The Berkeley School

Community Subscriber

Private School
operated by The Berkeley School, a non-profit corporation
English, Spanish
Pre-K - 8
214 students
Email: admissions [at] theberkeleyschool.orgPhone: (510) 665-8800 X.159
1310 University Ave Berkeley, CA 94702
Editors' Notes: 

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR LIMITED SPACE FOR 2023-24.  At The Berkeley School, we believe that a focus on civic engagement requires students to achieve their full potential as individual scholars, members of their local communities and active citizens of the world. Our students are asked to stretch to their potential and enjoy a healthy balance of challenges and successes in their approach to learning and in friendships, in expression through arts and physical education, and most importantly in their identities – who they are and who they can be.

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello. I am looking to hear from parents of neuroatypical kids who have had experiences with lower grades at Prospect Sierra and/or the Berkeley School in the last 5 years. I am the parent of a child entering a lower elementary grade and considering both of these schools for next fall. Both schools identify as embracing diversity-- in practice, does that extend to neurodiverse kids, and what does that look like inside and outside of the classroom? I would appreciate hearing any and all feedback. Leaving this purposefully vague during application season. Thanks in advance for sharing any insights.  

    Hello!  Our daughter is autistic and is completing her second year at Prospect Sierra.  She attended P.S. for Kindergarten and is now in First Grade.  We could not be happier with the team at Prospect Sierra.  The facilities are amazing, the teachers are fantastic, and the learning specialist is AMAZING.  My daughter receives both one-on-one support and group support from the learning specialist and she has made so much progress this year.  She is truly thriving!  Prospect's focus on social and emotional intelligence is notable for any child, but has been especially helpful to our daughter.  In preschool, she often said she wanted to stay home from school but that is no longer the case.  She is now excited about school and is learning to tackle challenges with joy and confidence.  This is a community that we have come to love and trust.  As a multiracial family with an autistic child, we can honestly say Prospect Sierra doesn't just talk the talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion.  They walk the walk!

    Hello, My son entered TBS in fifth grade. I think you’re looking for experience with lower elementary but I’ll write from our experience and hope it helps. We moved mid year after having a tough time in our public school. My son felt accepted and happy with in his first few days. He is now in seventh grade and truly feels seen and supported by his teachers and the staff. The climate is accepting and open minded. My son says he feels like his school is a small village where everyone knows each other. Lots of kids get support, it’s feels like a normal part of the day. We really like the learning specialists for the lower and upper grades. And there’s good social emotional support as well. Even a parent’s group once a month for parents of neurodiverse kids. I truly feel like the staff wants to see my kid thrive and grow. 

    Our daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and some learning differences while she was in second grade, four years ago, at Prospect Sierra. She had been there since Kindergarten. Almost everyone there was well intentioned, kind, and willing to work closely with both me and our daughter's team. However, her teacher at the time was not well schooled in how to support a child with her challenges, and would regularly embarrass her in front of the class as a way of compelling her to fall in line. (That teacher is still there.) She became fearful of going to school, not least because other kids, responding in part to the teacher's behavior, began shunning her as well. The Learning Specialist also informed me, during a parent-teacher meeting, that she had "tried everything" with our daughter, and was at a loss.

    Around that time, we attended a support group run by Prospect for parents of children with learning differences. The parents of the middle school children used the occasion to voice their frustration at how their kids were basically abandoned once they left the elementary school, receiving no support as they struggled with the even greater challenges of sixth grade and beyond. One mother cried. It was at that point that we decided to apply to The Berkeley School, where our daughter entered fourth grade. It has been a revelation. In her own words, about half a year into fourth grade: "Mommy, the teachers at Prospect Sierra were good teachers, but they didn't know how to teach me the way I need to learn. Now I have a growth mindset." Although, now in sixth grade, she has her challenges and struggles, she loves The Berkeley School, and truly feels at home there. She has grown scholastically and socially, and trusts and feels comfortable with the teachers. 

    One last important point: the teachers at The Berkeley School, and indeed the head of the school, Mitch Bostian as well as the Learning Specialist of the Elementary School, Stephen Cahill, have a deep understanding of neurodiversity and its challenges. They work closely and compassionately with families to figure out what will be the game-changer in their kids' lives that will help them thrive. Moving there was the best thing we've done for our child.

    Our son attended PS through 8th grade and had a fantastic experience. Our daughter was also at PS, but was diagnosed with ASD while in the 6th grade. She had been struggling at school. After diagnosis, we worked with a counselor who coached us about ASD in general and about how to work with school; what accommodations to seek and how to advocate for them. We spoke with staff at PS who were mostly understanding about the circumstances, but in the end unwilling to make several of the accommodations. For a neurotypical kid, it works great - for those who are neuroatypical, not so much. That said, we dealt with this with the middle school staff; the lower school staff and experience may have been different. 

    For 7th grade we switched to Tilden Prep and could not be happier. She has thrived, and she's already moving on to 8th grade coursework. The remote nature of this pandemic year helped her adapt (she really hated school coming out of 6th grade), but we suspect that when she's on campus she'll continue to thrive. The 1:1 nature of the school works really well for neurodiverse kids (we suspect there are quite a few there), and cutting out all of the social challenges allows her to focus on learning. She is engaged with her teachers and her work. Plus, without all the standard school day stuff, her day is much shorter; this also frees up time for neurodiverse kids who have other deep interests. 

    Tilden Prep starts in middle school, so it's not an option for you yet. I think our daughter was fine at PS through 4th grade (girls can mask a lot of ASD behaviors). But she was not thriving in middle school and continuing in a standard school as she got older would have not gone well. . 

    This is our experience with our particular neuroatypical child. Others may have different experiences. 

    When we were looking into independent schools for my 6 year old autistic son, PS never responded to my email and phone inquiries. We heard a lot of positive feedback about PS from family friends with children who go there and really wanted to give PS a chance, but we never had an opportunity to even speak to staff. For reference this was back in June of 2019.

    TBS on the other hand was very responsive, listened to our concerns and answered our many questions before we made our decision. My son is now in Kindergarten at TBS, and the school has far exceeded our expectations. He is happy, social, engaged and academically progressing at age-level. All the teachers and staff are trained to support each child’s learning and growth, and the school is set up to give kids a place where they’re not “different” and feel included. The teachers and SEL Specialist really try to work with us, our son and therapist to ensure that they can support his social-emotional needs along with academics. The classroom sizes are small which allows teachers to provide individualized support not just to our son but to all of the children. Social Emotional Learning is part of the school’s curriculum starting in Kindergarten and this was important to us because social skills and emotional regulation are areas where our son needs additional support. He has been doing play based ABA in naturalistic settings primarily at home due to covid, but his BT will soon be joining him in the classroom to shadow him and provide support. There were some tricky protocols due to covid so having in-classroom support was delayed a bit longer than we had hoped, but his teachers are so well trained and have been able to support our son and provide many helpful tools to help him with social and emotional regulation.

    Choosing the right school for a neuroatypical child is challenging and for us it was very anxiety-inducing. Even if you think you are making the right decision, there is no way to know exactly how things will play out. I think you will find varied responses and a wide range of experiences by talking to other families which might make your decision all the more difficult. Tour the schools if you can and chat with teachers and staff. I highly recommend you speak with the SEL Specialist at TBS!

    Hi - We have had a child at both TBS and Prospect, so we can speak to your question.  Our child has dyslexia with a very high IQ, and unfortunately we found that Prospect was not a great fit.  There were some great teachers there who recognized her strengths, but mostly we were made to feel like our child was a problem to be managed, not a unique learner to be encouraged.  Over the four years we were there, we watched at least 10 kids leave Prospect, all of them with some sort of unique learning style.  These are not kids who have academic deficiencies, they simply do not fit into a one size fits all approach.  That school does a good job of teaching a certain type of student who fits in a certain box, but it was not a place that was able to truly engage all types of learners.  The learning specialist was unable to address the needs of all the kids who needed her, we knew some families who had to fight for her services, and she did not seem equipped to address a variety of learning styles.  The school held only two meetings for parents of neurodiverse kids in the many years we were there, and the overall approach was that the parents were made to feel like they were the only family dealing with these issues.

    TBS has been an extraordinary experience.  All faculty is equipped to teach a diverse range of learners, and more importantly, they celebrate the power of neurodiversity.  There is a monthly meeting for families of neurodiverse kids.  Teachers do not approach neurodiversity as a problem to be solved.  They also recognize that every student is neurodiverse - there is not one type of ideal student.  They empower each kid to know themselves as learners, and then to become an advocate for what they need.  The academics are high level, and as we apply to high schools we are consistently told how well prepared TBS kids are.  The curriculum in middle school is particularly impressive, with an effort to encourage students to really take responsibility for their education.  TBS feels like they are on the cutting edge of recognizing the value of diversity in learning, rather than trying to maintain a limited approach to the possibilities of education.

  • Berkeley School versus TRIS

    (4 replies)

    Hi -

    we are debating between sending our son to elementary at The Renaissance International School or the Berkeley School.

    i am curious if family have experience with both schools how they would compare them or if families looked at both why you chose one over another.




    I can't speak about TRIS because we have no experience and didn't even consider another school once we found TBS. It was the campus size, their core mission, and their ability to innovate quickly to meet the demands of a changing world. Let me know if you want to chat more.

    Hi Deepti:

     The two schools certainly have different philosophies and approaches. The Renaissance is focused on language acquisition and an international focus whereas the The Berkeley School is focused on civic engagement and pulls from Montessori and Reggio pedagogical approaches. I as a current parent at the Berkeley school with a 2nd grader who started in the kindergarten program. The growth and satisfaction I saw in my son from being involved in current events such as donations to the women’s shelter to support for the homelessness to understanding the election and why we vote was very inspiring. It was quite a sight to watch the class in a video and see the Kindergarten class hold their own election to change the class blog name with the administration and faculty showing up to register to vote.  Now as a 2nd grader, my son organized a food drive in the neighborhood on his own. What I have appreciated is the small teacher to student ratio, he has received a lot of attention to allow his strengths to shine and provided more attention in an area where he needs additional support. 

    TBS parent of a Happy 8 year old.

    Hi Deepti,

    I hope you are doing well. I can't talk about The Renaissance International School, but I have been a Berkeley School parent since 2017. My son started on their Early Childhood Campus and is now in First Grade at the University Ave Campus. After we graduated from their preschool we tried Albany Unified at Marin, only to go back to TBS a couple of months after school started and I couldn't be more thankful that we did. 

    I don't know how old your child is, but the Kinder class is just magical. If I could say two words to try to convince anyone to go to The Berkeley School Elementary would be "Danette Swan". She is the kinder teacher and oh my God we love her so much. In addition to that, we also love that TBS is so involved with social justice and civic engagement. We are also very happy with how we feel welcomed and loved. TBS is also very concerned about children's emotional growth and stability and I feel very supported by their staff regarding that. They have a behaviour professional on site whom we adore. He checks in with us often about how our son is doing emotionally and we can seek him whenever we feel like we need help dealing with something regarding our son's emotional development. I could not recommend them enough. 

    We are repeating everything with our daughter who's in ECC like her big brother was. 

    Let me know if you would like to chat more. 


    Hi Deepti,

    TRIS is a phenomenal school.  Our eldest (now age 7) entered TRIS at age 2 1/2 in the pre-primary classroom, went through primary, and is now in a pod in lower elementary. Our youngest (age 3) is now in a primary pod.  

    We were initially drawn to the strong language immersion at TRIS, which has indeed been incredible. Each primary class has native Spanish or French guides and an English-speaking guide, while all three languages are combined at the elementary level.  We love that the three languages, while themselves studied, are also mediums of instruction in math, science, cooking... or whatever. The language used simply depends on the guide or assistant who is leading a lesson.  

    While the international orientation and language curriculum initially attracted us to TRIS, we soon also came to adore the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy, which we found has bred self-confidence, autonomy, independence, and most importantly a deep love of learning.  We have been so grateful during the time at home in the midst of the Covid pandemic for the way that TRIS has helped our eldest daughter become an independent learner.  We also love the Montessori materials, especially in math, which breed concrete understanding and provide a rich foundation for later advanced math.  

    TRIS also has a very strong visual art and music program, as well as an international travel component at the elementary level.  The emphasis is on helping kids plan the trips, fundraise, and lead the way in every possible respect.  It is a school that breeds a sense of community, service, and responsibility rather than entitlement; that is so important in an independent/private school.

    Finally, we are especially appreciative of the thoughtful and creative way that TRIS has adapted during the pandemic, first offering an online program for a brief period and now with in-person pods that have kept students and faculty safe.  The Montessori pedagogy actually is remarkably adaptable to the current context.

    Our two kids are thriving at TRIS, and we are so grateful that we found this remarkable school.

    Good luck with your choice, and please feel free to message me if you need more information!

    -- A happy TRIS family

  • Academics at The Berkeley School?

    (1 reply)

    Dear Parents,

    Following up on a similar question from last week, can anyone speak to how rigorous the academics are at The Berkeley School? We love the feel of the school and the emphasis on social justice but want to make sure our academically advanced child will be challenged in K and beyond. 

    Thank you!

    Hi - We actually transferred to TBS when our son was in 3rd grade because we were finding that the school he was at was not challenging him enough. TBS did not just meet our hopes, they went far beyond them.  The Balance of both the Social and Emotional Learning and the Academics is amazing and then you throw in their Civic Engagement - the school couldn't really be a better fit for what we had wanted.  When we first toured the school, we were concerned that our son was being pushed into the grade ahead of him to learn math and other subjects at his old school, so we asked specifically how they would handle that.  Not only did they address the topic and explain how they would differentiate but were able to show real world examples with current student work to show how kids who were more advance were given a deeper dive in the material without skipping ahead so everyone was still on the same topic and unit but all remain engaged.  We now are in our third year at TBS and couldn't be happier with the level of Academic Rigor that they provide and our son remains excited to go to school and dive in deep.  I hope you give this amazing school a chance.    

  • For our son we are leaning more toward TBS, but we like both schools. Community is a big deal to us and we wonder if PS is more conservative than what we are use to and enjoy in our Berkeley bubble. We love that TBS is closer than PS! We think PS focuses more on social justice, but I believe TBS has some focus there. Both schools seem great, but I would love to hear any more insights on these schools. What people do and don't like about both? Is there community at both? Are kids loving both schools? I love that PS has so many resources, but that is not the only reason we would go there. Thanks!

