Malcolm X Elementary School

Community Subscriber
Public School
operated by Berkeley Unified School District
570 students
(510) 644-6313
1731 Prince Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
School district-run

Parent Q&A

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  • LEARNS at Malcolm X

    Aug 7, 2023

    My son is entering TK at Malcolm X this year. Because of an unexpected family issue, I've suddenly become a single parent with a full-time job. I signed him up for LEARNS program last week, but am not sure whether he will get in. I am stressed out and do not know what to do. Are there other afterschool programs in Berkeley (or Rockridge)? What other options are there? Any advice is much appreciated. 

    Did you hear about anything else? It doesn’t seem like anybody has spots. MX PTA did put up a poster at the welcome event for TK/K for people to find carpool buddies (parents taking turns watching kids I guess). But I didn’t see anything about after school childcare resources. Unless I missed something but I don’t think so.

  • Malcolm X TK Starting 8/15

    Aug 3, 2022

    I can’t get a hold of anyone from the school. All phone VMs are full / emails go unreturned. My last contact with the school was in May. Does anyone have any information / tips on getting a hold of a live person? I want to make sure there was no problems with her application/enrollment.

    thank you!

    It is stressful, I could imagine. You can contact the central BUSD headquarters on Bonner st. Admission...

    But I would not worry too much about it. TK is a low stake grade. By law, the district HAS to provide you with a spot. Unfortunately, TK is always a last thing the district deals with EVERY year. I know that Cragmont has a playdate for incoming TK/K students. I would imagine Malcolm X does as well. You can just stop by the school...on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to see if you see a bunch of kids. 

    Thank you!! I finally got the information, yes it was all very last minute but we are enrolled for Monday 😅

  • My 4 year old will be starting TK at Malcolm X in a few weeks. We're transitioning from private daycare, so it's a big change. Can anyone offer advice or pointers for helping our son with the transition? I do also have a couple of specific questions:

    • How do they do lunch in the TK classroom? Are you providing lunch or they get it at school?
    • How does breakfast work? Does the child arrive earlier?
    • Does anyone know the difference between the LEARNS and BEARS afterschool programs? From the website they honestly seem kinda the same. 

    Welcome to the MX community. I’m the parent of an older student and I work in the school, often at the TK level. I’ll try to answer your questions in order:

    LUNCH: You can send a lunch with them (in containers they can open themselves) or they can get a free school lunch. Each TK class has an aide who walks the school lunch kids to pick up their lunch, so no worries there. There are also lunch aides who are present to help kids open their milks or other containers. The TK faculty have smooth systems for everything.

    BREAKFAST: All students have free breakfast and eat them generally right before first recess. Again, the TK staff is all very experienced and have a routine for everything.

    AFTERSCHOOL: Learns and Bears are different in how they are funded. Because Bears is subsidized, you have to income qualify to get in. Learns is a paid program. Both fill up quickly and have waiting lists. 

    My kid attended a different BUSD kindergarten, but some things are the same:

    Universal breakfast is served in the classroom at the start of the school day.  Kids just need to arrive at school on time, not early. 

    My understanding is that LEARNS is for people who can pay for childcare and BEARS is subsidized on a sliding scale (which is a terrible system).

    Lunch: it is youth choice. You can either pack your own or get a school lunch. This year again the school lunch might be free. At the beginning of the year, you will get a calendar with all the lunch menus.

    Breakfast: come on time. Once they take attendance and greet each other, the breakfast is served. No need to come earlier. Just come on time, that is all.

    BEARS vs LEARNS. one is state pays for and the other one you pay for. As far as a child is concerned, there is no difference.

  • Dear parents, Can anyone provide some recent thoughts and/or reviews of Malcolm X and BAM? Our son is entering K this fall. We are struggling to choose between the two as first option (of course knowing that we may not get either). From what we've heard it sounds like most families love both these schools. Any thoughts and reviews in this regard will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    We are in Kindergarten at Malcom X. While I know so many families that love the school so far I am unimpressed. I'm happy to email about my concerns if you want. 

  • Our daughter was assigned to Malcom X and we immediately registered her for the LEARNS after school program. We recently found out that we've been waitlisted. They said they are "really trying to get her in." However, they won't tell us where she is on the wait list until August, so it's hard to know how likely or unlikely it is that they'll find her a spot. After calling around to other after school care providers that offer transportation from Malcom X, we have been told by all providers that they are full and waitlist enrollment doesn't start for several weeks. Does anyone have any insights into the process at Malcom X or advice for finding an alternative after care program? I feel a bit like we're just hitting brick walls every place we look.  


