Rosa Parks Elementary School

Community Subscriber

Public School
operated by Berkeley Unified School District
Phone: 510-644-8812
920 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

Air quality at Rosa Parks Nov 8, 2017 (2 responses below)
Special Ed Support and General Environment at Rosa Parks May 8, 2017 (0 responses below)
new kindergarten parent Sep 6, 2016 (2 responses below)
  • Air quality at Rosa Parks

    (2 replies)

    I'm wondering about the air quality near Rosa Parks because of its close proximity to Pacific Steel Casting Company and the highway. There are some older post (2013 and earlier) about the air quality of schools near Pacific Steel Casting Company. Does anyone know about the air quality now? 

    RE: Air quality at Rosa Parks ()

    Pacific Steel Casting is closing in December:

    You can check the air quality and the archives here:

    RE: Air quality at Rosa Parks ()

    Pacific Steel's emissions permits were recently revised.  The permit documents provide details on the pollutants emitted by the plant, the emissions limits in the permits, and the abatement measures that the plant has installed.  You can find that information here:  

    You can also find daily air quality data on BAAMQD's website.  There is a monitoring station at Aquatic Park which is very close to Rosa Parks.  You can find out the current levels of NOx, SO2, CO, Ozone and PM 2.5 at Aquatic Park here:

  • Can anyone give us an impression of how much/little special education support there is at Rosa Parks? My children are assigned there for next year and the older child has an IEP for ADHD/emotional regulation driven learning issues. We've had a terrible time at the charter school we're at, so wondering what to expect in BUSD.

  • new kindergarten parent

    (2 replies)

    My 5 year old son just started Kindergarten at Rosa Parks. Is this the first year that they start school and rotate teachers for the first week? (total of 4) If not and your child has had the same experience how did it go for them?

    just curious .... Thanks!

    RE: new kindergarten parent ()

    All the Berkeley elementary schools do this. They do this so they can sort out the kids and create classes that are balanced in terms of behavior. The school called it "Gentle Beginnings" but I think it should be called "Rocky Start"! I get why they do this, but it prolonged the already stressful start of the school for my kid.

    RE: new kindergarten parent ()

    No, this is not a new practice and in fact all BUSD kindergarten classes do this. My son was a Rosa Parks kindergartener last year and I thought it was wonderful. The classes were very well balanced and the teachers were wonderful. I understand they have a new teacher this year as one moved up to teach 2nd grade, so I can't speak to her teaching style-but the other 3 were wonderful. Just wait until after back to school night. All of your questions should be answered there...that's when things really get into full swing.

Parent Reviews

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No way do I spend 3-5 hours a day on Kinder education. I have a 2-yo to entertain and we both have full time jobs.
But even if I had the time, in our case (Kinder at Rosa Parks) this is absolutely not the expectation.
There is a 30-minute morning meeting with all kids Mon-Thu, and once a week a 10-min checkin with the teacher.
Then every day, try to do some form of reading, writing, math and arts. There are learning plans and tons of apps, but we try to limit screen time and just go with what the day brings. Seriously, it's Kindergarten. No stress.

We have a 2nd Grader at Rosa Parks and the teachers for that grade have come together to develop an online curriculum so there are assignments daily with instruction. The team approach the teachers are taking means that every child in the grade is getting the same content and the teachers aren’t trying to all develop individual content, so they have more time to engage with the kids. My child meets with the class daily online for about half an hour (including 1 day with the science teacher) and has private office hours with the teacher once per week. During the office hours, it is evident that the teacher is reading the submitted work and providing feedback even though the work is not graded. I think it’s excellent given the circumstances and am very satisfied with my child’s education and engagement. All that said, it’s still not as good as “real” school.

On the other hand, our other child is at the same school in a different grade and the experience has been more aligned with what I’m hearing from others. Basically we get a list of assignments and a once a week meeting with the teacher some weeks. I’d like to say that it’s better than nothing, but I’m not sure it is.

I have a second grader (and Kindergartner) at Rosa Parks.  The Second grade teachers are a really strong group of teachers who are creative and fun. Distance learning is never going to capture the magic of great teachers, but the three 2nd grade teachers have worked together to  adapt the curriculum and use google class room quickly and well.  They cover the basics and I would say its a manageable amount of work for a working parent with two kids who are not ready to work totally independently.  Also, our teacher does a morning meeting with the class and also meets once a week individually with each student. she seems to be particularly interested in supporting them emotionally which I know is a huge benefit to the kids.   Both my kids and I miss our community, our after care program and the Rhythm of school, but I have been impressed with the teachers' inventiveness, adaptability, receptiveness and all out effort in a really uncertain an new situation. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


March 2013

Re: New 2 area -preschool & transitional K - help!
Rosa Parks elementary (BUSD) will have a Bridge-K program starting Fall 2013. Our kimdergarten daughter attends Rosa Parks and we couldn't be happier. The space for the kinders and the Bridge K was actually designed to be a pre-K: it has it's own space with a separate play structure from the older kids. There is a garden back there, too. Wonderful principal, Paco Furlan, staff and teachers. Check out Rosa Parks Bridge-K! -Happy Rosa Parks parent

Oct 2010

Re: Seeking feedback on Northwest Zone schools
Yes, I am totally in favor of throwing non-academic factors into the decision process. I'm also in favor of not stressing out too much over it, since ultimately you get what BUSD gives you! But even without the lottery it would be tricky because so much of what you would need to make a theoretically perfect decision (a crystal ball, basically) isn't possible.

One thing to throw into the decision might be the bus possibility. We live far enough away from our assigned school (Rosa Parks) that our daughter gets to ride the bus. It's awesome! The driver (Darryl) is like having another fabulous teacher on our team. We have met the other families on the route, and for playdates we can just tell the school to let her off at the friend's spot (they won't let her off the bus unless there's a parent waiting there to receive her, it's very well-run). And it's like an hour of free childcare every day! I enjoy waiting together at the stop in the morning; like every family, we have to rush around like crazy getting out the door, but then we have a few peaceful minutes together before we go off for our separate days. The downside to attending a more-distant school is that it's less convenient to drop in for brief volunteer things since it's a 10 minute bike ride there and a 20 minute uphill ride back.

Another thing to consider is the schedules; the three schools have different start and finish times, and one of them might work better for you than another.

Unsubstantiated opinion to follow, take it with a grain of salt -- Something extremely subjective and unverifiable that I just recently realized is that the mix of parents at Rosa Parks is one that I personally really enjoy, and I think it may be related to having our kid in the officially-less-desireable school in our zone (Jefferson is currently ''the good school'', BTW). You know the people who say, ''We put in an application for BUSD, but if my kid gets assigned to Rosa Parks/unless my kid gets assigned to Jefferson, we're going private''? They're not here! I've been really heartened by how much engagement and passion and creativity there is in the parent community at our school (as, I believe, there is at all the BUSD elementaries, but at Rosa Parks we get to be the striving underdogs of our zone. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know!) can't go wrong in the NW Zone!