    I have two children at Prospect Sierra, one in the middle school and one at the elementary campus.  It is a progressive school (conservative does not come to mind) that emphasizes not only social justice, but also environmental responsibility, social emotional awareness,and intellectual engagement. 

    Like you, I too value community and have found a wonderful one at PS. The parent community is active, welcoming, and supportive.  The room parents and parent association plan many activities as a way to promote community---there is something for everyone.  The school fosters community in many ways. For example, there's a buddy program that allows for mixed grade connections so my kindergartener has 3rd and 8th grade buddies. There are "families" that the kids will have throughout their elementary experience, lead by a staff member and comprised of all grades. My daughter has her kindergarten friends but also knows kids in the older grades. I would also say that she knows most of the staff on campus. It is wonderful to see how much fun she is having. 

    Another emphasis is the social emotional learning curriculum, using the Toolbox Project tools and the RULER program's mood meter. Kids learn to use various tools to express their feelings and when integrated with the RULER tools, the kids learn to show respect, empathy and kindness towards each other. It was a proud moment when my son confided in me how he had a challenging interaction at school and before I could offer any advice, he said, "I've got this mom." Our family is having a great experience!

    I was faced with the same decision last year and I choose TBS. You're right. They are both good schools and I know families that are happy at both. Like you, I felt that PS had a more "conservative" or formal feel. I choose TBS because it I thought it had a tight knitted community and more relaxed feeling yet was still academically rigorous. We're in our second half of Kindergarten and just love it. My son thinks "it's the best!" The Kindergarten teachers know their students both academically and socially. TBS does have a social justice component, but PS's may be bigger and have more programming because of the size of the school. I do like the community at TBS and it feels comfortable --- like it's easy to meet people. I agree PS does have good resources, but I wasn't sure that all that stuff was really necessary to achieve a happy well educated child. I don't have any specific negatives TBS yet, I'm sure there will be some as no school is perfect - go with your gut!

    We are a very happy TBS family!  We looked at PS, BPC, and TBS, and they are all great schools with awesome teachers and emphasize both academics and social-emotional learning.  We eventually chose TBS simply because that's where my son was happiest at the end of the visit day - and I think his instinct was exactly right - he absolutely LOVES school.  He is so joyful about learning that I'm sure we made the right choice.  And I've been pleasantly surprised to say that it's been fairly easy to connect with the parent community at TBS.  I'm fairly introverted but there are so many different ways to get involved and connect with people, it's easy to feel at home quickly.  Also TBS' Director of Social-Emotional Learning, Kate Klaire, is amazing.  When our family went through a semi-serious crisis, she was there for us, and my son, in a way that goes absolutely above and beyond expectations.  Definitely happy with our choice of school! 

Parent Reviews

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Our daughter, now in 7th grade, has been at The Berkeley School since preschool and had an amazing experience throughout. Academics were our first priority in choosing a school, and we have not been disappointed. She is thriving academically, and we (her parents, both K-12 educators) are confident that she will be prepared for wherever she chooses to go to high school. She's also had the experience of being part of a close-knit, caring community that has given her awareness of and responsibility for what happens in the world. TBS doesn't have some of the bells and whistles (maker space, pool, etc. - although it does have a great art studio)  - but all of the teachers are highly skilled, thoughtful, and caring, and the actual classrooms (where kids spend most of their time) are beautiful, modern, light-filled spaces. Grateful for our experience here. 

My son graduated last year from TBS and we could not have been happier with the experience he got from 3rd - 8th grade.  

He is currently attending an independent High school in SF and is thriving!  The education at TBS, not just the very rigorous academic, but the social and emotional and the civic minded experiences he received is in large part responsible for the success he is having.

The only real regret we have is that we didn't start at TBS sooner! 

The Berkeley School. My kid is one of 5 black kids in a class of 14. Definitely not the token black kid. Many will be in the class next year too, since it's a mixed age class and kids stay in the same class year over year. 

We thought about the same thing when we applied. We looked at many of the schools mentioned here. We chose TBS based on the outdoor space and curriculum (thoughtful about differing perspectives and experiences), and location. Happy to tell you more about our experience if you send me a message

Our daughter currently attends kindergarten at the Berkeley School, and we have had an excellent experience there. Their Covid protocols are really good, and both the academics & socio-emotional learning have been impressive. We love the kindergarten teacher & the student to teacher ratio is ideal. I highly recommend checking the Berkeley School out. 

We've been at The Berkeley School for the several years and social/emotional learning is great. I have an extroverted/sensitive kiddo and I've appreciated how much the teachers and staff have understood what he needs emotionally and have helped him grow. I'm really proud when I hear him talk about treating others with respect and how we're all different and special. Smaller schools have an advantage in this area. The Berkeley School are other great attributes and it shines particularly well in this area.

Welcome to the area! I have twins in the TBS Middle School who started at TBS in 2nd Grade. Our experience as entrants somewhat midstream was so nurturing and supportive and every time new students have joined their classroom - some even in the middle of the school year - I have witnessed the compassion and support that the new students and their families have received. TBS is an extraordinary school. They walk their talk every day and the way they cultivate and encourage social-emotional learning is amazing. They see every child for who they are, their strengths and their challenges, and work to meet them where they are and provide the structures necessary for an engaged classroom community and school.

As to your concerns about the smaller size of the student body at TBS compared with the other schools you mention, my experience has been that the value of a small community cannot be overstated, especially during the middle school years when most of us struggled in some way or another at some point. A class no larger than 26 students ensures that every child is seen and supported. There is no way to "hide" from your peers or the adults on campus. In addition, while the small size may seem like an impediment to finding and making friends, our experience has been the exact opposite. All of the students at TBS learn to know and appreciate each other allowing them to work collaboratively and make friends with those unlike them. It enriches their experience rather than detracting from it.

There is a terrific drama program in the middle school and they put on a play every year. My daughter loves creative writing and has been supported in and outside the classroom to expand on her writing (and even to embrace expository writing as well). I know how difficult it can be to chose the "right" school for our children and hope my comments help. TBS is a wonderful place!

I know what an important decision choosing a school for our children is and wish you the best.

Our son, Max, has been at The Berkeley School (TBS) for the last two years.  He attended their Early Childhood Campus (ECC) for preschool/TK, and he is currently in Kindergarten at their University Avenue Campus (UAC).  Max is thriving for several reasons.  

First, his teachers are truly caring, dedicated, competent, and collaborative with one another.  This makes for a dynamic curriculum that is transformative and fun for the students.  The pedagogy is influenced by a Montessori curriculum, an emphasis on learning through civic engagement, and the latest learning research. They also have classroom weekly blogs that keep parents abreast of the wonderful learning that is taking place.  Our son loves learning, and his hard-working teachers have a great deal to do with this gift.

Second, the facilities at both campuses are impressive.  When our son first toured the ECC, he fell in love with the school.  There’s a climbing wall, the garden space, the play areas all facilitate the power of play.  

Third, TBS facilitates community building within the classrooms and also across families.  The school year begins with a playdate the weekend before classes begin.  TBS also has school events like Math Night, Grandfriends Day, Fall/Spring Fest, and other socials so that families and other parents can get to know one another.  There is definitely a feeling of community that is welcoming and supportive.

While our son has been at TBS, we can see first hand his socio-emotional and academic development.  When we see him reading and adding in Kindergarten, we are amazed how much he loves learning and how he is so happy.  More than just his academic development, we are also excited that our son is learning about global issues that places him in context as a citizen (with the capability to be a change maker in various ways). Our family totally recommends this wonderful school.  That being said, we are fortunate to have incredible independent schools in the area. We toured several. The only way to really know what school is the best school is for your family (especially your child) to tour the school yourselves.  For our family, it was love at first sight after touring TBS. 

Our children are in their 4th years at The Berkeley School. We have all loved our experience. The teachers and staff are warm, thoughtful, skilled and want to be there. Our kids, now 6 and 8, feel and are an important part of the community. The school is systematic and intentional in its approach to the curriculum, social and emotional growth, arts and science integration and inclusion. We are grateful to be a part of TBS!

We have been extremely happy with The Berkeley School for the last five years My son started in the preschool and is now entering 4th grade. He loves going to school and comes home sharing about interesting things he's learned. I love the cross-collaboration between disciplines, for instance the art teacher collaborating on science in water studies so that students are doing artworks on snowflakes as they learn about the science of snowflakes. I love the well-rounded curriculum - and that time is devoted to quality social studies and science in addition to language arts and math. Math studies are focused on kids really understanding the concepts behind the operations. My son can solve a math problem in multiple ways - he has multiple approaches to answering problems. The focus is not operation-centric, but gives equal emphasis to solving math in real world situations. Great attention is put on building a classroom community focused on kindness and inclusion. Whenever I visit the classroom, the kids are collaborating on works and fully engaged. Communication between teachers and parents is outstanding, as is community-building across grades. My son loves activities with his upper-grade buddies (and is excited he gets to be the "bigger" buddie this year). And of course, having two teachers per classroom means when there is a conflict between students, one teacher can help students in conflict-resolution, while the other can keep the classroom moving forward (nothing is swept under the rug). Two teachers allows time for one to deal with student social-emotional needs, while the other keeps the class on track. My son wants me to add that they have recess and PE at the park across the street sometimes, which he loves, and a fun walk-a-thon and beach day. We've appreciated the close ties we've been able to build among our parent cohort over the years. 

My son went to The Berkeley School for middle school (and we ended up moving our younger child over as well to the elementary school because our son was having such a good experience there). We were very happy with the STEM education and overall academics and found it to be the right balance of rigor and challenge without being an academic pressure cooker or putting academics above the importance of adolescent development. The science teacher there is amazing - passionate, challenging and knows how to engage students. Those were not subjects I would say my son was interested in before coming to TBS. I think also the smaller class sizes allowed these subjects to not be intimidating for students that otherwise might feel intimidated by those subjects or who may be afraid to push their limits. Our son just started (public) high school and is both very well prepared as well as is engaged in math & science. 

 We were looking for exactly the same thing for our son and ended up at The Berkeley School. It’s exactly what you’re describing. I wish my kid was more academic but he’s just not. What he really needed help with was his social/emotional life and TBS is all about that. It’s been great for him. 

I highly recommend The Berkeley School on University Ave (formerly the Berkeley Montessori School). We’ve been there since my daughter was in kindergarten, she’s now in 2nd grade. The teachers are magical and stress full social and emotional growth alongside academics. As a result the children are amazingly empathetic, creative, and curious. My daughter loves her teachers and when I ask her who her friends in class are, she responds “all my classmates are friends.” We’ve also built a great social network with fellow parents of her friends. I routinely get support from fellow mothers, often rely on them for pick-ups, schedule play dates and even group camping trips. If you’re looking to enter into a full community of teachers, students, and their families, I highly recommend the school!

I would have to second the recommendation for The Berkeley School.  We had started off at another school in Richmond but transitioned to the Berkeley School last year and couldn't be happier.  Its location is easy to get to, has an amazing team of teachers and the Administration is just great!  

Welcome to the East Bay! It's a wonderful place to live and raise kids. Our 10-year-old twins are at The Berkeley School and we couldn't be happier. It's a progressive independent school that values equity and inclusion and is deeply committed to its mission and to civic engagement. Late applicants are welcome and there are currently spaces available in first grade. The Berkeley School is a wonderful place. You'll be happy you checked it out.

My son was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD ( inattentive) in first grade. He was attending a “ progressive “ private school in Oakland and they were unwilling and unequipped to provide support for my son - as are most schools. The problem is that most learning specialists are not trained in the proven methodologies that support and instruct kids with Dyslexia. In fact, the trend these days is for learning specialists to support teachers - not necessarily students. You might get a “ pull-out” a few times a week but that wont help your child.  Early intervention is crucial. Many studies have shown that early intervention can even “rewire” neuro pathways. Check out UCSF’s brain imaging study on Dyslexia.

We sent our son to Charles Armstrong for three years and it was well worth the sacrifice. He is now a 6th grader at The Berkeley School and thriving. TBS is a wonderful community and a school that really and truly embraces diversity in all forms. The school is working on more ways to support neuro-diverse students because the leadership understands that a diverse classroom helps develop deeper learning.  TBS also has a project based curriculum, which really works well for Dyslexic students. Our son still needs some outside support but the school makes it easy and welcomes all types of scaffolding that students depend on.

If you are not going to send your child to a school that focuses on remediation of Dyslexia, then I encourage you to hire an educational therapist who is trained in Making Math Real, Orton-Gillingham, and or Slingerland. The Berkeley School provides an environment where your child’s strengths will be highlighted and their challenges will be supported. Unlike many private schools - they welcome students who learn and think in different ways. I encourage you to contact Stephen Cahill ( learning support coordinator) at the Berkeley School. He welcomes the opportunity to discuss the school’s strategies for different learners - I’ve never encountered a more engaged and forward thinking educator !

I highly recommend the Berkeley School. My daughter is dyslexic and she flourished and loved her middle school years at the Berkeley School. She is in high school now. She was prepared well and ready academically and socially for high school. The teachers at the Berkeley School were great and accommodated my daughter's needs. It was the perfect fit for her. All the best and good luck! -frank r

We have a 5 year old boy and 12 year old girl at The Berkeley School (TBS) and have had a fantastic experience with both of them.  It's truly an amazing school that effectively teaches to a huge range personalities.  They are incredibly attentive to each child, and I frankly have no idea how they give such individualized care and attention.  Of course, at the heart of every school is the staff, and they have a gifted staff, administrators and teachers alike.  They are all committed and talented educators.  Between our two kids, we now have 12 years with TBS, and I can't recommend the school highly enough.

Our son is in his 2nd year at The Berkeley School (he’s now in 1st grade) and he’s doing great. I apologize for my long response, but I want to cover all your questions.

Our family is a mixed race – African, Indian and Caucasian and diversity is important to us. We’ve found TBS to be an inclusive community of all different types of diversity including race/ethnicity, LGBT and neuro-diversity. Last year the school was particularly focused on the importance of racial diversity both within and outside of school and held parent focused programs with different speakers and facilitators on issues of race and ethnicity.

My son is definitely on the high energy side and TBS teachers do a great job of taking his energy in stride. I feel that TBS is good at meeting children where they are – whether that be high energy or more introverted. Also, the school’s academic standards are high and they do a good job of catering to those kids that are ready for more academically and others that may need educational scaffolding in areas.

TBS has lots of parent and student education events throughout the year like parent and staff coffee talks where school staff talks about the school’s philosophy on different academic areas like math and science. Also, like other independent schools, there are speakers that come to the school to talk about interesting educational and parenting topics. Last year Allison Gopnik came to TBS one evening to discuss her latest book on parenting.