    I'm sorry that you have been going through this frustration.  We are in the same situation -- my incoming Kindergartener is wait listed for LEARNS at Malcolm X even though we got our application in on the first day.  I had tried to talk to the MX coordinator but she is apparently out until Aug 14.  I have had better luck reaching out to Aaron Jorgensen who is the LEARNS supervisor for all the Berkeley schools.  He acknowledges the need to add another K group (an additional instructor so they can accommodate more kids and meet required ratios).  The Board needs to approve it but Aaron is pretty confident it will be approved.  This would mean that a bunch of spaces open up.  I am surprised you are not able to find out your spot on the wait list.  Aaron told us over the phone -- try calling him (his number is on the LEARNS website).  It seems to be poorly organized which is super frustrating, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it works out.  

    For aftercare, you should check out New School. Their website doesn't reflect it that well, but they have an amazing after-school program for school age kids. It's $500/month (compared with BUSD's LEARNS at $450/month) and much higher quality, from what I've seen. The BUSD school bus drops the kids off there, so you don't have to worry about transportation to another school site. Just in case it's not on your radar: the JCC in North Oakland has aftercare and picks up the kids from MX. 

  • We were notified that our daughter was accepted to transitional kindergarten program at Malcolm X next year.  We don't know much about the program or teachers, would love to hear any experiences people had or currently having.  Thank you.

    I have have two kids at Malcolm X and we love it! The youngest is in Kindergarten this year. Last year he was in the TK program. We were very pleased with it. The program is very established now.  The teachers are really good. The whole experience Malcolm X is really enriched by the school's arts programs which the TK kids get to partake in too. They have music, dance and drama classes and performances. They also get to watch the drama performances of the other grades. It really did help 'transition' him to K -- academically and in learning how to function is the elementary school setting. They do a great job integrating them, but also giving them their own space (lunch, recess, etc.). The TK rooms are on a hallway with the kindergarten classes, so they aren't right in the mix with the bigger kids.  

  • I want to park my bike and bike trailer (2 kid version) at/near the Ashby BART, so I can pick up my kindergartner from Malcolm X. The BikeLink staff said I could park both in the electronic parking structure  if I didn't block any slots.  I was concerned this might not be feasible, so I rented two locked bike boxes from BART.  One of my BART boxes is broken and can't be opened and the other is filled with cigarette butts and garbage (while I could clean the locker, I don't want the bike trailer to be impacted by the lingering smell of the smoke).  Any suggestions on where I can safely park my bike and the bike trailer?  Since Malcolm X is under construction, can I park atleast the trailer at the school?

    We also just started at Malcolm X. There are a lot of bike racks there. Just call the school office and ask if you can park the bike and trailer there. They've been very responsive to all of my questions. Or just park it there and see what happens. My guess is that it would be just fine. They lock the gates from 8:30 till 1:30, I think (and maybe lock them up again?). So part of the day it would be behind locked gates.

    Good luck!

    Hi! It should be fine to park at Malcolm X in the yard, either next to king st gate or on other side near Ellis gate. The construction is on the outside for now but will move to inside the yard in a few months and that would not affect the bike rack by the king st gate

Parent Reviews

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We never got off the waitlist for LEARNS at Malcolm X last year for our kindergarten kiddo and we know several people who have been in the same boat. We ended up getting a spot at the City of Berkeley aftercare program at Live Oak park and we're doing the program again this year since it's affordable (around the same price as LEARNS, if not cheaper), the staff members are great and our kid had a great time. There are also programs at San Pablo Park and Willard Park. These programs also tend to get full, but you may have better luck than with LEARNS. There were definitely kids from Washington at our Live Oak aftercare program last year and I believe they provide bussing from Washington as well (my kid took the bus from Malcolm X to Live Oak every day and loved it). Registration for the City of Berkeley programs typically opens in August, though I would email them to check. 

As an FYI, you will not qualify for the bus if you are less than 1.5 miles from the school. And I'm sure you know that BUSD is a lottery and that you'll submit your ranked choices but ultimately it's up to the random lottery. Yes, all BUSD schools are the same in terms of curriculum and resources.

Malcolm X is one of the largest schools in the district while Emerson and JM are smaller. I was worried about the Malcolm X size when we were placed there but it hasn't been a problem and he's loved being in school. Aftercare is the same at all schools (LEARNS), but I'm not sure if availability is better at one school vs. another. We never got a spot at Malcolm X LEARNS but we got a spot at the City of Berkeley Live Oak program which has bussing from Malcolm X and some other schools. Malcolm X has a large arts emphasis; in kindergarten this year, our son has taken music and drama classes and has loved them. Another deciding factor would be to look at each school's start time; Malcolm X starts at 8:10 but some other schools start later.