Jan 2010: Rosa Parks (Non-Spanish Immersion) Kindergarten

I'd love to hear from families whose kids attend the Rosa Parks non-Spanish Immersion kindergarten. what do you think of the teachers? how is the year going for your kid? thanks!

We are very happy with Rosa Park's for our kindergartener who is in one of the English classrooms. Rosa Parks was actually our third choice, mainly because it was furthest from home. We're glad to be there now (our son takes the bus home in the afternoons with other kindergarteners, which works great and cuts down on our driving). Our son is enjoying himself very much, and learning. His teacher is experienced, caring, and maintains an orderly but pleasant classroom. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any specific questions that I might be able to answer. Kate

Sept 2009: Afterschool Program

We are signed up for Rosa Parks aftercare and have heard about some previous issues with poor supervision and lack of organization. With the cost of the bus to the JCC and relatively new staffing, it seems less appealing. World peace is a good choice for kindergarteners? Lisa K

On the JCC after school program -- the bus is free from Berkeley public schools. That said, I would also be very interested in people with recent (last year) experience with the program with their young children -- kindergarteners, especially. Thanks! another working parent

BUSD is still busing free of charge to the Berkeley JCC afterschool programs from Rosa Parks. My son loves the program, the variety of classes they offer, and a dedicated and loving staff. He was there for the transition to the current Director of Youth and Family Programs, Michele Levine, and we are very glad we stayed. She came with years of experience in the Oakland schools and has greatly enriched the programming. Joey Ginsburg, the Center Stage Director, and the staff are a talented group of people with the health, minds, and creativity of our kids at heart. Davi

World of Peace is the best choice!. Karen Cagan (former JCC children's program director), and World of Peace director now, is the best ever! My child has been in her programs since she was in pre-K and went to all the camps that Karen offers (winter, spring, summer and full days). My child is going 4th.. and she cannot wait to go back to World of Peace. There are tons of activities for them, and of course a lot of time to play and have fun. There are cooking, art, sports, drama and other classes. You should contact Karen for more information at 510.292.0263. I can just say good things about her programs! and the counselors she chooses, who are caring, fun, responsible and great with kids. anon

March 2009: Dual Immersion program

My child got into to the Dual Immersion program at Rosa Parks which I'm happy about. I have questions for parents in the program about later years of elementary school and transition to middle school.
* How do native English speaking parents help their kids with homework that is in Spanish? How have you figured that out?
* Where there rough spots at the beginning of the K year for your native English speakers? Recognizing that all kids are different, were there things that were helpful for your child in making the transition?
* How did the transition go from DI into King or Willard? Did they continue with Spanish? Take up another language? I realize that the pool of families in DI is small since there are only about 200 kids k-5 in the district doing DI but I'm hoping to get a better sense of how this unfolds for kids over the elementary school years. Thanks,

Welcome to Rosa Parks! The PTA is hosting several play dates and coffees & teas for incoming families, and we'd love for you to come so we can answer all your questions in person. Hopefully you've received the invitation, but if not, call the office. Please don't hesitate to call one of the numbers on your invitation from the PTA. You asked great questions! Both my children (5th & 1st) are in Dual Immersion and just loving it. You should get a good Spanish/English dictionary, but don't worry because all the homework comes with English translation. I know several parents who decide to enroll in a Spanish class so they can enjoy the excitement of learning a new language. Rosa Parks offered a free class for Spanish-speaking parents and English speaking parents to teach each other this year. Hopefully that will continue! Also, there are bilingual teachers in the after school program at Rosa Parks who help with homework. Then when you get home at night it's merely checking the work and marveling at what the kids are learning. My son will be attending Longfellow next year, but he did not get into the Immersion program. However, he is very excited about the school and the programs there. The district is looking for a way to accommodate the kids who didn't get in. The transition to K was surprisingly smooth for both my children, but yes, there was a moment of worry for both kids with a few tears. A simple hug & ''I'm proud of you'' was all that was needed. The teachers are great about making everyone feel welcome and happy. They will check in with you and have meetings to answer questions. My advice is to arrange playdates early on so that your child develops strong friendships. Once you have a friend, you are good to go! Maybe it helped that I put a picture of my child's teacher on the refrigerator and we purchased them a school t-shirt. Finally, I would advise keeping positive but not overdoing it. Don't discuss your worries when your child can overhear. Your child needs to know that you trust that this is a good place and that he or she will grow and be well taken care of. Your child will follow your lead. If you are anxious, then they will pick up on that. If you are confident in his abilities and in the school, your child will believe that is true! So good luck & enjoy these magical years of elementary school!!! Cathryn

Jan 2009

I'd love to hear from parents with children currently in their second or third year in the Rosa Parks Elementary school immersion program, specifically non-native speakers of Spanish. Pros and cons of the program; is your child learning to read equally in English and Spanish? Do you feel the need to supplement their learning in English in any way? How do you like the school overall? Interested parent

I absolutely adore the entire school at Rosa Parks, and the Spanish Dual Immersion Program is fantastic. Both my 10 yr old son and 6 yr old daughter are thriving in the program. It's a great school with talented & dedicated teachers, both inside and outside of the Immersion Program. I highly recommend the school! Cathryn

Dec 2008

Our daughter will be entering 4th grade in the Northwest zone in Fall 09. In the past when we applied to BUSD we were always given Rosa Parks so I assume we will get it again. I would love to hear what people have to say about the upper elementary school experience at Rosa Parks, as well as Jefferson and TO. What are the good points? What are the pitfalls? Thanks. RR

I have a son in 3rd grade at Rosa Parks and a daughter who completed 5th grade last year. We live only a few blocks from Thousand Oaks. We have been extremely happy at Rosa Parks, particularly with the quality of the teachers. When my daughter started at King, I was particularly impressed at how well the 4th and 5th grade teachers at Rosa Parks had laid the groundwork for Middle School so the transition was not as overwhelming as it could have been. Chris S.

Hi. This year, we transferred our daughter from a small independent school to Rosa Parks, along with our son who just started Kindergarten there. Everyone we knew who applied to BUSD in NW zone in upper grades also got assigned to Rosa Parks.

It wasn't our first choice, but the great news is that we are so happy at Rosa Parks. I couldn't imagine a better school for our family. Both of my children have great teachers...the 4th-5th grade teachers are very good at Rosa Parks. In fact my daugther's teacher is the first teacher she's had that really gets her. Also, for my daughter, the learning in public school is more structured than what she was experiencing,and that suits her well.

