Longfellow Middle School

Public School
operated by Berkeley Unified School District
1500 Derby Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
Program Type:
Language immersion
Editors' Notes:

Parent Q&A

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  • Sylvia Mendez to Longfellow

    Jan 8, 2024

    Hi, we are trying to decide on which school to enroll our rising Kindergartner in. We are considering Sylvia Mendez (if he can get in), but wanted to understand better the Middle School choices. We live nearby Willard and he would normally go there. I know there is a preference for SM kids to go to Longfellow, but does going to SM impact their ability to go to their more proximate middle school if we decide to do so?

    One of the changes made last year for the middle school zoning was that Sylvia Mendez kids are now required to attend Longfellow, even if they are choosing to opt out of the TWI immersion program at that point. It was a hotly contested issue during the school board meetings when the rezoning was happening. Many parents called and wrote in complaining that they enrolled their children in Sylvia Mendez years ago, assuming they could still have them attend their nearby middle school when it was time. The district's rationale was that the only way to keep the numbers at the other schools right was if all Sylvia Mendez students were assigned to Longfellow. Now, no matter where you live in Berkeley, if your child graduates from Sylvia Mendez, they will be automatically placed in Longfellow, even if you request otherwise.

  • I have 2 kids in Sylvia Mendez that recently got tracked for Longfellow.  So many of the parents in the school were upset with the decision and complained about the impacts this would have on their child and family.  All the middle schools are within a 1 mi radius of eachother, and longfellow is less than a mile from Sylvia Mendez, so I can hardly imagine it is a distance thing. I understand some of the parents are concerned with the construction slated to happen over the next couple years.  I can't help but think from all the comments and complaints that there is something else wrong with the school and nobody had the nerve to say it.  Is Longfellow significantly worse than the other 2 middle schools?    

    Longfellow has historically been a 'choice' middle school, meaning no one was zoned to attend. Kids were zoned for either Willard or King and then some opted in to Longfellow. it's been underenrolled due to that and hasn't been as well-invested-in as the other two schools. With that said there are LOTS of happy kids and parents at Longfellow even with this policy.

    This is all historical - check out this article to explain the rezoning: https://www.berkeleyside.org/2022/06/16/berkeley-votes-desegregate-midd…

    Things are going to smooth out and be more equitable given the change, and I think the school is only a little bit away from being viewed more positively!

    For our family, our primary concern was the travel distance from our home to Longfellow (3.5 miles) compared to our currently-zoned middle school (1 mile). My children didn't go to Sylvia Mendez, but I will say that decisions that made sense when enrolling my kids in elementary school aren't necessarily the same for selecting a middle school. I may have been OK with my child needing to ride a school bus to and from elementary school, but we wanted our kids to develop independence once they got to middle school. We did not want them needing to rely on parents driving them to and from school.  My older child was able to get themselves to and from our zoned middle school (by foot or by bike) and that would not have been possible for our younger child had they been assigned to Longfellow. I realize that school bus service is now being considered for LF, but that given early morning music and after school sports and clubs in middle school, any child needing to rely on a school bus to attend LF won't be able to fully participate in the school. Certainly the lower test schools at LF (compared to King and Willard) and the impending huge construction project also gave us pause, but the distance was our main concern. 

    Okay, so you've opened a big huge can of worms here-- I imagine you'll get lots of responses. But here's mine. People are voicing concerns and frustration around issues with upcoming construction, desire for "academic rigor," and commute/transportation. To me, these all seem like the tentacles of race and class bias-- which has bred a longstanding negative reputation of the school due to de facto segregation that the district is finally getting around to correcting, and also explains the school's fairly abysmal test scores compared to Willard and King (they're creeping up, albeit slowly). I have a kid at Longfellow that came from Sylvia Mendez. It is a great place--the staff are kind, caring, experienced, committed, and warm, and I have found the administration to be responsive and engaged. We feel very, very grateful to be a part of the community-- and very much in support of the new K-8 TWI policy. Best wishes to your family on the journey. 

    Because of the way the middle school zones were divided (it's quite different from the elementary school process) Longfellow's population ended up becoming more segregated along race and class lines, and thus developed a reputation because of it. BUSD is implementing a new middle school enrollment policy that will change this and help desegregate the schools. Here's an article about it: https://www.berkeleyside.org/2022/11/10/busd-middle-school-enrollment-d…

    Until the change goes into effect, Longfellow may continue to have a reputation but I'm very optimistic about its future. I used to volunteer at Longfellow. They have amazing teachers and staff, and they're working hard to make positive changes and support students. I hope that families give LMS a chance and find ways to get involved and invest in the school's future. 

    This is something I had posted previously, so not especially out of date but I'm reposting here in case it's helpful:

    My child was at Longfellow for sixth grade a couple years ago (2019-2020). I don't know about the current zoning situation or when that will be resolved. I believe BUSD has been assigning all or almost all late applicants to Longfellow. At 2019 fall registration they were still making up student schedules on the fly and said it was very challenging because BUSD had sent them 70 or so kids at the last minute.