We have found a warm community at TBS. We just had our winter festival with a cook-off, bake-off and lots of crafts. The school isn’t large so families know each other and know each other’s children. There’s also a focus on community service which connects members of the community to each other and connects TBS to the greater the community outside the school.

Just like all schools there are areas at TBS which need improvement. For example, I sometimes see same parents doing lots of volunteering, but I think that most schools also have lots of busy families and have similar volunteer issues. The important thing about TBS is the leadership makes themselves available to parents and are very willing to engage with parents on suggestions or critiques.

Our family has been really happy with TBS. Good luck with the decision making process, I know it can be stressful.

My son has attended The Berkeley School for four years and is in second grade. Our experience has been very positive. I especially appreciate that they have two teachers per classroom, so that if a conflict or unhappy moment arises, it is not brushed under the rug, but is dealt with in a very healthy way, while the other teacher is able to keep the rest of the class on track. My son is high energy, has a temper and is also very curious. He loves reading and learning, as long as the teacher makes it fun, which I think they do. The teachers have been so kind and patient and extremely proactive in reaching out to us when our son's behavior has been challenging at school. They initiate meetings and we problem solve together - often with very good results. They are so supportive and positive with him. I appreciate that The Berkeley School isn't a sit-at-your-desk school. Kids are busy, and aren't parked at their desks listening all day.

I had these same concerns for my son (just starting 8th grade this year) who has similar issues. We were also concerned about the potential for slipping through the cracks without anyone to help our son navigate that kind of environment. As we started to feel the pressure to be more organized/independent and socially/environment savvy in 5th grade  (which frankly started feeling like a whole family issue rather than just one for my son), we realized that if there was one time to invest in developing the needed skills, the middle school years are the time and place. A friend recommended The Berkeley School --which I swear is the East Bay's best kept secret-- and it has been the one thing that has made our lives easier. I had always been a "my kids are going to public school!" advocate and had never even considered private school but realized that our district just didn't have the capacity (and/or expertise?) to have a whole child focus and that we really needed a skilled school team that understood--and could support the needs of--the nebulous area of executive functioning, etc. In thinking about private schools, we were concerned about finding a balance between strong academics, the social/emotional support, not too big/small, and not feeling like we were the middle class folk in a universe of different values/resources. 

We definitely found the right balance at TBS. From the orientation onward, TBS emphasized that its staff prioritized supporting the executive functioning needs of its middle schoolers (without singling out it in any way) and in the three years that we have been there, has lived up to that mission. I was struck by your inclusion of the word "gentle" in your question because that is usually the word that I use to describe our TBS experience. (We have since also moved our other child over to the TBS elementary school). And not meant in a coddling sense but rather the school's approach to supporting the whole child. When I am at the school, it feels gentle. It feels calm. It feels like thoughtful effort goes into everything. And the teachers are super dialed in to the kids. I have seen my son blossom in ways I never could have imagined (seriously!). If I could do my own middle school experience over, I would want to be there. The academics are strong yet the school is down to earth.

Looking back at our earlier (read: more stressful) years, I invested in every strategy, book, therapist/specialist, and constant communication with teachers but the ROI was not there. At TBS, they want to know what kind of support we want/need. I actually can just drop my kids off without worry--which, for those of us who have a more complicated family experience, is not just refreshing, it is actually sanity saving--because I know that the entire staff is committed to helping my kid navigate the day and build the skills to navigate the future. I would definitely recommend checking out The Berkeley School to see if it's a fit. When we were looking, we liked Prospect Sierra too but felt TBS was a better match.

My daughter is a 7th Grader at The Berkeley School (TBS), and I cannot recommend TBS's Middle School program highly enough - for any student. The school-wide philosophy recognizing and celebrating diversity of all kinds - including neurodiversity - is deeply embedded in the Middle School program at TBS, and is a cornerstone of the pedagogical approach in its classrooms. The learning environment is both rigorous and manageable for students. Teachers pay close attention to every student's needs as learners, and provide individualized attention accordingly. The learning specialists at TBS provide additional bridges to learning when necessary - something which my daughter has benefitted from for nearly every one of the 10 years she has been a student at the school. 

Please come and see if TBS might be a good fit for your child. I know that a visit to the campus will immediately reflect what our children all feel there: a sense of intimacy, ownership, community and pride in themselves as learners. 


We were in the same boat (and looked at the above schools) when we decided to transfer from WCCUSD to the Berkeley School last year for 6th grade. We too had been committed to public education but increasingly saw my son checking out/not feeling stimulated/doing the bare minimum and were concerned about the trajectory that would take once he moved into a bigger middle school during a tricky time of life and could likely slip through the cracks. I wasn't sure whether, as a 6th grade newbie it would feel like he was entering a well-established social and school system but the Berkeley School staff, kids and community have been so inclusive, welcoming and kind from the beginning that my son never experienced any transition issues. I think the school is very conscientious and does a great job teaching and living its values and as a result, newcomers seem to integrate pretty well. The class size has been good too: We were hoping for something not too small and not too big to ease the transition. It seems like the middle school has drawn a lot more new students this year so I definitely would not be concerned about your child being the "only" new kid. TBS also matches up new families with current families so that new students at least have one familiar face when school starts. I have been beyond impressed by how welcoming this community has been towards my family. We actually just moved our (very anxious) 3rd grader there this year and have had the same positive transition experience. TBS has made both of my kids feel excited about learning again and it really is such a nice, no-drama community of good kids and grownups. This was definitely one of the best decisions we've made. My sense is that because these schools see an influx of kids for middle school, they are all probably pretty good at helping incoming 6th graders integrate so it's more a question of finding a school that feels like a good fit for your child and family. Good luck!

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

I am sorry to hear about you son's troubles. It must be very hard on him and you. My son is a bit quirky and we moved him to The Berkeley School and have been very pleased. They truly encourage kindness among the kids and have an amazing student teacher ratio. I would not wait for your son to really hate school before you intervene. Middle school is some of a boys toughest years so if you can make a change do, even if it's for a short period of time. 

Good luck to you both,

As it happens there is a child in my son's class who is leaving mid year so it would leave a spot open in winter. You would have to ask about kindergarten. We are at The Berkeley School which is not far from campus. We have been very happy there and the kids are generally very kind to new kids who come in. Take a look

We have two children at TBS - 2nd grade and ECC. We actually stumbled upon the ECC campus when looking for a preschool for our older daughter. We found it to be an amazing place where our daughter thrived, became curious and always wanted to jump out of our car to go to school. 

During our kindergarten evaluation, we looked at several other schools to make sure we were evaluating all of our options. It's the best kept secret of private schools. Education is changing and TBS is light years ahead. 

If you are looking for a school that markets academic rigor, than this is not your place. 

But if you are looking for a school that creates children that want to learn because they are excited about it, always looking to understand their impact in their community, a dedicated staff of accomplished educators, forward thinking, understand the link between social-emotional learning, focus on the 4c's, project and maker based learning, and more than this is your place. 

I work with a lot of private, public and independent schools in the Bay Area and this is one of the best.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Nov 2014

Re: Quiet girl - public v. private middle school?

From the ''sounds similar'' angle... We have a relatively quiet, creative, bookish, observant 6th grade girl, who, while never disengaged in class, was liable to float somewhat and could easily have been less than sufficiently noticed and challenged to excel (in areas where she is naturally strong) and develop (in areas where she naturally is not) in a larger classroom/school environment.

So we went with the smaller, private option and our daughter is very happily settled at The Berkeley School on University. The 6th grade has two lovely, lively and learned classroom teachers, and the curriculum is rich, engaging and allows for creativity in student work. There's no just getting by and not participating for any student - the teachers are too on it! The school has a warm, welcoming community--staff, teachers and parents-and much attention is paid to the social-emotional well being of the kids. EC mom

Nov 2014

Re: K for sensitive, spirited boy? Private or BUSD

I recommend that you look closely at The Berkeley School. I have one child who went all the way through one of the central zone schools in Berkeley and one child who left after a few years at the same central zone school to attend the Berkeley School so I can compare the two. The Berkeley School has been wonderful for our younger child. The teachers are really able to differentiate instruction, they get to know the kids very well, they work really hard to keep the kids engaged (our child comes home ever day and says that school was ''awesome'') and they seem to really enjoy the kids. The public school teachers really couldn't offer differentiation at all in the classroom and we also had experiences in several classrooms where a tremendous time was spent on discipline. My older child did fine in the public school environment but given what you have described about your child, I would give the Berkeley School a close look. public and private parent

June 2014

Re: Academics, Soc/Emotional, and how boys learn!

I strongly recommend that you look at The Berkeley School. The TBS 4/5 program in particular is outstanding. The two classes (with combined 4/5 grades) both have male lead teachers. These passionate, creative teachers are incredible role models for all the students - in particular for the boys. They are adept at connecting with students in general but especially with boys. TBS also teaches for understanding, not testing. The school has an integrated social/emotional curriculum that runs throughout all the grade levels. Teachers and staff will first try to uncover the underlying "belief behind the behavior" when children are acting out in some way rather than simply address the behavior alone. Creating a safe, respectful classroom community is a value instilled in all the students and broken down into meaningful and grade appropriate actions, from K through 8th grade. Group work entails learning to work cooperatively and respectfully with others as well as deepening understanding of a subject. Engaging, immersive projects are well integrated throughout the 4/5 curriculum. Mindfulness is also integrated into the classroom throughout the school (another method that can help a student learn to modulate behavior such as talking out and wandering "off task").

While I highly recommend that you consider TBS, I also think that very few schools are particularly adept at working with boys. Extremely bright boys (and girls) often push the envelope of acceptable classroom behaviour in even the most progressive schools. That said, I think TBS may be the best East Bay school for addressing exactly what you are seeking for your bright and curious son. I strongly encourage you to contact The Berkeley School Admissions Director, Paula Farmer, (510) 665-8800 ext:103 andpfarmer [at] to set up a visit before school is out so you and your son can see classrooms in action. Best of luck! Happy parent of TBS student

May 2014

Re: private school for child who is advanced
When we were in your situation 4 years ago there were no viable schools for gifted children in the East Bay. Since then, I've known some families to use Tilden Prep which I think is newish. We ended up at The Berkeley School which has worked well for our daughter, supporting both her academic aptitude and social/emotional deficits in helpful and kind ways. Feel free to email me directly for more info. PS

March 2014

Re: Aurora vs. Park Day vs. The Berkeley School?
I am a happy parent of two boys at TBS! My oldest is in the K program and my younger son is at the preschool. The kindergarten is more of a modified Montessori compared to the preschool class, which I find to be VERY Montessori. The K math program seems to use both a traditional and Montessori approach successfully. Much of the math work is done through games, but they also use some of the Montessori tools. The K science program also seems traditional, and advanced for a kindergarten level. For example, my son came home talking about how the exoskeleton of a bug can be hard or soft. They also do things like hold earthworms and talk about their habitat, feed stick bugs, etc.

Regarding the change in class configuration, I have found it to be wonderful. The Ks having their own class has been great and the teachers are absolutely wonderful! I don't have experience with the mixed 1-2 class, but in the K class they are already able to meet kids at different levels with different tasks and personalized education. The head of the school, Mitch Bostian, is very accessible and consistent with a clear and strong vision for the school. You should go and put these questions directly to him. He's approachable and easy to talk to and very passionate about the school's mission.

I've found the interaction with other parents to be easy and comfortable. I'm not a ''social butterfly'' and I'm able to easily engage with the other parents on issues related to the school as well as just about life in general. I don't find people to be anxious; In fact, it seems to be the opposite. They seem happy and easy-going, even the few dressed to the nines in Versace are always friendly and I never feel discriminated against or ''on the outside.''

I absolutely love TBS! You could try talking to Mitch and sitting in during the K class to see how you feel about it. My son has very happy in the K program and eager to go to school every day. Happy TBS Mom

Any feedback on The Berkeley School Middle School?

Nov 2013

We are looking at different middle schools but our entry point would be 7th grade. We have looked at Head Royce and The Berkeley School. My daughter loves challenge and is academically strong. I am looking for a balance of where she can be challenged but has a more integrated education and where the teacher knows the child's likes and dislikes. So does any one out there have feedback on The Berkeley School? Benefits of Head Royce are very obvious on paper but anyone who has looked at both the schools? I am really interested to know more about the Berkeley School. Thanks Amy

I can't speak to the Head Royce experience, but my son started at The Berkeley School this year as a 7th grader and it has been wonderful academically and socially. Class sizes are small, there is hands-on learning, amazing faculty, and the curriculum and teaching methods are the result of current best practices.

What I appreciate most is that my child is KNOWN there. He is no longer falling through the cracks of a larger public school classroom setting. There is no escaping (in a good way) in this kind of environment; the kids are really held. The Middle School day is framed by an advisory program that helps the kids to: connect to one another, transition to and from the school day, and review assignments & expectations.

Good luck on your decision! A Very Happy TBS Middle School Parent

March 2013

Re: Berkeley/Oakland private school recs
The Berkeley School meets all of your criteria. I'm a parent of a first grader at the school. We had our teacher conference yesterday and continue to be impressed by the dedication, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm of the teachers. They just seem to know our child so well and how to support him. I'm sure their positivity has a lot to do with the support the teachers get from the administration. The administrators are constantly and intentionally assessing how they can make the educational experience the best that it can be. My son is doing writing and math in first grade that is far beyond what I understood at his age. (And I'm impressed by the kids' understanding, as opposed to just rote learning of math concepts.) The foreign language is Spanish, and there is also a Spanish option as part of the after-school program. The extended day program has many other interesting choices including carpentry, capoeira, art, cooking, gardening, and knitting (there are new offerings each session). Regarding outside space, in addition to the areas you see when you visit the school (which the kids love), the classes utilize the grassy park across the street at the back of the school. They frequently go there with their "buddies" from the older classrooms to do games and activities. I've also been happy with the social-emotional curriculum and general sense of kindness that pervades at the school. And yes, the parent community is active and diverse. I highly recommend the school.

Feb 2013

Re: Private School for Quirky Middle-High Schooler
Hi Concerned Mom! Saw your post and would like to recommend our son's school, The Berkeley School on University. We've been there since preschool and are pleased with how middle school is going thus far (my son is in 7th). What I really like about TBS' middle school program is that the classes are small and the attention from teachers is very son has had more difficulty with language arts, and my husband and I have gotten very on-point feedback about this from his humanities teacher and practical suggestions for my son that he has actually taken and has improved (mostly participating in class, taking more time to clarify his thoughts about a particular book, etc). The school prioritizes a safe social environment...lots of discussion about bullying and why it's not helpful...and effective, gentle tracking of the kids' social interactions, as well as great parent support (I've attended at least one evening workshop on parenting kids in the digital age that was really helpful). TBS also places strong emphasis on different learning styles. Hope this helps. Kate

Feb 2013

Re: Berkeley School or Redwood Day?
My son attended The Berkeley School (then Berkeley Montessori) from preschool through fifth grade, but thought when he was entering sixth grade that he'd like a larger social cohort, so we moved him to Redwood Day School. RDS is also an excellent school, but he wound up deciding to return to TBS for 7th and 8th grades, mostly because he found that he missed the sense of community and close friendships, particularly with his teachers. We were always really impressed by how well known each TBS child is by the faculty and staff at TBS, and how the teachers nurtured children's comfort with reaching out for academic or social help. I also feel that TBS has a stronger sense of community and diversity.

In response to the answer last week from an RDS parent, you should know that TBS does have a Differentiated Instruction Specialist who's doing amazing work with the teachers. It's also provisionally accredited by CAIS and NAIS, with permanent accreditation due soon. I'm not sure what the responder meant about land ownership, but TBS owns both its campuses.

Both schools are excellent; it's really all about the fit. I advise you to choose the school where your child and your family feel most at home. Alumni TBS Parent

Dec 2012

Re: Schools that foster creativity?
My younger daughter, age 6 in grade 1, is in her second year at The Berkeley School (TBS) and sounds similar to your daughter: she loves art and particularly loves to write and illustrate her own stories. We enrolled her and her older sibling at TBS because my husband and I believe the school supports creativity and strong academics in many different ways. The Montessori-influenced and project-based curriculum encourages both independent and group work as well as students' exploration of their own interests. The curriculum allows children agency and choice in selecting activities and experimenting with different tools and methods to learn and master concepts within the major subject areas. There are two full-time teachers in the class to approximately 20 kids who spend a great deal of time evaluating and supporting students. TBS has two art teachers who are active artists themselves and who work with the K-5 and 6-8 grades, respectively, in small groups. TBS also employs teachers in its after-school program who are active artists. The school also attracts many families whose parents work in creative fields -- architecture, journalism, music, photography and film, to name a few. We have watched our child flourish in a warm, supportive environment where art is integrated into the classroom through various projects: this year it has been monthly self-portraits using different media; experiments with light and dark; and map making. Her teachers first noted our child's strong interest in the arts and encouraged our support of her interests when she was in K. They also noted that she has an artist's eye for design, that she is meticulous in her attention to detail in both her art and regular class work, and that she is a self-motivated and highly disciplined learner. In her K year, our child pursued her interests in writing and illustrating her own stories during her daily 20-minute siesta time after lunch and we were impressed by several formal, illustrated stories she wrote for class, particularly her grasp of narrative. This past spring/summer, she developed a keen interest in the textile arts -- specifically sewing and knitting -- that she is now combining with her writing and drawing. For example, this fall she has used her daily siesta time after lunch to work independently on a book in which each page has either a female character wearing differently patterned and decorated dresses and accessories or a male character who is more plainly dressed. She also drew several maps of the Earth to show which part of the world her characters came from. Each character is related to one another yet each character has its own story. (This is her own project, as she proudly calls it, and it is separate from the stories and other written assignments that are part of her regular class work). This example of independent project work is clearly tied to her personal interests in knitting, sewing and storytelling in general. Her interests are also supported in the after-school program, where she attends the TBS 'Fun with Yarn' class every week. In this class, she learned to knit using a circular loom and rapidly completed a hat with pom pom using four different types of yarns, and then knit a smaller hat for her favorite stuffed animal. She finished both hats in two weeks because she enjoyed working on this project at home as well as in after-school, and this work is in addition to the doll clothes, pillows, and purses she sews from felt and fabric at home on her own. Our daughter also enjoys other pursuits, such as singing in her weekly music class; making sugar skulls and learning about Dia de los Muertos as part of her art and Spanish classes; and cooking in the after-school program. This past spring 2012, the middle school put on ''The Lion King'' musical, and she and her big sib were so inspired by the school production that they learned all the songs by heart and sang it for months afterwards (I heard from several other K-3 parents that their children were similarly inspired). Overall, TBS' teacher support of students' personal interests; inspiring classes and after-school activities; wealth of materials and resources; integration of arts and crafts with everyday class work; and encouragement of independent projects have had a wonderful, liberating effect on our daughter's creativity. It's gratifying to see her excitement and motivation about school and learning reinforced in her regular school work as well. Take a look at the TBS Art Blog and class blogs on the school website to see what students are doing. If you are looking for a school that supports exploration and creativity combined with strong academics, I highly recommend that you visit and consider The Berkeley School. A Happy TBS Parent

I am writing in response to your BPN posting about looking for a school for a creative child. I highly recommend The Berkeley School on University, just below Acton. More than most schools, the Berkeley School recognizes that children have natural creativity and curiosity and does a great job of keeping that spark alive. The Berkeley School is run in a very thoughtful way and really focuses on the individual development of each child, fostering independent thought, creativity, love of learning and good social skills. Both my children (ages 8 and 6) are creative, but have very different temperaments, and the school has done a wonderful job of meeting them where they are at and fostering their growth intellectually, creatively and as human beings. The school also has a great community of parents who come from a variety of backgrounds, but who share an interest in bringing up kids who are able to express themselves creatively in many fields. Keren

Nov 2012

Re: Good middle school for boys
My eldest son went to The Berkeley School and my youngest son is currently enrolled there in the middle school. I highly recommend this school. It's truly warm and caring with a diverse community of students from all backgrounds. My sons really thrived, both intellectually and emotionally, in the vibrant and supportive classes. The teachers are devoted to helping all their students learn to their full potential. Check it out -- they offer tours throughout the year so that you can visit and see if The Berkeley School is a good fit for your child. I know how difficult it can be to find the right school and I wish you the best in finding one for your son! Lillian

The Berkeley School or Prospect Sierra?

Nov 2012

We are in the midst of the search for the right K and hopefully K-8 school! Both The Berkeley School and Prospect Sierra look amazing... I am wondering about people's experience with Kindergarten...I am looking for one that is not too hectic (I have noticed differences on the various tours), warm, flexible, able to follow children's interests, encourages family involvement, and does a good job balancing social-emotional & academics. I know what both schools preach but I'm wondering about parents' experiences?! Also I would love to find one that really honors the big transition that K is for many children (beginning of 5 day a week, full school day) and helps makes the transition as easy as possible with input from the child's family. Another question is...I see that TBS utilizes TERC math curriculum while PS uses Everyday Mathematics as well as Sunshine Math...I am looking for feedback about how either of these are working for your child throughout elementary? Last one...the yard/play area is so much bigger at PS, does TBS feel too small, especially as the children get older? Any parent feedback is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

We are happy at TBS and our now-4th grader is also. TERC has been fine. The play area has been fine for the kid's needs. I know that they are completely re-doing the K-1 play space but it should be fabulous when it's done as they are having a great firm design it. The current play space is fine for the older kids and a few times a week the older kids go the park across the street for PE or for ''park recess.'' Happy TBS mom

We went through the same search a over a year ago after much agonizing and settled on The Berkeley School, somewhat indirectly. Our older child is in her second year in the K/1 class at the TBS and has been at the school since 2008; our younger one is attending TBS' preschool. After looking at a TON of other schools, including Prospect Sierra, we came to appreciate that TBS is the only school that actually suceeds in providing individualzed and differentiated instruction. The teachers (TBS classrooms through grade 5 have 2 teachers each), with strong support from the administration, are genuinely dedicated to meeting the kids where they are academically, socially, and emotionally. We actually started our older child at another independent school for the 2010-11 school year, but transferred back to TBS after just 4 weeks. In terms of managing the transition, the TBS teachers were incredible. Two major transitions in such a short time can be difficult for such young kids, but the teachers and administration handled everything so well that the process was completely seamless. Our daughter was warmly welcomed as part of the community and integrated into the classroom immediately. She experienced no anxiety and only demanded to know why we had not continued at TBS in the first place.

The teachers are very interested in getting to know the kids and families and spend a lot of time doing so. There's always an open door for questions and discussion about any concerns parents have about their kids. They also dedicate a lot of extra time to making sure the class community stays connected. For example, this year, we took a long trip about a month into the school year and the teachers worked our destination into the geography curriculum and helped keep our daughter in touch with the class via e mail.

I cannot compare the math curricula, but will note that our daughter's teachers quickly identified math/number sense as a challenging area for her and looped us in. They and other faculty are providing additional learning support. In stark contrast, the feedback that we received from her interim school was that she was paying attention during math and that even when she was attentive, she was not trying. Because of the keen observational abilities of her current teachers, she is getting exactly what she needs.

As to your final question about the playspace, it seems to be working well. For us, what happens in the classroom is ultimately more important than the size of the physical space. I know that some of the older classrooms also go to the Berkely park that is just out the ''backdoor''. For the younger kids, there is a separate play area in the back that is temporarily closed while the City of Berkeley puts in a bike path, but it will hopefully reopen soon.

TBS is proving to be a fantastic school for our kids and a great community for us as well. Good luck with your decision. Happy TBS Family

Hi, Congratulations on narrowing your choices down to what are demonstrably the two best K-8 schools in the East Bay. Our family has experience with both schools (through Elementary level only) and they are both excellent...but apples and oranges.

PS is very pretty, but if you don't live close by the daily commute is a big drag. They are a more traditional model as schools go. While in the classroom we had excellent teachers, the amount of homework was more than advertised and it was typically busywork. The culture at the school is also very traditional.

While both schools espouse progressive values and driving tenets, The Berkeley School really walks their talk. The TBS teachers (and we have spent roughly equal time at both schools) are excellent and devoted to their programs. There is a great deal of mutuality in the connections at TBS; the school mission is much more about how to best serve the community they have created rather than cramming everyone to fit into a proscribed mold. There is a quality of warmth at TBS that doesn't exist at PS, and that permeates the entire culture of the TBS community.

Regarding your specific questions, my very visual child is excelling in math this year. While it wasn't an issue before, there is a notable change in both attitude and achievement so far. I suspect part of this is the inclusion of Montessori materials (beads, cubes, etc.)in addition to the TERC program. I LOVE the TBS approach to homework. My child recently finished an assignment and volunteered ''that was way more fun than the homework at PS''. I almost fell off my chair.

TBS has access to Strawberry Creek Park, right outside their back door. It's a big beautiful field and has plenty of room for all PE activities. The kids regularly use parks around Berkeley and I love that this makes them participants in their lovely urban home (that's why we live here, right?).

I am happy to answer other questions or expand on these answers if you would like to ask the moderator for my email. You can also contact Paula Farmer, the charming and accomplished Director of Admissions with any questions you may have at pfarmer (at) theberkeleyschool dot org.

Best of luck with your decision! Very happy with The Berkeley School!

Editor note: reviews were also received for Prospect Sierra

Oct 2012

Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
I highly recommend The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. Our son is in 3rd grade and has been at TBS since Kindergarten and we absolutely love it. The teachers, administrators and community of families at this school are incredible. There is a lot of emphasis on reading and writing in the early years as well as hands-on experiences for science and math. There is virtually no homework, tests or sitting behind desks in the first few years. What we appreciate the most is that they teach the kids how to learn and why learning is empowering and important. To do this they give the kids the freedom and personalized guidance to build on their "gifts" and confront their "challenges."The school is located on University Avenue just a few blocks from I-80. Check out the website ( for more information. -Arash Sara

In addition to the many wonderful schools mentioned last week, you should pay a visit to The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). We interviewed many of the schools that were recommended, and were impressed by the thoughtfulness and dedication of each one, but TBS stood out for its deeply pragmatic pedagogy (not the last time you'll hear that word...), its continued investment in its teaching staff, and the integrity of its administration. Mitch Bostian (head of school) and Zaq Roberts (K-5 division head) are each your favorite English teacher, ever, now having moved into administrative roles to bring their experience and amazing talents to bear on the entire school. TBS is both well-funded and well-managed enough to offer significant financial aid to support an economic diversity of families. To us, it felt like home. See if it feels the same to you. A TBS Family

Oct 2012

Re: Montessori Family School Vs The Berkeley School
We found The Berkeley School (TBS) online before we came to the country. Our son started at the Early Childhood Campus (ECC) and is now in Kindergarten at the University Campus. The school has been amazing for all of us. It gave us a community to enter into when we arrived in the country and we found good friends amongst the other parents and the teachers. The ECC is wonderful, I can't recommend it highly enough, but since your question is about K I will concentrate on our experience so far. The school is a great place for our son, who is not an easy-going guy. He is comfortable and seems to have found a good place for himself. The school is not strictly Montessori - they follow some of the principles but are not strictly or only Montessori, which we prefer. So there is imaginative play and we don't get looked at disapprovingly for our kid's love of computers. So far the 'big' school is less intimate and holding than the ECC, but that's to be expected I think. The staff is amazing; really dedicated and passionate about what they do. Whenever we have an 'ouch' moment about the cost, we think about the parent-teacher evenings we've been to. The commitment of the staff to each child's development is honestly inspiring. I really recommend TBS; at least go on one of their tours and check it out. It's a small, educated, diverse, welcoming community. Natasha

Feb 2012

Re: Seeking a Montessori school for 5 year old daughter
Have you considered looking at The Berkeley School (otherwise known as TBS) on University Avenue in Berkeley? They are deeply rooted in a traditional Montessori curriculum, but have incorporated symbiotic teaching methodologies such as Reggio Emilia's ''Follow the Child'' approach (observe what the child is naturally interested in and teach the curriculum concepts in that context). The name of the school recently changed from Berkeley Montessori School to The Berkeley School to reflect this more inclusive teaching philosophy. Being a long-ago graduate of a Montessori school, I was definitely looking for a Montessori education for my two children and have received it. The augmented philosophy, however, has been invaluable for my kids who have diametrically opposed learning styles. Both have flourished (both in the pre-school and now Kindergarten), and I am comfortable in saying that TBS will be able to provide a successful and engaging Montessori education to any type of child. It also happens to be a very fun and supportive community. - A Happy TBM Mom TBS Mom

Nov 2011

Re: Private schools in Berkeley
My son has been attending the Berkeley School since he was 3 years old. He's now in the 4th grade. It is an amazing community and has been a thoroughly positive experience. The school is focused on all aspects of child developement--from academics, to social development, to being a conscientious and centered individual. The kids are confident and strong critical thinkers and the attention to my son's individual needs has been impressive throughout. We love the school! Carrie

Nov 2011

Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
Dear Mom, You should definitely come see The Berkeley School, located on University Ave in the heart of Berkeley. ( My daughter is now in her second year here, in a truly mixed second and third grade classroom. The 23 students in her class (with two full teachers!) are work individually and in mixed-age groups throughout the day, depending on their needs, learning styles, and even interests. My daughter had been in a traditional K and 1st grade class, at another school, but likes this so much better. In addition to the academic benefits are, of course, the social benefits of making friends with older and younger students, and then, as they move into the next class, having the older kids truly welcome them into the new community of learners. I've loved seeing the way the friendships across the grades spill over onto the playground at recess and all-school activities. Feel free to email me directly if you want more information. Moira

Nov 2011

Re: School for sensory seeking 1st grader
Look at The Berkeley School. It's on University Ave just a few blocks up from San Pablo. They are giving tours now. We like it a lot and I think you might like what you see there. JM

Oct 2011

Re: Middle School for son with advanced math & science
My boys went to TBS from preschool through grade 8. The academics prepared them extremely well for any high school they wanted to attend, and the environment, which I treasured dearly, and believe is equally important, allowed them to remain safely inside of childhood for just a tiny bit longer -- avoiding the over-sexual-ized, over-consumer-ized and media-blitzed reality of life -- for just a couple more years.

One son graduated from The College Preparatory School and the other from Lick-Wilmderding High School (very much their choices). One just graduated from UCLA with his degree Chemical Engineering (just because it ''sounded interesting'') and was recruited by Google where he now works (nothing at all to do with ChemE, he's followed his passion for technology). Our other son is a bio-medical engineering major at UC Davis, where he has discovered philosophy and viticulture. Therefore, I'd say they were both well-prepared for whatever step came next in their lives. (Really, with very little help from us - two parents who are liberal arts graduates who can barely solve an algebraic equation). Both of them could have gone to private/very expensive Ivy League colleges, and both, with our encouragement, chose University of California campuses, for which our bank accounts shall be eternally grateful.

I look back on all the school choices for the boys and I have the most nostalgia for TBS and what a wonderful place it was for our kids and our family. It was a sweet time with so much learning, growing, and happiness.

What more could you want? One Lucky Mama

March 2011

Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
Our son joined The Berkeley School last year for Kindergarten. He joined one of the K/1 mixed-age classrooms and is now in first grade. My son has well developed academic skills (i know all parents say that)and has benefited from the chance to work at his own pace for more rigorous topics like math and language and last year was able to work at the first grade level on these lessons. You didn't mention in what way your child is sensitive, but our student is socially shy and prefers observation and then carefully proceeding into group projects. There is an assortment of works and activities that can be independent and done in groups so children are able to select where and what is comfortable but still have access to all of the materials. We also appreciated how helpful teachers were in helping us all transition to the routine of school. They were patient and great with helping us with separation at the beginning of the year. Having the same teacher for 2 years in a row has also gone a long way (and one of the reasons we chose The Berkeley School) in helping our son gain confidence and independence in both his learning style and social interactions. Personally our family has made friends and enjoy the supportive, strong and fun parent community! Happy TBS parent of 1st Grade Boy

Feb 2011

If you are considering The Berkeley School, I want to encourage you. We transferred 5 years ago and its been a great all round experience. Our daughter has flourished academically and socially in this progressive, relevant, hands on, diverse learning environment. She has learned to apply herself to her studies, to work well in teams and groups, and to take responsibility for her homework (which she has always has a very reasonable amount of, especially now compared to other middle schools). The teachers are the heart of the school. They are of exceptional caliber, forming a solid community. It helps that faculty are well supported in their professional development. TBS has built on the brilliant aspects of the Montessori method, updating with current research and methodology in education. The staff are all great to interact with, and our principal also provides a warmly supportive, humorous, yet clear, firm presence for the kids, as well as being an inspired educator and writer. I have been struck by the the active parent community, which includes many thoughtful, accomplished, creative people. I have had a couple of minor issues, for instance with grammar and spelling, but we are seeing really good essays and poetry. Overall, we are satisfied with the subjects in middle school, appreciating the vitality of PE, art, music, and drama programs. There is even a fresh, healthy school lunch program! Our daughter has surpassed all expectations in her learning and we will always be thankful. Only trouble is, its hard to be moving on... jen

Jan 2011

Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
You should definitely take a look at The Berkeley School. I share your views on homework, and you will find that the teachers and administrators at TBS feel the same way. There is basically no homework prior to 4th grade, and very manageable amounts for 4th through 8th grades. More importantly, the homework that is sent home is always thoughtful, and builds on something being done during the school day/week rather than just being busy work. Our Head of School thinks that kids' homework should actually be ''the work of the home,'' as he calls it -- kids helping out, being with family, recharging their batteries. I am happy to talk to you personally about our experience at The Berkeley School if you would like. j.s

Dec 2010

Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
I'd like to suggest considering The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). When my eldest son was in 6th grade, we had a similar experience as yours, trying to find the best Middle School for him. I know that this isn't an easy process! The Berkeley School is not rigorous in a traditional sense, but the small size of its Middle School allows the teachers to really understand the intellectual needs of each student. My eldest son who is quite academic found the Middle School to be truly supportive both of his academic intellect and of himself as a whole person. The teachers are sincerely passionate about teaching each individual child. There's a true welcoming and supportive environment at The Middle School and my son developed not only intellectually but socially as well. He learned not only intellectual concepts, but when to apply these concepts, how to explain it to others and how to work with other people. I wish you and your son the best in finding the right Middle School for him! Lillian

Nov 2010

Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
I so emphathize with your dilemma and your search! Our daughter just transferred from Park Day to The Berkeley School (for 2nd grade), and while we loved aspects of Park Day, we didn't think it was the best fit for our daughter, who was often overwhelmed by the social energy of her peers at Park Day. We moved to The Berkeley School because we were so impressed with their commitment to a truly supportive social environment (the size and layout of the school support this, as well as the on-site school psychologist) within the context of what they call ''a rigorous progressive school.'' Rigor, in this context, doesn't mean testing, but allowing children to move within and across the double-grade classrooms with curriculum that really lets children learn at their own pace. In addition, if the two-year range isn't enough, I know of kids who are in the upper elementary classes for math, but in their own lower elementary class for everything else. This isn't weird or awkward (the way it was when I was in elementary school) but just part of the culture. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions. mrk

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I began learning about progressive educational philosophies when I was looking for a school as my son was getting ready to enter kindergarten. Ultimately, the school's educational philosophy became the most important factor in our decision. We are now in our third year at The Berkeley School with our two children (both also attended the school's Early Childhood Center). We have been very happy with our decision. The school cultivates self-directed as well as collaborative learning and fosters children's creativity and curiosity for learning. Most importantly our children know school as a place that is fun to go where they are appreciated for being themselves. The teachers are outstanding and there is a strong emphasis on professional development, which I feel contributes to the school being among the most progressive in the area.

As you come closer to looking at schools, I would encourage you to visit schools' classrooms more than once and to meet with the head of school/principal - that is what ultimately sealed our decision. catherine

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
My daughter attended The Berkeley School from preschool through eighth grade and is now a Freshman at The College Preparatory School. My son is in second grade and attended TBS' Early childhood Center as well. Here is a little insight into why we love TBS:

- Dedicated, energetic teachers who are deeply supported by their administration, especially in professional development.
- Happy, friendly and diverse kids
- Consistency across classes and curriculum
- Active parent community (with a variety of ways to contribute)

Ultimately, my daughter is doing very well at College Prep. TBS helped build her confidence, developed her already great sense of humor, and prepared her intellectually and creatively to do pretty much whatever she wants to.

PS. we love the school lunch program run by Gregoire (parent and Berkeley restaurant guy)

PPS Feel free to visit our family blog ( to get a sense of what one TBS family is like. Patrick

Sept 2010

Re: Private Middle School with strong academics
You should absolutely take a look at The Berkeley School. It offers strong academics--including everything on your list-- Algebra, Geometry, Spanish, hands-on Science, Art, Music, Drama, and an emphasis on differentiated learning. While many schools emphasize skill building, the Berkeley School takes that as only one important part of helping students become strong, engaged learners. In addition to a solid curriculum that builds skills, students at The Berkeley School acquire an awareness of how and when to apply those skills --through project-based learning, and hands-on work-- as well as developing motivation to excel --by an emphasis on understanding their own gifts and challenges, and gaining an appreciation of their own style as learners. At TBS middle-school graduations, every child speaks about themselves as learners, challenges they have faced and overcome, and growth they have experienced. I have attended these graduations for years, and every year I am blown away by the level of self-possession self awareness and self confidence that each and every student demonstrates. They are simply amazing. Happy TBS mom

May 2010

Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
I am not sure what you mean by ''not too academic,'' but I assume you mean that learning should be fun and should foster a love of learning rather than just concentrating on rote memorization and fact-gathering. If you are looking for a school that can foster inquiry and curiosity, as well as establish a solid foundation for your child to be able to formulate questions, understand and process information, and apply those skills to their daily living and long-term learning, then you may want to look at The Berkeley School. TBS offers a visionary education where each child is truly known, and can go on to succeed at the high school of their choice. For me personally, it's refreshing to be at one of the independent schools that teaches students the importance of how to think for themselves. Paula

April 2010

Re: Diverse private school for Hispanic daughter
We have been very pleased with The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori) for the diversity of the students and their families and their support of adoptive families. Our two girls were adopted from Cambodia and both have felt the support of students, faculty and staff and the sense that their cultures are celebrated and honored. Throughout the years, the girls brought presentations of Cambodian culture and holidays and their adoption stories to the classroom.

While there is no bilingual program, Spanish is integrated at the Early Childhood Center and in all levels of elementary and middle school. There are TBS families whose first language is Spanish (among many languages represented in the school community). Finally, the flexibility of the progressive education at TBS gives teachers the opportunity to spend time exploring a particular culture and issues that develop around adoption and family. We have been very lucky to have a teacher for the past three years who is also an adoptee.

The Berkeley School is a respectful community where differences are celebrated - I hope you'll give them a look. Catherine

April 2010

Re: East Bay Private K-4 Recommendation
I encourage you to check out The Berkeley School, which fits all of your criteria (except maybe cheap, though it's competitive or somewhat less than other independents...). Our child is a very happy first grader there.

It's hard to describe a school--really important to go and visit, get the feel, see if it's right for you and your kid. But here goes: At TBS our child is learning to be a self-motivated ''learner.'' Her intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm have been ignited, her confidence and creativity supported-- she's thriving in all respects. The influence of its Montessori past remains in the teachers' emphasis on truly knowing each student as an individual and guiding him/her in her development. That's possible, in part, because there are two full teachers (not student teachers or aids) in each classroom, making the ratio about 1:10. The teachers themselves participate in impressive amounts of on-going education, which keeps them fresh and engaged. The school encourages intellectual growth and rigor without pushing or placing undo pressure on kids. There's also a real sense of warmth and community that we've appreciated as a family.

Best of luck with your search. TBS Mom

Hi Andrew

Our kids attend The Berkeley School on University Avenue formerly known as Berkeley Montessori School). We have a 3rd grader and a Kindergardener, both of whom have been at the school for several years.

The school is in West Berkeley and has a wonderful program that emphasizes intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation as the basis for learning. They have an excellent faculty and staff and are very good at understanding and attending to the individual needs of children as they develop. There are 2 teachers in every classroom, for about 20 students, plus the ''special'' classes like art, music and Spanish which are taught to half the class (10 students or so) per session. The after school program is also fun for the kids with K-science, carpentry cooking, sports and free play, amongst other activities.

Here is a link to the elementary program.

Call Paula Farmer, Director of Admissions at 510-665-880 X103.

Good luck! Willie

Nov 2009

Re: Challenging Progressive School?
You should check out The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. It is the only school I found that clearly stated and embodied that it had ''no floor AND no ceiling'' in their classes. They will be responsive to your child's unique needs or, if they cannot meet them, they will not admit him/her. They are one of the only schools that do not just accept for as many spots as they have (or ''over accept'') -- they accept students/families that they can serve well and are a good fit for their program and community. I think you'll be pleased with what you see. TBS is far beyond your typical good progressive school. If your child is really gifted (sounds like s/he may be) then you may also want to check out and also Good luck! anon

May 2009

Re: Looking for schools with "no homework" policy
My experience at Berkeley Montessori has been no homework until 4th grade, and not a ton of it then. Even better, when my kids were in first through third grades the teachers would talk to them about ''homework'' being the work you do at home, and encourage the kids to talk about the kinds of things they did at home as contributing members of their family. Setting the table, making their beds, helping with dishes, emptying the waste all had different things that they did that varied with their ages and their families, but I really liked how talking about it this way both set an expectation about kids helping out and honored their contributions. Ann

Like you, we don't feel that homework is helpful to our young kids. Happily, we have found a school that doesn't assign homework until 4th grade (and then not very much), and de-emphasizes testing and grades, while emphasizing individualized learning. The school is Berkeley Montessori School, which has a campus for 3- and 4-year-olds and another for K-8. Their website is A happy BMS family that enjoys our homework-free evenings together

May 2009

Re: Looking for Bridge K programs in the East Bay
We looked at pre K programs last year for our son who was turning 5 in December. We ended up at Berkeley Montessori and have been very happy with the school. You can check to see if they still have any spots for next year. It's a great school, and our son has thrived there. You can look online at

March 2009

Re: Differentiated Learning at Berkeley Montessori, the Academy and Park Day
The thing about Berkeley Montessori is that differentiated learning is basically their entire philosophy. they put a ton of energy into closely observing and working with your child, and then meeting the child at their level. Finding the window when they are ready to read, for example, recognizing that, and then jumping in at the right time. There are two teachers in each class, and while one is teaching, the other is often observing and taking notes. I am pleasantly surprised by what they know about my child (3 days last week he was interested in working with such and such math project). We have been at BMS for a few years now. I am constantly struck by the variety of children and learning styles/abilities that the school caters to. there are kids there who are geniuses, but just as many with learning disabilities. And many middle of the road. And its amazing how they handle it so well. One downside to this approach, to be fair, is that it sometimes seems like they are so ready to cater to the child and what their interests are, they they don't really push kids too much when they are not interested in something. I've heard of kids who were missing some basic skills and the parents only happened to find out on their own. The child had been excelling in other areas so their ''individualized curriculum'' sort of skipped a basic or two that the student should have learned. Maybe the school was just waiting till the child was interested. But in truth, most children excel there and most absolutely LOVE school. -anon

I am the parent of a fourth and a six-grader, both of whom have been at Berkeley Montessori School since kindergarten. Woven throughout the teaching at BMS is the idea that everyone has a different set of gifts and challenges, and that the important question is, ''As a learner, how do you choose (or not) to work on your challenges, and make use of your gifts?'' As our head of school succinctly puts it, the question is not ''How smart are you? but rather ''How are you smart?'' Children are encouraged to think about what makes for good work, what is their best effort, and how to continually improve and take responsibility for their learning. What I see as a parent are children who light up and are excited about learning, and, at the same time, know how to buckle down and persevere when they are struggling. I see teachers who know how to ignite that fire, and also use creative strategies to support kids in a variety of ways when the learning doesn't come easily.

Having seen several classes of 8th graders graduate from BMS, I am perennially astounded by how self-possessed they are, and how self-aware they are about themselves as learners. At graduation last spring, some students expressed themselves through art or dance or puppetry, while another said with a smile, ''I thought about what I wild and creative thing I could do, but I realized that I am at core a linear thinker. I do my best expression in sentences and paragraphs,'' and then went on to give a very well articulated, logical talk. A parent of an elementary- aged child recently told me her son was pacing around the house, and when she asked him what he was doing, he said, ''I'm working on my homework. I'm a kinesthetic learner, and walking helps me think.'' After another minute or so he sat down and completed his writing assignment.

Teachers at BMS are constantly learning about strategies and methods to reach a range of students. There is a huge commitment to professional development which extends to best practices beyond the solid tools within Montessori. Just in the past year, all of my children's four teachers spent a week in the summer at Project Zero at Harvard. In addition, individually they have attended the Bioneers conference, the Asilomar Math conference, and workshops on Facing History and Ourselves, sustainability, respectful discipline, science education and more. Beyond the obvious benefit of bringing the best tested methods into the classroom, this commitment to ongoing education powerfully models for the children what it means to be a life-long learner, and be engaged in your work. I couldn't ask for a more committed, engaged, devoted set of teachers. I call them ''the dream team.'' BMS is an exceptional place for all kinds of learners to do all kinds of learning. afh

We did not experience differentiated learning at Berkeley Montessori. Our child did not select math on a regular basis to work on, and so fell behind. The montessori method for the lower grades allows students to chose their work, and we found out at the parent teacher conference that there were basics that were not being chosen (math, grammar, spelling). When we approached the head of school about the problem, she told us our child was just not cooperating. She also told us that the learning specialist which was listed on the web site as being available for math and english, was not available to us for math help. So, we were left having to pay an outside tutor. We ultimately left the school because we were told that the situation would not change in the coming year. Anon

My child attends Berkeley Montessori School. She is in first grade. I think the differentiated learning at BMS is pretty amazing. We're in a Lower Elementary classroom and have been at BMS for almost 4 years and see children across the spectrum thriving.

Our child happens to be an advanced reader, is in first grade doing 3rd grade spelling, better-than-first-grade math, writing, etc. And we find the teachers very attuned to the need for differentiated learning. We have not initiated any of the changes in level, the faculty have each time, often midstream as they realize she is ready for more challenge. There is no wait for ''testing'' or other more formal diagnoses.

There are some areas, particularly social-emotional, where she is definitively a first-grader, and we feel her gifts (strengths) are encouraged and nourished and her challeneges are worked on in a way that makes her feel powerful as a person and also realistic in terms of how she relates to the world. Pretty powerful stuff.

There are children in her class who experience challenges in reading or math, and those who are very gifted in particular areas. And the whole is a pretty terrific community. The class structure this coming school year will change to 2-year groupings (as opposed to the traditional Montessori 3-year groupings) to allow the teachers to better serve the wide range of learning styles and abilities of the students. We're big fans. lh

Jan 2009

Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
Check out Berkeley Montessori School. It has been a wonderful education for my son, who started in kindergarten and is graduating this year from the 8th grade. The Head of School is dynamic and is a strong supporter of excellent teacher professional development (including sending 12 teachers every summer to Harvard Project Zero), which is directly improving an already great program for the kids. And the kindergarten will be at the elementary campus next year, instead of the preschool, as in the past. Their web site is Best of luck to you in a search for a good match for your child and your family! -Happy BMS parent

Nov 2008

After switching to Berkeley Montessori, ''Sara'', a creatively gifted, "outside of the box" learner said, ''Mom, I miss my old friends, but learning is important and at the old school, if you could learn a subject easily it was fine, but that didnmt work for some of us. Now my teachers really know me, they actually TEACH ME! She has made strides academically, understanding her strengths and challenges. Children are guided to take a high level of responsibility for their learning program, and she handles homework gracefully now--a minor miracle! We appreciate balanced individual/group learning, Montessori math,great art room and chorus, well-organized debates, science lessons to live for, challenging poetry recitals, healthy kid-prepared snacks, responsiveness to parents. Our head, an inspired intellectual, and pragmatic leader, teaches at Harvard in the summer. The teaching faculty are outstanding: committed and caring, of a caliber I only dreamed of before (early childhood education minor). Same goes for the learning specialist and psychologist. Montessorims brilliant insight is integrated with contemporary research. They teach and assess for real understanding and thinking, rather than "coverage". I believe children are being equipped for the future, for jobs yet to be invented. The community works hard on diversity, Green issues and social responsibility. Although not as expansive, this campus is a jewel,with beautifully designed classrooms. jen

Oct 2008

Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
Visit Berkeley Montessori School. Lots of different types of student thrive there. They educate the whole person, teach mutual respect and positive communication, as well as strong academics. It was a great place for my son to transition into young adulthood. I only wish our very highly regarded HS was half as good. anon mom

Feb 2008

What's it really like at BMS? I'm wondering about the social environment. Clique-ish? Competitive? Friendly? I'm also wondering whether or not the teachers encourage balance in a child. I've got a bookish little brainiac, and I'd like him to be encouraged to grow the other side of his brain as well. Do the teachers at BMS truly value arts and creativity? Or are they kind of heady? Many thanks, Looking at Lower El.

My child went through the BMS early childhood program is now at lower El - 1st year. BMS is a wonderful, open community. I rarely see cliques and when it does happen, the teachers are quick to discourage it. Parents and teachers work very closely with one another so any issues that arise are always addressed immediately. The children are caring, respectful, and playful with one another. I believe this is because the classrooms are mixed-age and children are together for 2-3 years. As a result, they learn from a very young age to care of one another, and that there is enough time and opportunities to develop friendships with children across the ages and interests. The teachers are also very attuned to the social and emotional development of children. Academically, because children are engaged in work they find interesting, and the focus is on the growth of the individual child, children feel worthy, confident, and tremendous amount of self-awareness even at the youngest ages.

The teachers are very loving, intelligent, balanced, and creative. The projects they come up with encompass a range of subject areas. For example, the lower el children recently celebrated 100 days of school with involved math projects. While the main focus is on math and problem solving, the parameters of the project were broad enough that they also became experiences in art making, writing, geography, history, science, and storytelling.

There is a misconception that Montessori schools are overly structured, cold, and lack imaginative play. In the several years we have been at BMS, I do not find this to be the case. In fact, imagination is strongly encouraged, intellectual development and individuality are celebrated. happy BMS parent

My ''braniac'' (as you put it) son is very happy at BMS, though that's not to say that other sorts of kids don't thrive there. (One of my son's best friends is dyslexic and has other learning challenges, and he is happy there, too.) Like you, I'm less concerned about my son's academic learning (he could learn reading and math in a cardboard box) and more focused on his social, emotional, and physical (gross motor skills) growth. I'm pleased to say that BMS has greatly fostered those. I think the fact that he's so happy and comfortable with the academic opportunities at BMS gives him the confidence to branch out in other ways. I was thrilled, for example, when he reported that he ''loves'' PE (which was a source of much fear and dread for my unathletic husband and I when we were young). The teachers at BMS absolutely value arts and creativity. My son does tons of artwork there of various sorts. The Montessori curriculum encourages individual creativity--it is the very opposite of a ''teach to the test'' approach.

In terms of the social environment, I have not found the kids to be at all clique-ish or competitive. The parents I've met also seem nice; however, they have not been active in initiating extracurricular socializing. I wish there were a bit more of that, but maybe that's just the reality of today's over-busy society.

On a recent Sunday, my son said, ''I can't wait for school tomorrow!'' ''Why?'' I asked him. ''Is there a special event?'' ''No,'' he shrugged. To me, the fact that he is eager to go to school is more than enough proof that we have made the right choice for him.
Parent of a happy BMS elementary school child

Nov 2007

Re: Math for gifted kids
I've looked at many private schools (and checked out the Piedmont public schools) since my older son is mathematically- inclined and the curriculum at the private school he attended until 2nd grade was dismal and not challenging at all for him.

In my opinion, there's no other school that can teach math as thoroughly as Berkeley Montessori School (where our kids have been enrolled for the past 6 years). While other schools teach children how to get the right answers (with schools boasting superior math curriculum teaching FASTER ways, often shortcuts, to the right answers), BMS teaches math in a way that gives students a really deep understanding -- the students truly internalize the math concepts (what's behind the concepts, how to expand on them, etc.). The challenging math curriculum and the superior teaching tools and method are the main reasons why we came to BMS (although, now that we're here, we realize that the amazing social curriculum is also a boon).

Oct 2007

Re: First grader's teacher says he's "extremely advanced"
Our daughter is now an 8th grader at Berkeley Montessori School (BMS) in Berkeley. She's been there since Kindergarten; the program runs from preschool through 8th grade.

Through elementary, children are grouped in classes with three grade levels each: pre/K, 1st/2nd/3rd, & 4th/5th/6th. (Middle school is 7th & 8th.) Students are not always grouped strictly by grade level for each area of work, but are often grouped by their readiness for a particular topic. With this arrangement, teachers are working successfully with students having a range of abilities.

Care is also given to social development of each child, and children have a role -- they have a say, they have responsibilities -- in the social and physical functions of the classroom. I find that the mixed-aged classrooms help in this area, too.

This all stems from an approach that is captured by the expression ''follow the child''. The idea is that it is in the nature of kids to learn and grow; given a suitable environment, appropriate resources, and gentle guidance, learning is naturally self-driven.

There is a curriculum, of course, and there are milestones of academic achievement. At the same time, daily and weekly activities are not strictly bound to a script. One day in elementary school, several of my daughter's classmates found a praying mantis in the schoolyard, and caught it. I know that in the schools that I attended, the teachers would have just yelled at the kids to get the thing out of the class and get back to work. At BMS, the students who found the big bug were sent off to the library to research praying mantises and figure out how to care for the new class pet. They presented their findings to their classmates, and the students of the class took on the responsibilities of caring for their new bug friend.

Tuition isn't cheap. However, do not necessarily assume that you will not qualify for tuition assistance. We made this mistake -- when our daughter started BMS, we were recently out of school with our first real jobs; not making much in the big picture, but real salaries seemed like a fortune compared to student life. We didn't apply for assistance, but just pinched and stretched, the first line of our family budget always being the BMS tuition. Some years later, after our careers had seen some growth, we learned that we probably would have been ripe candidates for assistance. If you find yourself exploring independent schools, don't make the same mistake we did in this area.

I could go on... but what we know for sure is that it works for us -- that is to say, our daughter has had a fantastic experience, and continues to be challenged and to grow. Have a look at BMS, and see what you think!

Best of luck! -Greg

April 2007

We are strongly considering moving my son to a private school for first grade. He hasn't done particularly well in his Oakland public school for Kindergarten (and he's actually begged me not to send him to first grade!). He's plenty bright, but has what is being called ''motor planning'' difficulties, with the result that he has a lot of difficulty writing, and unfortunately the curricula used in OUSD rely quite a bit on worksheets. The result is dislike of school in general, and self-esteem problems. We're considering both Berkeley Montessori and Aurora, although we've had strong recommendations both for and against each place for my son. He's a high-energy, social boy, who loves to be outside and to work with his hands. We've heard that Aurora may not be the best place for high-energy boys; we've heard that BMS may or may not allow much interaction abd working in groups, depending on the teacher. We'd really like to find a good match for my son, as he doesn't like transitions, and we would, if we changed schools, already be doing one more transition than I would have liked. If you have had a high-energy, social boy at one or the other of these schools, could you please tell us about your experience? In addition, if you think there is another school that might be suited to his needs, perhaps you could suggest it to us. Karen

Our son has been very happy at Berkeley Montessori and is a very social and smart child, who also has some challenges with writing. I think one of the best things about the school is the emphasis on working together with others, and I've observed a fair amount in all the first-third grade classrooms. The teachers also look closely at each child and individualize the curriculum to help them work on their challenges and build on their strengths in a caring, nurturing way, allowing them to develop at their own pace. I think BMS could be a great fit for your child. Happy BMS parent

Hello: I have two children at Berkeley Montessori School, one in 3rd grade at the Main Campus and one in the 3,4,5 year old class at the Early Childhood Campus, he will be in Kindergarten next year at BMS and my daugter will be in 4th grade next year and has been there since 1st grade.

We LOVE BMS! We live in Oakland and our school is Chabot which is considered one of the better Oakland Schools. We definitely struggled with the decision to use Chabot since financially it is much easier of course, or to attend BMS. After 3 years at BMS we have no regrets at all.

It is a wonderful school. The teachers are incredibly dedicated and are completely devoted to the work they do. The school bases their view of children on the model of ''Gifts and Challenges'' rather than ''skills and problems.'' Recently in a film made about the school the new head, Janet Stork said, and I quote, ''It isn't about how smart are you, but in what ways are you smart'' with the assumption everybody is smart. ''Difficulties'' such as the one you expressed your son has with ''motor planning'' would be labeled as a ''challenge'' not a ''problem.'' This is much more empowering I think for children and boosts their self-esteem in areas that might otherwise cause them to feel labeled or stigmatized.

As I said, BMS hired a new Head of School this year and she has already made many, many positive changes such as program enhancement, more transparency in communication, staff training opportunities and much more. She is unbelievably honest, a great listener and most importantly to us, she actually follows through on what she says!

I would say one of the greatest strength and unique characteristics of the Montessori environment, and absolutely true to BMS is that children spend most of their time working in groups of 2 or more. Work period is a time of profound interaction with children moving about the room, sitting together and talking about their work, teaming up on work etc. It is truly the complete opposite of a more traditional classroom setting where everybody works on the same thing at the same time, at their own assigned desk, working alone, BMS is nothing like that.

Have you visited the classrooms? I highly recommend seeing the classrooms and the school environment for yourself first hand because as least for us, that was the only way we made the right decision about where to send our children. You could also make an appointment to speak with Janet Stork the Head of School and/or Carol Clark the Admissions Director. Finally, in regards to your son having lots of energy, we feel one of the greatest parts of BMS is that kids don't just sit passively at their desks working on worksheets. The children are always engaged in purposeful activity and the children are always free to move about the room rather than staying confined to their desks. They are taking materials off the shelf, working with them, putting them away etc. They proceed at their own pace, rather than being rushed to meet the ''standard'' of what is expected and most importantly to us, as we have seen with both our children, they learn to make their own good choices, learn to manage their time and are able to conduct self-initiated/directed learning. The school has P.E. and also have yoga every week. Yoga is great because it calms even the most lively children in my daughters class. Happy BMS Family

Hi Karen, I have a 3rd grade son who sounds much like your son, and he's doing great at BMS. (Full disclosure: I actually have three kids there, and I love the school so much I came to work here three years ago, doing Communications.) There are plenty of opportunities for high-energy boys to be active, and the teachers are just incredible -- deeply knowledgeable and intuitive about kids, unfazed by boy energy, etc. Our new head of school, Janet Stork, is a dynamo, and there's so much good new energy here. I urge you to consider BMS for your son. Please feel free to contact me if you have any more specific questions. Laura

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    February 2007

    Does anyone have anything to say about Berkleley Montessori School? I know they have a new Head and changes have been made. How is communication home to parents? Do kids have enough physical activity? How is the community? There is no space large enough to meet as a community. Is that a big loss? No assemblies? Are kids challenged enough? I heard in the past, some kids were leaveing lower elementary without basic math and writing skills. Has this been addressed? Thanks! Curious parent

    Boy, I am so glad you asked! Berkeley Montessori does have a new head of school this year, Janet Stork, and she is wonderful. She has been very focused on the quality of communication to parents, and in ensuring transparency in decision- making. I have been pleased with the level of communication from both the administration and from teachers. In addition to school newsletters, and community forums, I have gotten classroom newsletters, emails, check-in phone calls from teachers, and I see portfolios of my children's work. Janet makes herself very available to parents, and is very much focused on ensuring that parents are appropriately involved in decision-making for the school. I chose the word ''appropriately'' because I think that schools can get in trouble either in the direction of too little or too much parent influence.

    One of the wonderful things about BMS is that there are a lot of great parents in the community with a lot of strong opinions. As you all probably know, this is a double-edged sword. One of the ways in which I feel we are all learning to be a healthier and more effective community, is by better achieving that elusive balance. We are learning to make skillful use of the talents and energies of parents, without this leading to the sense that we are chasing in a million directions at once, or that a small group of vocal parents are steering the ship.

    The play-yard is not huge, but the school makes good use of Strawberry Creek Park, which is right across the street. There have also been improvements to the lay out of activities during ''outside time,'' so that kids have a range of choices to engage their energies. Our wonderful next door neighbors, Congregation Netivot Shalom, have made their community space open to us for use both during the school day and in the evenings as needed, so there are ample opportunities to have large gatherings.

    My sense this year is that there is a consistent commitment in the lower elementary classrooms to basic skill levels being met. I know that this has been a concern in past years, and I think a combination of some new staff and better use of learning specialists has resulted in marked improvement. One of the challenges for parents who may be accustomed to a different style of education, is to understand that all Montessori teachers look at achievement over a three year time frame, as all students spend three years in each, mixed-age classroom. This allows for children to truly learn at their own pace. As a parent, I was thrilled when my first grader was doing third grade level math work. It was more challenging to be thrilled when that same child was struggling to read even toward the end of second grade. Good communication with his teachers assured me that he was working away, even though little progress was apparent, until suddenly, at the end of second grade, seemingly overnight, it all clicked for him. He is now a happy fourth grader, reading at the same level as his peers, and delightedly losing himself in reading for pleasure. Throughout this he was never stigmatized for being “too smart” in math or “not smart” in reading, and for this I will be forever grateful. I hope this helps. I am choosing anonymity out of respect for my kids’ privacy, but would be happy to talk more to anyone about BMS. It is a truly great school. Happy BMS mom

    We have been at the school for 7 years and my kids have both had wonderful experiences there, and love to go to school every day. Berkeley Montessori is a great school!

    The new Head of School, Janet Stork, is fantastic: dynamic, bright, and absolutely passionate about progressive education and meeting the learning needs of every child. I think she is very good about communication and very accessible, and provides numerous opportunities every month for anyone to talk to her in person. She has also encouraged the professional development of every staff member, which has translated into an energized faculty, enriching even more what our kids experience. She has added weekly yoga classes to complement the weekly movement classes, so I feel my children get enough exercise, especially with recess and sports after school. The school can use the synagogue's multipurpose room next door for assemblies and all school events, although it would certainly be nice to have our own space.

    My children have certainly learned *more* than they would have in a traditional school, including math and writing, and have been encouraged to pursue their academic interests. I think that is what is possible when experienced and skilled teachers provide the individualized education the Montessori approach fosters. There have been some staff changes at the lower elementary level, and the new Head has added a school psychologist and weekly child study reviews for the faculty, administrators, and learning specialists working with one child to discuss the special needs of that child. I know there are also plans to hire another learning specialist to assist children who have special needs, so I feel the concerns you mention have been addressed.

    The community is vibrant and full of very bright parents, teachers, and staff members passionate about serving the children, but in the past they haven't always agreed on how best to do that. I think our new Head of school is a great leader who is harnessing the energy of the community and helping everyone pull in the same direction to make BMS an even better school. Her model of school as learning community, where everyone, teachers, administrators, parents, children, are learning, is a terrific vision for the future. -Happy parent

    Sept 2006

    I have just returned to the U. S. and am trying to place my 5 year old in a good kindergarten in the Berkeley area. I am considering Ecole Bilingue and Berkeley Montessori, and would appreciate comments on these schools for this age, plus any other recommendations for excellent private schools. Thank you

    I can definitely recommend Berkeley Montessori as a wonderful school! My two sons both started in kindergarten and have had amazing educational experiences; the older son is in his 7th year and both children love to go to school, love to learn, and have many opportunities to pursue their interests in a supportive, nurturing, and incredibly rich environment. The new Head of School, Janet Stork, is an amazing educational leader who has brought new energy and excitement to the school. I encourage you to visit and see for yourself, and talk to Janet.
    Happy parent
    Feb 2006

    Re: Thinking of switching our 7-year-old to a Montessori school
    I believe that there may still be openings for the 2006-07 school year at Berkeley Montessori School for a 7 year old child, and I doubt that exposure to Spanish would be a factor in acceptance. The sooner you can make the switch the better, as it can be difficult for children to make the transition later on. Please call the BMS admissions director Carol Clark at 510-665-8800 ext. 103, or check out the web site at We have been very happy with the experience of our children at this exceptional school.
    Berkeley Montessori parent

    Jan 2005

    Re: Berkeley Montessori vs. Montessori Family
    We had a hard time deciding between Berkeley Montessori and Montessori Family as well, but in the end, we thought that the classrooms at Berkeley Montessori were a little livelier in terms of collaboration between the children, and that ''felt'' better to us. I am a strong believer in gut instincts when choosing schools and other childcare for your children. We have been very happy with the tremendous teachers and vibrant community at Berkeley Montessori as my son has moved from the Early Childhood program through Lower El (1st-3rd) and now Upper El. But we may well have been happy at Montessori Family as well. I think we are blessed to have so many wonderful schools in the East Bay! Another Montessori Mom

    Jan 2005

    Hi, I am hoping any parents whose children have attended Berkeley Montessori or Walden school in Berkeley can respond to this question. We are considering a bunch of different schools right now for next year and I am curious how these two schools graduates transition into a different school setting after completing the BMS or Walden school program? I am concerned about my child being ''behind'' when transferring to a public school setting in 9th grade (if that is what they end up doing). I have this ''feeling'', which is really based on nothing, that these two schools may allow so much freedom and independence that my child(ren) could end up doing more of what she wants and not enough of what she needs? I could be way off base here. I would love to hear any positive or negative feedback and am really looking for answers from children who have already attended these schools and how they are doing now in their current schools. Thanks for any information. Anon

    Hi, My name is Antonia and I'm an 8th grader at Berkeley Montessori School. I have been going to BMS since pre-school. Right now I am in the middle of applying to St. Mary's College High School and Holy Names High School. I love the BMS community so much that some days I don't ever want to leave (and then I wish BMS had a high school!). I feel that BMS balances freedom, stability and independence very well so a student can progress at her own rate. In the Montessori classroom kids also learn to be responsible and organized at an early age. This is a really good advantage once you're in high school.

    Your concerns are valid, of course. but the questions you raise about being ''behind'' are totally the opposite of what I've experienced at BMS. In fact, many of my 9th grade friends at Albany High are struggling with algebra, and haven't gone nearly as in depth as we have with the books they study in English class. For example, this year we've spent three months reading and discussing ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' writing papers and doing projects based on the book. My friends at AHS said they dont't read classics like that until they are juniors. We're a mixed class of 7th and 8th graders so, in fact we're already far ahead! In 8th grade you take test prep and timed essay practice to help prepare you for HS. Besides the academics, the BMS teachers are awesome! I have great relationships with them and feel that if I don't understand something, I can go to any of them and explain what I don't understand and get help without feeling embarressed or intimidated. I feel this is very important to be able to do this with your teachers.

    BMS is a great school with a tightly-knit community of nice kids and caring teachers! There is so much more I could tell you about BMS so free feel to contact me. I honestly know that I am very socially and academically prepared to enter high school. Antonia helen

    Although my sons have not yet graduated from Berkeley Montessori School (BMS), I wanted to let you know that Alumni from BMS speak at the school each year about their experiences in public and private high school, and they just had the event last night. I know for sure that last year's event was videotaped and that the BMS Director of Admissions should have a copy of the tape that you could borrow. The event is not a fluffy marketing event--you can ask the kids tough questions and they answer very thoughtfully and candidly. The kids are very positive about the preparation they receive at BMS, and about how they learn to find their own voice at BMS that helps them when they are out in the ''real world''.

    Also, bear in mind that the Middle School at BMS is not a Montessori program but a bridging, transition program that helps kid prepare for a rigourous academic high school and college life after BMS. Hope this helps! Sima

    My daughter will graduate from BMS this June. All of the Montessori program has been a fantastic ''fit'' for her; in fact, the year we took her out, because of seismic safety concerns at the old Hillside School site, was a disaster. We promptly returned to BMS and she's been thriving again ever since. I don't know where you got the idea that kids attending BMS would be ''behind'' when they transition to 9th grade; nothing could be further from the truth. The middle school program is incrediby rigorous and BMS graduates go on to all sorts of high level academic private as well as public schools. Unfortunately, I did not see your post soon enough; BMS just held its annual Alumni Night this week--a chance to hear from graduates about their transition experiences. For more information, contact Diane Johnson, admissions director at BMS. anon
    Jan 2004

    I wanted to address some of the comments made about Berkeley Montessori School by an anonymous parent in the last Private School issue. One of the greatest strengths of the school is the amazing faculty, and the wonderful teacher:student ratio, with two teachers for each class of approximately 24 children. All of the Head Teachers at BMS are Montessori trained and highly experienced. After completing their Montessori credential, Head Teachers are required to have worked as an Assistant Teacher for at least 3 years before becoming a Head Teacher. All of the faculty and staff education and credentials are available on the BMS web site at under ''Education'' ''About Faculty & Staff''. My son's teachers have been truly amazing.

    In terms of grading, students at the Early Childhood Campus and Elementary school receive written reports rather than grades, but parents also have the opportunity to talk to teachers at two scheduled conferences during the school year, as well as any extra conferences requested by a parent or teacher during the school year. The teachers are trained in observing the children carefully and can tell a parent where their individual child falls in the continuum for any particular area of study. This observation and knowledge of each child by teachers is part of the beauty of the Montessori method.

    The middle school graduates do go to excellent high schools, and the information about which schools they went to is also on the school's web site, under ''Students'' ''Graduates''.

    In addition, the BMS test scores are on the web site, under ''Community'' ''Test Results'', and they are quite good. However, I would also like to point out, as has been done before, that test scores really reflect the socioeconomic status of the children, not necessarily the education that is going on in the school. BMS works very hard to achieve diversity, with an important Tuition Assistance program, and need-blind admissions. Not every private school does that.

    Of course each family's experience at a school is individual, and each family needs to find a good fit for them. But I would be happy to talk to parents interested in BMS and answer any questions they might have about the school, speaking from my family's experiences. I think it is a very wonderful place to educate my children, and a wonderful community to be a part of. Sima

    Nov 2003

    Hi - I've noticed the new Berkeley Montessori building going up, and it's made me curious. How do current parents feel about the school? (academics, socially, diversity, ''playground dynamics)? About the move? Is the newer building going to allow a larger enrollment? If you have transferred out of Berkeley Montessori, what led to that decision? And, if you decided to go, has it met your expectations? In general we hear very little about this school, so any pluses or minuses would be nice to know.

    I understand that they are planning for some expansion in the Middle School in the new building which opens in Feb.2004. The Middle School is relatively new compared to the rest of the school- founded in 1963, but the Middle School is recent like - six or seven years old. In fact we almost did not apply because we did not know it was there. Had to delve! The BMS Middle School is small, cozy, some things mixed seventh and eighth, and some separated. Exceptionally dedicated teachers, high standards, and great high school preparation. All the grads during our year that wanted Independent education were admitted to an Independent High School. c e c
    We only used the BMS pre-school/K site with good reason. Great teacher/experience in the pre-schoool while we simultaneously witnessed the elem/middle school in transition and chaos, problems with inconsistency in teachers and the head of school. This was 5 years ago, and I will say that I am impressed by what I know of their curriculum and situation now. It is my understanding that BMS uses the Lawrence Hall of Science science curriculum--there is no better science curriculum, and I sorely wish that my child's independent school used it. Math is very strong at BMS--Maria Montessori got it right about using ''manipulatives'' and segueing into more sophisticated manipulatives to teach math. As well, their middle school grads are of late getting into impressive high schools. I think that the construct of the Montessori system is geared toward the independent learner--the Mont. kids take a lot of responsibility for their learning and academic choices. Their current site is charming, but I hear tell that the school is bound for their own shiny new building on University Avenue. I also remember BMS being more diverse than some of the more ''elite'' elem/midd. schools. I think the school is evolving impressively, and I never would have thunk it a few years ago. LD
    We attended the Middle School - but many of the students had started at age 3 - one of the teachers had been an alumus of the school originally starting at pre-k. People seemed very happy, the students were very accomplished and well behaved. claudia
    We've had both our boys at BMS from preschool forward - since 1990. Our older son graduated from the Middle School two years ago and was accepted at numerous private high schools, out of which he chose his first pick - Lick Wilmerding in SF. He found himself well prepared academically in math, science and English. The only downfall was Spanish - which, we were told by his first year Spanish teacher at Lick - is not uncommon in most middle schools. He's managed to catch up. It is hard for a school to do everything, and this is a trade-off I'm ok with at BMS because everything else is working so well. And, I'm told now that the Middle School has a far more rigorous Spanish program now.

