Head-Royce School


Private School
875 students
Website: http://www.headroyce.org
Phone: 510 531-1300
4315 Lincoln Avenue Oakland, CA 94602
Editors' Notes: 

Head-Royce is a nationally recognized K-12 independent school situated in the hills of Oakland, California. Our mission is to inspire a lifelong love of learning with a focus on scholarship, diversity, and citizenship.

Parent Q&A

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  • Our child is 2.5 and we are looking for pre schools. We want to keep our options open for kindergartens and would consider both private or public options based on our son’s needs. But we’d like to keep all options open. My question is - are there preschool feeder schools to Head Royce and/ or Bentley?

    There are not feeder preschools to Head Royce or Bentley.  

    Enroll your child in the preschool that feels like the best fit for who they are and how they learn, and enrich their experience with as much exposure to music, art, science literature, etc. as is age appropriate, and hopefully they will grow to be a passionate and curious learner. Going to Head Royce (or any school) won't guarantee them a successful life, but being a loving parent who encourages them to be the best of who they are will.

    My kids either attend or graduated from these two private schools.  I have never heard of feeder preschools for either. The best preschool is the one where your child is happy and healthy.  You will know it in your gut when you visit.  Then everything else usually falls into place.  We did a mixture of both public (OUSD) and private schools and there are pros and cons to both.  Best wishes!

  • Hi all,

    We are relatively new to Oakland, only having moved here last August.  We now find ourselves in the fortunate position of having to decide between Redwood Day and Head-Royce for our son for next year.  He will be starting Kindergarten.  For those of you who have experiences with both schools, how would you compare the two?  We are particularly interested in the following ares of comparison: (1) sense of parent community/engagement; (2) strength of educators; (3) sports/physical activities; (4) music introduction; and (5) ease of pick up/drop off.

    Any advice appreciated.


    Hello, we have a first grader and incoming kindergartener at Redwood Day School. I don’t have experience with Head Royce (other than the tour and also being faced with this decision). But here are my comments about Redwood Day:

    Community - so nice and warm, have made great friends! 

    Educators - super supportive and great teachers , down to earth and a very non stressful environment of learning  

    Music- my son seems to love the music teacher! The winter performance is exceptional    

    Drop off and pick up is super easy with curb side drop off  

    hope that helps  

    I have kids at both schools now, but since I don't know much about the H-R lower school experience I can only comment on a few things.  1) I'd say the sense of parent community engagement is comparable.  We've made lovely friends at both schools and they both provide opportunities for parents to volunteer and get to know one another.  Aside from that, a lot of it depends on how active and social your particular grade is.  I'd suggest trying to find one or two friendly and outgoing parents in your grade at the beginning of the year and then spearhead a few happy hours, or weekend park playdates to help with group bonding.  3) H-R is more sports focused.  I'd say some of that is approach and some of that is due to facilities.  5) Redwood Day pick up/drop off is a breeze. Staggered times for dismissal makes for a quick and easy loading process.  Staff helps kids unload from curb in morning.  Parking is easy too.  H-R can feel daunting at first, but it's well managed and fairly easy once everyone gets the hang of it (I'd say about 2 weeks into the school year).  The K students get out earlier than the rest of the grades, but 1-12 grades all release at the same time.  It sounds crazier than it is though.  Like I said, the staff are well-organized, but the queue of cars can be quite long.  Good luck! 

    Hi! I just wanted to say that we were in a similar position wrt choosing between Redwood Day and Head Royce for kindergarten this year. We weighed all these factors and also mulled over the differences between K-8 and K-12 generally, the responsiveness and professionalism of the administrators, and the size of the campuses. We were really impressed with Redwood Day across the board — it just feels so friendly and manageable while also seeming to offer a great education. (I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased about the chickens and the amazing tech/art building, as well.) We just accepted their offer and put down our deposit. Feel free to reach out to me if you also accept at RDS and would like to get together for playdates before school begins. Our daughter is very friendly and kind. :) Good luck with your decision!

    Hi! I'm a Head-Royce parent of a 3rd & 5th grader, both of whom started in kinder. I only know RDS from our tours...and we loved it, too. Our decision also came down to these two schools. We chose HRS for a number of reasons (which I'll mention!) and couldn't be happier there. Our daughters love music (and dance, which was added to the program during our time in Lower School and has been a great thing). I cry each year at the all-school Holiday Program, it's so great. We're about to have the spring LS music performance, which is also special. The teachers at HRS are why we are there. Each year we say "It can't get better," and then it does. Our girls are VERY different learners, have very different personalities, and they are both thriving. I have seen in our very small sample size of two that they truly are able to teach to each child in very thoughtful and effective ways. Our parent teacher conferences blow us away with the level of understanding and insight the teachers have about our kids. Finally, the parent community has (frankly) surprised is in good ways! When we made our decision we thought we were choosing a school where we wouldn't quite click or fit in with the parents there. We're a two-mom family, both work for nonprofits and have a cozy (tiny) home. This was the big shocker for us -- we have made amazing friends, and we are very much a part of a thriving parent community. There are regular opportunities for parents get together, both at school events and outside. Parents in kindergarten have a ton of chances to meet each other even before school starts, and then parent nights out pop up and friendships form quickly. (Full disclosure: I'm on the Parents' Association now, and I take building community very seriously. :) It's super important to me to have a school community that is welcoming and supportive!) I hope this helps! It's a tough decision, and you can't go wrong, honestly. But we love HRS! Oh, and drop off/pick up isn't as bad as it seems. I park and walk down if I'm getting them from after school care, b/c I love being on campus and the extra chance to be out of my car and off my phone, but it's easy to hang at the top and wait for them to come up, too.

