to be up on stage often, performing in class plays or the Talent Show, etc. Music is offered in all Berkeley Schools. There is a Volunteer run gardening program in fourth grade, offered by a superhero named Kate. There is an amazing range of Afterschool classes run by another superhero named Sandra: rock band, theater, robotics, chess, yoga, Spanish, etc.
So, you can't expect a ton of differentiated instruction (although the reading program is set up that way), but the teachers are used to having unusually advanced students every year. If you don't want to commute to Marin, Oakland, move through the tunnel, etc., BAM could be a good option. It was for us. Good luck!
BAM vs Washington- which would you pick?
We've gotten into both Berkeley Arts Magnet and Washington school. Which would you pick and why? We're in the Northwest Zone. thanks, Kim
Our daughter is in 5th grade at BAM and has been there since kindergarten. Overall, we've been extremely happy with her experience there. I'd say BAM's biggest minus is a lack of grass and trees on the main playground. Its proximity to the North Shattuck area has been a plus--the classes sometimes interact with the various businesses nearby. One thing that has been unique about BAM is how the district seems to assign new families to BAM rather than other schools. This has two sides to it. On the plus side, you get a lot of students, often foreign, whose parents are visiting the University. That has been a good experience for our daughter. On the minus side, these families don't stay more than a year and this influx of new students has put pressure on BAM's classroom availability. My daughter spent 3 of her 6 years in portable classrooms. There are also students who have been at BAM since kindergarten who have never been in my daughter's class as well as many who were in one grade with her. However, she does seem to know all the 5th graders. Francesca
We're in the central zone for BUSD and we've just completed all of the tours and information nights for incoming Kindergarten families. We heard alot about Washington and Oxford during the process but haven't really heard much about BAM or Cragmont (good or bad). If you're a current BAM/Cragmont family, we'd love to hear about your experience there, pros/cons, what you like/don't like about the school.
My daughter is in 4th grade at BAM. In her 4+ years there she's had 4 great and 1 OK teacher. The school has an active PTA and a real feeling of community. It's nice being at the edge of the Gourmet Ghetto. From our point of view, there are two downsides. One is its size. They have 5 different lunch times. My daughter doesn't get lunch until 12:45! The other downside is the 1-5th grade play area. It's mostly blacktop. No grass. Very little shade. (In contrast, the K yard is great.) But it seems to be well supervised. Parking isn't too bad if you're not there for more than an hour or so. If I go on field trips, I try to take my bike. We live in the hills so my daughter takes the bus, which has been a pretty good experience. The bus actually gets her home as fast as I could were I to pick her up.
My son went to Cragmont. I admit, it has nicer exterior spaces. (And I get jealous when BUSD talks of putting more portables on the BAM playground whereas it would be very difficult to do that at Cragmont.) But I don't think there's much difference between the curriculum (including non-academic subjects) and teachers at the two schools.
By the way, even though BAM stands for ''Arts Magnet'', I don't think it has more arts than the other schools (certainly not more than Cragmont). However, the principal tries to integrate the arts into the regular curriculum and there is an emphasis on choosing teachers for their interest in the arts. For example, my daughter's K teacher was an art major, and her current teacher is a musician. But two of her teachers were interested in science. My daughter is interested in all of these. Happy BAM family
Hello, potential BAM family! I have one kid at BAM and the other just moved up to middle school, where her teacher told me, ''we can tell who the BAM kids are b/c they are so well-prepared.'' That speaks pretty highly of the great job that the vast majority of BAM teachers do. That said, there are a few meh teachers there too which I'm sure is the case in every school; with my older kid we really hit the luck of the draw and had stupendous teachers every single year; with my younger kid, last year was awful with completely unresponsive teachers. This year, however, is much better. I've always really appreciated the principal who is very involved and engaged; the PTA which does an amazing job of fundraising; and the afterschool program, which is staffed with some of the nicest and most caring people on the planet. It's good at BAM
Hi, Wondering if anyone would be willing to share their recent experiences of having young children attend Berkeley Arts Magnet. I feel like I have sufficient info on all of our zoned schools but this one. Thank you!