    The school has some really amazing teachers (also Ms. Ayesha is amazing), but from what I saw they did not have adequate resources to effectively support the students in that year's sixth grade. I had the impression that this was a fairly new development, but I can't say for sure. Under principal Wyatt the focus of sixth grade seemed to be socio-emotional type issues with academics being a much lower priority. (E.g. there was a year-long "study skills" class that all students were absolutely required to attend regardless of whether this was useful for them.). That said, Ms. Wyatt seemed very devoted to the school and the children, and my child always spoke of her in glowing terms. Ms. Wyatt resigned near the end of last year and the school has a new principal now. The beginning of seventh grade "distance learning" was disorganized and there was a notable difference in the outreach from Longfellow versus my other child's school (more effort to engage from the other school). We are no longer participating so I can't say whether it has improved with time.  

    I'm posting this because I had a really hard time finding up to date information about the situation at Longfellow when BUSD assigned us there. Yet when I spoke to people there seemed to be a well-known concern that it was not on par with other BUSD middle schools. I don't think it's fair that families moving into the district are at an information disadvantage. I also don't mean to suggest that it wasn't a valuable experience for my child in many ways, but there do seem to be inequities across the three middle schools that need to be addressed by BUSD.

    New note with the TL:DR version: Despite having dedicated teachers the classrooms were frequently chaotic, and some in the administration seemed to view academics as not the first priority. Obviously, one could reasonably argue that the first priority was to calm the chaos and create an environment where kids could focus on academics. I believe there was some info collected that showed vast disparities between the funding and the student needs in the 3 middle schools (Longfellow needed more but had substantially less). 

    I know there is a new principal and I believe that BUSD recognized the need to make changes, but it was unclear what would be done and when. I hope that things are better there now as the school was full of great kids and teachers.  

    I plan on sending our SM kids to Longfellow when they're that age. That said, I'm disappointed that the BOE didn't move to letting families choose from all three middle schools instead of assigning them. They argue it's for diversity but they could still have let families rank their order of preference and then assigned based on diversity (which is like what they do for elementary anyway). I think it's going to end up driving more families to private schools unfortunately. Though I hope folks will request the waitlist option because it may work out as it did for us.

    Anyway, I highly recommend reading some articles on Berkeleyside to understand some history of Longfellow and BUSD in general to get a sense of (maybe) where some complaints are coming from. 

    https://www.berkeleyside.org/2018/10/16/a-radical-decision-an-unfinishe… First article in a series of three on the radical integration of BUSD that obviously still greatly affects our schools today (links to the 2nd & 3rd articles in the first paragraph of article)

    https://www.berkeleyside.org/2020/01/28/crisis-or-crossroads-whats-in-t… An article that came out a few years ago that provides some background for understanding the BOE's recent decision

  • Longfellow Middle School

    Aug 2, 2020

    We just moved from Portland, OR and my daughter was assigned to Longfellow Middle school (our zone is King). A friend sent me an article about the issues at the school and I am concerned as my daughter only knows two people and they are going to King and I wasn't impressed by the current state of things at tLongfellow. Can anyone give me first hand information about the school and any pros and cons? My daughter is entering 6th grade and is coming from a small Catholic school in Portland.

    Thanks in advance for any advice or information.

    2nd hand information shared with me is that the worst days for Longfellow are behind it. A lot of effort has been, and is being, put into that school specifically by new district leadership and PTA's who are contributing to Longfellow graciously, as it has been underfunded on both sides I hear. The demographics of Longfellow are also slowly starting to reflect more accurately the new reality of Berkeley, and some say that will improve outcomes at the school. It's a laggard for the district, but is also a first priority for investment and improvements. No one has ever said it is better than King or Willard to me, but it is quickly becoming in the same category. Also, I believe Longfellow offers unique spanish language and other cultural options. Boy does coming from a Private Catholic School in Portland sound different though. Expect a very socio-economically and racially diverse community at Longfellow! It'll be enriching I'm sure, and, more reflective of the Berkeley High experience if the plan is to stay in Berkeley for that. Good luck!

    Longfellow has many strengths also!!

    in addition to some amazing, dedicated and long term teachers, they also have a robust counseling program.  You can email me, Rosinakeren [at] berkeley.net, and request your child gets a counselor who can put her in a small social group with other students.

    Longfellow is the smallest middle school compared to King and Williard. It has more kids in comparison to King and Williard that need assistance, like Free lunch and special ed services. The distract was planning on re-districting the zones next year so family who live close to Longfellow go there. Currently most families with more economic resources choose Willard or King. We live 2 blocks away and I was ready to send my son there in 2021. He will start 5th grade in a few weeks. Without the rezoning I’m hesitant to send my son there. I don’t have any person experience with Longfellow however. 

    Hi there,

    My daughter is also a new 6th grader assigned to Longfellow (and we're zoned for King). I've heard great things about the new principal and her teachers all seem very good so far, but like you we're hesitant because it seems like the school isn't getting the same resources as the other two. We're on the King waitlist but trying to make the best of it for now, so if your daughter would like to connect with mine I'm sure she'd be happy to make a new friend! 

  • Longfellow is our assigned middle school for next year. I have heard pretty disconcerting things about the school and would like to get more feedback from the community about your experiences. I'm especially interested in hearing how students with learning disabilities are accommodated. Thank you! 

    Hi, there. Looks like you may be under a mistaken impression; Longfellow is a "magnet" school. If you live on the North side of town, you are assigned to King. If you live on the South side, it's Willard. If you WANT your child to go to Longfellow, you select Longfellow. Your child will only attend Longfellow if you choose it.