We love Malcolm X but also know families who are very happy at BAM. The curriculum is similar, but we do like the increased performing arts at MX (we have a dedicated drama teacher, something I don't think all schools have). It has a great community, very warm and welcoming. but we also LOVE that we can walk to MX so if I were you I would get on the waitlist. One thing that could make MX a little easier is that you will qualify for the bus, and for afterschool you have a lot of options near you (Live Oak Park, New School, JCC) that all have buses from MX, so your kid can end the day closer to home to make it easier on you. Our son is at Live Oak and we like it - lots of free play outside and splashing in the creek. And your kid will have friends, all of those programs are especially popular among north Berkeley families whose kids go to south Berkeley schools.

Our sons did Learns at two different school - Sylvia Mendez and Malcolm X, both when they were in TK. We're very disappointed Learns doesn't operate at their current school, John Muir (and I truly don't understand why). Learns is affordable, they meet kids from same/adjacent grades, and flexible. Our kids do snack, worksheets, play games, get free time outside, and occasionally do crafts or watch movies (especially on rainy days). Pre-Covid, at Sylvia Mendez they offered Soccer Shots on campus once or twice a week for a couple months, as well as a few other programs that we were always too late to sign up for. That isn't happening at Malcolm X this year, so it seems to vary by school (and/or be impact by Covid). We're thrilled it's one location, teachers seem happy and energetic, and snack is provided. Kids come home tired but in a happy way, and again, get more time with their friends and in their school community. I like the relative flexibility/lack of structure combined with good safety and oversight (compared to programs at public parks). It's a huge benefit in comparison to having no after school care, where we're juggling after school activities, various family members picking up, etc.

I also have a kindergarten student at MX and I have been terribly disappointed with the teacher and the school's approach completely inadequate to distance learning. The teacher has offered no direct instruction beyond three full-class zoom calls per week. No individual or small group instruction whatsoever. No videos from the teacher -- nothing that fosters connection. My child has been absolutely miserable and has gone from loving school to hating it and thinking it is worthless. This has all been heartbreaking to witness, so much so that I am now submitting applications to private schools because I can't bear to watch my child's love of learning extinguished.

My son is in kindergarten at MX and has an amazing teacher. This year there is really no requirement on the amount of work you do or turn in. It is up to your family. Not sure if that will change. She provides enough work that you could theoretically spend 3-5 hours a day if you wanted to, but she recommends about 2 hours a day. She gives you a matrix for each week with lots of options to choose from: individual Zoom, small group Zoom, class-wide Zoom, videos she made, videos made by other MX teachers, videos made by other sources, worksheets and paper based activities, reading, Flipgrid, and some apps (RAZ kids and Freckle etc.). It is up to you how much you and your family want to engage in. 

My daughter is at Malcolm X with Ms. Carver (kindergarten) and I have been floored by how wonderful she has been. It’s hard to say what the other teachers at our school are or are not doing but we are very pleased with our experience. I hope the other teachers at the school prove to be at least half as great as she has been as a teacher both in person and online, as we move up in the grades. 

The quick answer is that all Berkeley public schools are great, so you can definitely rank your preferences by convenience or size. I ranked by proximity, got my first choice (Malcolm X), and am very happy. It does not bother me (or my kindergartener) that it is a large school. Best wishes with the application!

When my kids were at Malcolm X in Berkeley I was always impressed by how many interracial families there were among their classmates.  I think the Berkeley public schools would be a great place to feel at home.  Berkeley is expensive and difficult to find housing in, but it might be a good fit for what you are seeking.  While safety varies block to block in the SW corner where homes are more affordable, I felt very comfortable there with small kids.  Berkeley schools also have a two way immersion program, but it can be hard to get into.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Malcolm X Kindergarten class size?

Sept 2015

Just wondering how many kids are in the Malcolm X kindergarten classes this year. My daughter was/is on the MX waitlist, but there are only 17 kids in her class at her current school. I really had my heart set on Malcolm X, and am still pretty lukewarm about the school where she was placed, so trying desperately to find a silver lining. KinderGrump

My daughter is in K at MX. This year there are 4 K classes, each with 19 or 20 students.
new MX parent

Art at Malcolm X

Dec 2012

Are art and performance as thoroughly integrated into the Malcolm X curriculum as it seems? I was impressed by their kindergarten night and tried to enroll my kindergartener but did not get in. I'm debating whether to try for next year. My child is happy at his school but the art seems fairly mediocre, the dramatic art nonexistent and music doesn't start until they're older. Please let me know your experience at Malcolm X; also, if anyone has info on the chances of getting in as a first-grader, please let me know. Thank you! wanting more art

We have a 2nd grader at Malcolm X and have been very impressed with the quality and frequency of classes in the arts. The drama, art, dance and music teachers are exceptional, very experienced and dedicated professionals. Our daughter has visual art, dance and music once a week. Music starts in kindergarten at MX and judging from the recitals I've seen, the teacher is providing an excellent foundation. The dance performances have also blown me away. The teacher choreographs different dances for each individual class (a lot of work!) and they have all-school performances. I have really appreciated how much my daughter has learned and improved in her physical coordination because of the dance program. All children take drama for a portion of the year and perform a play. The fifth graders do Shakespeare, and kids do costumes, sets, lighting, etc., so there is something for everyone and they are learning on many levels. Performance (whether in music, dance, drama, reciting poetry or essays) is part of the culture of the school beginning in kindergarten and I have seen my shy, reserved kid blossom and shine on stage. This is a gift that will serve her for a lifetime. Art often integrates things kids are learning in science, language arts, math, etc.