    So we had the same decision to make between HRS and RDS. We went through a pretty detailed process to make that decision. We called up each of the admissions directors and asked why their selected our son. RDS was very thorough with their understanding of our son, while we felt HRS was not. Then we looked at the curriculum. RDS picks from the best curriculum's worldwide. For example, for Math they use Singapore Math. Just to give you a feel, Singapore math has been acclaimed internationally as one of the best curriculums - all UK public school have adopted that, and Singapore tends to have a disproportionate number of math Olympiad kids. RDS also has a design lab which also is pretty amazing. Teaching elementary school kids Design Thinking is pretty progressive. Another factor to consider is that RDS is a smaller community, so more close knit. RDS has 2 sections till grade 5 and then 3 sections per class from grades 6-8. HRS adds 5 sections in grade 6. So think about what works better for you and your child. 

    After all this research, we felt RDS would be better for our son. The one thing in favor of HRS was that it has a high school. But that alone was not enough for us. At the end of the day, both schools are great. You really can't go wrong. The main thing is to convince yourself as parents and then not look back. 

    Hi - I have a second grade boy at Head Royce, and he also looked at RDS.

    First of all, congratulations - both are great schools.  Here are my thoughts on your questions below:

    1). Parent community and engagement -  there are many opportunities to volunteer for field trips, in the classroom, in the library, for special events and the auction, with the Parents Association, etc.  The school hosts educational coffees and lectures regularly. I have participated in many of the above and helped organize events and have made close firends with parents in 2nd grade and in several other grades as well.

    2) Educators- they have been excellent- so far I have really loved and admired all three teachers that my son has had. Head Royce puts in a lot of effort to interviewing and has both high quality, loving and academically strong teachers.  They fundraise for teacher continuing education, so I think that draws great teachers.

    3) Music-  my son enrolled in a year-long after-school piano class on campus starting in K, and he is with the same teacher today.  There were also options for string instruments, and the options expand as they get older.  Very convenient to have your child proceed straight from school to a music lesson, and you pick them up afterwards.  My knowledge of the broader school music program comes from the annual holiday music program that highlights the a capella, various middle school and high school bands and dancing - it is pretty spectacular- I wonder if you could ask Admissions to see a video of this year’s program - it is really inspiring to see where your lower school child might be headed if they stick with music.  

    4)  Drop-off - I echo sentiments written above - the HRS drop-off seems daunting, but it is a well-oiled machine.  Many kids take buses, so there is plenty of parking for K and 1st grade families to park and walk their kids to class, and the drop off line in the morning is very quick/efficient.  Pick-up is a breeze due to wide variety of pick up times.

    Good luck with your decision!!!

    I am the mom of one 1st grader and an incoming kindergartener at Head-Royce.  We were in your similar situation a few years ago when deciding between RDS and HRS.  We went with HRS due to the ease of logistics, since we didn't see that much of a difference between the lower school experience in both schools.  Here is my take -

    1) sense of parent community/engagement - both are similar, in that it takes participation for engagement.  You can be as engaged as you want to, and you will find other families with similar backgrounds/interests if you wish to reach out.

    2) strength of educators - both are similar

    3) sports/physical activities - both have ample grounds for running around and sports.  HRS has a larger campus due to K-12 being in the same location.  In the lower school, PE is outdoors or in the gym, and the coaches are awesome.  HRS has a stronger sports program in middle and upper school

    4) music - in the HRS lower school this is introduced early, and ranges from free-form to music theory.  It's a great program, with a dedicated large classroom.  In first grade, the teacher uses songs to introduce concepts and help with transitions, which is awesome

    5) ease of pick up/drop off - RDS doesn't have a bus service, and HRS has an extensive bus service.  For us, RDS was too far away compared to HRS.  This was a game changer for us, and has helped logistics immensely.  The pick up/drop off experience at HRS is organized with dedicated security and staff help.  As for the bus, there is a private bus service for about 500/year which is great and they will text you if there are delays.  When my kid was in kindergarten, she developed strong friendships on the bus with kids from other grades which was so helpful with the transition.  

    Overall for us logistics (drop off/pick up), afterschool care and enrichment as well as hot lunch prepared on site were huge benefits of HRS over RDS.  In addition, not having to go through this whole application process again is a huge plus of HRS, since it's a K-12 school.

    Best of luck with your decision!

Parent Reviews

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Our 10th grader (ADHD diagnosis, medicated) is having a very positive experience at Head-Royce so far. HRS has a learning specialist who has distributed my student's learning plan to each of his teachers at the beginning of each year, detailing what my kid might need in terms of support and accommodations. The learning specialist has also made sure my student gets the right accommodations for standardized tests. There's a LD affinity group on campus so students can connect with each other. The upper school also has an advising system and a school counselor, so my student has always felt like he has someone to ask in case he has a question or concern. 

I assume you already applied given that the cutoff was in January. I cannot speak to Bentley and School of Madeline but we love HRS. We have one child in 1st grade currently, and another entering K in the fall. The administration has been great throughout the pandemic, keeping safety as a top priority but also really worked hard to keep the school open. I think they opened up October of 2020 if I remember correctly and did weekly testing to ensure we could stay open. The community is friendly and I find all the parents to be very interesting, engaging people. To apply for K you usually do some sort of virtual or in person tour so you can find out that information on the website (again not sure if you applied this cycle or if this is for the following year). We love Head-Royce, would definitely encourage you to look at it.

If private is an option, consider Head Royce in Oakland. Very welcoming, supportive community. My daughter arrived in 11th grade, too. It helps to have a sport, music, robotics, - interest to join in immediately. 

My kids went to the Orinda Public Schools K-5. I would characterize those years as good, not great. No matter how good your public school is - it is still a public school and subject to the lack of per student funding that affects California. There were some teachers who were amazing. But there were some who shouldn't be teaching and yet can't be fired because after a year of teaching, they are granted tenure. There are also too many kids in the classroom, especially after 3rd grade when classes ballooned to 28-30 kids per classroom. I realize this is small in comparison to schools in Oakland and elsewhere in the state, but to me - it's too many kids. Especially if you factor in that upwards of 5 may have some learning and/or social challenges. My other critique of the public school system as a whole is that they are teaching your kids to do well on a multiple choice test. That's not fostering a love of learning nor expanding minds. That's looking good on paper. 