  • Longfellow Middle School

    Aug 9, 2018

    The School principal position for Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley is listed as vacant.  Does anyone know what the status is for hiring for that position, or who is being considered?  I am planning to send my daughter there this year, and am wondering what a new principal means for the good things I have heard about the School and "be an ally" culture.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    No responses received.

  • Hello out there-  I cannot find any recent reviews of Longfellow Middle School.  We are in the King zone but Longfellow is very close to our house and my kid really likes the idea of a smaller school.  He's a mild spectrum child.  I recently have heard from kids and one parent that there is a much rougher scene at Longfellow.  Specifically one girl was transferred to King this year due to continual bullying.  A parent says she understands there is a lot of unruly and disrespectful behavior in some classrooms between kids and teachers.  I do not know any parents who have kids in Longfellow now or recently.  I would love to hear feedback from people who either have had kids there recently or currently.  Thanks so much ----- 

    We were also zoned for King, but live a few blocks from Longfellow. My son is now a Sophomore at BHS, but was a student at Longfellow. Without reservation, I would recommend the school!  My son thrived and grew with amazing teachers. The music program is fabulous.  We have friends that had kids at King, and they were equally pleased. If he has friends going to one or the other, maybe that should help sway the decision. Otherwise, I would say that for us, proximity to our home made Longfellow the clear winner.

    My 7th grader loves Longfellow and says it is a friendly school with an emphasis on welcoming, respect and the emotional toolbox teaching tools. I'd say the teachers have varied between fabulous and mediocre but that was true for my other child's teachers at King as well. King was great too, better athletics and drama, Longfellow has better music, art, and Spanish. Longfellow has a smaller feel where I feel like more of the teachers and staff know who my child is and look out for them. No bullying that I'm aware of. 

    I have two children in 7th grade at Longfellow who absolutely love the school, and I have been delighted with it so far: "a much rougher scene" does not describe our experience at all. I have been extremely impressed with the emphasis the staff and administrators place on building a safe and supportive community. I expected my children to face the teasing or bullying that I remember from my junior high days and they have had no such experiences, and they feel that it simply wouldn't be tolerated at Longfellow. They've had some amazing teachers and some less amazing, but overall I have been really impressed by the staff dedication; for example, writing grants, planning field trips, etc. We are also zoned for King and chose Longfellow for the size, the strong music program, and the fact that it is easy walking distance for our kids, which makes a huge improvement in quality of life for the whole family. I'm sure the other two schools are great too, but we've been more than pleased with our choice!

  • We are considering applying for Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley, and wondering what recent experiences have been for parents both academically and socially.  In addition, would appreciate any feedback on the afterschool program (have heard mixed things about Willard's, and not sure if that's common for middle school).

    Thank you.

    No responses received.

Parent Reviews

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I can respond from the opposite perspective. My child was at Longfellow in sixth grade when they switched to "distance learning" last spring. We switched her to a small private school where she has been able to attend in person classes all year. When I asked about 8th grade she wanted to remain at the current school and not return to Longfellow. (This was before it became clear that BUSD was not making in person classes a priority for next year either, although in retrospect maybe the writing was on the wall.) From my perspective she has also been noticeably happier at the smaller school. 

As to phones specifically, according to my kid virtually every child at Longfellow had a smart phone and was on it constantly. The new school makes active efforts to keep the kids off screens, and no phones are allowed. (Technically, I don't believe they were allowed at Longfellow either during class, but just from pick up and drop off I can say that they were everywhere.) There is also far less discussion of "dating" at the new school. So from a parenting perspective, if you value keeping the kids off screens and social media, based on our experience I would stick with the small private school. If you've found a middle school where your kids isn't dealing with peer pressure, use of social media too young, smart phones, etc. it's probably worth sticking with it another year if you can afford the cost. 

For families researching Longfellow...Sadly, Longfellow has developed a less than perfect reputation. However, It has been such a blessing for our child. The community is warm and welcoming with committed teachers. I got involved in the PTA and have met so many amazing families from culturally and internationally diverse backgrounds. My daughter has a really nice group of friends who really care about each other and motivate each other to do well. Because it is so much smaller than the other schools, teachers really get to know the students and any problem I've had has been addressed immediately. I love that they have a large counseling program. Last year my child had a small issue and one of the counselors went out of her way to speak with her and made her feel a lot better. I love that they have a rule at lunch that "No one eat alone." The gardening program is great, the music program is great, the math program is great and kept my child challenged and engaged. I am really glad we landed at Longfellow. My child actually likes middle school, and in my experience, that is a rare thing. -Happy Longfellow parent 

Not your situation, but since you did not get many replies I will chime in with our experience as parents of a current 8th grader at Longfellow. It is an amazing school. They have a robust counseling staff and a big emphasis on inclusive, community-building programming.  The teachers are excellent and caring, the community of families is warm and welcoming.  We would have been zoned for King but opted into Longfellow because of King's size and other things we had heard related to the size.   We have always been very happy with our choice and our child honestly had a wonderful, happy middle school experience.

My older two kids went to King. It is big and has more of a 'rich kids' feel. My youngest went to Longfellow. Longfellow had an AMAZING caring community, smaller, great counsellors and great teachers.