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet. Our child transferred from a private school, and we were immediately impressed by the level of academics and school culture. People were so welcoming. Principal Collins was very helpful and positive. The teachers work very hard to provide a rich experience for the students, and the Kindergarteners go on lots of field trips. Math was more creative and advanced than what we saw at the private school, and the Kindergarteners published a book and had a book reading at the end of the year. Most importantly, the kids were not allowed to bully or be aggressive towards other kids. While I imagined a more beautiful playground, the layout actually works to the kids' advantage, because adults can witness everything and their eyes and ears are alert. Guidance doesn't just come from one teacher, but the the whole community works to shape behavior in the right direction. The PTA was more friendly and professional than I knew such things could be. The thing that never occurred to me, as strange as it may be, was how great it is to be in the Gourmet Ghetto before and after drop off/pick-up. I love Guerilla Cafe, and Philz Coffee is a great place to get some work done, etc., etc., not a central concern, just a side benefit . BAM fan
We are a new family at Berkeley Arts Magnet. My son just started Kindergarten there this year and loves it. He literally went skipping into the school yard on his first day back after Christmas break. He has an incredible teacher who has created a safe, nurturing space for him to explore and learn. He is already reading and writing, has made new friends, and won't let us pack him a lunch anymore because he loves the cafeteria food so much. There's a diverse and active parent community who have made us feel really welcome, as has the principal. My son feels so safe and well taken care of there already and we are so grateful to have found a school like BAM. We recommend it highly. Sarah
I have 2 kids at BAM; the younger one is in K this year. My family is VERY happy with the experience that she is having. I have always felt that the majority of the teachers and the princpal have been responsive to any concerns i might have. The K cohort of teachers is very strong this year, so i don't think your child could go wrong with any of them. The PTA remains very active, and the afterschool LEARNS program is well-established with really wonderful providers-there's lots of homework support for the older kids. The PTA also sponsors some great afterschool enrichment programs which include circus, ceramics, Spanish, etc. Both my kids love school and look forward to going!
It's a terrific school and a great community for you and your child. BAM parent
My child is at BAM right now. I can tell you that Ms. Bresnan has an excellent reputation and every parent that I've spoken with wishes their child was in her class. The other two teachers, Ms. Born and Ms. Jados, are both new to kindergarten this year (I think) and they run a very, very tight ship. They have the kids very under control, which you may or may not appreciate. As far as education, I am lukewarm. I would say that thus far, I have seen no real evidence that our teacher even attempts to teach at an appropriate level for our child. I know it's public school and the ratio of student to teacher is high but I honestly can't say that I even feel the desire. She talks the talk, but no evidence of follow through. Maybe this is what I should expect from a public school? I have nothing to compare it to, but am hoping it will improve with a different teacher. We just focus on teaching at home, in hopes that this will compensate or supplement what they are getting at school. anon
My son will be entering kindergarten this fall at Berkeley Arts Magnet. I have read past reviews about BAM but I didn't see much that was very current. In particular, I would like to hear about people's experiences with the teachers K-3. How were they at addressing different learning levels for kids at younger ages? Do they challenge kids individually? I also read some past reviews about strong parental involvement and was wondering if that is still the case? Are the playgrounds still safe? Any other thoughts or tips? Thanks so much. anon
i have 2 kids wending their way thru BAM. I'm about 85% satisfied with their experience. There are many strong and involved teachers as well as a couple of not-so-strong, disengaged ones; unfortunately my littler kid has one of the latter ones so this year has been kind of a drag. There are also a couple of truly stellar and inspired teachers and my bigger kid has had a terrific experience at BAM with their support. Principal is very engaged-she seems to know every single kid's name which is pretty impressive in a school this size. There's a very active PTA with LOTS of fundraising which in today's atmosphere of budget cuts is desperately needed (and even tho i get tired of the constant requests for cash, i am very appreciative of their efforts and write a check). There are many enrichment after school classes as well as a solid and well-established pre-and after care program. overall, I'm..... Ok with BAM
Re: Looking for after-school care in N. Berkeley
If your child is at BAM, the after school program is excellent with lots of homework support and devoted staff. After a bit of shaking out at the beginning of the year it looks like there are openings. My kids grades soared after a transfer out of another after-school program into the BAM program.