We did not want to see what OIS would hold for our kids as we knew there would be more kids in the classrooms and the hallways as 4 elementary schools feed into one middle school. In addition to more kids, we knew there would be more hit-or-miss teachers. We moved to Head-Royce in 6th grade.  I have found the quality of the teachers across the board to be excellent. Not just that they know their subject matter, but that they care and ENJOY what they do. They are accessible not only for us, the parents, but for the students. They LOVE to have students come to them for clarity or questions. They are nice people who seem to genuinely care about each and every child they teach. I can say that about some of my public school teachers, but not all. There were many that it felt like they were punching a clock.  Each grade level team at Head-Royce consults constantly on what is being taught and when and how it ties in with other subjects. There are about 15 kids to a classroom. Music and art are required. In public elementary we had music and art twice a month. At Head-Royce we have it twice a week. 

My kids were both prepared "enough" for Head-Royce. I do not think that their math or writing skills were adequately developed in the public school system, but now at Head-Royce, they are thriving and it seems so obvious that they were not inspired to learn in public school. In my opinion the kids that I see who came through Head-Royce from the lower school are better prepared. Is that because of the continuity of the curriculum? Maybe. But I also think that overall, the smaller classes, the higher quality teachers, and a curriculum that is based on educating the whole child and not just how to take a test, has served those kids well. Lastly - it is ironic to me that for my children to experience any true diversity, we have to go to private school. But there it is. Head-Royce is truly diverse and I think that the diversity is a critical role in the quality of the education. A well thought through curriculum absorbed and discussed by a variety of different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds lends to enlightened education. 

I can't say enough good things about Head-Royce School. We will not return to public for high school and yes, I do realize how fortunate we are to have this choice.

As a former Head Royce grad (along with all four of my siblings) I'd say 100% HRS is a wonderful environment with great and caring teachers with space for creativity and growth. Obviously, I can't compare it to other day schools but there is an excellent alumni community and I felt lucky to have gone there - I felt extremely well-prepared for college and I think my siblings would agree. HRS graduates in our family attended Tufts University, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Pitzer colleges and many of us have stayed friends with the friends we made at HRS to this day.  Feel free to message me with specific questions!

Head Royce was amazing for my daughter,changed her outlook on life. She went there in 11th grade, moved cross country from high powered Washington DC private school. At HRS, she realized she was smart, confident, etc. This was 2011-12.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Why is Head Royce the Best?

Oct 2014

We are slowly beginning to explore our options for K-5 private schools in the area for our child. I've consistently been hearing that Head Royce is the ''best'' school in the area, as well as the ''academically most rigorous'' school, and I get the impression that a lot of people are pretty eager to get in. But I don't really understand and nobody has successfully been able to explain to me what makes the school the ''best''? When people say that, are they really talking about the high school? Because from what I can tell the physical lower campus, the curriculum utilized, the programs offered, and just about everything else is not really that much better than at the other private elementary schools that we're considering. So what am I missing? Why?

Don't worry about the hype, choose a school that feels like a good fit for your child and your family. There are a lot of excellent schools in the East Bay. I will give you one perspective as a parent of college-age children. A lot of people I know chose Head Royce because they believed it would be one-stop shopping: get in at K, and you're set until college. In almost all of those families the kids decided at middle school or high school that they were tired of being a the same school for so many years (or were having trouble in the high-pressure academic and social environment) and moved elsewhere. Anon

What a great question! I think the answer is: it is the best for the people for whom it is the best (though how you compare without having your child hop from school to school is beyond me!).

Every school has something to offer and every school will be great for some and bad for others. Public elementary was great for my daughter and terrible for my son. Park Day School (for middle) was a great experience in many ways, and in some others it was not. HNHS and St. Mary's have both been exactly right for my children for high school, even if not everything is always perfect or ''the best'' of...

Best is not something you are going to know until it is over, and since with schools you can only have one experience at a time all you can really say is, ''it is great for us for right now.'' Certainly not every child would thrive at Head Royce, just like not every child would thrive at Park, or Redwood or Beacon or... your best is going to be about your child, your family, the community at the school, and a million little factors that make up each day. Find the place that feels like it will be the ''best'' for who your child is, and that will allow your child to grow and be who they are!

Having had kids at both HRS and St. Paul's I would definitely say that Head Royce was not the best fit for us. If I had it to do over again, I would have chosen St. Paul's and/or Redwood Day over Head Royce. Yes, the teachers are excellent at HRS but overall the school didn't work for us. We felt like it was all about money [most families are very, very wealthy], and it never felt much like a community to me at all. There are many nice kids there, but there were also a good portion who acted very entitled, and whose parents were kind of obsessed about getting their kids into a top college. Not that I'm not academically ambitious for my kids - I am more of a tiger mom than most any other parent I know, but having a good sense of the world and your place in it and the needs of others is also extremely important to me, and my kids didn't get that at Head Royce. Educating the Whole Person

Keep in mind, there is no such thing as ''the best.'' Head Royce is a great school, but not perfect. There are plenty of great schools in Oakland and Berkeley, none of them the best, nor are any perfect. In my opinion, HR offers two things that my public school does not, and those are smaller class sizes, and no homework in the lower grades (but you find those things at most private schools). But I think the academics at my public school are probably equivalent or better than HR. Field trips seem pretty equal. My child gets music (vocal for lower grades, instrumental for upper), art, and Spanish for free at public school. And some of our 5th graders move on to HR for middle school, meaning that HR has deemed their public school education to be sufficient for entry into their middle school. BTW, my comparison of HR with our public school comes from the fact that our neighbor (and close playmate) is in the same grade at HR as my daughter is in public school. We compare notes. Not the best, but just fine

I know that you asked the question about what makes Head Royce so different than other schools. I am also thinking that you may be wondering if it is worth the cost. I have a daughter who attends Head Royce and I was not going to respond and then I remember when we were touring middle schools a few years ago. Here is what Head Royce will not tell you, not because they are hiding something, but because they truly do not know. Many of the teachers and administrators were past students of Head Royce. Other teachers and administrators have either attended similar primary and secondary schools.