Hi! We are a bit of the opposite of you, since my boys (7th & 9th grade) went to Malcolm X for elementary (enjoyed it) and then started Berkeley Independent Studies for middle school -my 9th grader is still in Independent studies- but just thought I would give u my Longfellow impression since they both do/did just band and jazz band at Longfellow in addition to BIS. We have enjoyed the Longfellow community in our smaller interactions (concerts, "caring elders day" ...) It is smaller than the other schools, feels like a neighborhood school. I know one family who left King for Longfellow after 6th grade as King is quite big and can be overwhelming, especially if one is coming from an Independent situation. Longfellow has Spanish immersion and extra music classes. King has a great garden, so it also might depend on your child's interests. Can you do the tours of both? I am not sure if the info nights have happened yet but you could call the schools and try to tour both and feel it out. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Dec 2014

RE: BUSD Middle Schools

I have one student at Longfellow and one who finished 8th there last year and have experience with both 0 period and after school programs.

Zero period (starts at 8): This is music - orchestra, band, or chorus/modern music. Anyone can take this, you can rent an instrument for a nominal fee (just like in elementary), it is a graded class with attendance taken but it is optional. Some kids switch instruments in 6th to try something new.

My vision was it would be a way to play music with people who really WANTED to play, since it is optional and you have to arrive early for it. Reality is lots of kids are gently pushed to do it due to parent work schedules, so it has the same lack of practice and horsing around issues that music did in elementary. Still, it's pretty amazing to play/sing in a big group, and it's a gateway into the incredible world of music during middle school and at BHS. It is a requirement for more advanced music classes (7th period or electives during the core school day).

There may also be some special academic support that happens during zero period, but music is the main thing.

Afterschool: it's certainly not as structured as elementary school, and I haven't been able to tell how strict the homework time is. But there is academic support, and lots of fun and games. It's a nice way to hang out with friends and be active in a safe environment. The staff are attentive and caring, and there are a variety of enrichment classes. The director, Ms Gilder, is solid gold - she's always watching what the kids do, in a loving and supportive way.

School athletics is part of the afterschool program so you have to be signed up for it to be on a team. The full price is only $125/month now, so it can be a good backup even if you don't plan to attend every day.

Personality: Longfellow's school culture is great. It feels like a safe and supportive community, where staff know the kids and are watching out for them, and where they take an interest in the kids and appreciate them as individuals. They have a strong counseling program (with an inspiring role model as lead: Ms. Rosina), which contributes actively to the ''be an ally'' school culture.

My freshman at BHS misses Longfellow, actually. It doesn't have as many electives and after school choices as the bigger schools, but it feels like family in a good way.
- Longfellow x 2

June 2014

Re: Middle school transition from private to Willard

Just to give you a second BUSD public school option, namely Longfellow, since you mentioned school size was a concern here. Longfellow is the smallest BUSD middle school. My kid has had a great experience with his math classes here. Also, BUSD music programs at all middle schools are tremendous, and give kids a chance to get to know each other in smaller non-competitive situations. happy with BUSD

Oct 2012

So what is up with behavior problems at Longfellow. We just moved here and our son came home horrified at the antics that took place in most of his classes. Kids yelling at the teacher, not respecting their elders, getting kicked out of class etc... Seems that the teachers spent lots of their time dealing with acting out students as opposed to teaching... Are there options for him to be in honors classes to get away from out of control kids or is this the norm for Berkeley? New to this scene

I was totally shocked that you heard such things about Longfellow.... and I say this because I teach at Longfellow and it has to be one of the calmest Middle Schools I have ever worked at (and I spent 5 years teaching in Oakland). This is my 6th year and I absolutely LOVE my job, my colleagues and the students. I think what you heard may be limited to one or two classrooms of newer/inexperienced teachers. The overwhelming number of classrooms are incredibly well managed. Our students are remarkably well behaved, respectful, tolerant and great allies to one another. PLEASE come and visit and see for yourself. I think you will find what you have heard not to be true. Tiger Teacher

We had the exact same experience in 6th grade last year. My daughter was at a small public Berkeley school for elementary, and behavior was very much kept in check; respect was required and expected. At Longfellow she was horrified to have kids (who knew each other from 5th grade) yelling across the room at each other while the teacher was teaching, passing snacks around, etc. She was also picked on by a boy right off the bat. I went in and talked to a counselor in the office. Within a couple days, several kids were moved out of her class to other classes to break up that network. She and the bully were brought in separately to write statements, and then had to read them aloud to each other, talk it out, shake on it, etc. I must say, given what the Longfellow staff are presented with each year --over 100 hormone-filled new kids from all over Berkeley, they handle it very, very well. But they need to know what's going on. Write down names, incidents, what happened, when, and then go in and talk to Mr. Ramos or Ms. Saddler, or Ms. Marie or Ms. Rosina...they can help. My daughter has made a ton of friends (including her bully), took honors math and honors reading, and is very happy at Longfellow now. But it took some work. BUSD mom of 3

To answer your question, no, this is not the norm in Berkeley schools and likely not the norm at Longfellow either. I urge you to make an appointment with the principal or vice principal and discuss your concerns directly with them, and find an option that works for your student. You can also speak with a school counselor if you would like to better understand how counseling support works at your student's school. They may be able to tell you in general terms how they address such behavior issues at Longfellow, and how they work with the students to keep everyone on track. I hope things in your student's class settle down soon. Middle school mom

Wow, I am surprised and saddened to hear that that is your son's experience, but I do not think that is the norm at Longfellow at all. Our daughter reports that her classes are well controlled. We have been impressed with how proactively teachers take up potential behavioral issues, and encourage the kids to resolve problems before they arise. I believe that kids may be sent to talk to a counselor if there are problems in classroom behavior. I think this is a good tactic, allowing the classroom learning to continue and giving a kid who needs support to get back on track the time and resources to do that. Our daughter is a very high achieving student, and has found plenty of opportunity to be challenged both in math and english.

I am sorry that your son has had a difficult transition. It sounds to me like an unusual spate of lousy events, and not at all the norm. Longfellow is a great school, with many great things going on. Happy Longfellow Parent

I was surprised to see your concerns about rude behavior in your son's classes, because we consider creating a positive school culture the highest priority at Longfellow. I have taught there for ten years, two of my own children were/are proud to attend Longfellow, and I know countless families that are very pleased with both the emotional environment and the outstanding academic programs at Longfellow. I suggest that you and your child make an appointment with the Principal or Assistant Principal immediately to express your concerns so that they can be promptly addressed. Mary

It's been a few years since I had a kid in BUSD middle school, so maybe things have changed dramatically. But in my experience, what you described was not unusual. When I was a parent in middle school (not Longfellow but another BUSD school), there was a kind of ''resigned acceptance'' of bad behavior, not just by the teachers but also by the kids, which I always thought was so sad. Maybe this was because they were dealing with much worse behavior than just talking out loud in class and disrespecting the teachers, so they all decided to pick their battles. I do think it takes someone like you coming in from out of state or coming from non-public school to notice it though, because you get kind of innured to it after a few years in BUSD.

Dec 2011

Re: Spanish Immersion after 5th grade

I believe Longfellow is the Berkeley middle school where the continuing Spanish immersion kids go, but I could be wrong. In Contra Costa, Portola is the feeder for our Spanish immersion kids but their program is in its infancy, just started this year. anon

Spanish immersion continues at Longfellow Middle School. You will need to fill out a new Middle School application and preference form, like you did when your child entered Kindergarten. Choose Longfellow's Spanish Immersion when you fill that out. Berkeley mom of 3

Longfellow Middle School continues the Spanish immersion program through 8th grade. My son is a 7th grader and he loves it at Longfellow. He is challenged academically and has made great friends through the sports teams. My 5th grade daughter will start there next year. Longfellow is a dynamic caring place. The teachers and administration are responsive and talented. The parent community is involved. I highly recommend that you check it out. Cherene, Longfellow PTA President

There is a BUSD Middle School continuation of the Dual Immersion Program at Longfellow Middle School. We are currently in our 9th year and have successfully continued the bilingual development of Berkeley Unified Students from all three TWI elementary schools and the Thousand Oaks Bilingual Program. Our program runs from 6th through 8th grade, and then we help place our graduates in advanced Spanish classes at Berkeley High School. You are welcome to visit Longfellow and the Dual Immersion classrooms anytime. Longfellow Teacher Mary Patterson

From what I understand, kids/families who want to continue in TWI through middle school all attend Longfellow Elementary. All 3 TWI elementary programs feed into Longfellow, which has a TWI track alongside their regular program. Our oldest is only in 3rd grade (in a TWI class), but from what I hear, Longfellow is supposed to have a great program. TWI Mom

longfellow middle school has a well-respected dual emersion spanish-english program, although some students there are in the english only program. If you know some families with older kids in the dual emersion program, you should speak with those families about their middle school choice. The longfellow community is small and close and supportive with good teachers. The campus is safe with a big yard and a great auditorium. Sports, music and other programs are offered. They probably have an open house coming up at some point that you can check out. My student did not go,through that program, but has friends who did and those kids are great. Another BUSD parent

Longfellow....... A Good School?

April 2011

My son just have been accepted in Longfellow middle school. I do not know if I should be happy or not. I have heard good and bad things about it. I would really apreciated any information if your kid goes to this school. Thank you. -G

We had a kid at Longfellow from 2007-2009 and we loved it. I was amazed at how the teachers, counselors, and staff consistently went above and beyond our expectations. We had a kid with a lot of issues and chose Longfellow because of its smaller size and we never regretted it. I felt like I really knew the community there and they really knew us and worked with us as a family. I could not have imagined teachers so committed to the success of their students. Loved Longfellow

Longfellow vs. Willard

Feb 2011

My daughter has her heart set on Longfellow, after taking a tour and feeling how calm the school is... I liked the rigorous counseling program that's in place, along with the high level of academics being taught, and focus on the arts. However, we have a 6th grade friend (high-achieving, well-behaved girl, like my daughter) who is experiencing some bullying. Is your child at Longfellow? Do they feel safe and able to ''be themselves''? Please share...I like Willard too, but my daughter really wants to attend Longfellow. Want to make the right choice...

My son is like your daughter and he has not experienced bullying however a friend (same profile) of his has. When the parents found out they talked with the teacher/counselor and they beefed up the "Be an Ally" talk and now the victim has more tools to use AND the bullying stopped. So the school is proactive and will help each student get what they need. Longfellow is using "restorative justice" in some situations (they want to expand) to help the "victim" and the "bully" learn how to live in a multicultural, cooperative community. We are happy with our choice and we will be sending our daughter there in 2 years. Happy Longfellow Family

I'm not sure about Longfellow vs. Willard; but I can speak to the Longfellow vs. King question. My child had a hard time socially at King, particularly in 6th grade; while her friends who went to Longfellow had an easier time forming cohesive friendship groups. Most of her current friends are friends who went to Longfellow, though things are much more socially open at BHS. Academically, I would probably choose King again, but the social ''scene'' was very rough for a smart, shy, self-conscious child (lots of teasing about being ''smart''; though I wonder if other kids were teased about other differences). What is unclear to me is how much of this is middle school (friends with children in the private schools have spoken of similar problems), how much of this was the specific school, and how much of it was the child (who is thriving in high school). anon

My son is a sixth grader at Longfellow and he loves it. He had been chronically bullied at his former (private) elementary school, so when he told me about a kid trying to bully/intimidate him at Longfellow, it was stressful.

In elementary school, the bullying increased after we asked for help; we got no support from staff and the bully was free to continue. At Longfellow, Principal Pat Saddler dealt with it quickly and effectively. Within a day my son was no longer bullied and that's the last we heard of it.

Longfellow's teachers are the best we've ever experienced. They're devoted to helping the kids learn, and the kids know it. Kudos to all of them! Grateful Mama

Our 7th grader is attending Longfellow. We lived in Oakland and she attended private schools (K-5) exclusively. The transition to a public middle was smooth. Although she didn't know anyone at the school, she has thrived and made friends. She is involved in the 0 period music program and softball. We chose the school based on its size, emphasis on music, arts and science, afterschool program (EDP) and the amazing counseling department. Parent of a Thriving 7th grader

(Editor) a review was also received for Willard

August 2010

Hi, We are considering relocating to Berkeley for the schools, and I am trying to learn more about Longfellow.

Can anyone tell me what they know about this school? We value diversity, the arts and good solid teaching tailored to the children above mere standardized test scores (although I know this differs from the State's approach to public schools).

Also, does anyone know anything about how to get into this school? I am asking because I understand you can elect this school if you don't like the middle school in your zone, and I want to be sure that is correct.

Thank you!

We are very pleased with Longfellow Middle School. Our son will be an 8th grader in the Fall and has had outstanding teachers so far. Longfellow is a magnet school, meaning that you must choose the school rather than just being assigned to your zone school. i understand there is a lottery, as the school is small, especially compared to King. The principal is great. The counseling staff is fabulous. The studentbody is very diverse and there are wonderful opportunities for the arts, especially in the afterschool program. I highly recommend Longfellow Middle School! Check out http://www.berkeley.net/index.php?page=longfellow Feel free to contact me if you would like to talk more. B

Feb 2010

Re: Moving to Berkeley Summer 2010 - middle schools?
... any child can attend Longfellow and Longfellow's test scores are equal to slightly better than King, it has the smallest achievement gap of any of the middle schools, it has an enriched counselor program (last year 18 interns for 420 students!!), a fantastic after school program, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Dance, and a great principal (whose son graduated from there last year so she really believes in her school). Both my sons graduated from Longfellow and are/were honor students at BHS. Don't let the campus mislead you, Longfellow has great teaching going on inside. a Longfellow parent alumni

I just want to echo the recommendation of Longfellow for a middle school choice. My kid went to Longfellow and was not an easy kid--lots of issues. But I have to say that the teachers and counselors regularly went above and beyond the call of duty with him. I don't have experience with the other middle schools but can say that I was not disappointed at all with Longfellow. I just can't say enough about the quality of the staff there. Another Longfellow Alum Parent

March 2009

Re: Which middle school for my sons?
We are guardians of a troubled boy that came to live with us as he was entering the 6th grade a couple of years ago. Based on the recommendation of friends and because we knew one of the teachers there, we had him attend Longfellow. I have never regretted it. Each year, he has had at least a couple of teachers who have gone above and beyond their duties as teachers to support him. They are really for him and work hard to help him succeed. The counseling team and administration there have also been a great support for him. We appreciate the smaller size of the school and feel like he is known there and not lost in the crowd. Our kid has certainly found teachers that he struggles with, but there have always been at least a couple who really go out of their way to connect with him. I highly recommend Longfellow. appreciative parent

Nov 2008

Re: The low-down on King & Willard Middle Schools
Are you considering Longfellow? It's half the size of King, now has the best overall test scores for any BUSD middle school, has consistently had the highest scores for Black and Latino students, has the best after school program (70% of students participate) including jazz and steel drum bands, art, theatre, dance, and sports (and of course tutoring), has a very strong Spanish language department (is the dual immersion middle school for BUSD), and has a great principal: Pat Saddler, and many amazing teachers (the staff gets a standing ovation during Back to School Night every year). Since the school is close to BHS, top 8th grade math students can easily attend BHS for Honors Geometry and students can take an honors option for any core class. The school values academic achievement (for example, honors- 3.0-3.49 GPA and high honors- 3.5 and above, and straight A students are publicly recognized every quarter as well as those with perfect attendance). And, since its the magnet middle school, any child in Berkeley can apply. Both of my children have/are attended/ing Longfellow and got a great education, teachers who care (still ask about my ''child'' that is now in college), and had wonderful enrichment activities. anonymous

Feb 2005

Longfellow vs. King
I am trying to find out something about the relative strengths of the middle schools Longfellow and King. I'd really welcome some thoughts from parents who know these schools. Janice

