Advice about BUSD Middle Schools
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Why does aftercare exist but barely and summer and holiday camps end at age 11 for middle school-aged kids? Do working parents have them home for many hours at a time? I will leave my 12 y/o home alone for 2-3 hours max (not in the evening), and I don't want to do this several days in a row. What do parents do if they want a more structured environment after school? I am puzzled by the lack of offerings - any advice?
Each of the 3 Berkeley middle schools have after school programs on site. They include sports and a range of hands on classes and study halls. If one pays the full fee it is $125 per month. There may be some after school programs at ymca's or other community centers elsewhere in the east bay. BUSD parent
Our relocation saga continues, but we are getting closer! We thought we had a great house to rent in the MLK district, but our friends who visited it were a little concerned about a few things, so I'm still looking (anyone have ideas how to find a rental home OUTSIDE of Craigslist? We have one small and one medium dog and they must relocate with us!) My real question is regarding middle schools. When we came out to visit that rainy week in March, we didn't have time to check out Willard (or Longfellow). We did go to MLK, and my 11-year-old loved it. She is change-averse and since she didn't see Willard, she is really not enthusiastic about considering it. My husband sort of feels the same way. She's been in a very sweet and sheltered environment through elementary school, in full-time gifted, and is quite gentle in her nature. NOW, since most of the 3/2 (or 3/1 even) rentals I'm seeing these days are in Willard, I really want to know the deal. If you have thoughts about either topic, please help us out. Older sis is cool with BHS.
Hey all three public middle schools in berkeley are great and none are perfect. If your student is more shy and risk adverse than willard may be even better as it is smaller than king. Go for where you can find the house that suits your budget and needs and either school will be fine. I know plenty of kids from each of the three public berkeley middle schools, who are now at berkeley high , who loved their middle school. So dont worry about it and suggest that your husband do the same. At one time there were big differences, but that was years ago. All 3 are good!
Type ''Berkeley'' into www.school-ratings.com and you will get a quick look at statistics for both MLK and Willard middle schools. Google the two schools, for reviews from Yelp, greatschools.org, and school-ratings.com. Be concerned about safety in the quadrant of Berkeley south of University Avenue and west of Sacramento (where I lived for five years and got broken into three times, among other things). Use Google Earth to check out the streets where your possible rentals are. If most houses have security bars on their accessible windows, stay away from that block and nearby. But there are burglaries, robberies and car theft everywhere, even the Berkeley hills. Have you considered rentals in nearby Albany? That's where UC Berkeley family housing is located. Albany houses and lots are small, but the schools have a good reputation. Best of luck in making this decision
How are academics handled in the Berkeley public middle schools? Are there different classes for students at differing abilities in math, English, etc? Or are students all grouped together without regard to academic level? And if there are different levels, how many different levels and how are class placements determined?
Also, are students who excel academically -- especially boys, and especially black boys or other boys of color -- teased for being good students and caring about their schoolwork?
Our son is now in fourth grade at a BUSD public school and is witnessing teasing of boys who are good students, and a general disrespect among some of the students who struggle academically for those who focus on their school work. This is really disturbing to us. In the younger grades, some students disrupted the class, but there wasn't the hostility toward those students who excel academically and/or focus on their academics. I'm afraid this is only going to get worse in middle school.
How do the BUSD middle schools handle this? a worried parent
In general there is no tracking in BUSD middle schools, except in math; though in some of the schools, the stronger students take a foreign language in 7th and 8th grade while the weaker students work on reading. My daughter (white) did experience teasing for being smart at King. I think if your son is athletic, that goes a long way in the middle-school hierarchy.
It would also be a good idea to organize some kind of home-based support group for him and other gifted African-American male students. Book groups, math puzzling groups (Bay Area Math Circles has a good after school group at Laney College, that is diverse; you could also buy math game/puzzle books/toys at Lawrence Hall of Science and work through them with your son and his friends.) We have a group that we organized for our girls, and it has been a tremendous support for being a bright child at an age when many children are so critical. It does get better in high school, but your son is going to need a lot of guidance through the middle school years. anon
The somewhat good thing about the BUSD middle schools is that they are just so huge (900++ at King) that there is something, and someone, for everyone. My straight A son just hung out with other kids like him and didn't pay too much regard to others. He was friendly to everyone, though, and just didn't take other kids' stuff personally so, in the end, he was well-liked beyond his small circle of friends. (He was also known as someone who you might be able to get away with cheating off of.) But in an environment like that, there is no single status quo, and because there is so much diversity, you just don't have to please everyone or be liked by everyone and vice versa. My other son who is at a tiny middle school for 6th grade right now, and is ''different'' in a variety of ways, also an excellent student, is dying to go to King. anon
For mathematics, a student can test into the next grade level higher, and in 8th grade, high school geometry is offered to those who excel.