In 4th-5th grade this year, all the teachers are doing team teaching, so my daughter has a different teacher for English, and there are teachers for Music, Science, PE, and cooking. Also because of Spanish Immersion, a few kids in her class go to the spanish immersion teacher in the pm,and a few kids from spanish immersion come in. We were very lucky that - in public school - our daughter only has 21 kids in her 4th grade class/26 in the afternoon. At Marin School in Albany, where my daughter's friend goes, she has 31 kids in her class.

Also, my daughter is very shy so I really worried about her transition to a larger school. Within 2 days, she loved the structure of the school (the bells, the library,etc.) Within 2 weeks she had a solid group of friends to hang with at lunch.

The parents and community at Rosa Parks are very involved, and welcoming. Kids in 4th grade are still really sweet (although my daughter has already observed rougher behavior on the playground - but it was acted on right away). The mix of kids/families are very diverse, and our whole family is enriched by the community.

I highly encourage a different look at Rosa Parks - I didn't initially chose the school, but I'm really glad it chose us. Mom to a 4th grader and Kindergartner at RP

May 2008

I'm moving my son from private to public school, he's going into 4th grade, and he was assigned to Rosa Parks. I've read the archived comments but there's nothing there about the level of academics at Rosa Parks. Is the school academically challenging or will my son, who is reasonably bright, be bored? I'm sure it's a nice community, I can see that there are parents who care and an administration that works hard. But I'm concerned about the level of learning. Thanks for your comments! Potential Rosa Parks Parent

I can't speak to 4th grade academics, since my son is in K. But what I can say is that he is academically 'advanced' -- he is reading in three languages, interested in math way beyond K level such as multiplication, roman numerals, etc. -- and his teacher does a great job keeping him interested and challenged. There are some kids who are still working on number and letter recognition, which is normal in K, so the range is wide, and I have been very pleased with how my son has not been overlooked, but has been engaged and stimulated by his school experience. As we approach the end of our first year at Rosa Parks, we are very happy with the school all around -- teacher, academics, community, school atmosphere, etc. Good luck with your decision! abby

March 2008

My son is entering fourth grade and we are transferring him to Berkeley public school from private school for financial reasons. We are in the northwest district. He was assigned to Rosa Parks, which was our third choice after Thousand Oaks and Jefferson. I am really unhappy about this, he was at TO for kindergarten and I really wanted him to go back there.

I hear that the principal is working hard to improve the school, that the teachers are good. I've read the BPN reviews, it seems like the only people who write in about Rosa Parks love it! Is it really that remarkable a school?

What is Rosa Parks really like? Are the academics challenging, or even good? Do the teachers have to spend most of their time disciplining the kids with behavior problems? What are the 4th and 5th grade teachers like? I'm so worried about this assignment - should I view it as a gift and not a sentence?

I'm going to sign up on the waiting list for the other two schools. What are our chances of getting our first or second choices? I know this sounds like a post from a couple years ago, but I have the same questions. Rebecca

Hi Rebecca, Yes, Rosa Parks is really that amazing of a school. I gather from your posting that you have not yet had the opportunity to visit. I can guarantee you that if you come for a tour, you will be pleasantly surprised. I have never lead a tour over the past 2 years where people were anything but impressed. It IS a gift that your child has been assigned to RP. Just as it was a gift when my son was assigned there 3 years ago. Immersion program or non-immersion, I believe that RP is by far one of the best elementary schools in Berkeley. You have no reason to be suspicious of positive postings about our school. The people speak the truth! Our Principal, staff, and families are a tight knit community. We have the largest PTA membership of all of the elementary schools in Berkeley, 175. Our Principal, Pat Saddler, does not need to work any harder to ''improve'' our school than any other principal of any other school. While we always strive for continued growth, we have already achieved excellence, in large part due to her and our very dedicated staff and community. I would encourage you to visit the school in order to experience the environment for yourself. I will personally give you a tour. I look forward to hearing from you. Tracy, Rosa Parks PTA President

Jan 2008

Re: Berkeley northwest zone elementary schools
I am the PTA President at Rosa Parks Elementary. I cannot speak highly enough of this school and it's community. Our Principal, Pat Saddler, is extremely dedicated to both our children and our staff. My son is in second grade and his experience has only been positive. Yes, he is in the immersion program. However, your child need not be in this program to thrive. ALL of our staff is EXCELLENT, and this includes our English-only teachers. Our curriculum includes: gardening,cooking, art, and music . I suggest you come on our guided tour on either Tuesday or Thursday morning beginning at 9:30. Please contact Sarah in the office to make an appointment. PH# 644-8812 I assure you, you will not be disappointed! Tracy

March 2007

My child drew the Rosa Parks straw for Kindergarten. As did most of the kids at his preschool. I've been to the open houses, toured the schools. I know RP has a new principal, gotten some new teachers. Many people say things are looking up. All to the good. My concern, and it comes from talking with parents of kids from 4+ years back, is that (brace yourself, this is not PC in the slightest so I'm not signing my name), many of the RP families don't push education as a big value at home, so these kids don't have the learning bug. Kids that aren't interested in learning are big influencers of their peers. I fell into ''cool kid ennui'' early on, despite huge support from family, friends, community. If Rosa Parks is improving, and it sounds like it is, are our families improving as well? Because it takes all manner of people to make a school, not just teachers and programs. We are our schools. Troubled Mom

Hey Mom, don't be troubled!

Are our families improving? Well, mine's holding steady :) We probably look like a solid poster family for valuing education because, well, we do. And we read a lot and there's books at home and one mom is a teacher and..... But, I'm probably the worst parent in the class as far as making sure homework is complete, I don't have a dime saved for college, etc. . . I think that different families have different things to offer. And, at Rosa Parks, the families help create a culture that values education.

I don't think that there has been a significant shift in the socio-econmic status or cultural mix at Rosa Parks in the last few years.

I agree that, ''we are our schools.'' While for most issues of education, I have to acknowledge that one's home life has a greater impact than anything that can happen at the school, I think that, on the specific issue of valuing education v. Cool Kid Ennui, the school has a greater impact. Rosa Parks has lots of energetic teachers with creative curriculums which is crucial for creating students who love to learn (even better than students who just think learning is important). But for overcoming Cool Kid Ennui (shall we call it CKE?), I think that promoting kindness counts the most. Cool, smart and nice are not mutually exclusive terms at Rosa Parks and I think that is the most important. Katie

Hi, We have a child at Rosa Parks and we are highly educated (too much graduate eduation). We love Rosa Parks. Look very carefully at the teachers and you will see how talented and professional they are and how much learning is happening in their classes. We compared the 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Rosa Parks to some other Berkeley Schools and Rosa Parks came out way on top for us. Your worry about kids getting the message that education is not cool has not come up for us at Rosa Parks although it may. I really don't think there would be any more of that attitude at Rosa Parks then any other School. I know that kids at private schools can end up valuing drugs, alcohol, and material possessions over education. Very Happy at Rosa Parks

My son is in a first/second grade in Rosa Parks, he transferred there last year from a private school. I was apprehensive. My son came to love Rosa Parks and his teacher is amazing, he had her last year as well. He also loves his wonderful science teacher, as well as the librarian and gardening teacher. There is much diversity in the classroom, i.e. children from all economic backgrounds, and instruction is individualized. Children are allowed to proceed at their own rate, there are first graders doing second grade work. Much of the time there is a helper in the classroom as well. With regard to the issue of Rosa Park families, many of the parents in his class are clearly very involved in their child's education. And busing has served its purpose after all, for there is enough diversity in each class to make things work well for everyone.