Background first - my daughter attended a "hills elementary school" in Oakland. She tested into the GATE program in third grade after testing a 99th percentile on the Ravens Progressive Matrices Test. She languished in that school. I would be exaggerating if I said my daughter learned three months material per year. She did learn some things, sometimes. However, she learned far more in her summer science camp of three weeks than she learned in the entire year. She was looking forward to learning Greek and Latin roots in fourth grade - as is the minimum state standard. It never happened. I am ashamed to say that I worked with district, the area administrator, the principal and the teachers and did not remove my daughter from a very toxic environment soon enough.

My daughter asked me to find a school where she could learn Latin, not Latin roots, but Latin. Schools that teach Latin daily are few and far between. When I first toured Head Royce I was impressed with their buildings, but not their curriculum. The teachers and administrators simply could not identify state standards and how Head Royce compared. They showed me math and science and my daughter had already achieved their highest levels for the grade. However, I was impressed by the writing of the students, the school's choice of literature, and the easy-going, well-spoken students that lead our tour.

The application was sent, my daughter had an "activity day" designed to see how she and other applicants worked with each other, solved problems and behaved in the classroom setting. We waited. Then the package came. My daughter was accepted to every school for which she applied. Then came the decision. Having middle school and high school on the same campus was great. She could take Latin A, B, and C in middle school and continue through AP Latin in high school. She could begin French as she was taking Latin in her freshman year of high school. We were in.

Sixth grade was simple. She knew the math and science and breezed through the curriculum. (Head Royce has since upgraded their math curriculum to meet the needs of and challenge all students.) However, it was English, history and Latin in which I noticed the biggest difference. To begin, sixth grade students were taught to annotate their books. This required my daughter to make connections to literature on several different levels and be able to explain those connections. Every subject, every day at Head Royce becomes a thread of knowledge and education that is tightly woven so that the student easily makes connections that are lost on the vast majority of people - not just students but people in general. Two examples come to mind; one was when my daughter heard the name of a band "Slings and Arrows" and said, "Today we were talking in class about whether the band named itself after the phrase in Shakespeare's Hamlet or if there was another reason for the name." Another reference was to the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, " Do you think that Calvin was named after the French theologian and Hobbes was named after the English philosopher? Isn't it an ironic situation, because, the French and the English are always fighting, yet can't live without one another like the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes." These were discussions held in sixth and seventh grade. And while I'd like to think that my daughter is just brilliant for having these discussions, she's not. She's bright, but she's Head Royce average - in a good way.

When the students have graduated from Head Royce High School (upper school), they have the equivalent knowledge in liberal arts as an undergraduate college degree. Those are not the school's words, those are mine after comparing the education to those graduates of Amherst, Wellesley, Middlebury and Claremont McKenna that I either know or have met. In addition to the high school curriculum, motivated students can work on the Global Online Academy.

Middle School started out slowly and the work ramped up. The honors English class in 10th grade at a local well-know Catholic high school is the standard seventh grade English curriculum at Head Royce.

It is also much more than the education. Students are expected to know and respond to global issues and challenges - not from a perfunctory, let's send clothes and household items to tsunami survivors, but to understand how those survivors are living at the present time and before they were hit. Then students would know that what the people need are tents and water, not pots and pans.

Students are expected to think about their behavior and how it affects the school community, at school, in the local community, nationwide and worldwide. Their behavior affects the reputation of the school and they need to shoulder that burden as they live with the privilege of being part of the Head Royce learning community.

There is a cost both monetarily and socially to being a Head Royce student. While the vast majority of students have college graduates as parents, there are students who do not. While there are families making well in excess of $200,000 per year, there are a great number who do not. There is the feeling of money at the school and sometimes that creates pressure, but I have to say that it happened to my daughter only one year - the monetary pressure - and then when she entered high school, the clothes, status, and the "where did you go for ski week?" fell away. And the students who were left were the serious students who loved philosophy, physics and French.

Head Royce is difficult to explain. I hope that I have done it justice. What I know is that there is always someone to challenge a bright student to continue to grow academically and as a moral person, a support system for those students with learning differences and an expectation that each and every student is responsible for being the best person, citizen and student they can possibly be, every single day. Proud to be the mom of a Head Royce Student

I have two children in lower school at Head-Royce (HR): 2nd grade & Kindergarden. We live in the Chabot district. Chabot is a great school, but we knew we wanted private school for 6-12th grade.

We toured all the usual private schools and then only applied to HR. For us it was Chabot or spend the money on HR. We chose HR over all the other schools for many reasons. I'll start with ones relevant to our lower school experience: amazing experienced teachers starting at K; student to teacher ratio - there is one teacher plus an assistant teacher for at most 20 kids; sweet, nurturing lower school building dedicated to K & 1st graders; the fact that everyone on campus knows my children from the co-heads of lower school to the nurse; the sense of community the school fosters with fourth grade buddies for K class and school families; separate library just for K-5; the fact that Kindergardners do 1 trimester each of Mandarin, Spanish, and French then pick a language for 1-5; parent education and safe campus. We've attended classes for early readers, raising resilient children and teaching girls to speak up for themselves. Not only are our children learning, so are we.

Then there are the practical day school reasons: inspiring Headmaster who even reads to the Kindergardners and rich school traditions. It's K-12, we wanted HR or College Prep. We're done now - check the box no more applications. Plus for two working parents, great after school programs - including piano and swimming on campus - no shuttling around.

Now no school is perfect. The drop off pick up can be daunting. But the school added extra Michael's school buses. Both my kids ride the bus - super easy, convenient, good for environment and economical - just one fee per family no matter how many kids you have.