Re: Thinking of moving to Berkeley - which zone?
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet, which is in both the North and Central zones. The kids and parents are really kind and friendly, and the teachers are inspirational. I don't know any parent in BUSD who doesn't like their kid's school though. bpn fan
Initially we thought BAM was a great school for our son and it was our first choice. However, we've had the unfortunate experience dealing with the after-school administrator hitting our son. This occurred a few months ago and we are still fighting to get a response from the school and district on their disciplinary action for the administrator.
My 6 year old boy is in first grade at BAM and we have had a great experience so far. He had a wonderful kindergarten year as well. He is learning to read with confidence. He loves the math and science activities.
Like any elementary school the playground can be a problem spot. I feel like BAM really works hard to address these problems. He had an incident with a classmate pinching him in Kindergarten and it was dealt with immediately.
I think the PTA is one of the things that makes BAM great. The community at BAM raises at ton of $ that helps pay for Art, Percussion, and P.E. The teaching staff is very involved in the PTA as well.
BAM is a very diverse school and tries very hard to celebrate different cultures, we have a great multicultural potluck every year. Families bring so many beautiful dishes to share and the kids dress paper dolls representing their ancestry. We have students from all over the globe. If you are an ''ex-pat'' you will find a great community here. We have families from Japan, Algeria, Tibet, England, Germany, China, Mexico, Pakistan. . .the list goes on and on. At the recent MLK assembly another parent and I had tears in our eyes when watching a performance that was truly Martin Luther Kings dream realized.
I know not everyone has had such a positive experience, but for our family BAM really is working out. Gena
Re: looking at schools in the Central Zone
My daughter is in Kindergarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet. She is having the time of her life and loves school. Some things we like about BAM are great K teachers, personal & friendly feel, almost daily time with arts specialists & many performance opportunities, and interesting and warm families. The fall family events had huge turnouts - the Multicultural Potluck & Hip Hop Hurray (about the origins of hip hop). All of our 3 kindergarten classes already have a family camping trip planned at the end of the year. My daughter learned to read since she got here but there is no pressure; there is no homework for them this first year (although they get workbooks sent home in case they want to do them). The main problem for us has been figuring out how things work; the written/electronic communication is spotty and it has been frustrating. It's not easy to find things out unless you spend lots of time at the school volunteering or just hanging around, which is what many parents end up doing. Karen
My husband and I would love to get current feedback on BAM. We have a handful of questions and would love any insight from current families, teachers, or anyone affiliated with the school. 1. Afterschool programs. What are they like? How well does the school serve children who are advanced in a particular subject? Are there enrichment classes in addition to basic after-school childcare/homework help? 2. How are the arts (visual, music and performing)integrated into the curriculum and/or offered as enrichment? 3. Discipline -- are the classes, especially the upper grades, well managed and orderly? Does BAM have a specific system in place to deal with conflict? 4. How are resources at the school distributed? Are students who are not ''achieving'' given priority over those who are? Are they typically served at the expense of enrichment activities or advanced academics for other students? 5. How is the academic level and student focus in the upper grades when the class size jumps? How are the 3/4/5 teachers? 6. PTA? How much are parents involved in the school and in what capacities? 7. The yard. I read in the archives that BAM was going to have $200k in improvements. Were these implemented? Any plans to remove the ''bungalows''? How are the playgrounds managed? 8. Teacher/Principal/Parent relationship. How is this? Any thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you! Anon
Afterschool programs are great and getting better. Many other close by options beyond the PTA-directed program exist.
For children who are advanced in a particular subject there are well attended PTA After School classes. BAM Allstars is an on- premises after school program that offers homework help.
The arts have not yet been fully integrated and there will be changes next year. Percussion, dance, drama, and visual arts are offered in the core curriculum. The PTA, principal and teachers are passionate about including the arts in the curriculum. PTA directed after school activities include the arts.
BAM has an academic achievement level challenge so educators and administration are focused on improvement of under- performers. Teachers do teach to the grade standards. Funds barely cover the core program let alone interventions for under performers. There are a few interventions in practice, and the school expects to see further intervention improvements next year. After School enrichment activities are available for all performance levels. Unfortunately, advanced academics are not ''in scope'' for the school's core curriculum. Is it different at other BUSD elementary schools?
The PTA is very active. There is excellent leadership and contribution from a good number of families. Albeit, more active representation from more African American families is desired.
Come see them: the yard improvements are marvelous. Why should the bungalows be removed? Recess time in the playground and the lunchroom are supervised by PTA volunteers and some paid help.
Teacher/Principal/Parent relationship is generally respectful and cooperative. There are flare ups. I personally would like to hear the voice of the teachers more frequently.
Check out the web site: www.bampta.org mother of BAM 2nd grader
To answer the questions about Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) I will use Anon as a guideline. My history is that I am on the PTA executive committee and am a parent of a second grade boy. 1) The after school programs are excellent at BAM. My son has been in the BAM All stars and had a great time, even doing his homework.For a two year old program it is amazing, and Catherine, the director is always looking for dynamic ways of improving it. I don't have any direct input about the EDC, but I have heard great things about it as well. There are also wonderful arts enrichment programs after school that range from cooking to guitar to dancing as well as many others interesting classes, which is sponsored by the PTA. 2. The arts continue to be a huge focus in the administration and the community, though there is presently a debate about how the arts are going to be carried out in the school. I have been constantly impressed by the writing and the visual arts that you see in the hallways. I never imagined that a bragging point for a second grade boy would be how good a poet he is, but that is what my son held great pride in this last year, prompting him to try his hand at song writing. All of this was fostered at school through he integration of art into the curriculum. I have heard that in later grades this is combination is more intense, though I don't have first hand experience. The enrichment part is and has always been a strong part of the school, thought there are debates about how this is going to take place in the future (there is no debate about whether or not it will continue). 3. I only have direct experience with the lower grades so I can't speak directly to the discipline issue in the upper grades. I do know that in the discussion with the other parents it has been a rare complaint (less than most of the schools that I have been involved in with my two older kids). 4. There has been a lot of focus on this, both by the principle and the community (though much of it through the achievement gap discussions). I have found in my children's experiences that most of this is handled in the classroom by the teacher with the support of the teaching group. Though there was a large potential for this to be an issue in my sons class from Kindergarten, it was addressed appropriately and has not been an issue in the slightest bit since (though by all reports my son has a great well behaved class). As a whole the focus at BAM is not on the negative aspects of disruptiveness in kids (as I have seen in other schools, but on the positive classroom experience and learning. I don't know if this is a result of high ideals set by the community, or the work of the teachers and administration though I suspect it is a combination of both. 5) I don't know personally how good the focus is first hand but in general I have heard few complaints, and most of the graduates I know from BAM have done extremely well. I did look into the sixth grade academics and know that this has been at an extremely high level. 6) We, at BAM, are extremely proud of our parent community, as is represented by the vast number of committee s that work on different aspects for example we have an arts committee, lunch room committee, fund raising committee and more (12 different committees were recognized at one executive meeting), each of which has a different set of committed parents. We have a very vocal community that plays a n integral part of the children's education, including sponsoring many of the arts enrichment at the school through PTA funding. 