Art education is something I personally value very highly and if we weren't at MX I would feel compelled to pay for these as ''enrichment'' classes after school (something we can't really afford). I feel so lucky that my daughter is getting these as part of her public education. MX parent and fan!

Recent thoughts about Malcolm X elementary school?

March 2011

Does anyone have recent thoughts and/or reviews of Malcolm X elementary school? From what we've heard it sounds like most families love it. The archives don't have any recent reviews, within the past 2 or 3 years. Is there a new principal and how is it working out. Also, what are parent's and children's experience with the afterschool programs. Thanks, incoming kinder family

I am the parent of a current kindergartener at Malcolm X and I wanted to say we are thrilled with the school. The K teachers are nothing short of amazing. The teaching is dynamic and creative. Right now they are doing a unit on community which has involved parents coming in to talk about their jobs, walking field trips to neighborhood locations, etc. The kids are writing, mapping - integrating every discipline into the work. Earlier in the year they had a month-long unit on the bay, which culminated in a boat trip leaving from SF, for the entire kindergarten of 80+ kids. These teachers are dedicated!

Our daughter is thriving academically and we love that she is being exposed to such a wealth of experiences. She loves gardening and cooking classes, is doing drama for the first time, and is rehearsing with her class for the all school chorale, led by her music teacher. These are all part of her regular school days. In addition to these there are PTA-organized classes after school that run the gamut from Circus Arts to Math Games and Architecture for Kindergarteners. I've been amazed that our public school offers such a rich and varied curriculum, and I am a firm believer in the role of arts in education, a primary reason I selected MX.

The principal, Mr. Hunt, is in his first year and I've been quite impressed with him. He comes across as dedicated, intelligent, well-spoken, energetic and positive. The other thing I've appreciated about the school is a great sense of community. We have attended several events that have brought out whole families and there is so much positive energy, a real sense of working together to make the best school possible for the kids. Welcome to Malcolm X!

I have two children at Malcolm X (4th and 1st grade) and we love it! Our children's experiences there have been above and beyond our expectations. The performing arts are fabulous, there is an atmosphere of a strong learning community and a really involved parent and teacher body. Parents know each other there and each others' children. The teachers (especially Kindergarten!) are really good at what they do and work cohesively to make it happen.

Yes, there is a new principal, Alex Hunt. The previous principal had been there maybe twenty years and recently retired. She was renown district-wide for having shaped and developed the school over that time, as a strong leader who invested a lot of say and support in her amazing teachers. She really made that school into something special. The new principal has the additional benefit of being warm, communicative and effective. It has worked out very well.

Other highlights: gardening/cooking/lunch room intertwined curriculum! What the kids are harvesting, is what they are cooking, is even sometimes what the cafeteria is serving! Performances, loads of the kind of performances where everyone is singing or dancing along. I will probably cry the day my kids leave this family. I hope you love it too. Happy As A Clam At MX

Jan 2011

Hi, I'm wondering if anyone has any more recent information than what currently appears on BPN about allowing families in the southwest to get into Malcolm X. I read two disturbing reviews on BPN from about a year ago that indicated that most of the incoming K class was from the central zone last year. Does anyone know if this is expected to continue? I am interested in information about next school year (2012/2013). Thank you!

I believe there was a mix-up last year, because no one I know in the SE zone got into Malcolm X in the first round. However, we did get in off the waiting list in July (rumor was that they added a class so SE zone students could be added). Hopefully this year the process will run a bit smoother so there won't be a wait. -anon

March 2010

I am troubled by what I hear from fellow parents who also listed Malcolm X as their 1st choice for incoming kindergartners. It seems that with expanding access this year to Central Zone for this deservedly popular school, BUSD has somehow assigned many, many more Central Zone families to MX than Southeast zone families. We did not, nor did any other SE families I know who listed MX first choice, get our children assigned there. I understand about BUSD's challenges, but I sense there is more than bad luck but that the system was somehow set up quite unfairly this year. Would love responses from others. troubled on MX wait list

I had a similar experience and ended up having the pleasure of speaking directly with Melisandra Leonardos, the Director of Admissions. What a tough job she has! It turns out that the School Board's decision to make Malcolm X a "dual zone". school resulted in almost no Southeast Zone families being assigned there. This could have been anticipated, since the change was made to deal with overcrowding in the north, not in the south.