My two kids are very different: one is an introvert, sensitive the other happy, easy go lucky guy - both are thriving at the school. We're very happy with the education, the community and friends we've made at HR. K

Head-Royce -- homework & grades question

Feb 2014

I am applying to Head-Royce School for kindergarten for my son for the 2014-2015 school year. We are also applying to Bentley, The Academy, and Redwood Day. While at a Head-Royce open house or tour, I learned that HRS doesn't give homework until 3rd grade and that there are no grades until 5th grade. Did I misunderstand? I can't seem to find more information about it on the website. If it's true about the no homework no grading, can current parents or teachers please shed some more light on why that is a good thing? I otherise really like the school, the classrooms, the teachers, the diversity, and the caring environment. The science and computer labs for the lower school were also impressive. Wouldn't you want students to also practice studying and focusing on their own at home? Homework is also an exercise in self dicipline, a good quality to have. Aren't grades a barometer of how you're doing and what you need to work on? /s/ confused parent

Dear Confused Parent,

I hope this helps with the confusion.

Our purpose in giving homework in Lower School is to develop good habits. Some of the most important aspects of homework are the practice and habit of studying, organizing materials, and developing time management awareness and skills. It also functions as a school/ home connection to inform parents of in-class curricular work.

Professor Harris Cooper of Duke University advises that ten minutes per grade level is the optimum amount of homework for elementary students. In that vein, kindergarten students read or are read to by their parents, first grade students read and do family projects related to their studies. Beginning in second grade students are given assignments in a variety of academic subjects that are expected to take approximately 20 minutes. This expectation grows in 10 minute increments per grade. In addition students are expected to read nightly.

Students are assessed regularly and the assessments are shared with parents in fall and end-of-year conferences and report cards in January, March and June. Students are graded in approach to learning skills and subject mastery. Twice a year there is a narrative written by the classroom teachers.

Suzanne Abbey, Head of Lower School

Dear Confused Parent,

Homework at HRS begins in first grade. In kindergarten, parents are asked to read to or have their child read to them each night. Beginning in January of kindergarten, children bring home a reading book each weekend and parents are asked to have their child read it to them. In first grade, more formal homework begins with ten minutes given per grade (1st gets 10 min., 2nd gets 20, etc.). That being said, it depends on the type of learner and student your child is for how long homework will take. Teachers ask that students stop at the designated amount of time. As a parent, I appreciate that this approach respects the need for children to have balance in their lives, as well as time to pursue other passions or simply to have some downtime each day.

With regard to the grading system, I find the HRS report cards incredibly rich--much richer than the traditional one letter per subject grading system. Children are graded with: E-Excellent, consistently performs at an outstanding level; M-Meets expectations; solid grade level performance; I-Inconsistently performs at grade level; NY-Not yet performs at grade level. The teachers also write a detailed and nuanced description of how they view your child's strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which the teacher is addressing any needs for enrichment or remediation. On this fall's report card, our children were graded on: 5 areas of social/emotional development, 9 areas of learning habits, 10 different components of language arts, 6 components of mathematics, 3 areas of social studies, 2 areas of science, 6 components of music, and 5 components each of art, PE, and world language (Spanish/French/Mandarin). For me, this gives a much better sense of where my children's strengths and weaknesses lie within each area than receiving one grade per subject. In addition, the children's academic work is graded on a daily basis, for number correct out of total number of problems, so parents readily have a gauge of how their child is mastering the material.

Finally, I would say that I have been impressed with the depth of the assessment done with the students each fall and spring, and have consistently felt that our teachers have been very attuned to each of our children as learners as well as individuals.

I hope this helps clarify some of your confusion. Good luck with the process of choosing a school for your child! Head-Royce Parent

Head Royce for things beyond academics

Jan 2013

Do families choose Head Royce for reasons beyond academics? I am very clear these are excellent but I am more interested in the whole child, the small class sizes, the quality and skill the teachers have with social emotional needs, the fact I hear nothing but good things about the school and the quality after school program. We have a very bright child who will do well in this academic environment but I also want her to have great self esteem and be a kind and thoughtful human being. And if someone can also address the academic competitiveness of the parents. My husband and I have good public educations, went to good Midwestern universities but neither of us have graduate degrees. Will we fit in? Preschool parent

Our daughter is in kindergarten at Head Royce and we couldn't be happier with the school and our teacher. Our child's teacher's motto is ''keep things simple''. Instead of pressuring our child academically, she asks parents to remember the importance of taking children out in nature and reminds us that our kids need downtime. For the holidays each child was asked to write a list of things they wanted from their parents that didn't cost any money - what a thoughtful question during a hectic and commercialized season.

Yes, you have Type A parents, welcome to private schools in the San Francisco suburbs. If you want to avoid that you will have to go to a more hippy private school like a Waldorf school, which also has great benefits for kids. We have found a great group of parents to socialize with in our class and avoid the uptight ones. Class parents include a professional drummer in a local band, a Bosnian refugee, a couple who are both acupuncturists, and a school gym coach. I myself am a social worker from the Midwest and I am a happy parent.

Dear Preschool Parent,

We have been overwhelmingly happy with Head-Royce's commitment to nurturing the whole child. Focus on community, ethics and respect are an integral part of each day and are also interwoven into much of what we see of our children's academic curriculum. For example, the lower school has focused on topics such as building an inclusive community, environmental stewardship, stereotypes, diversity, tolerance, different family compositions, etc.

I cannot say enough great things about the faculty at Head-Royce. In our experience thus far, the teachers have been passionate about teaching, dedicated to the children, and concerned about the children's social-emotional development. We have found the academics at Head-Royce to be appropriately challenging without pushing the children too much. The teaching is interactive, fun, and multidimensional. The focus has been on developing critical thinking skills, true comprehension, and depth of knowledge versus rote memorization of facts. Another way in which we feel Head-Royce really teaches to the whole child is found in the richness of the children's experiences each day. They are not only learning the core academic subjects--they are also engaged in music class, physical education, dance, library, art, drama, computers, foreign languages, and hands-on science in the science lab.

As for the competitiveness of parents, it has been my experience that the parents who choose Head-Royce, do so for the same reasons you are considering applying. Because of the tremendous diversity within the community, there are parents from many kinds of backgrounds, experiences and educational histories. I think the best way to get to know the other parents and to fit-in is to get involved at the school. But generally, I would say the parents are a great group of down to earth people who want their children to have a balanced and fun education.