The principal is well respected and is working very hard to continue to improve the school. Parents are very friendly and there is a great feeling of community. rebekah

One of the reasons I send my children to public school in Berkeley is to expose them to a wide range of children. Black, white, brown, rich, poor, smart, struggling, and everything in between. I want them to learn that people are different and some need more help than others. By exposing them to an environment where there is a diverse group of kids, my hope is that my daughters learn to be compassionate and feel less entitled than they might if they were only with kids who come from backgrounds as privileged as theirs.

In this public school setting you find families who feel that their kids? educations are paramount, and you find families who are too stressed and busy to be able to place as much emphasis on it as others do. They might value education as much as you do, but circumstances and environment make it harder for that to be a focus. Don?t assume that just because a child struggles with learning and has a hard time sitting still and being quiet in a classroom that his or her family doesn?t value education.

I don?t really understand your question, ?are our families improving as well,? because it seems like you already know the answer. Do you like the families you know who are going to Rosa Parks next year? Do they share your values? Are you and they the kinds of people who are willing to volunteer in the classroom when you can and help with the PTA and school governance committees? Will you and they encourage your kids to read and help them with their homework? If the answers to these questions are yes, then absolutely, our families are improving. Each family like that makes our school a better place.

If what you really want to know is if the learning environment at Rosa Parks is improving, then I can give you an unqualified yes. My kids have been at the school for 6 years and we?ve been through a lot there, both bad and good. But, given the way the school is now and the principal and the amazing group of teachers, I can?t imagine a better place for my kids to go to school. You can?t control the families of the kids who come to your public school. The teachers have to manage the incredible diversity of kids that walk into their classrooms every day in order to create a fun, safe place to learn. And at Rosa Parks they do. Betsy

April 2006

My son is starting kindergarten this fall and has been assigned to Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley. That was our third choice after Thousand Oaks and Jefferson. I am pretty upset about this for several reasons...especially Rosa Parks' academic reputation.

I would love to hear from parents whose kids are currently enrolled in Rosa Parks...the good and the bad. I have heard that there was a house cleaning there recently and most of the teachers are brand new. Is that right? Also...what about the principal? It also looks like about a third of the students are non-native english does that impact things?

I'm on the waiting lists for the other two schools...both of which are MUCH closer to our house...but I'm wondering about our chances??? It breaks my heart that my son could be walking a few blocks to school, but may instead have to be driven all the way across town.

I'm more than a little! Angela

We live about 3 blocks from Thousand Oaks but our 2 children - one in kindergarten and one in 3rd grade - attend Rosa Parks elementary; they are not in the immersion program. We have had a very positive experience there. Both kids have had fabulous teachers who I would stack up against any private school teacher. Although several teachers at the school are new, they are generally very experienced and have received great reviews - the district really has put a lot of resources into Rosa Parks. The PTA is also great. Although it could better reflect a cross-section of the school community, I would say there have been 20-30 people at just about every meeting this year. There are a lot of exciting things going on, including a green school yard project that has generated a great deal of enthusiasm.

We were originally assigned to Rosa Parks because we moved to Berkeley shortly before the school year began, but our daughter had such a great teacher, we stayed. When my son was going to start kindergaten, we initially requested a transfer; we too liked the idea of walking to school. But after thinking more about it and talking to other Rosa Parks parents, we decided to stay put. A ten minute drive or bus ride is a very small price to pay for the diversity that the zone system is intended to nurture.

I was delighted when recently hosting an event for incoming parents to find that most of them were happy to be coming to Rosa Parks - and that included non-immersion as well as immersion program parents. This positive attitude is part of what is turning Rosa Parks around. Chris S., Rosa Parks parent

Rosa Parks is a terrific school. The teaching staff is strong and dedicated. My son loves it there. I'd say it's well worth the trip across town. It's also a very exciting time to be a part of the school as the parents, teachers and community are coming together to create beautiful gardens that will incorporate the environmental science themes. Jeff

Angela, I'm sorry you're frustrated. We have such strong hands in shaping our kids' preschool experiences and then kindergarten comes along and we seem to be at the hands of a computer. By all means, wait list the school you like best. That said, Rosa Parks has a lot going for it: dedicated teachers, involved parents and, of course, brilliant kids. Regarding the academinc rep--it is 100% based on poor test and API scores, not classroom shortcomings. My biggest concern around test scores has to do with how much classroom time then has to be dedicated to test improvement. My daughter is only in kindergarten, so I haven't seen any of that.

Overall, the school doesn't have that permeating feeling of test-panic-desperation that schools of all APIs can get. Also the test scores and non-native speaker ratio that you referenced are seriously impacted by the fact that there is an immersion program at the school in a third to one half of the classrooms. Half of the kids in those classrooms speak Spanish at home. And the English (ahem, bilingual) speakers in the immersion program can have pretty low scores in the early years as they learn to read and write in Spanish first. So their test scores don't really reflect their knowledge.

Regarding the housecleaning. As a new parent this is a strange sort of plus to me. That is, under No Child Left Behind these massive staff turnovers are the ultimate punishment for low test scores. Thus RP has already faced the punishment and should now, hopefully, have some real stability ahead of it. The current teachers seem strong and the current principal (new this year) is considered the district's best. Rosa Parks is getting a lot of district attention and thats not a bad thing. The school is one of the coziest, most thoughtful, school designs I've seen (inside the schoolyard--not so much from Allston). I was overwhelmed by Jefferson and Thousand Oaks though 1000 has very nice buildings. The physical environment matters.

It is funny how Berkeley folks often don't get placed in the school around the corner but, strangely, I sometimes envy the folks that are bus distance from school because a couple of blocks can feel like a real schlep--especially if you have other kids. OK, that might be little more silver lining than you can stomach. :)

Good Luck. Katie

Dear Angela, I am a parent of two Rosa Parks students currently in kindergarten and third grade. Although your frustrations with receiving your third place choice are real, you have actually been placed at a wonderful school. Many families find their way to Rosa Parks as you have, initially very skeptical of our reputation. Most soon realize that it is only an undeserved reputation, one that our families, students, teachers and principal strive daily to correct and overcome.