I am looking for feedback on Willard and Longfellow Middle Schools from parents of kids who are recent graduates or are there now. My son will be in the 5th grade next fall at a local Berkeley elementary school and we are in the Willard zone, so we would be assigned to Willard no doubt when he moves on to Sixth grade. I am very concerned that he will have all kinds of problems there, and would like some info and perhaps a reality check to see if my worst fears are justified. First, my son has ADD, does not have good study habits and gets easily overwhelmed in large classroom settings. I worry that a school like Willard, combined with the fact that he is becoming a teenager, will simply be too much. Second, we live a block from Willard and during the day I see all kinds of goings-on by students, including trashing neighborhood yards, skipping classes to hang out at the local Andronicos where the kids run around until they get thrown out by store personnel, and kids piling on other kids as they try to walk home from school. Is this activity representative of Willard school? How good are the teachers, mathematics and science programs, and afterschool programs, compared to Longfellow or the local private middle schools? Is Longgfellow just as bad? I wish I could send him to King, which I've heard much positive feedback about, but we are in the wrong zone. Anxious mom

My daughter is a 6th grader at Longfellow and it is working out quite well. She could have gone to King (or private for that matter) but chose Longfellow because it is the smallest of the middle schools (but not so small as some of the private schools) and she was in the bilingual program in elementary school and was able to continue it at Longfellow.

I was concerned about Longfellow until I went to an open house and checked out classes while school was in session. I was impressed with what I saw. There is a good principal and teaching staff and everyone knows each other. I think they keep an eye on all the kids and that the cohesion is good. If you want to talk, feel free to email me. Amy

I have a son in 7th grade at Longfellow and he has had a very good experience there. It is the smallest of the three schools, which was important to us and his needs. He is an excellent student, has had good teachers who have gone out of their way to make the curriculum challenging for him. The Principal and Vice principal are very experienced, show lots of leadership, work closely with parents, and make a point to get to know each and every child. Wonderful art, music, dance and theater programs, excellent Advanced math program. Very diverse student population with an emphasis on having a strong school community. Kids in general, as much as middle schoolers do, look out for each other. Firm but fair discipline policies,staff keep parents in the loop. Mary

My son graduated from Longfellow and is now an honor roll freshman at Berkeley High. Longfellow's strengths? Strong principal and generally strong teaching staff, wonderful advanced math and arts program, rich after school program, and the small size means that everyone knows everyone and there is alot of opportunitiy to shine (sports, music, dance, etc.). In my opinion, these strengths more than compensate for the limited campus facilities (great theatre, dance studio, and computer lab - but no track, pool, not much open space). Yes, the neighborhood isn't the greatest, but the campus is very secure - student safety is a real priority. The kids run the gamut - but involvement in any of the enrichment activities - sports, arts, computers - really makes a difference, the involved kids provide a good peer group and participation in these programs is actually valued among the students/its not considered ''geeky'' - especially the sports and arts programs. Karen H.

February 2003

Re: Middle Schools with a strong math/science department
Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley is an Arts and Technology Magnet School. As at MLK, 7th graders can also take Honors Algebra (or can wait and take Honors Algebra in 8th grade). There are some great math teachers at the school (and Science). In addition,the school has a strong computer program (but has experienced some recent cuts due to the BUSD budget crisis). My 7th grader is programming and will start learning machine code next week. Karen H.

January 2003

My daughter is now in 8th grade at Longfellow. The administration was quite sloppy under the previous principal, but the new one, Rebecca Cheung, so far seems organized and intelligent. I don't think Longfellow always challenges my kid enough in the academic sense, and the recent cuts in electives--this is supposed to be an arts and technology magnet school!--have been disheartening. However, Margaret has managed to come through the inevitable teasing and social stress successfully, and acquired a great (racially mixed) group of friends, which I suppose says something both for her and the social atmosphere around school.

There are some very good teachers at Longfellow. Of the ones I know, Cortez Robinson is wonderful for the student who's worried about math; last year he helped turn Margaret around from a C to an A, and her self-confidence soared as a result. Some other fine, dedicated teachers: Joan Brannigan for 7th grade English and history; Andrea Lee, who teaches P.E. and dance and has been a good role model of female strength and grace; Ms. Little, an 8th grade math teacher; Suzy Loper, a fabulous science teacher; and Jessie Luxford, 8th grade English and history. Doubtless there are others.

The after-school program (EDP) is run by Tina Lewis, an excellent administrator. Along with the arts and sports classes, the library, which is well stocked and a pleasant place to work and read, hosts a drop-in homework center most afternoons until 6 p.m.

Physically speaking, the newly restored main building and the building that houses the library, science labs, offices, and gym are pretty nice, but the so- called ''annexe'' is quite depressing, as is the cafeteria. (Some things don't change...)