    Our younger son had a less consistent experience in the lower elementary program (grades 1,2,3) at BMS, but in the upper program his teachers are excellent and he's now more academic than his brother ever was! I know he will be very happy at the middle school and I'm sure he'll have his pick of private high schools.

    At BMS Middle School,there is a good amount of attention on math, a really good science prep with Lawrence Hall of Science program, and lots of work on writing, writing and more writing. BMS is a school, as my older one says, ''where you can be yourself'' and because it is small, the kids are protected from the big-middle-school/popular culture/peer pressure stuff for a little bit longer. I'm all for that during those tender years and found my older one all the stronger for that bit of extra childhood. There's sports at the middle school in a league with other east bay middle schools, and some terrific study/travel experiences to Wash. DC and the UK and Mexico. I'm into small schools and classrooms where there is time for the kids to develop meaningful relationships with their teachers, which BMS does with true excellence at many levels, especially Upper El(grades 4,5,6) and Middle School.

    There's something to say for leadership too. BMS has an extraordinary head of school, Lee Davis, who sets a tone of excellence. She's spearheaded the purchase of the new site and it's development with remarkable strength and consistency. But more important, it's her leadership style, that I think is really great - fair, hardworking, and very joyful.

    BMS Old Timer

    We have had our son at Berkeley Montessori from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and have been very happy with the school. He has had amazing teachers, who have nurtured his innate love of learning, and encouraged a wonderful sense of community, where the children treat each other and the teachers with love and respect (all modeled by the way the teachers treat the kids and each other). The spiral curriculum really works, and it is great to see how the kids can work independently or together, at their own individual pace, and can teach each other as they grow older and more accomplished. The academics have been very strong, but the kind social-emotional atmosphere is a very important aspect of the school for us. Our son loves going to school every day, and I credit the teachers and the marvelous work they do. The wonderful sense of community we have with the other families, especially in his classroom (where he has spent 1st through 3rd grades), is very important as well.

    The new is very exciting, and will be ready in February. The new school buildings are ''Green'', environmentally sensitive, and they have built in the idea of classroom as teacher about the environment.

    The administration has done a great job of focusing efforts to purchase a new site and raise funds to build a new school. And the Parents Association has really blossomed over the past few years, building a sense of all school community and facilitating communication with the administration when parent concerns come up.

    One weakness I see is the quality of some of the resource teaching, like music and physical education, as well as the summer program. Also, it is hard for our family to afford private school. But we feel that the cost has been well worth it for our son to be in such a wonderful, stimulating, loving environment where his learning knows no limits.

    Happy Berkeley Montessori Parent

    Our family is a big fan of Berkeley Montessori School and the montessori format for teaching young children. My child ( 7 yr old ) is developing independence with his learning and a true joy to find things out for himself. We are psyched about the brand new campus too! Happy BMS Parent
    BMS has many wonderful characteristics, not the least of which are its new building, its diverse curriculum, and its excellent headmaster. We were very excited to enroll our child there, in a lower elementary classrom. Our experience, however, was less than satisfactory. We are writing to describe some aspects of the school we found most problematic.

    1. The Montessori curriculum can be difficult for some children to understand, especially if s/he has not gone to a Montessori preschool. Be sure you know how the classroom is structured; try to determine in advance whether your child can handle that kind of educational environment and curriculum.

    2. While some of the teachers are excellent, others are not. If your child is assigned to one of the latter, you're stuck for 3 long years. To our knowledge, classroom assignments _cannot _ be changed. Be sure to check out the academic background and educational credentials of any head teachers to which your child might be assigned. Make sure those teachers have the background to teach your child what you want him or her to learn.

    3. In our child's classroom, alot of time was spent on activities that we did not find germaine to the academic Montessori curriculum. For example, the class routinely played on the playground for 15-25 minutes extra before school started. There were also many day-long fieldtrips and other activities that had no discernible relationship to the academic studies. This is in sharp contrast with our child's current school, which starts promptly, and whose field trips and non-academic activities always have a direct link to the subjects being studied in class that week.

    4. Individual teachers have alot of autonomy at BMS. If you have problems with your child's teacher, it can be hard to get the managing staff to intervene on your behalf. Again, no changes were allowed.

    5. The grading system is very spongy... All the kids in each multi-grade classroom are evaluated on the same scale: not yet, in progress, and proficient. This makes it very hard for a parent to know exactly how their child is doing academically and where he or she might stand in comparison with his or her chronological peers. Moreover, the grades for our child's classroom didn't arrive until well after the school year was over--in mid July.

    6. Although BMS says that its middle schoolers go on to excellent high schools, we would suggest checking that out. Most of the students who graduated last year did not, as we recall, go on to established or well-regarded high schools.

    7. To determine how well BMS students master the ''standard'' academic skills, look closely at recent test scores for BMS students. The figures we have, for 1999, were in the mid-70th percentile, not nearly as high as those of many other private schools in this area.


    January 2003

    Fantastic teachers, small relatively unknown middle school, definitely takes in students from other schools at 7th and 8th grade. Not a traditional Montessori environment - different from the Elementary School in that respect. Very academic but very supportive of a range of abilities. Teachers are very approachable.

    Detailed report cards, exceptional math program, prepares students for high school at a strong level. Usually one or more short camping trips and one big spring trip - sometimes international per year. Sports teams, Spanish and Art electives are offered.

    I expect with the new building next year, the school will have a much greater wave of ''fame''. The Middle School will also increase in size which will give more social opportunities. c

    Re: Montessori elementary school? (October 2002)
    Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning!
    October 2002

    Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning! hope

    June 2002

    We would like to hear any and all feedback on Berkeley Montessori School. We will be returning from a year in Paris and that may be the only school with an opening for our soon to be third grader. Thank you. Margaret

    My son has completed Kindergarten and 1st grade at Berkeley Montessori, and we have been very happy with the teachers at the school and the amazing education he is receiving there. The children are encouraged to work together, to talk and solve things cooperatively, and to have plenty of fun. My son made lots of friends right away, and I really enjoy the community of his class, the kids, their parents, and the teachers. They are together for 3 years, and it is wonderful to see how the 3rd graders care for and mentor the younger children. I know that some Montessori schools I had visited were a little more rigid and quiet than BMS. We chose BMS because we liked the looser (more talkative and collaborative) approach, the opportunities for the kids to play and enjoy each other, while still benefitting from all the best stuff that the Montessori approach has to offer. My son's teachers, Chris Middlemiss and Mike Raven, do a wonderful job of helping the children learn that they are all part of a community, and to be respectful and kind to each other. They also do a wonderful job teaching him math, reading, science, cultural studies, grammar, geography, handwriting--you name it! The school really nurtures his innate love of learning. We feel very lucky to have our son in such a rich environment every day, even if it is a financial stretch for us. We are also very excited about the new school site. BMS is a great school. Sima
    Berkeley Montessori offers a very excellent and supportive education. Our son attended 5-6 grades. The mixture of ages worked very well and the teachers were very responsive and caring. There is also a strong parents community (something that is almost discouraged at our son's present middle school). We regret that we had missed the earlier grades. The only weakness is the school's lack of a music program. (But this can be supplemented out of school.) The school's upcoming move to a new site should also be a plus. GF
    I would like to add to this ongoing discussion. My son attended Berkeley Montessori Middle School and now attends Lick- Wilmerding High School. He was indeed well prepared by the BMS Middle School.

    Outlining, grammar, sentence structure, the paragraph, writing literary criticism, and creating a bibliography were all taught at length in his 7th and 8th grade English classes. The enjoyment, memorization, rhyme and meter of poetry were well covered. In addition, through one of his teachers, Charley had the opportunity to take a special novels course each summer, which he greatly enjoyed.

    My son's high level of academic preparedness is not just in English - he's finding that he is well prepared for all of his classes. The only weak spot at BMS is the Spanish program and this is not unique among most middle schools.

    The English and Math teachers at BMS Middle School are extraordinary. I truly appreciate this now that my son is in a challenging high school environment. Debby

    Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning! hope
    Spring 2002

    By way of background, both of my sons attended Berkeley Montessori School's preschool. Both were in Nancy's class, though I know Denise, and my children were with her in the summer program. We loved BMS preschool, and thought all the teachers were really great, Denise included. We adore Nancy and remain friends with her. The preschool is a warm nest of nuturing and learning. Both my kids went on at BMS and one will go to Lick-Wilmerding HS next fall, and the other is thriving as a fourth grader there. I believe that no school is perfect, indeed we supplement with outside music and sports, but on the whole we are very, very pleased with BMS. We especially valued that the preschool classroom/age mix led to a very special kindergarten third year. It builds confidence, competency, and kindness in the child. It also means that as a parent you avoid the hysteria of applying to kindergarten and putting your child through all that stress at age 5/6. A very good thing. Plus the mixed age group and extended materials and curriculum allow your child to explore and grow at her own pace. She can work on what she needs and wants most to learn, advance and solidify her skills, and feel completely comfortable at her own level. (This keeps going in Montessori, for example, my fourth grader is in the sixth grade math group where he learns the things he is hungry to know...) We feel that the BMS preschool gave our boys the foundation for their future education, a self directed learning style, and the confidence to be generous spirited, kind people. Debby

    The materials are unrivalled, and the spectrum of materials (esp. for math) address all levels of aptitude. There are things that I found problematic when my daughter attended the school from ages 3-5. As far as psychosocial dynamics and arbitrating between and among children, the teachers are pretty hands-off. I guess the tenant of Montessori is not only to allow children to select ''work'' independently but to work things out independently; something that a lot of parents and I did not agree with. Children at that age are rightfully dependent, no? The yard, while full of great ''stuff,'' is an accident waiting to happen since all four classrooms are let loose at once, and, on top of that, all of the different age groups are up against one another. Pretty chaotic. We found Nancy's classroom to be the least rigid. She is the most-requested teacher there, so getting in to her class is hard. The class sizes are large--24 children, some/a lot of whom were 2 year olds. I had often heard that the best year at BMS was the kindergarden year. I quite agree--socially,one is then at the ''top of the heat'', and the materials are very exciting. I also had a problem with the school's accessibility to street/foot traffic. They, finally, after a petition was circulated put in a long-promised security pad, I believe. Were I to do it again, I would put my daughter in BMS for only the kindergarden year, and my soon-to-be three-year old son will be starting Berkeley Hills Nursery School (great but hard-to-get-into school) in the f
    March 1999

    Regarding great middle schools: Berkeley Montessori School on Leroy Street has a wonderful middle school program. BMS added a 7th-8th grade program a couple of years and from all accounts is very successful. Call at 510-843-9374 and make an appointment for a tour. I think you will be impressed.

    The BMS Middle School Program supports young adolescent students in their academic, social and emotional growth. The program promotes academic excellence, expands critical thinking skills and supports the development of each student's unique potential. The program is known for its solid support of students who are moving through the difficult social and emotional transitions of early adolescence. Middle School students are expected to assume leadership roles at the school. Many of our middle school graduates enter their freshman year at both public and private high schools at advanced academic levels.

    Aug 1998

    My son attended Berkeley Montessori School for three years (kindergarten to second grade). The teachers are great! The teaching there gave him a wonderful start, especially in reading. I put him in public school (he goes to Cragmont) because as a single mother I couldn't afford it anymore. They do have scholarships but that didn't help me. Anyway, he loves Cragmont School (on the Franklin School site). Carol Lynn

    My daughter will be in third grade this year and we are very happy with Berkeley Montessori School. My daughter started at BMS at age 4 3/4 and they had her reading by the time she was five (actually, before she was 5). I am continually impressed by the level of teaching and learning. The curriculum is science and math oriented but there is an emphasis on reading and writing. The classes are multi-level - Three classrooms grades 1, 2 and 3; three classrooms grades 4, 5 and 6 and now grades 7 and 8 together. This allows children to work not only at their grade level but to step up in an area of interest and ability, i.e., a second grader can do third grade math. The teachers are attentive to the children's needs and abilities and encourage (not push) each child to develop at his/her level and ability. My daughter goes to school with enthusiasm and her happiness and enthusiasm shows up in her school work and at home. I am very satisfied with her progress. Check it out and I think you will be impressed. Trisha
    April 1998

    My daughter is a second grader in Berkeley Montessori School. I am quite pleased with the curriculum and the caring, professional attitude of the teachers. There is a younger program 2.8 years to kindergarten at one site and an older program, first through eighth grade, located in the old Hillside School site on Leroy. The Montessori method is to put several age ranges together -- i.e., first, second and third grades; fourth, fifth and sixth grades; and seventh and eight grades. This seems to work out well. Children work at their own level so, for instance, if assignments are completed, a first grader might move on to do some second grade works, etc. The school fosters interaction and caring among the age groups, i.e., the older children help the younger ones with projects or read to them, etc.. The children are for the most part well behaved but lively and attentive. My daughter started at BMS when she was 4 2/3 yrs. and they had her reading in a matter of weeks. I was very impressed. The curriculum includes movement, music and language (Spanish and Japanese). There is an emphasis on math and science. The whole school is now participating in an innovative interdisciplinary oceanography curriculum presented by The Lawrence Hall of Science. For instance, this week is "Ocean Week" in my daughter's class and every thing they do will relate to oceanography - reading, writing, math, etc. There will be a field trip to the Berkeley Marina. The children are encouraged to bring objects from home (i.e., shell collections, pictures, personal experiences, etc.) and friends and family with knowledge of the sea are asked to participate by soming to the classroom and sharing their knowledge with the children. I think the school is great (mayby not perfect but what is) and encourage you to check it out for yourself.