Although our school is on a definite upward climb, our staff is not mostly brand new. Most of our amazing staff has been at Rosa Parks for many years. There were some teachers that left a few years ago during a restructuring that took place. They were replaced with experienced teachers from within the district and from other districts. Our teachers are amazing. You can walk into any classroom on any given day and see evidence of their expertise in action.

As far as our principal goes, she is new to us this year but has been in the district for many years. She has a stellar reputation in the district and was welcomed with open arms to Rosa Parks. We have had a wonderful year under her leadership and I have yet to hear a negative comment directed her way. She is a strong leader with a lot of vision for our school, very down to earth, and always keeping student achievement and well-being as her top priority.

I live on the top of Marin by Tilden Park. We moved out of zone a year ago but we make to trek everyday to our awesome elementary school. The school is full of wonderful, close-knit families that devote amazing amounts of energy to building community at Rosa Parks. I hope you give your placement a chance so that you are able to become as big of a fan of our school as I am. Come and visit. We have our share of challenges like any other school but the good far outweighs the bad. Good luck! Rosa Parks parent

Jan 2006

We're in the Thousand Oaks / Rosa Parks / Jefferson zone in Berkeley, and have been visiting the schools and attending the kindergarten open houses. Rosa Parks has been extremely unstable in past history, and has gotten lots of negative press (as well as low scores for the lovely No Child Left Behind program.) The present principal, staff and parents presented a very enthusiastic and positive picture of how R.P. is now, including various impressive statistics comparing 2003 to 2005. It seems to clearly be getting lots of much-needed attention and resources to stabilize and improve past situations. The staff that was at the open house all seem to be happy and dedicated. We did notice, though that many teachers stated that this is only their first or second year there. We are interested in people's experiences now, as this school is being brought into more balance. We'd like reviews from parents with kids in both the dual immersion and the regular classes. We'd also like to hear how involved the parents are in this school community. Is it a few very involved parents? Or is the majority of the school's parent communtity involved? Thanks.
~~No idea where we'll land, but it will be public!

I am a BUSD teacher, though not at Rosa Parks. I teach graduates of the school, know many of the staff (including the new principal ) and have observed classes and the playground scene there a couple of times this school year. I would agree that Rosa Parks is on the upswing after several years of unstable/changing leadership. The district is giving RP a lot of attention and support, and I think its safe to say that many BUSD employees are invested in its improvement/success. The students I teach from Rosa Parks are interesting, alive and engaged as well as prepared. I wouldn't worry about hearing that many of the teachers have only been there a year or two--this is due to a staffing shake-up from two years ago. And besides, new teachers are often excellent! I believe that Rosa Parks is a solid school that will continue to improve, especially if families like yours choose to attend there. Mary

Yes, in the past I've heard negative things about Rosa P arks, and while I don't have a child in the school, I have heard that Rosa Parks is really turning around; our public elementary school principal also stated that R.P. is really making a turn around, and encouraged people to look into it. mom

My family has been at Rosa Parks since 2001. I currently have a daughter in 4th grade and one in 1st grade, both in the two-way immersion program. During that time we?ve had three principals and numerous staff changes. There was one year in particular where Rosa Parks was not a great place to be, but that is no longer the case. I can say with complete honesty that the program at the school gets better and better, and promises to continue that trend next year. There is such dedication and optimism at the school right now. I wouldn?t want to be anywhere else. There is a commitment to academics for children of all abilities. There are clear expectations for behavior and consequences for not meeting those expectations. The science program is fun and educational, and each year becomes more integrated with the rest of the academic program. We have plans for a long-term ?green school yard? project, with a goal of creating outdoor classrooms and places for quiet play for kids who would prefer something other than ball play. The group of parents who are involved is growing, but it is still a small portion of the school. I think there were over forty people at the most recent PTA meeting, but as with most schools a small group of fifteen or twenty makes most things happen.

Of course things at the school aren?t perfect. Any time you have a population of kids with such diverse backgrounds it?s going to be hard to teach to them all. But I believe that the teachers at Rosa Parks are doing a great job with these challenges, and my kids are benefiting from the experience. Betsy

Dear Folks,
I have a son who will be entering Kindergarten this year, 2006, and am a teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley. It's been sad to hear such negative things said about a school when people don't even visit. It's a terrific school with great kids and creative, intelligent teachers. I'm hoping people can come visit the schools with an open mind and put aside preconcieved ideas. Rosa Parks is filled with caring adults who are truly gifted and want what's best for our kids. I visited all the schools to get a comparison and my son will start at Rosa Parks in the Fall. Hope to see you around.
Suzanne Ingley
Science Resource Teacher
Rosa Parks Elementary School

I have a daughter in Kindergarten at Rosa Parks. It is a sweet place with some excellent staff and families. They seem to have already faced all the turmoil and change that they (you know, THE MAN)use to punish low performers--which I surmise means good things for stability moving forward. I'd rather have a staff that's still getting settled than one that may be uprooted in one year. The test scores themselves don't really freak me out--so long as test panic does not dictate the way all curriculum is designed--and that doesn't seem to be the case at Rosa Parks.

It's been a tough transistion for my kid, but I think that would be the same at any school. She's in a dual immersion class whcih has been extra hard on her, but she's getting over the hump.

There seems to be a healthy bit of parent involvement, but I must admit I have been a slacker thus far. There have been a lot fun-sounding family events in the evenings, but we've been on a pretty rigid evening schedule and haven't gone. If there's any ''rainbow families'' (GLBT) out there considering Rosa Parks, we could use some more of you! Katie

Oct 2004

My child will be entering kindergarden in the fall of 05. We live around the corner from Rosa Parks and never doubted that he would go there. But recently I've heard terrible things about the school from a fairly reliable source such as, that a group of teachers got together to write a letter of complaint about the principal last year and were then forcibly transferred to other schools this year. I've also heard that this is the worst school in Berkeley. It has the lowest scores. Bad teachers? Bad principal? I don't have the information to judge, but I am dissapointed and concerned because something did happen and there is not enough time to judge the results to see if the problems were addressed (whatever they were) and the school will now get better, or if the problems were made worse.

Does anyone have any direct very recent experience with this school (positive or negative) that would be relevant to our making a choice for the fall? What is the school community like? Is there a lot of parent involvment? Were the problems addressed or covered up?

What are the chances of a hispanic child whose first language was spanish (but now speaks english) getting a good education there, or of getting into another school in the zone. We are adamant that he not be put in ESL and we don't want him in an immersion program. Hoping to make the right choice

I volunteered with an after-school program at Rosa Parks and also babysat for the PTA president's son. I have a lot to say about my experience but would prefer not to post all of it. If you'd like to email me, I'd be happy to share. Also, I may be able to put you in contact with the PTA mom. She is extremely involved with the school and may have some good advice. jackie

I'm a long time, very active Rosa Parks parent, also a school neighbor for many years and would be willing to talk off-list about Rosa Parks. I'll just say there is good and bad as at most schools and, although the school has been struggling with a number of issues, there are many dedicated teachers and some very involved families. Rebecca

As with most (all?) Berkeley public schools, test scores currently have a STRONG correlation to socioeconomic factors. Within every school, test scores vary widely, and Rosa Parks happens to have the highest percentage of lower income kids, so its average test scores are lower. I know of at least two excellent teachers at Rosa Parks (Ms. Love in Kindergarten and Ms. Schweng in fourth grade).