I wish you the best of luck in your search for a good school match for your family! A Head-Royce Parent

Head Royce is committed to the development of the whole child. The students grow, not only academically, but in their citizenship and commitment to service. The curriculum and culture at Head Royce is robust with service learning and emphasizing the importance of care and concern for others. The small school size allows the students to develop close relationships with their teachers and each other. They really bond as a family. It is also part of the everyday conversation to express concern for the community, the environment, and the world. The students respond to needs locally as well as national tragedies through food drives, collecting backpacks, previously donating to Hurricane Katrina, just to name a few. So, yes, families choose Head Royce for more than academics. The students at Head Royce thrive because they are in a diverse environment which enhances their learning. The teachers are excellent and have an unwavering love for teaching and the students. Finally, I have not experienced academic competiveness among the parents. I have experienced parents who are all striving to achieve the best for their children. Current Head Royce Parent

Dear Preschool Parent, Thank you for your question! I had the same concerns as you when we were looking for an elementary school -- that the school not only be academically excellent, but address the social-emotional development of the kids as well. I am happy to say that after having one child graduate from the Head-Royce lower school to its middle school, and the other currently in 4th grade, I can attest wholeheartedly to the school's commitment to educating the ''whole child.''

First off, the teachers are outstanding. They are the kind of teachers that we all remember even in adulthood as ''the best teacher I ever had.'' As an example -- my son's fourth grade teacher notices everything. If someone's feelings are hurt in class, she will notice, and will not only address it, but will discreetly turn the incident into a positive learning experience for everyone. If someone is struggling with an assignment, she will notice, and she will take them aside to make sure they get the attention they need. If someone is excelling on a topic, she will notice too, and will make sure they are getting the additional challenge and stimulation that they need. In addition, she teaches the kids to become good classmates and friends. A couple of weeks ago, the class engaged in a discussion on the differences between hurtful and playful teasing and how the line can sometimes be unintentionally crossed. The teacher led the discussion in such a way that no one felt attacked or lectured to. It was designed to be an ''a-ha'' moment for each child to take home, reflect upon, and use to become a more thoughtful friend on the playground. This week, the kids are learning to become allies -- what it means to be kind, welcoming, and a friend to anyone in need. In fact, the lower school has designed a curriculum this year called ''Welcoming Schools'' to help the kids learn how they can contribute to keeping the school a welcoming community -- simple acts from inviting someone to sit down next to them at lunch if they look lost to sharing a kind word if someone is struggling through an assignment. I do feel that my own kids are both lucky enough to have very good friends (the kids in their class are really good kids) and have become more thoughtful as a result of some of these discussions. All around a good thing. A quick word too on the teachers and how they help your child develop. Both of my kids are shy and fairly quiet. But in each case, my kids' teachers have noticed them and worked with them to speak up in class. I am happy to say that for my kids, raising their hands in class and oral presentations are not as daunting as they once were.

I also wanted to mention something about the collaborative learning that goes on at Head-Royce. It is often a difficult balance to strike, but it seems that the Head-Royce teachers have done it. One of my favorite collaborative projects from this year is the 4th grade class play. Together, the kids wrote their play based on the California history they learned (the vignettes ranged from the early American Indian experiences, to the gold rush, to the Japanese concentration camps). The kids were broken into small groups to write vignettes reflecting different periods in California history. The vignettes not only revealed what the kids learned but were done in a way that expressed what they thought about that particular moment in California history (e.g. the disbelief, confusion, and hurt felt by the Japanese Americans during the internment). The play concluded with a scene that truly touched me. Each child had created a poster with an issue they hoped to see improved in California -- poverty rights, gay/lesbian rights, civil rights, women's rights and the list goes on. They all walked out with their posters representing this unique history of California and the continuing struggle we face to become better and kinder people. It was really a poignant sight. And the best part of it? It was student driven -- teacher guided of course, but the passion, thoughtfulness, creativity, and inspiration came from the kids. That image still makes me smile. This is what makes Head-Royce learning so amazing -- that the teachers are constantly trying to present material in interesting and inspiring ways. In a word, I love my kids' teachers -- every single one. And each of the teachers (including the excellent group of specialists that the school has -- ranging from music to art to foreign language to PE) have in some way taught my kids not only to become more creative and rigorous academic thinkers, but better, kinder persons as well -- and for that, I am most grateful.

I also wanted to address two other things you mention in your question: small class size and parent community. First, the teacher-student ratio in lower school is very, very good. Typically, you will have a class of 18-20 kids with one head teacher and one intern. This allows the teacher to occasionally break the class into even smaller groups for focused learning e.g. special reading group assignments, art projects, math quests, or other activities. I find that this is very valuable in allowing the teachers to really understand your child's strengths and weaknesses. Second, on parent community, I love this parent community. Very unpretentious and very willing to help one another. And to give you some background, my kids come by their shyness honestly. My husband and I are fairly quiet, shy people too. But we have made some very good friends at Head-Royce and have felt very welcomed at the school by teachers, administrators, and parents alike. Teachers and division heads are always happy to chat with you about any concerns, and the head of school is very open about hearing parents' issues too. Oh, and on the issue of parents' education backgrounds -- it is really very rarely discussed. I think the times it has come across in discussions for us -- it has been along the lines of ''wow, kids these days are doing so much more in school than we did!''