Similarly, opening up BAM to the Northwest Zone resulted in an incoming class of almost entirely Northwest Zone families, rather than Central Zone families, where the school is located. Maybe this hasn't been as much of a concern because the school is more centrally located?

Regardless, it was clear that Melisandra is in a tough position being tasked with implementing the School Board's decision. I think it's worth it for parents to ask the School Board to take a look at how their decision played out and see if there's something that can be done to both deal with the overcrowding in the North, but also make sure that Southeast Zone families aren't shut out of one of it's outstanding schools. Malcolm X wannabe

Nov 2007

Re: Choosing between public schools in southeast zone
Most of us who read BPN and bother to respond probably love and are very loyal to our own schools, so you'll probably hear great things about all the schools. That is the good news, because it means it's hard to go wrong, even if you don't end up getting your first choice. My son is in third grade at Malcolm X. I basically moved to South Berkeley so he could go to this school, and I have not been disappointed. The community of families at Malcolm X is very diverse and lovely. My son has had one great teacher after another. All of the teachers strive to be thoughtful about how to teach in rounded, innovative ways while still meeting state guidelines and sadly, due to No Child Left Behind, focusing on test preparation to some degree. There are great ''arts'' classes - fine art, drama (sometimes), dance, music, gardening, cooking. There's a strong PTA and wonderful PTA afterschool classes. Will you be able to go to the open houses at the individual schools? Four long years ago, I found these to be very helpful! Nanu

Nov 2007

We have been members of the MX community for 10 years. We love it and are sad to be leaving the school after our second child graduates next year. There is so much that is positive to say about MX (it was given a California Distinguished School award last year), but the best thing about the school is its hardworking staff, led by the incredibly strong principal, Cheryl Chinn. Cheryl has put together an amazing group of teachers and support staff over the years. They work together and support each other and have dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of all of the students. There are many other positives too numerous to list (the garden, the arts, the outreach/support programs, a very active PTA) MX is a wonderful and diverse learning community. I'm more than happy to talk to anyone considering this outstanding school. kyras

April 2007

I am the parent of an incoming kindergartener - accepted at Oxford and on the waitlist at Malcolm X. To parents at both schools: Do you like it? Does your child like it? I have heard about bullying in the Malcolm X schoolyard - any word on that? IS there a lot of homework for kindergarteners at Malcolm X? IS Oxford as nice and cozy as I've heard? Thank you for your opinions, positive or otherwise.
just trying to make the right decision

Just last night, my middle school daughter was in tears because she misses Malcolm X and her teachers there so much. While some of her drama was due to middle school's high pressure combined with adolescent hormones, her feelings are a testament to what a wonderful experience she had at the school. My son is there now, and has an equally fantastic experience. The school has two major strengths. One is the arts component, which the school has genuinely and whole-heartedly integrated into its curriculum. Much of the learning, including the academic learning, happens through projects that center on or incorporate art elements. My kids have found this approach both fun, and purposeful--tasks don't seem rote to them, in the context of building a model Spanish mission, or writing and producing the 1st/4th grade opera. And yet, they learned the academic stuff very well.

The other strength of the school is a committed and largely fantastic teaching staff, which is at least in part attributable to a principal that is a staunch supporter of her staff. Each of my kids has had several amazing teachers, and even the less-than-amazing ones were decent, and warm.

Finally, I think Malcolm X does an excellent job of embracing its diversity as a strength, in a way that is inclusive. (My kids are white, with straight, divorced, middle class parents.) During our time, the school has been explicit in its teaching about acceptance, including dealing with some teasing that was happening when one student's father came out. The school's arts programing and its curriculum include art, culture, history, and so forth from many cultures, and this tends to be in a very celebratory way, without glossing over the bad things that have happened. And the school staff-- teachers, principle, etc.--seem committed to the success of all the kids. My kids are getting to learn things that I never did as a child, and to have the rich experience of many cultures, ethnicities, people, an life experiences among their classmates.

The school isn't perfect, and while it suited my kids' temperaments very well, there is a little less supervision on the playground than there should be. But I quite frequently find myself feeling incredibly lucky that my kids have gotten to have such a fabulous start. Malcolm X is great. Jeni

I'd like to second the opinions expressed earlier about Malcolm X. My Kindergartener loves it and so do I! To the issue of homework: I do think MX Kindergarteners get more than some other local Ks but my son loves it (some of it is mazes and dot-to-dots, some of it is writing practice, and a weekly book review that has really encouraged my son to try new books!). Their curriculum still has all the ''fun'' experiential learning like drama, dance, gardening, cooking etc so I don't feel like it's too heavy on academics. I also would have to say that I think all of the K teachers there are excellent, not just my son's teacher. To the concern a/b bullying: I have actually seen evidence to the contrary. I have seen a Kindergartener take a stumble on the playground and a 4th grader come over to make sure she was ok and help her up. There is plenty of 5th grade judgementalness but that may just come w/the territory of being ready for Jr. High. I think the K and 1st graders are kept in their own little world, for that exact reason. Overall, I think it's a great school but each family has different needs so the best way to tell what will work for you and your child is to trust your instincts, not the opinions of other people or the word on the parent gossip mill about what the ''best'' school in Berkeley (which seems to be rampant around here, not to mention incredibly classist). MX mama