In regard to teasing, middle school is a hot bed of it -- regardless of race, sex, or socio-economic status. How an individual child handles the teasing is the key. Those with a close, supportive group of friends do better than kids who are loners. If your child's close friends are at the same school, he will probably feel more comfortable - providing that you like those friends!
All of the BUSD middle schools have on-site school counselors and many wonderful supportive teachers and staff.
We've been generally happy with the overall middle school experience. It's not perfect, of course. We've watched our daughter navigate some tricky situations successfully and seen her grow into a more resilient person. BUSD Parent
Our family will be moving to the Berkeley area this coming summer. Since we'll need to sell our house here on the East Coast before purchasing in CA, we thought we'd rent for the first year.
I need advice on how to get into our school of choice despite moving there so late in the year. It's my hope that my children will go to King. If we rent a house in the King district, and send in our School Preference letter in July, what are the chances that my kids will go to that school? Or that they'll be in different schools all together?
I thought perhaps we should look at Piedmont or Albany for the first year so we could be guaranteed to know where they'd go to school. On the other hand, we'd really like them to be in the BUSD because my older child will be in 8th grade when we move and I'd like him to feel socially okay to then go to BHS the next year. As for my younger son, he'll be in 6th grade when we move and it would be nice for him not to have to switch schools after a year (if we rented in Albany or Piedmont.)
It seems that even if we have a rental contract that states we'll be in the BUSD/King district come the summer, we still need to provide three other forms of information showing that we pay electricity, etc. Any suggestions? Thanks much! Bridgette
King vs. Willliard is based upon neighborhood. Since King is at capacity and Williard is not, your child will have a slim to no chance of transferring to King IF you reside in a Williard neighborhood. BUT, Williard has greatly improved under the new Principal and isn't a ''bad'' choice. On the other hand, 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
I've had experience of both King and Willard Middle schools in Berkeley - and both those experiences were good. My daughter was in 7th grade when we moved and thrived at King, loved the big size and the demanding teaching. My son went to Willard because we had moved closer to there, and also thrived, made great friends and was well prepared for high school. Willard is much smaller than King and he liked that he knew everybody. There are certain programs at King (such as dance, jazz band and French) that are not offered at Willard and the facilities are bigger, but as there are more kids and my son was only interested in sports, it basically balanced out. On the other hand, I found the King administration more intimidating to deal with, although I believe this has improved at both schools. I'm currently working with some Willard teachers on starting a chorus program, and have been highly impressed by their enthusiasm, energy, and dedication. Fiona
My 2 boys attend a Berkeley Public Elementary School. As a parent, I have found it really rough and would like a safe Middle School for them. Because of our finances, we will have to send them to Berkeley High School. What are your thoughts? I am thinking that BHS will be OK because of the ''small schools'' but can not believe they would be safe enough in the huge public middle schools.... Am I being silly? What are the pros & cons of the local independant middle schools? Which ones are nice? On or off list please share your experience?
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
We know the old public/private debate is an old one, but now that we're in it...we are wondering whether middle school is a good time to consider private school (in Berkeley) -- age and development-wise, can private schools offer more guidance and stronger academics so a child is better prepared to navigate Berkeley High? The middle school years seem like critical years, and we're wondering what other parents that have gone through this concluded or learned through the process. Thanks. -making tough decisions
As a Berkeley parent who has gone through the middle school decision process I can give you the following perspective. Our child was in public elementary school in Berkeley, and we found that school to be very good academically. We also kept in mind that if she did not flourish in public school, we would consider private.
For example, if she felt overwhelmed by the boy factor, Julia Morgan middle school (for girls) could have been a great alternative. I understand that many of the families there do private school only for the middle school years. It sounds like a truly wonderful school. Since my daughter was doing fine in public school and was well grounded, we decided to go for public middle school in Berkeley.
The 3 Berkeley middle schools each have excellent academic programs with wonderful teachers. In addition to the academics, music and athletics are quite accessible to all kids. I have heard that, on average, Berkeley middle school kids come to Berkeley High with more advanced math skills than many of the local large private schools.
Do you know any Berkeley high teachers? you could ask them what they think of the skills kids bring from the different middle schools. Do you know parents of kids at the middle schools or high school? I encourage you to ask them directly. There is no one solution for everyone. For our kid, attending a public middles school in Berkeley is giving her lots of wonderful academic challenges and she is having a lot of fun, too (and we are saving money for other things like her cell phone bill - just kidding). BUSD Mom
(Editor Note: See this page for additional responses to this question.)
We are relocating to the area this summer. Need advice on the whole 'school registration' process. wanting that the process goes smoothly...HELP! We are open to private and public schools, half day or non- traditioal school setting...even home schooling, but not sure about the requirements for CA. 1. How does this work - really. 2. Since I am not a current resident, how do I choose the right school for my 11 year old son, [6th grader]? 3. Can i pick 'any' school, or would I be limited to the community where I [will] reside or work? 4. What can I do RIGHT NOW? 5. Any advice is appreciated & helpful at this point.
If you live in Berkeley, your child can attend one of the three public Middle Schools. They are King, Willard and Longfellow. King and Willard have geographic zones, and Longfellow is a non- gepgraphic school. Some kids in one zone apply to go to the school in the other zone, and any kid can apply to go to longfellow. King is the largest middle school and Lonfellow the smallest. They each have strengths and great teachers. I know kids (and their families) in each school who love their school. Some kids do get a inter-district transfer into Berkeley, but this is getting more difficult (in my understanding). Also, I think you'd need a release form the district where you would be living once you settle here.
To get the latest from the district on how to apply if you don't yet have an address, contact the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD). Their web page is at http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us/ The phone number at the Admissions Office is (510) 644-6504. They are open 8 am - noon and 1 pm - 4 pm. The deadline initial deadline for folks in Berkeley applying to Middle School is Friday Feb 8 at 4 pm. In addition to Berkeley and Oakland, you could also consider the neighboring Albany school district. BUSD Parent
Hello, I am planning to move to Berkeley next year from San Jose as there are so many positives things that Berkeley has to offer. I have a child who will be middle school age when I move and I am concerned about what life will be like in Berkeley middle school for my child. The posts on the parent network are fairly old so I was hoping that some parents of Berkeley middle school children could offer me some insight on the pros and cons of the different schools. Also, if you would be willing to spend a few minutes on the phone with me to discuss this more in detail as well I would really appreciate that too. Thanks, Love Berkeley, Want To Love The Schools too
My child is not yet in Middle Scool in Berkeley, so I cannot give you any direct insights. If you do not get enough responses here, you may want to try the BPN Parents of Teens list serve.
I can tell you that in Berkeley there are two middle school geographic zones (see the web site for a place where you input an address and find the zone). The North zone is for King (on Rose Street), the South Zone is for Willard (on Telegrapsh). From time to time there is talk about moving the line southward as King has the most kids. Longfellow (on Sacramento) is a magnet school and does not have a geographic zone. Many of the kids who came up through the great dual Spanish-English programs go to Longfellow.
Definitely try to get input directly from families with kids in a given school, as even within Berkeley families without direct experience at Willard or Longfellow may put them down. I hear from families with kids at those two schools, and from teachers there, that they love those two schools. BUSD Mom
Also see: reviews of King Middle School
I would like to ask people to volunteer information about the lack of articulation between middle school science and high school science curriculum. I have heard from numerous parents that their children were woefully unprepared for the science classes at BHS.
That is not to say that the middle school teachers are not doing a good job. After talking to the head of the Science Dept. at Willard, we learned that what they teach is mandated by the district.
When we asked our daughter what she was studying in science we discovere d yet another semester devoted to the same health education topics: drugs, STD's, conception or avoidance thereof, etc. etc. etc. I have no problem with my children learning all this. However, they have had classes on these subjects since 4th grade.
I understand that in the spring of 8th grade chemistry will be covered. But apparently there is a gap. I may be wrong about the reason - it may not be because they are using science for health ed. & sex ed, but I'd like to hear from other people.
The teachers' hands are tied if the curriculum is mandated by the district. Therefore, possibly the curriculum needs to be fine tuned.
My recent dismay with the science curriculum is not at the BHS level ( we only started this year), but how the kids in the middle schools and elementary schools are prepared for the science rigors at BHS. Is anyone looking at how to improve the middle school science programs? I don't think all the science fair projects were adequate preparation for Advanced Biology for my sophomore. I found the science fairs to be simple lip service to science education. I realize some kids are natural scientists, but I don't think it was very inspiring or educational for the majority. Late night and last minute affairs do not a science education make. And how many volcanoes or acid tests can one mother be expected to produce with a reluctant student? Should kids take regular biology in summer school or as freshmen? Or should we be asking the district to rethink the science program in the middle schools? Heh, at least one good thing, now with an 8th grader and a sophomore I will never have to face a science fair again.