In short, I would highly recommend Head-Royce as a place for your child. The teachers, administrators and head of school are great, the school is forward looking in its education programs, and developing student character is an integral piece of a Head-Royce education. Happy Head Royce Parent

Dec 2012

Re: Bentley and Head Royce 2nd and 3rd grade teachers
Our daughter is currently in 2nd grade at Head Royce. Both 2nd grade teachers at Head Royce are amazing. They are everything you listed and more - dynamic, kind, skilled, imaginative, funny, organized, etc. You name it, they are on top of it. Our daughter said, ''I know I'm only in 2nd grade but I think my second grade teacher might be the best teacher ever.'' I don't know the 3rd grade teachers as much but other parents have told me they are excellent as well. Good luck and I hope you find the right school for your child. Head Royce Parent

My son is currently in 3rd grade at HRS and we have had excellent teachers for both grades 2 and 3. What I love about the HRS lower school is that every grade is highly specialized to address the specific academic and emotional development of the kids at that particular age. My son's been there since Kindergarten, and as we expected, the academics ramp up as you go from grade to grade, but what we didn't anticipate was how supportive the faculty was in their social and emotional development at those stages, too, which going through the elementary school experience for the first time with my oldest child, is something I had not really anticipated to the extent that I needed to. The second grade teachers are fantastic because they are so in sync and united as a team, making the whole-grade experience that much more bonding. Both teachers are wonderfully loving and caring and so emotionally supportive. In third grade, as the academics ramp up more, I have found that the teachers are so very in tune with all of the kids on an individual level and we've received a lot of feedback about how he's doing that keeps us informed about his progress - not just the usual reading, math, etc, but when he's had an especially good day because of a project that he excelled at - we'll get an fyi email at home. I've always had the feeling that his teachers really know and understand who my child is as a person and a student. And this doesn't just apply for his class teachers, but the specialists like the Spanish, art, phys ed., computer lab, music and science teachers, too. He really has a broad support system at school where I feel that all his teachers are such wonderful advocates for him.

We decided to send our son to Head Royce because of their 'whole child' approach and I honestly can't begin to describe how true the application of this philosophy is - and that really begins with the amazing faculty. HRS Mom

Dec 2012

Re: Schools that foster creativity?
You described my kid and she's thriving at Head Royce. They have an amazing lower school art room and program headed by Miss Nathan. And of course art, theater, music and public speaking are infused through the core curriculum as well as with Miss Nathan's program. And, my kid participates in an afterschool musical theater class each Wednesday for a little extra fun. Head Royce's art, music and theater programs go from grades k-12. I strongly encourage you to check out the school's website to see what Head Royce does at lower (k-5), middle (6-8), and upper (9-12) grades. Www.headroyce.org Parent of another creative kid

Prospect Sierra vs. Head-Royce for El Cerrito family

March 2012

Hi all, We are trying to decide on a school for my daughter and have narrowed our choices down to Prospect-Sierra and Head-Royce. We like the open spaces and hands-on labs at Prospect however worry that our daughter will need to apply for a High School as opposed to Head-Royce where she is all done until college applications. Head-Royce is a bit of a commute from our home near El Cerrito but we do not mind it if the education quality is that much better. I am truly confused between these two amazing schools and wanted to see if any of you have made a similar decision and can share some pros/cons. Aside from the commute which is do-able, my only concern is whether Head-Royce offers enough hands-on art, science and music experience in the Lower School. Thank you in advance for you help! K

we are in the lower school at HRS and have no experience with Prospect. In general families commute quite a distance even in the lower school from places like San Ramon, Lafayette and Castro Valley but very few families come, in the lower school, from El Cerrito. I would be a little concerned about the commute (including lack of carpooling possibilities)and also about the distance that you would be driving for playdates. The geographical center of HRS is much more in Oakland. Prospect seems a warm, creative place that really caters to the needs of kids in lower and middle school. The science, writing and art programs are supposed to be top notch. There may be fewer opportunities for acceleration in middle school but there are plenty of very gifted and hard-working kids there. I would hesitate before signing up for eight years of driving between El Cerrito and Oakland, unless your work commute takes you in the direction of HRS as well. anon

March 2012

Re: St Paul's or Head-Royce for kindergarten?
We are an African American family with a daughter and son attending Head Royce in the Lower School. Like you, I have a creative, energetic daughter. She is in first grade and is thriving at Head Royce. Diversity is a primary component of the School's mission statement and the School Administration proactively seeks out a diverse student body. In terms of African American students in the Lower School, there is a significant number which varies by grade. The current Kindergarten class has a large number of AA students. In first grade, the numbers are lower and the school has actively sought to increase the number of AA students. In particular, this academic year, new AA female students were admitted in both first and third grades demonstrating the school's committment to Increasing AA diversity at each grade level even beyond kindergarten enrollment. Overall, the Lower School has a strong African American community and I would encourage you to reach out to current families. My experience has been positive and both of my children are extremely happy at HR. In addition, there is an extremely talented African-American female kindergarten teacher who is a positive reflection for all students, and especially AA girls. C

Feb 2012

Re: Bentley vs. Head Royce for K
My son was accepted to both schools, and I chose Head-Royce and am very happy with my choice. I have found Head-Royce to be very responsive to my child's needs and my requests. I also believe the commute is easier...I've found 24 can get very clogged up merging onto 580 as you approach the Bay Bridge.

Jan 2012

Re: choosing a private high school
Choosing the right h.s. is really hard. I have kids at Head-Royce in 10th and 12th and every day I am reconvinced that we chose the right school (one entered at 6th grade and the other at 9th). My kids LOVE their school, their friends and their AMAZING teachers. They thrive on the atmosphere of a high bar of academic expectation/choices but also of ''just normal kids'' with many different interests and study habits. They do not feel that H-R is a school ''full of nerds'' (their words, not mine)but that the kids are more diverse and well-rounded.

We decided to stay in the east bay rather than consider commuting to a school farther away and that has been a really good choice. I can volunteer at the school and go for night time events without feeling like it's too much of a hassle; my kids are close to most of their friends' homes which is great as they get older and start driving and wanting to attend parties, etc. AND they don't have long commutes on top of homework and extracurricular interests.

We chose H-R over the other 3 east bay schools because after many visits we all felt like it was the most welcoming, comfortable and exciting place to be, and the right size. The 2 full-time college counselors have done an outstanding job of shepherding the 82 seniors through their process this fall. Many kids have already received early acceptances into the colleges of their choice. I did not believe that my son would do this on his own, on time, but his counselor really got to know him and guided him with weekly meetings and e-mails. They help the kids find colleges that are a good personal fit rather than trying to channel everyone into an ivy league school.