March 2007

Our daughter is a Kindergartener at Malcolm X in Berkeley. We couldn't be happier. We fully understand why the school was chosen as a California Distinguished School in 2005. The teachers are wonderful, super enthusiastic and have very high morale, the curriculum is enriched strongly with special arts activities including a very strong music and drama program, the principal, Cheryl Chinn is deeply committed to the school and attends ALL events, the parents are AMAZING and totally involved in the PTA and other activities, there are wonderful after- school activities offered ranging from Math Games to Spanish to Circus! The garden and our gardener, Rivka Mason are FANTASTIC. Malcolm X is a Federal Arts Magnet school and so is THE PLACE to send your child for a strong arts education in Berkeley. This year the PTA has initiated developing an Arts and Grounds Master Plan for the campus so that we have a blueprint for carrying out AMAZING arts activities for the exterior of the school in the coming years. We have also developed a new Malcolm X Neighborhood Arts Collaborative bringing together nearly twenty local art and other organizations to work together synergistically enriching school and neighborhood arts activities. Most important of all--every day when I pick up my daughter and ask her how her day went she responds back, ''I loved it.'' We love Malcolm X Elementary School too! Slh

January 2007

Re: Moving to Berkeley, need arts program for 2nd grader
My son is in second grade at Malcolm X now. He's been there since kindergarten, and I pretty much moved to South Berkeley (from San Francisco) so that he could go to this school. I have been thrilled with the school. Lots of ''extra curricular'' stuff: art class, drama class, music, dance, gardening, and cooking. Thoughtful teaching. The student body is very, very diverse and there are lots of biracial children. Nanu

Nov 2006

Re: Alternative/arts based public school?
You don't say where you live, but since you mention Berkeley Arts and Magnet, I'll assume that you live in Berkeley, and tell you that I am so far thrilled with my son's experience at Malcolm X ''Arts and Academic Magnet School''. He is now in second grade, and I have loved - and he has loved - his experiences thus far. Granted, they did do more academics and sit down stuff in kindergarten than I might have liked. But they also have visual art class, drama class, gardening, cooking, music, dance - most of these classes weekly. The teachers do their best to make the academic learning thoughtful and meaningful, given the constraints they must work within. I am actually thrilled with the way my son is learning math and reading and spelling this year, in second grade. I have actually also heard very positive things about Berkeley Arts Magnet School, and about many of the other Berkeley Public Schools. Good luck with your decision! Nanu

Re: Alternative/arts based public school? (Nov 2006)
Check out Malcolm X. My son is in Kindergarten there and I'm really excited about the arts and music. As part of his regular class time, there's music, movement, cooking and gardening. He loves it! He also came from a strictly play-based preschool, child-driven, etc. and I think the transition there is excellent in that there is plenty of that same feeling but structured in a way that the kids now get the focus time that a 5 or 6 year old needs and wants. What really struck me in my first visit was the focus of the older class rooms. It seems to me that Malcolm X makes a point to lead kids smoothly and gradually from the play/experiential to strong intellectual work in a way the kids thrive on (and yes, the big kids are playing music, doing art, movement, cooking, gardening and THEATRE in a big way too). My kid loves it! Rebecca

May 2005

Re: Elementary school in S. berkeley/N.Oakland
My son is about to graduate from Malcolm X in South Berkeley, and I am so glad that we made the choice to send him there. The school has amazing teachers, a great support staf! f, and a prncipal that is a remarkable administrator. The school maintains a deep commitment to the performing arts (including the anual opera that is written and directed by the students), and the performances are teh highlight of the year. The community pulls together for events like Family Heritage night, and the Spring Fair. My son has developed friendships with a wide variety of people, and the programs in the school have fostered these interactions.

What are the minuses? Well, in this diverse environment, some of the children can bring their problems to school. I think that discipline problems are handled adequately once they happen, but the occassional incident does occur. It is a large school (though that is not a negative in our case).

I never felt that my son lost out academically. In fact, the deciding factor for us in our selection was the cooperation that the teachers have with each other. The grades stick ! to a shared curriculum, and the teachers at all levels are familiar with the lesson plans so that they can effectively build on the knowledge each year.