Now for the specific challenges at Rosa Parks. It has had something like four principals in four years, which contribute to some of its problems. And it is in the third or fourth year of probation on the No Child Left Behind program. I don't know what the implications of that are, but I'm sure you can get more info about it.

If your kid is bi-lingual in Kindergarten, he/she will be in a regular English class (you have to apply for the immersion program, and I don't think Berkeley has ESL classes).

Get more info about the school zone application process from the school district and/or Berkeley Neighborhood Moms kindergarten information night. Almost a BUSD veteran

I have two children at Rosa Parks, one in 3rd grade and one in Kindergarten. Last year was a very difficult year. The school has some of the lowest test scores in the district. There were issues between the teachers and the principal, and some teachers did get transferred. It was a very unpleasant experience, to say the least. But the district got behind the school and is providing a lot of support. No problems were covered up. The teachers who remain at the school are highly trained and motivated. We have new teachers from within the district and from other districts in the area who are experienced, amazing teachers. There is not one weak spot on the teaching staff. We have a new science teacher who has been teaching middle school science and her enthusiasm is incredible. Our two reading- recovery teachers are among the best in the district. The school offers an after-school program that is fun and playful, but combines fun with learning activities that are integrated with what the kids are doing in the classrooms. We have a coach from Sports 4 Kids who is at the school all day every day, playing games and organizing activities on the yard. We have a community of parents that is active throughout the school. There are not as many active parents as there should be, but those who are active are a committed group of people with many ideas and who are able to get things done.

I believe my children are getting a fantastic education at Rosa Parks. I live all the way across town--three blocks from Thousand Oaks School--and it is worth every trip. Last year when things were so rough at the school I considered sending my Kindergartener to another school. I looked at other schools in the zone and at private schools. When I compared the work my older daughter was doing at Rosa Parks to what I saw at the other schools, I came away convinced that my younger daughter would be best off at Rosa Parks. And now that she's there she is so happy and I am so impressed with her teacher and with the quality of work they are doing.

Of course the school is not perfect, but my family feels it is a great place to be.

Don't judge a school by its test scores. Go before school and see how the kids play on the yard and what happens when the bell rings. Go at recess and lunch and see how that feels. Go to a PTA meeting and talk to parents. Visit the classrooms, but go more than once. At Rosa Parks, one of our much-loved K teachers will be on maternity leave starting this week so you won't meet her when you go, so try to talk to parents about how they feel about her teaching style. Betsy

June 2004

My daughter will be entering Kindergarten in fall 2005 - private school is really not an option for us financially and we're actually pretty excited about trying to make public schools work - However, we're in the Thousand Oaks/Jefferson/Rosa parks zone and while we will try to attend TO or Jeff. t I'm wondering: what is it like at Rosa Parks now? If she gets placed there can we petition to go somewhere else? how does applying for the Spanish immersion program there work? What about using a relative's address to get into another zone and avoid theproblem entirely?? Any other thoughts about elementary school in the BUSD? concerned mama

November 2003

We are having a tough time in second grade at Rosa Parks. We were placed on the waiting list for Jefferson, but didn't get in. Our daughter is not challenged by the work, and the teacher is not in control of her classroom. We have not had any success with requests for transfers, or for more challenging work, any advice? It's too late for her to enter the bilingual program (which seems far better than the regular track). Any one else have a child in Rosa Parks, not in the bilingual program? We cannot afford private school! We are saddened by the focus on test scores and the lack of interest in real learning and in real challenges. The children are bored and unmotivated, and my daughter is tired of watching the teacher act like a police woman. Second Grade Mother

I'm a parent at Rosa Parks in Berkeley where I have been very active for 6 years. My eldest is in 5th grade, finishing the immersion program and heading off to middle school next year. An immersion spot never became available for my youngest who is in 2nd grade.

If you read the Daily Planet, you know there has been a lot of negative press about Rosa Parks lately due to standardized test scores and the API (academic performance index). You can look up all kinds of details at the CA Dept of Ed website,

Many educators, parents and students have strong feelings about testing. I am no exception. However, whatever you think about the worth and value of test scores, they are only one piece of information. I hope you will look beyond the media and numbers to see the teachers, staff and families that make up a school community where there are also positive things happening.

Public schools are woefully lacking in support of every type. I hope parents who are 'shopping around' will seriously consider public schools. You can contact me if you are interested in more information on BUSD and Rosa Parks.


January 2003

I have a 4th grader and a kindergardener at Rosa Parks, both in the spanish immersion program.

we have been delighted with rosa parks, and with this program. academically, my daughters have been challenged (nothing like a foreign language that your parents don't speak to keep things ineresting). they've made great friends. their teachers have been terrific. we really have had a great experience. i like so many of the other parents there, i really enjoy just going to pick up my kid on the playground and talking to the other moms.

we had 3 new principals three years in a row, and despite this, the school has really hung together. i like the new principal and she seems to be here to stay. she's in the classroom a lot, and i hear from a variety of sources including my kids that she is proactive in terms of helping teachers in the classroom and dealing with discipline. there are lots of committees & groups at the school dealing with a range of issues (dental care, counseling, etc) that makes for a very strong community.

unfortunately, there does seem to be the perception that the spanish immersion program is the 'gifted' track. there were quite a few families who bailed on Rosa Parks (non-SI) around 3rd or 4th grade, in part, because socially and academically, their kids didn't fit in. i find in both my daughters classrooms that the families are motivated and involved. i think the classrooms are also somewhat unusual in that there are more cross-boundaries friendships than often occur even in diverse schools.

i think my daughters get an education there that they could not get at a private school. once in a great while we have playground issues, but nothing to worry about. the usual girl stuff around cliques is there, but where isn't it?

in addition, for parents who are considering spanish immersion, it's been great for us. even though we (parents) don't speak spanish, it's been fine to manage with homework, etc. i can really see my daughters' self- confidence boost at learning a different language. my 4th grader is fluent and has a great accent. it's so great when we're out and she speaks spanish ... although she is reluctant to ''show off'', occasionally we need the translation help ... people just love it and you can tell it makes her feel great. feel free to contact me if you have more questions.


March 2002

I would love to hear current comments about Rosa Parks Elementary School -- the teachers, (who's good, who's a dud?), the programs, (does the dual immersion really work? is the science balanced with creative art?), and also the new principal, Alison Kelly (I hear Alison just started this year). The comments on the website date from 1998.

My daughter has the opportunity to start kindergarten there in the fall, and we're wondering whether to hope for a waiting-list miracle to occur at our private school of choice, or to home-school, or simply to send her to Rosa Parks (which was, after all, our first choice in public schools in our zone; how lucky is that!).

It would be nice to have the money from private school tuition to spend instead on our own family enrichment of travel and private classes here and there. On the other hand, we have deep and justified misgivings about public school and the ''institutionalization'' of children. Anonymous

My daughter is in third grade of the two way immersion program, and we have been extremely happy with her school experience. She is happy and engaged in learning at school; her teachers have been consistently conscientious and very good at handling the depth of the class and keeping them challenged. From my observation, it appears that the teachers work as a team on bigger school issues, and that they have a very collaborative style with each other and the principal. The school community is also lovely, there's a great group of parents. In terms of whether two way immersion works, I can say that my daughter is fluent in Spanish, and it gives her enormous self-confidence. There is a whole level of language learning that I can see evidence of, with a deeper understanding of grammar and syntax. (How many first graders tell you ''Mom, that's a cognate''?)

I don't have first hand experience in the English track, but I have heard very good reports of those teachers as well. I know the two kindergarden teachers, Ms. Mogrenson & Ms. Love, get excellent reviews from parents.

If your daughter goes to Rosa Parks, esp. in the two way immersion program, why don't you contact me? My second child is probably starting there this fall. With my first, having a friend before starting school made the transition much easier. meghan

I'm asking you to rethink your motives concerning education for your child. In Berkeley and most other communities, the decision to send a child to a public school -- and most private schools -- is a decision to be part of a community, with the potential goal of enriching the lives of your family AND the community you have chosen, while seeing that your child gets educated. Taken this way, the decision is no more simple but a lot more exciting.

As a parent of children who have been in both private and public schools over the years (and with apologies to JFK) I would urge you to consider what you can offer to ANY school your child attends... not just what they have to offer your child. Its not a simple cost/benefit analysis, especially in Kindergarten. Or, if it is, you're probably right that homeschooling is the right solution for your family. Heather

I am a former Rosa Parks teacher but I don't feel I can give the kind of feedback the poster requested re ''good'' and ''dud'' teachers at the school. I feel offended and shaken by the terminology that commoditizes myself and my colleagues in such a way.

As a parent I understand the desire to find the best place for one's child. And of course it's helpful to hear about other people's experiences. As a teacher though I feel that a ''shopping'' attitude doesn't respect the fact that each classroom experience involves a student-teacher relationship, not a product. A good teacher contributes so much of themselves, their time, and their caring attention to your child. It feels especially offensive if one strives for this ideal to think about being dismissed with a facile ''good'' or ''dud''.

Finally, teachers can tell when a parent is eager to ''get'' as much as possible; it's not the best way to start a relationship with someone who will be so important to your child. The parents who contribute to a good classroom environment support the teacher in a very difficult job, and give of themselves to the classroom community.

PS On another note, one phenomenon that is adversely affecting children in public schools currently is the tremendous amount of student and teacher time and resources devoted to assessment and testing.

former Rosa Parks teacher


We transferred into the Berkeley district and both my boys went to Columbus last year,the first year for the newly-built school). They both had excellent teachers (first and fifth grades). The principal is involved and responsive and seems to get things done. One of the things we noticed when we started was that everyone was smiling--teachers, parents, students. Maybe its the excitement of the fabulous new buildings and facilities. Our youngest son is in second grade now and we're happy. Even though some of the kids in his class are not as proficient as he is, instruction is geared so that all are challenged. Good teacher! Columbus has just gotten a Science magnet grant. It's an exciting place!

Incidentally, our children have never been in classes where the teacher is not in total control and they have always attended public schools (both Peralta in Oakland, and Columbus and now Willard in Berkeley). Test scores, in my mind, are not as important as whether children are challenged and all are learning. The key seems to be good teachers (supported by a principal and school bureaucracy that's effective). My oldest son is in the GATE program, he started school when he was 4 going on 5 (late Oct birthday), he likes school, and is achieving. We have been lucky to have excellent teachers. I'd like to second the suggestion to give public schools a chance and to get involved. Kathleen

I wanted to put in a note for Columbus School. My five-year-old twins entered kindergarten there this year and I have been so pleased with both of their teachers (they're in different classrooms) and with the principal, Becky Wheat. Becky involves parents without overwhelming them, and really listens, which is so nice. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions about the school.

My son is in first grade at Columbus.(in the bilingual spanish immersion program, which is very well run, credible, and popular). It is in many ways a very exciting school, with lots of energy and resources pouring into it. The strong emphasis there is science; some parents are working hard on getting more arts integrated in. There are excellent family services and a family resource center, including onsite dental care, onsite psychological counseling ( short term) for kids and families experiencing difficulites. There are many other ways that families are included in the concerns of the school community and encouraged both to be part of things and to get services and support they need.

Like any school, public or private, Columbus is a mixed bag. There are some superb teachers, and some not! It is academically certainly on a par with any other Berkeley Public School. It is a school "in formation", developing its identity, structures,programs. Its an exciting time to be part of it if you like to get involved and help shape your child's educational community. It has the inevitable frustrations and limitations. We are fairly satisfied with our choice at present; I am particularly impressed with the bilingual opportunities and diverse student body, and with the special services and "extras". They have a strong after school class program (paid for by parents and PTA), with Yoga, Instrument Making, Science, Woodworking, etc.

I have a daughter in kindergarten at Columbus. I plowed through the public school process and applied to three private. The private school that I really liked had 100 applications and were taking only 16. I have to admit I failed to check out the test scores at all of these schools. I relied on my instincts and what felt right. I was looking for kind, happy, warm, loving teachers. I visited four public schools, three of them twice, spoke with a few other parents going through the same process and found Columbus to be most highly praised in the north zone. I actually ended up putting it down as my second choice due to its distance from my home. After receiving my welcome letter from Columbus and none from the private schools. I let go of the private and decided to make the public work for us. I talked very little about this whole process to my daughter.

She knew no one in Kindergarten going to Columbus. It wasn't until the Kinder. BBQ that she actually saw faces of kids that might be in her class. She had a great time at the BBQ as did my husband and I; it put us all at ease. She met the three kindergarten teachers and the Principal, Rebecca Wheat. Everyone was very friendly and went out of there way to make the event a very comfortable and happy occasion. School started three days later and we've been happy ever since. I have never seen my daughter so happy to go to school. She was never this happy to go to pre-school. She is constantly busy drawing pictures, letters, spelling words, wanting to read, creating art, doing homework, etc. She does her homework right when she gets home. Her class goes to the library every Thurs. where they can check out a book. They go to their little garden where they are learning about plants and planting. She rides the bus which I never thought I would let my 5 yr old ride the bus. She loves it. She especially loves her teacher Ms. Gallegos. All of the teachers are tremendous with the kids. The three Kindergarten teachers get all the kids together once or twice a week and sing songs. My daughter comes home singing songs in Spanish. The kids were making books the first week of school. Ms. Gallegos is consistently emphasizing writing stories and making the illustrations and the kids love it.