Just as in elementary school, I recommend keeping an eye on your kid's work and attitude. Get every teacher's phone number and/or e-mail at back-to-school night and stay in touch; ask questions, make suggestions, nag politely, just like you do with your kid. This really pays off in middle school; your child may not always like it, but better she knows you take education seriously and are willing to put yourself out for hers: good behavior to model, so she'll learn to stand up for herself and work for what she wants. Melanie

November 2002

Re: middle school music programs
My son is a 7th grader at Longfellow. As a 6th grader, he was in 6th grade band that met 2/week and also had Music Theory/Chorus that met once a week (both during the school day). After school, he was able to join the Jazz Band during the second semester which met 2/week after school. As a 7th grader, he is in 7th/8th Concert Band that meets 5/week during zero period (8-8:45am.). After school, he is in Jazz Band again 2/week and joined Steel Drum Band 2/week after school. Ms. Davis, the Music Director is fantastic and the Jazz Band instructors are wonderful (for example, staying after class on their own time to work with kids that need help learning some of the new pieces). The Steel Drum Band is a real favorite at school and is surprisingly good. Longfellow also has other great art programs. My son is taking Art and Technology (drawing the first semester and 2nd semester computer-applications such as Adobe Illustrator) 5/week as an elective and after school takes Comic Strip Design and Theater (also offered: Stage Craft: set design, sound engineering, etc. African Dance, Hip Hop, and 3-D Art). Some of these programs are grant funded and the school so far has avoided the worst cuts (but lost Advanced Band this year and some of the very advanced computer courses). In general, we are very pleased with Longfellow, are happy with our new principal and vice principal (but still miss our former vice-principal now at BHS), have had great teachers (there are a few not so great teachers as in any school, including private, but so far we've had the luck of the draw). I AM concerned about funding in future years but Longfellow has been a great experience so far - and LOVE the small size. Karen

May 2002

My son wants to attend Longfellows Middle School next fall. We've visited the campus and sat in on several classes (sixth grade). Does anyone have any ideas on how to get the teacher of your choice? Vicki

Reply to parent wanting advice re Longfellow Middle School teacher selection: My son went to Longfellow for 6th grade a couple of years ago. We had visited to check out the 6th grade teachers, and then wrote a letter to the principal requesting particular teachers. They did assign him to the teachers he wanted, though I don't know if that was due to our letter or just luck of the draw. It certainly didn't hurt to write the letter. Diane

Nov 1998

Longfellow test scores: Longfellow was just created as a Middle School (converted from an old elementary school, I believe), about 4 years ago. So they were really starting from scratch with new teachers, programs, principal, everything. This is the sense that they are playing catch up. They are building two new large buildings; I understand that at least one will be a new auditorium. Longfellow's emphasis is on the performing arts.

From: Netsy (3/98)

My daughter is in the 7th grade and she has had a very good experience there. This year she has terrific teachers, a number of them young and energetic. A woman math teacher and a woman science teacher who are terrific. The science dept has a joint project with UC Berkeley Astrophysics Dept which has been wonderful. It's also a small school - 350 kids - which has been good. Responsive principal. Main drawback now is that they are starting construction which may be disruptive. Feel free to reply to me directly and we can talk by phone.

April 1997

I have one child at Longfellow and one at King. My daughter, age 11, wanted very much to stay with several of her friends who were remaining at Longfellow, sports was not as much of an issue, and it doesn't feel like she is as ready for that larger school. I'm hoping she will mature a lot in the next two years. We have had some excellent teachers at Longfellow and Susan Tanisawa (6th) grade, who co-teaches with Ms. Merritt, is my idea of the perfect sixth-grade teacher. I'm not as happy with the principal as at King and I don't completely buy into this "arts and technology" theme because it seems slow in developing, but all in all, the school seems to be alive and growing. The last open house was wonderful, with a steel-drum band (made up of the kids) and a pot-luck buffet - it felt like a happy, lively school.

As an additional matter, I went to all the planning meetings for the reconstruction of Longfellow and my kids will both be out of there before it is the school it is promising to be. I have some environmental concerns about my daughter going to school in a construction zone for the next two years but we'll just have to wait and see about that one. Barbara

Oct 1996

I can't address elementary schools, but here's my two (or maybe more like 50 ;)) cents based on my one year of experience with Longfellow Middle School.

I found Longfellow to be a good school programmatically. Their aims and ideals were wonderful. However, I had some serious problems over the course of the year, some of which were the responsibility of the teacher, and some of the school. At one point my daughter was allowed to miss 14 assignments before we got a call from her teacher! I found this unacceptable. Additionally, other communication with the school was poor. When we asked for a list of assignments that she needed to make up, this list NEVER materialized, despite repeated requests. I liked the vice principal a lot; I felt she did a good job of keeping communication open between students, parents, and staff, but that wasn't enough to make up for poor communication at the classroom level.

My other main gripe was with the unremitting emphasis on Black history. I know there are some that would claim that this bias is necessary to redress a historical imbalance in the direction of dead, white males. However, I do not feel that any imbalance is appropriate, and I got very tired of the teacher's and the school's seeming attitude that Blacks are the only repressed minority in the world worth talking about.

Nor did I ever feel encouraged to participate in the school. In fact, when I did volunteer to chaparone one trip, I felt decidedly ignored by other parents and teachers. Our other attempts at involvement met with similarly lukewarm to cool reactions.

I have limited experience as a parent of a school age child; however, our experience this year at Bancroft School in San Leandro is light years ahead of our experience in Berkeley. The teachers are all very concerned with the welfare of their students; I got a call within the first week from one teacher. And for those who might object that San Leandro is a bastion of white supremacy: it just ain't so. The school is very racially mixed, and the program appears to be balanced for gender as well as race. I truly look forward to the rest of our time associated with this school.