The parents at Malcolm X are also amazing. I felt welcomed from the beginning, and I have wonderful memories of working together at events. Bennett

Nov 2003

We are the very happy parents of a Malcolm X first grader. This school, and the Berkelely public elementary schools, offer a rich academic and social environment for children. Regarding the STAR scores. They in no way indicate how good the school is. Because the test is so closely correlated with income, a lower score shows that a school has children of mixed income. When a family chooses the Berkeley public schools, it is choosing a system that reflects the diversity of the community. For us, an upper middle class family, this has been a positive thing. Charlotte

Jan 2003

I'm interested in Malcolm X for kindergarten for my son, and would like some input from parents about the after school programs -- diversity of kids in each, program content, parents' opinions of their kids' experience, etc. Thanks! Julie

What works - dedicated teachers and parents, an arts program that is considered a priority to the entire school community, a principal that is an amazing administrator, a coordinated curriculum that allows the child to build on their experiences as they progress, an active PTA,BSEP and Site Council, conflict management program, and a diverse student body.The PTA offers great after school enrichment.

What could be better - Not all students able to leave hardships at the door. Large student body can make school feel overwhelming at times. No focus on GATE programs. It is difficult, if not impossible to request specific teachers or move student to a different classroom. B

July 2002

I would like to hear from parents whose child or children are or have attended Malcolm X in the recent past. I am now living in Berkeley and am trying to decide whether or not to move my daughter from Chabot Elementary in Rockridge to Malcolm X next year. She'll be in the first grade. She loves art and dance and since Malcolm X is an arts and academic magnet school, I was thinking it would be really good for her. She has not had a good year in Kindergarten and does not like her present teacher. I realize she will have years that she does not like her teacher, but would like to make her next year a good experience if I can. A Berkeley Mom

Malcolm X is a wonderful school and it is not for everyone. We are moving our daughter from there with mixed feelings.

What didn't work for us:

1. Playground dynamics: bullying not well-addressed. Kids get called on stuff but the bottom-line consequences for bullies don't seem clear or swift. There needs to be more playground supervision in the AM (before school).
2. extreme range in kids' abilities to pay attention and learn: It's a gem of a public school but it still has the issues that all public schools have. Class size makes it very hard for teachers to help all students. The few kids that need a lot of behavior management suck up most of the attention and the rest of the kids don't learn as much. We'd gone into Malcolm X hoping that our kid could stay challenged in school (they have learning centers instead of by rote, kill kind of learning). But unfortunately, this hasn't worked for her. Our kid's bright, and this year has been extremely boring for her. Honestly the teachers have tried their best but with the other demands on their time, they can't give her what she's needed this year. If she were a more average student, then I think the level of learning would be just fine for her. But she's not, so it's with some sadness that we are leaving this school.

What *did* work for us:
1. great specialty teachers: art, music, dance, gardening.
2. a very strong, wonderful PTA - this is key!
3. Cheryl Chinn is a strong administrator
4. good teachers (they're just limited in what they can do in this setting)
5. Hurray for the on-site YMCA Kids Club aftercare program. My kid has loved this program - great counselors, exciting multicultural activities - Kwanza, Santa Lucia, International Women's Day, paper airplane contest in honor of Amelia Earhart to name just a few. Heck. I wish *I *was in this club.
6. great PTA-sponsored afterschool classes: carpentry, chess, Spanish, circus ...

In sum, think about who your child is and what s/he likes. What's the level of learning/need for challenges? How does your kid do in larger schools? Does your kid jump into situations or is s/he shyer? Can s/he swim with the rest or does s/he need more individual attention?

Malcolm X is a great school for some, but not for others. With all our hearts, we wish we could stay at at this school. Unfortunately the level of learning for her is not enough so we have to say ''hasta la vista.'' However, this won't be the same issue for every child.

Since this was a longwinded post, I'm serving up coffee and scones! Anonymous

I am not a parent of a kid at Malcolm X, but I thought I might add a student perspective to the conversation. I am a teacher at BHS and just yesterday during a discussion about public schools, a student declared that Malcolm X was a great (''the best'') school experience she ever had. I have heard other students speak highly of it as well... DMoran


Malcom X -- Good points:
*strong specialist offering (dance, music, art, gardening)
*delivers good help for kids with learning challenges (one-on-one Reading Recovery, afterschool tutors)
*strong PTA
*nice physical plant
*great after-hours offerings (PTA classes, Kids Club through the YMCA)

Weak points:
*playground bullying sometimes addressed with poor follow through
*limited for the brighter-than-average child: had hoped with all the specialist offering and the *appearance* of learning based (as opposed to rote) curriculum that my kid could stay challenged. He was bored out of his gourd, and worse - started to feel bad about wanting to learn. Just shut right down. He was being asked to tutor his peers, which often led to frank harassment (''if you don't do my worksheet, I'll stab you with a pencil.'' Did the teacher know about it? Yes. Did she intervene? No. In fact, the response was that our kid had issues about being with other students. It was like blaming the victim!)