I volunteered to be a room parent and managed to get one parent to participate every day of the week. Ms. Gallegos is a pleasure to work with and is very intuned to the childrens needs. There are a few children who get distracted more easily than others. But I'm sure we would find that even at the private schools. From my observations these kids seem to distract only the other kids who are like themselves. The rest of the kids tend to do their tasks and don't seem to be bothered by the others.

My daughter, Molly, started the Spanish Immersion Program at Columbus School this September. We are thrilled with the school, her teacher, and the principal.

Columbus is a vibrant, thriving environment. It has attracted all kinds of money--federal science, technology, and language grants, Bayer Corporation contributions, private fundraising, and probably more than I don't know about.

The parent community is committed and involved, the teachers are wonderful, and the principal is supportive, active, and effective. I feel that the academic curriculum is appropriate and interesting. The spanish immersion program is very exciting and Mr. Martin is a great teacher. The two other kindergarden teachers also seem very good, as well as (most) of the rest of the upper grades teachers.

The campus is imaginatively designed and spacious. I didn't pay much attention to test scores when evaluating schools, but I feel that what Molly gains from the fact of being in a public school with a diverse population and the opportunity to become bilingual more than compensates for whatever she might miss in private school. Meghan

My three girls all attend Columbus School this year. They are 5, 8 and 10 in grades K, 3 and 5. So far we are very happy with the school.

For those who are new to Berkeley, all public elementary schools were either reinforced or rebuilt after the 1989 earthquake, using $58 million in city bonds. Columbus was closed for several years; the students were moved to Franklin Elementary; Columbus was razed to the ground and rebuilt; and it just re-opened this fall. The cafeteria, library, computer room, and large field won't be finished until sometime this month, so for now, the kids eat their lunches on picnic tables that circle the playground courtyard in the center.

One reason that we chose Columbus was because of a dedicated group of parents, including Jesus Mena of the UCB Public Information Office and his wife Roz, who banded together, worked closely with the architect, raised substantial sums of additional money, got the school a top-notch principal, arranged for before- and after-school childcare and after-school classes on-site, and generally provided a positive start to the new school. They are still working on more programs and more money for the school. All three San Francisco newspapers carried positive articles or editorials about Columbus, and so did one of the national news TV shows.

My children are happy at the school and they like their teachers, who all appear to have good skills and positive attitudes. The PTA is already very active, with three excellant co-presidents.

I personally like the physical buildings and grounds. The classrooms are in small one-story buildings, with two rooms and a teacher's office in each building. High-up gable windows make the rooms light and airy. The buildings are joined by small patios, which are designed for use as an outdoor extension of the classroom.

The downside of Columbus is the reputation of the surronding neighborhood for crime. I'm not sure of the plans for school security, but I am relieved to see that fences with locking gates are going up all around the school. It is my hope that access will be limited (without of course limiting emergency exits).

My experience with the Berkeley Public Schools so far has been excellant, with most of the teachers being top notch, highly motivated, and well loved by my children. The only problem so far was that one year one of my kids was bored.

The Berkeley Public Schools definitely have kids with behavior problems, but so my children are not upset by it. As long as my children can handle it, I would rather that they learn to deal with easy and difficult people throughout their lives, rather than being suddenly thrown into situations that they can't handle when they're older. (I saw this happen to some of my friends in college.) My kids enjoy the mix of kids they find there, and have made friends of various sexes, races and nationalities. Beverly


Oct 1997

I am also relatively pleased with Columbus. My son is the fourth grade. He likes his teacher, LOVES the music program, hates the PE teacher. The prinicpal helped me solve a childcare problem in a very common sense way, and the school secretary loaned Noah lunch money one day when he forgot his lunch. I haven't heard much playground bad news, and there seem to be fewer problem kids (or the kids are behaving better) than at Franklin.

Columbus does have a point of view re: bilingual education and since it is a new approach, including all students, not only those with limited English, I'd suggest you talk to Alison who is the program coordinator. She was very helpful, met with me, explained what the goals were, etc.

I'm not so crazy about the building (although I appreciate its newness), but then I'm an architect with my own point of view. So far I feel pretty comfortable in the neighborhood.

Columbus is supposed to become a "beacon school," open community hours, and with many services, and much enrichment available to children and families. So far, not available beyond the usual set of after school classes. The on-site childcare is part of BUSD Early Childhood program. The teachers are very nice; however, the program is really only set up for K-2nd graders, and the room isn't yet fully set up with supplies. Another complication for me (and this may only be for 4th and 5th grades, I'm not sure) is that the school day goes until 3:20 MTuTh F, but only until 2:05 on Wednesdays.

Lots of nice parents and I know that my son is enjoying being part of the first group of students at the school. As a parent, I definitely feel energy, enthusiasm and commitment from the staff. Emily

From: Lynn


Here's some more information on the Spanish immersion program at Columbus,
from Alison Jones, who is the coordinator of the grant that funds the
program. Alison's first comment is relevant to the question raised in the
last Parent List about specialized language for math and science

Alison writes:

The gradient of language use actually begins with a 90/10% ratio of Spanish/English in K, 80/20 in 1st, 70/30 in 2nd, 60/40 in 3rd, and 50/50 in 4th & 5th. The importance of having 2 solid years with a 50/50 ratio is critical. 4th & 5th grades becomes so content rich that students develop much more sophisticated vocabulary through content instruction.

I would have only included [to Lynn's last message] one more bullet to emphasize academic gains that don't necessarily address language development. For instance, for the native Spanish speakers, introducing them to academic content in Spanish gives them greater access to the curriculum. In most cases, our Spanish speakers enter school already at a disadvantage coming from less educated families of lower income. For those students, the Spanish immersion program gives them a head start in gaining academic acheivement early on, while developing English. As for the native English speakers, many of them tend to arrive to kindergarten with a lot of cognitive development due to family experience which exposes them to literature and authentic experiences that build academic knowledge. Their academic development will definitely continue in the Spanish Immersion program along with the continued family activities at home in English. Being immersed in Spanish challenges their intellectual flexibility and develop higher level thinking skills to make inferences and distinguish new concepts being introduced in both languages.

The experience for these two groups is quite different. And yet, their social interaction is the critical link to bridging the gap. Recognizing the assets of both groups there's a mutual exchange of knowledge taking place that gives value to both cultures as well as both languages.

I'm thrilled that parents are discussing this process. I'd be happy to respond to any questions that come my way. Thanks Lynn, - AJ