7) Though the yard has too much concrete for my blood the kids really seam to enjoy it. Much of the improvements were to provide sitting places for the kids (benches and tables) shade for part of the yard (a small section of trees planted in the concrete that will do a great job at providing shade in a couple of years). The Bungalos don't seem to be going anywhere. My child is presently in one, which hes seems to enjoy (its like a school in a school). The play grounds have been well managed though there are a lot of kids and there could always be more help there. Some serious issues have arisen but were quickly identified and brought to the administrations attention. 8) The Parent teacher relationship in my experience is great. All the teachers have been forth coming with what is going on in class and happy to listen to the parents needs and questions.Our new Principle has been putting out a weekly news letter explaining what has been going on from her perspective. She has also gone to many of the multiple PTA and parent meetings to try to answer questions. Over all the strong community in BAM has led to what I consider to be a great school, even though there are always important issues which need addressing. What is great about our school is that no issue will be left un-touched. BAM parent
I don't see much new information on Berkeley Arts Magnet. This was not our first choice school and it does not look like we will be getting into our first choice. Any comments/opinions would be greatly appreciated! anon
Hello potential BAM parent! My 11-year attended BAM and my 2nd grader is there currently. My daughter will start KG there in the fall. I'm friends with several people for whom BAM is a second choice. Meanwhile, they are very happy at BAM and are not considering moving. That said, I understand that BAM wasn't your first choice. Personally, I was hoping my daughter would get into the Spanish immersion program at Cragmont (no luck). Cragmont's principal seemed very hands-on and very ''with-it'' about discipline problems. The PTA there is very active. But I am just as happy that my daughter will attend BAM in the fall. The KG teachers at BAM are outstanding and so are most of the teachers. (Unfortunately, there are a few teachers who don't deserve that praise....)
Also, there are some major changes in store: over the summer, the school grounds will get a $200,000 face lift which will greatly improve the look and feel of the yards. Yippee! And we are in the process of selecting a new principal, who will bring new enthusiasm and energy to the job. Our outgoing principal was good and I liked her a lot, but it seems that the principal and some of the teachers didn't get along so well....
As to parent involvement: there is a core group of super-involved parents -- many help out in the classrooms, especially KG and firstgrade. Then there is the the big, silent majority, who are rarely seen at school other than at performances. The school definitely needs more involved parents and there are plenty of opportunities to get active! I hope you and your child/ren will come to like BAM and become active members of our community!
Curious as to your opinion of Berkeley Arts Magnet? I am needing some reassurance its methods would be as good or nearly as good as home schooling for helping 7 yrold girl discover her own unique individuality. Particular teacher names especially appreciated. We live on California near University. So if you know of other alternatives, besides expensive private schools we cannot afford, I'd love to hear this as well. Gary
We have just had a very good year with Berkeley Arts Magnet. I'm really impressed with Mindy, who teaches percussion there. She's amazing. The drama is also great fun. I home schooled my children until age 7, and then came to feel that the social environment provided by a school, providing there is a safe and caring atmosphere, is absolutely necessary for the child's happiness and development. We're a really academic family, and (paradoxically) I wasn't looking for a strong academic program in school - I can do that myself at home, teaching the children where necessary. Surprisingly, then, the math at Berkeley Arts Magnet was challenging and interesting for my fifth grade child. But it was in the realm of friendship, drama, music, that my children were happy and fulfilled. J
My son will be entering kindegarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet this coming fall, and I wonder what the options are for after/before-school care. The school district sent an application for the LEARNS program, but are there alternatives we should be looking at? Any recommendations for and against the various programs if we do have some options? Thanks, Penny penny
Recommended: New School nearby preschool
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet. Sure, it has problems. Classes are bigger this year than ever before, and it's been a real shock to those whose children were in lovely small 3rd grade classes last school year. The arts program, for many of us the reason we chose this school, continues to struggle for adequate funding. The library is only open 3 short days a week. The food in the cafeteria is lousy. The PTA can never raise enough money to make up for district shortfalls. But we still love it - the teachers do their best, the kids are great, the parents are involved (those who have the time) and there's a whole lot of learning going on. BAM parent