If you haven't already: go to some plays or concerts or sports events at the schools.Talk to other parents. Visit as often as you can. Have your kid do a shadow visit. Find out if you know folks with teenagers at those schools and grill them. Talk to parents of alums.

Parenting teenagers has been a (surprisingly) fun and rewarding experience so far and I truly believe that their school community is responsible for a huge part of their happiness and self-respect (and entertaining wit!) Good luck to you! A Very Happy Mom

CPS vs. Head-Royce for high school

Jan 2012

Hello BPNers,

This question was last posted in 2007. Could we please get your advices on this subject one more time? We're comparing CPS and Head-Royce and having a hard time judging how these two schools will fit our daughter who is academic-focused, motivated, doing well in school, but also wants to have a social life (doing music/sport, chatting with friends, shopping, having fun, etc.) Our questions:

1. Can such kid be happy at CPS? Because of our daughter's academic success to date, everyone we know assumes that we'll want her to go to CPS. We do have CPS at the top of our list and we care very much about the academics. However, we do want her to be happy in school as well.

2. Are CPS teachers caring and friendly? Do they create joyful, fun learning experiences that motivate students to want to learn and explore more? We were surprised at some teachers (9th grade teachers) during the open house -- they appeared disengaged and not particularly friendly. Our daughter had this same experience with two teachers during her visit. Did our family just hit two bad days?

3. How welcoming are Head-Royce kids and families? Will cliques be an issue for a new kid? Will a nice, middle-income family (with an old Honda and no BMW or Volvo) fit in?

4. From the BPN comments we read, many families suggested that CPS is the stronger academic high school than Head-Royce. We, as an outsider, cannot identify the major factors that would make it so. Is it the teachers? The teaching style? The classes offered? The kids? If a motivated-to-learn kid can magically be in these 2 schools at the same time, what about CPS could make her learn better, happier at CPS, and what about Head-Royce could make her learn better, happier at Head-Royce?

We thank you for any insights you can share with us. Anonymous

I've had children on both schools-- they are quite different so their different school experiences reflect that to a certain degree but I have also checked out my impressions with other parents who know both schools. My overall advice is: Don't reflexively pick CPS because of its more academic reputation and 'selective' college admissions record. CPS selects its ninth-graders based on high test scores (which four years later help with college admissions), whereas Head-Royce students are admitted in kindergarten, sixth grade, and other years as well as ninth. That being said, Head-Royce students attend an impressive and interesting array of colleges. Head-Royce students are diverse in background (plenty are middle-class), interests, and learning styles and the school works hard and successfully to form a community. The high-school program is thoughtfully designed. Teachers are generally warm, caring, and supportive, and engage with students in non-academic pursuits (e.g. community service, advising) as well as academic matters. The school conveys the positive attitude that parents, students, and teachers are partners in an effort to make the high school years both academically challenging and personally happy for students. CPS is a cooler, less welcoming social environment and is less concerned with supporting the student-as-teenager and in developing a sense of community. It is academically intense and teachers are available for academic help, but your impression that some teachers are quite disengaged was borne out by my experience. There are some great and inspiring teachers at both schools, but my sense is that CPS teachers focus on academic instruction and are less willing to engage outside the classroom. However, CPS has a new head so changes may be coming. In terms of academic intensity and curricular rigor, CPS may have a slight edge, but Head-Royce is a kinder, warmer school. HRS/CPS parent

My son enrolled in HR as a freshman. (He's now a freshman in college.) He's a bright kid, only child, on the introverted side, has always been slow to warm up to other kids but is good with adults, and socially step behind others of his age.

He got a great education at HR, but it was hell for him socially. He was bullied by a group of boys almost daily his first year. There were several(!) incidences of hazing in various sports teams over the course of several years, and non of these events met with any negative consequences for the perpetrators.

Kids ridicule each other, and are cruel to each other, everyone cares about clothes, money, and most importantly, status. Status is everything at HR. Most of the kids have been with each other since K. CPS and HR will challenge your child academically equally. In hind sight, I wish that my son had chosen CPS, as the entire freshman class comes in as a new kid and the kids as a group won't have ingrained negative behavior patterns.

HR campus is more beautiful, newer, and sunnier. Oakland Mom

My three children entered Head-Royce as 9th-graders. There were between 25 and 30 newbies for a class of 85 or so students. My impression is that it is easier to enter the school at the high-school level than at the middle-school level when cliques are more of an issue. This is a small-ish school, so the ''lifers'' tend to welcome new faces. My kids all built strong and lasting friendships there. It happened pretty fast. There is 2-day class trip on the first week of the year, and your kid will come back having made friends. I did wonder how different things would have been at a school where everyone starts fresh, but I don't have a basis for comparison.

We were very, very happy with the academics at Head-Royce. The faculty was by and large outstanding, setting high but realistic expectations. English, math, foreign language really stand out as strong departments. The dedication of the faculty at the school is simply wonderful. We were very impressed with the quality of the arts program as well (chorus and drama especially).

There are all kinds of families at the school, including a few wealthy ones. I don't know how economically diverse the student body is at CPS. Coming in at the high-school level does make a difference for the parent. Volunteering was a bit more intimidating simply because I hadn't known those parents over the elementary school years when a parent is more involved in school-life. But at the high-school level, you will be much more removed from your child's school life than ever before (except as chauffeur).

My daughter entered HRS at 11 grade. She came from a very big name school in D.C. She was instantly accepted, loves all her teachers and is especially impressed with the positive, non-sarcastic attitude of the students (the opposite of the intellectually brilliant students in D.C.) I think your gut reaction about the CPS teachers is probably accurate. I found my feelings were right about those things. (And I have been through this at many very prestigious schools.) Private schools vary a great deal from grade to grade so find out as much as you can about the students. They can make or break the experience. Find parents who will be really honest. College admissions are a roulette wheel. Many big name schools have remarkable acceptance rates because parents are alums. