Advice about BUSD Middle Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    We are considering moving to the area. I have a middle schooler. I would like to know about the pros and cons about the two school districts. My son is an advanced student, and I have heard both high schools can be competitive. I would like him to have a positive well-rounded high school experience, rather than "very competitive" environment.

    Also, it seems Piedmont is safer in general. However, going in and out needs to go through Oakland, and I have heard that Oakland has been going down hill. Is this a concern for people living there? 

    Thank you


    I live in Piedmont and have a middle schooler.  Can't speak for Berkeley, but I also considered it an option when I moved to the Bay Area.

    I ultimately chose Piedmont because of the ability for kids to roam with a high degree of independence, the convenience to the city, and the fact that because of its small size, all the schools are neighborhood schools so we wouldn't have to do a big shlep to get to school each day... which is important (particularly for single working parents).

     My sense is that the two experiences would differ significantly. Berkeley is a lot bigger, probably more well-rounded place to go to school; your child will have exposure to a lot more variety and opportunity across all dimensions (probably a wider selection of AP classes, for example, and a lot more kids across all walks of life), but the downside would be that it could be overwhelming.  Piedmont feels like a small town, with only about 200ish kids per graduating class. I've found it to be welcoming ... it is a small community and many of the kids know each other since they were tiny and root for each other to be successful in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals. Also, the degree of independence for kids is high. The downside is that there isn't as much economic diversity, not as much variety, the black population is under-represented, and you have to work hard to make sure your kid understands that some of the wealth they see displayed on a daily basis is not the norm for 99.99% of people.

    I haven't had a problem with Oakland, personally.  It has its problems but I go out in Oakland all the time and think it's great. It has the same problems as San Francisco (challenging situations with un-housed people, car break-ins).   I definitely don't leave anything visible in my car, which can be a pain.  And pharmacies lock things up, so it can take longer to get your face wash.  But this is all the same for Berkeley.    

    Hope this helps.

    As a former Berkeley High student and an El Cerrito High school parent, I feel both were well rounded (good mix of academics, sports, clubs, arts). Neither I at BHS, nor my child at ECHS, felt that the environments were overly competitive. Students could push themselves, or not, there was no stigma. Unless you need to live in Berkeley or Piedmont for a specific reason, you may also want to check out the cities of El Cerrito, Albany, or Alameda, all of which are very walkable and have good high schools.

    Without a doubt Piedmont. Look at the metrics but most importantly think of the context; Berkeley high is larger than most liberal arts colleges. Not exactly a cozy environment. And like any giant organization full of all sorts of people. In terms of going in and out through Oakland, I’m not sure what the statists say, but north Oakland feels about as safe (and occasionally, unsafe) as Berkeley. The areas of Oakland surrounding Piedmont are probably safer than most neighborhoods in Berkeley (maybe with the exception of the hills and Elmwood).

    Generally, Piedmont High is considered more competitive than Berkeley High, and Berkeley High is larger and more diverse. Whether that makes one school or the other better for your child is a separate question, though, and one you may not be able to answer until he's older. They have different education models and course offerings, so it's worth looking at the programs at both. One difference at the middle school level is that Piedmont has only one middle school, while Berkeley has several and has a zoning system to assign students--so you aren't guaranteed a spot in a particular school, and may not be assigned to the school closest to your home. The Oakland neighborhoods that border Piedmont are filled with multi-million-dollar homes and arguably safer than some Berkeley neighborhoods, but it is true that the nearby commercial districts, restaurants, and even the library that serves Piedmont are all in Oakland, so if you aren't comfortable there, you may not enjoy living in Piedmont. You will find property crime in both Piedmont and Berkeley; violent crime is pretty rare in both cities. Piedmont is better resourced than Berkeley and far better resourced than Oakland on the public safety front, though, so they do respond quickly when there are issues. You may also want to consider Albany, which is a lower price point than Piedmont but similarly has a single middle and high school and a lot of the walkability that Piedmont offers. Each district has its own strengths and challenges, so a visit may help the most.

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  • Hi, BUSD rezoned the middle schools last year and my older one will be going to middle school in the next academic year. The one we are zoned for is the farthest way from us in terms of distance, and there may be conflict in drop-off/pick-up timings with my younger one. Has anyone here been part of the rezoning? If yes, do you know if there is flexibility in asking for a different middle school assignment or not? Thanks!

    As with everything BUSD related, they are not flexible. You can get on a waitlist, but it’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot. Unfortunately, they don’t really care if the school you’re zoned for is close to you or not. - signed a BUSD parent of 15 years 

    My child just started middle school so was the first cohort of the new middle school rezoning. The district had said they were going to be super strict about zones. So, I was surprised during the application process when it asked me to rank my choices. My preference happened to be the one I was zoned for, but I know a few families who chose differently than their designated zone. One family was zoned for Longfellow but got into Willard. Another family never got off the waitlist for King and had to accept their zone assignment. A third family tried to choose Willard over Longfellow and were not able. Good luck with your decision. It seems worth ranking your nearby school first and accept that you may not get it. Also, many middle school kids take AC Transit to school, so there's that.

  • We are moving to Berkeley this summer and our son will be starting middle school (6th grade) in the Fall. We would really like for him to be in a school in walking distance from home. So my question is, can any of you give advice on how late in the summer we can apply for a middle school and have a pretty good chance of him getting in, assuming we are actually in that school's district? Does this vary between King, Willard and Longfellow? I guess as a bonus question, it would be interesting to know if there's any chance of getting into an out-of-zone school if we apply during the summer (e.g., getting into Willard while living in the King zone or vice versa).

    Also, am I right to think that any date between May 17 and June 14 would be equivalent (all in Round Three of the lottery), and then the chances are lower in the "ongoing" enrollment period after that and decrease further as more students request spots or sign onto waiting lists?

    Thanks for any help you can give. Sorry this is so abstract. A more concrete version would be, "We expect to live in the Willard zone and would really like to enroll our son in Willard. How soon do we need to apply to have a reasonable chance of that working out (either immediately or via the waiting list)?"

    I'd also love to hear about any specific experiences of applying for middle school over the summer, and how that worked out.


    Just apply now or call the district. As far as I know (I have two kids at BHS), you get what you get in Berkeley. The district literally does not care if the school is in walking distance. If you aren't zoned for that school, you won't get it and the middle school zones are a bit weird. If you live in the Willard zone, you will not likely get a spot at King off the waiting list. The school is impacted and popular. I do know of one family who did get off the waitlist, several months into the school year and by that time, their child was already settled. But Willard is a great school. Just take that spot if it's offered. The perception is that King is better than Willard and it isn't (both of my kids went to King). 

    We did this in 2019 so things may have changed, but here's how it worked that year. Contrary to what we were told by admins in the BUSD office (and what some people online thought), as best I could tell most every student who applied at this time of year or later was sent to Longfellow. We were zoned for Williard and told that meant we would definitely get Williard but could try for others. That was not the case. We were told that Longfellow was opt-in only and not assigned if you had not requested it. That was not true for us. On the first day of school at Longfellow, they were trying to sort out about ~70 other late registered students and we were told they were all sent to Longfellow because enrollment was low. Obviously, all these last minute registrations created logistical challenges for the school, although they did mostly get it sorted out eventually. We waitlisted for Williard (and King) but were never offered another option.

    I don't know if they have since made changes (many changes were discussed, but we have left BUSD and I don't know if any were implemented). And unfortunately, I don't know how you can avoid finding yourself in the same situation if they haven't made changes. But I would definitely register as soon as possible and not be confident that your child will be placed in your zoned school or your preferred school based on the registration process alone. Note that BUSD will refuse to register you if you tell them you are moving to the area and will say you must wait until you have actually moved there. 

  • Hi,

    My son just got Willard and not King (as we had wanted). Am i correct that King offers French in 7th and 8th grade? And Willard only offers Spanish? If folks dont know, do folks know the best way to find out? 

    Secondly, any tips on how to get your kid off a waitlist when he has a 504 and we are really trying to keep him with the friends he made? I know I am not the first to ask this but the posts I see are from a few years ago so just checking in for any more recent thoughts/insight. 


    My son is now in 9th grade, but as far as I know, French is no longer offered at King and his only option was Spanish. It was offered when my daughter attended King (2018), but it hasn't been offered in several years. She said the French teacher they did have at the time was pretty terrible. If you look at the King directory, there are no teachers currently teaching French. Getting off the waitlist is pretty impossible since King is so impacted. 

    I have had two students at Willard, and you are correct that only Spanish is offered.  We live much closer to King and tried to get off a waitlist for there so my oldest could walk to school- it didn't happen.  However, given the experience we've had at Willard, I would say that even if we were offered at spot at King for our younger children, we would continue at Willard.  It's been a great community for my kids and the smaller size is a nice fit for lots of kids at this tricky developmental age.  Both of my kids feel cared about and "seen" by teachers, students, and administration alike.  I hope that you get what you want but just wanted to let you know that what you already have is also a great option.  

  • BUSD Middle School options

    Jan 3, 2021

    Hi Parents -

    I hope everyone is hanging in there and feeling hopeful about 2021.

    My child will be entering 6th grade next year and we are currently zoned for King. However, I hear that the zoning is being reconsidered...does anyone know what's happening with that and/or when the plan will be finalized? I'd also love to hear feedback about Willard and Longfellow. Our current 10th grader went to King so I know what that experience is like in general. Input about the other two schools (from families whose kids were there within the last few years) would be very much appreciated.


    Both my children went to Willard (one a current 7th grader and one now at BHS) and we love it. We heard a lot of negative talk about the school before my older child attended with everyone asking why we didn't try to get him into King. We had faith in the then-head of school who was fantastic and we ended up being very happy with our decision. It's a warm school community with fabulous teachers, who have only gotten better in the past five years that we have been at the school, and a responsive and responsible administration. Its smaller size than King is an advantage I think. The campus isn't as nice and green but the kids seem to like it. It has great elective classes and teachers and staff who know all the students by name. I've heard from other teachers at BUSD that Willard has the reputation among district staff of being the middle school that has its act most together and I believe it.

    My kid is currently at Willard, and we've been very happy there. Like the other poster, I heard a lot of negative things about it and a lot of questions from my child's friends about wasn't I worried that my kid wasn't going to King. I was also made extremely apprehensive by the former principal, who, when I took the requisite school tour, proceeded to talk for something like a solid half hour or more only about discipline and security. However, that hearsay and negative first impression quickly disappeared once my child started there. The community is friendly, the staff has been excellent, including during the chaos of last spring and this much better organized ongoing year of distance learning, and with one exception, the teachers have been absolutely excellent. The one thing I've been less than thrilled about is the socio-economic disparities between Willard and Longfellow vs. King (see Natalie Orenstein's April 17, 2019 article in Berkeleyside for some details, including some eye-opening numbers about the different amounts of money raised by PTAs at King vs. Willard and Longfellow). I look forward to the district's revamping of the middle school assignments to address these disparities (which, I strongly suspect, are behind the negative chatter about Willard and Longfellow).

    My child was at Longfellow for sixth grade last year. 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), 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 (I infer because of disagreements about the "zoning" issues) 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.

  • I’m curious if anyone has thoughts and experiences with a child leaving an independent school, by choice, for a Berkeley public middle school. King or Longfellow? What kind of experience have you had? Why did you leave and did you find what you’re looking for?


    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!

    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.

    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.

  • Our child is having a good experience in BUSD elementary schools.  Her teachers have done a good, though not great, job of differentiating in the classroom despite wildly disparate academic levels among the students.  I had been assuming that once she hit middle school that there would be some attempt by the school to group kids by ability or "track" as it was called when I was in school.  I was therefore surprised to find out recently that the BUSD middle schools don't track. In other words, what we have now in elementary school--with kids in the same class at vastly different achievement levels in reading and math--will continue into sixth, seventh and eighth grade.  There is apparently no advanced English or advanced math; everyone is in the same class.  I just don't see this experience being a good one for kids who are achieving above grade level, nor do I see it benefitting kids who are struggling.  I assume that teachers may try to differentiate but with over 100 students per day versus 25 or so, I imagine that those attempts will take the form of extra worksheets.  Am I worrying unnecessarily?  My child is a strong student and responds well to teachers setting high expectations.  She is not, however, self-motivated so I imagine that absent high expecatations, she will coast.  Are you a parent with middle schoolers who had similar concerns?  If so, what has your child's experience been like in middle school?  

    I share your concerns. I also think the new plan for 9th grade will only continue this same theme. I'll be curious to hear what other parents say.

    My kids are still in elementary but I'm really sad to hear it as I too was hoping for more differentiation and advancement for the kids who are performing at a higher level (as we are spending a lot of time at home now on additional enrichment activities).  I went to a school without tracking (as you called it) and I hated it as school was so easy and repetitive.  Thankfully I was driven and did a lot of advanced self study and asked to do additional and more complicated projects and then in high school there were AP classes so it worked out well, but my sibling was coasting until my parents realized what was going on and put him in after school educational activities for additional challenge to keep him busy and out of trouble (He is very smart, also got straight A's, but was bored in school and that started causing issues with more challenging academic after school activities took care of).  If you can afford it, maybe after school enrichment activities would help, or if not, then do something at home or ask the teach for more challenging projects you can do at home and supervise.  Looking forward to more comments and advice on the topic. 

    I was a young teacher when Berkeley began voluntary school desegregation in 1968. Commonly, classes had had three reading groups, and two math groups, which was satisfactory in neighborhood schools. My colleagues and I were concerned, as was the district, about teaching the wide disparity in achievement levels when bussing began.  Professor's kids and doctors kid's sat side-by-side with project kids and the kids of auto mechanics. (Berkeley at that time had a working class community.) Unlike the suburban school I attended as a youngster in New York State, Berkeley Schools did not track.    There was some "white flight" to the suburbs, and some parents who feared their kids would be bored or fall behind. The test results of my sixth grade that year spanned from second grade level to twelfth grade level.  The administration focused on team teaching within each grade level, with five reading groups and five math groups. It will be interesting to read the other responses to learn what is being done fifty years later.

    Hello - We're in BUSD. From the start my child has been very high-achieving but shy and often passive. Our elementary school experience was wildly uneven, with 4th and 5th grade being particularly disappointing. I was worried about middle school, but from the start he's been challenged and engaged at Willard Middle School. His writing, history and math assignments and projects have been sufficiently complex and interesting. He has become more socially engaged by participating on two teams, joining orchestra and loving different cooking classes. He has become friends with kids on a broad spectrum of race and economic backgrounds. Do I wish I could send my child to some private school, where he'd be even more challenged? Yes. But lacking a dumptruck full of money, I feel like he is getting a good education with BUSD. I also note that you will get responses to this question, like mine, where parents want to justify their decision to themselves. Responses from private school parents will make a good case for their choice. We all have to trust that we'll never truly know the answer -- we each must do the best we can. It will work out!

    I'm on the other side of this -- child doing well in an Ivy. Most of the teachers are aware of your student's level and will make assignments that work for a wide range of students. Middle school was sometimes boring, especially when the school put too much emphasis on "skills" and not enough on projects. High school was mostly better. I don't know what will happen with the new 9th grade program. I just asked my student if they wished there had been more tracking in high school and they said, "No, less." (My student was in honors math a couple of years and IB classes.) Being in class with a wide spectrum of students was positive for them, and they are very aware of the narrow group of people at an elite college. In terms of achievement, reading for pleasure, doing puzzles and self-motivation does matter, as well as family enrichment.

    I am very pleased with my child's experience at King, where he is a 7th grader. He doesn't bring home a lot of homework. There is no tracking. He says in English, History and his elective (STEAM) he gets more stimulating instruction. His English/History teacher, who demands a lot of all his students, is amazing (intellectually stimulating, passionate about teaching, and kind). My son says he sometimes has different goals for different kids. They just completed a free choice project. My son just wrote a 1600 word essay on addiction. Some kids spent 6 hours writing screenplays then made films in class on their iPads. In Math yesterday, they studied probabilities and data collection. In Science yesterday they built Rube Goldberg machines. In STEAM he is making a wallet out of duct tape, after just finishing building a carousel out of Legos. In his 2 years, the highlights for my son have been cooking and gardening (they had an Iron Chef competition on Tuesday) and cross country/track. And playing tag at recess. I expect a highlight next year to be an 8th grade trip to DC with the Close Up DC middle school program. Any student who is working hard can go, regardless of ability to pay. This year the school raised $45,000 to help students who needed it finance their trip. 70 percent of students had some financial support.
    I am very proud of this BUSD school and feel so lucky my son gets to go here.
    Good luck making your decision.

    Believe me, this is one of the great things about Berkeley middle schools.   There are a lot of other ways for your kids to explore themselves by getting involved in student government, the school newspaper, the drama club, sports, etc.  You can also require some supplemental reading at home (condition some privileges on it).  (My kids went to Willard.)  But this will be one of the last times school will be about everyone succeeding together.  Once they get to high school, it gets pretty starkly segregated.  I persuaded my kids to do IB and they wish they'd been more in the mix with the whole school population.  

    I am a parent in the WCCUSD with an advanced 4th grader and watching this kind of discussion closely. Our local jr high (Korematsu) just announced it was ending tracking in English, even while continuing it in math. FWIW, I discussed this with a friend who is an English teacher at a local high school, who has been through a few different cycles of tracking/not tracking in the early high school years. Her feeling is that mixed is better for the students, IF the teacher is geared up for it. I would suggest discussing your specific issues with your school's teachers, who know both your child & the teachers lying ahead. Again, this is all specific to English, not math.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Camps/aftercare for MS kids?

Dec 2012

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

MLK v Willard - current views

May 2012

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 and you will get a quick look at statistics for both MLK and Willard middle schools. Google the two schools, for reviews from Yelp,, and 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

BUSD middle schools - academics, teasing, & more?

Feb 2011

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

Moving to Berkeley Summer 2010 - middle schools?

Feb 2010

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

Which middle school for my sons?

March 2009

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

Change to private for middle school?

Nov 2008

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.)

Moving to the area - how does middle school work?

Jan 2008

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 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

Pros and Cons of Berkeley Middle Schools

Sept 2007

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

Science in Middle School

Sept 1999

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.