We have a third grader at Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) and our experience has been very positive in almost every respect. The arts program at BAM is extraordinary for this day and age - 4 classes per week in performing and visual arts for every grade with professional artists as instructors, culminating in wonderful school-wide performances. The upper grades specialize in an art form and study it four days a week for the entire year, and the results are truly impressive. The academics have also been strong - BAM uses CEL and David Berg Math (highly effective, research-based literacy and math curricula that I have observed first-hand as a classroom volunteer). The BAM parent community is active and involved - drawn in in great part, I believe, by the arts program. In response to the query about test scores, I personally feel they are not good indicators of what the schools offer and are more indicative of a highly diverse student population. My experience has been that the level of teaching in BUSD is generally high and the choice of academic curricula very good (I know of schools in other districts with higher test scores that use curricula that I wouldn't want for my child, such as Open Court). The hardest thing about being in the public schools has been the recent budget cuts, but parents and staff have pulled together, and while class size in the upper grades has increased and some programs have been cut back, the overall school experience for my daughter has remained intact. The best thing for me as a parent is being part of a community that is truly rich in diversity of every kind and knowing that my daughter is growing up immersed in that wealth. Don't believe all the negative hype about the public schools - come and check them out! Nora
Berkeley parents: Any comments on Whittier/Arts Magnet school in Berkeley? There's nothing at the UCB Parents site. (Maybe it's just my bias, but with an arts focus, why is Whittier one of the few Berkeley schools without a website of its own? Is it a Luddite thing?) Letitia
I know that their test scores are quite stunning: they indicate a remarkably regular increase as the children move up in the grades. If one were to trust this data, the school might be doing something right, like bringing up the kids who begin with difficulties to the level of the high performers? You can check the scores out on the BUSD site, or the STAR site. By the way, I think that the Internet and technology in general are way too overrated as assets in schools, and that much is to be said for arts, especially at the elementary level. Good luck!
Arts Magnet school does have a web site. Both my daughter's went to Arts Magnet and it is a fine school. They do have more of an emphasis on art, beginning in grade 4 they are allowed to take an art elective, African dance, Drum band, drama, or art. The principal is OK, not much of a leader, not too connected with the parents or teachers. Just like all schools, there are some great teachers, some awful teachers, and lots of mediocre teachers. Visit the web site, the school, then make your decision.
I've been a parent of two children at Arts Magnet for 5 years, through every grade (K-6) but 4th. Last time I checked there wasn't a Luddite in the place -- in fact my third-grader's teacher is married to the BUSD chief of technology, who volunteers with the kids for their computer lab every week. A website, however, does not an arts program make.
"Arts" at BAM (Berkeley Arts Magnet) means dance, choral and instrumental music, drum band, theater, and visual art. In the 80's and early '90's BAM was truly a "magnet" school of the arts, drawing students from throughout the district. That changed several years ago when the BUSD went to its current system of pupil assignment zones, though it is still possible to get in if you live outside the zone. Nonetheless, the arts focus of the school was retained, thanks to a very committed body of parents, teachers and the principal, Lorna Skantze-Neill (if I'm spelling that right).
The arts elements of the curriculum are funded partly through site funds and partly through BSEP grants, PTA funds and similar private sources. There are four "dedicated" arts teachers -- one each in visual arts, dance, choral music and drums (the drum band is a neighborhood institution). The overall emphasis is on exposing elementary (K-6) students to a variety of forms of artistic expression. K-3 students have four 45 minute art periods each week, one with each of the four teachers. Students in the upper grades (4-6) choose one of these areas in which to concentrate and have the same number of periods in that art form.
Students also are released from class for instrument lessons if they wish -- I believe that may be a district-wide program but am not sure. There are several performances by the whole school each year; last night the upper students performed at Julia Morgan Theater. The African dance troupe has a statewide reputation.
BAM also does well on regular academics, compared to other schools in the district. It has won several consecutive California Distinguished School awards. The teaching staff is, with rare exception, good to excellent; the upper grades have a wonderful roving math teacher who turned my elder son's math career around completely.
All in all, BAM is a warm, safe, multicultural urban public school with a good arts program. In these sorry days when California has fallen from first to virtuallly last in the country in school funding, its very existence is a miracle. I recommend it highly.