We tried to work with the staff, principal but it was a lot of talk that boiled down to no action. They'd rather accept out-of-district transfers to a classroom than switch their own kids from classroom to classroom.

Since then we moved to a different school and he's doing MUCH better. His interest and curiosity have returned and his self-esteem has improved. That being said, there are some kids that MX is an excellent fit and families have been happy there. That wasn't our experience but it could be yours.

Anon Parent of a MUCH happier kid

Malcom X: I think the teachers are really great, especially K-3. They have a strong PTA and parents seem very involved. My child is new there this year in 1st grade. A couple of negatives are that on the playground there are some pretty rough kids and my daughter has gotten roughed up a bit. She is the only caucasian girl in her class, which really surprised me. It does not seem ethically mixed evenly and so having playmates is a problem. Caucasians are definitely in the minority. I like the fact that the kids have different classes that they leave their regular class and go to such as music, dance, art. nt

To the Anon. parent who posted about their child being bored at Malcolm X, which school did your child switch to, where this was not such a problem? Thanks. Berkeley public school parent

Re boredom... which school did your child switch to? Boredom Be Gone! After Malcolm X, kids (mine and others) have gone to: Windrush Tehiyah Berkwood Hedge

These alternatives fit these kids better: creative, engaging, and supportive of learning. But please remember that our kids are all different with different needs. While Malcolm X did not work for our child, it has been a positive place for other kids. Wishing you good luck in finding a school that inspires your child.
Mom of a much happier, formerly bored kid

Malcolm X Elementary Arts & Academics Magnet School (located @ King & Prince)will be holding their annual Kindergarten Information Night on Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:00pm in the School Library.

My kids have been going to Malcolm for the past 4 years and we've had great experiences. Principal Cheryl Chinn is one of the best administrators I've ever encountered. She encourages parent participation and handles problems immediately. Under her leadership the school has blossomed into a beautiful neighborhood jewel.

Teachers are supported, so staff morale is good. Teachers receive training in a variety of areas which help them develop programs that integrate the arts (performing & visual) into the general curriculum.

Please come check it out for yourself. If you can't make the evening Information Night (or even if you can) you may want to come for a personal tour. Parent volunteers, in conjunction with our Magnet Coordinator, offer tours on Tuesday & Thursday mornings from 8:30 - 11:00 am. You may want to call in advance. Julie

October 1998

My daughter is in 2nd grade at Malcolm X where she has been since kindergarten. My husband and I looked at both public and private schools when deciding where to send her and she could have attended private school if we had preferred. We visited all four public schools in the Southwest zone, Malcolm, Leconte, Emerson, and John Muir, and ranked them in that order (our opinion of course). We chose Malcolm as having the strongest principal and group of teachers. In addition, we liked the focus on performing arts and music, an emphasis that will be further strengthened as the school is the recipient of a federal magnet grant (yet more $$). Geographically, this choice was irritating given that we live on the hill behind John Muir so Malcolm was the furthest from our house. However, the BUSD provides bus service so that helps a lot.

Now, with over two years of experience, we think it was a good choice as we have been very pleased with our daughter's teachers, with how well she is doing, and with how much she enjoys school. I have spent a fair bit of time learning about the teachers and have concluded that of the 17 teachers there now, all but three are very strong (my own opinion of course). I think that is a good ratio for any school, public or private.

Cheryl Chinn, the principal, is a strong administrator and I give her lots of credit for putting together such a strong group of teachers. All the teachers she has hired since we have been in the school are highly thought of.

Malcolm is in the midst of a $4.5 million renovation and the students are scheduled to move into the the renovated main building after Christmas break. I just toured the re-done building last week and it is beautiful with large, bright classrooms and lots of extras such as a big, luxurious library, an auditorium with new maple flooring and a wonderful stage complete with recessed lighting, an orchestra room and individual music practice rooms, an outdoor amphitheatre, and large a computer lab and art room. The second building will be starting its renovation in January and is supposed to be complete by the start of the next school year. The yard is also being redesigned by the same architechtural firm that designed the yard at Washington school (less concrete, more trees and softscape) and we hope its transformation will start next summer.

Since my only major complaint about Malcolm has been the physical plant and its maintenance, I am especially anxious to see the renovation completed so I can feel good about the look and feel of my child's school.

Overall, our exposure to the public schools in this zone have been quite positive and I urge people living in Southwest Berkeley to visit the public schools before choosing a school. Since we looked three years ago, John Muir has gotten a new principal so the weaknesses we saw when we looked may have been fixed. If you visit Malcolm, you might want to do so in January in order to get to see the what the school will look like post-renovation. I'm happy to answer any other questions about Malcolm if anyone wants to send me an email.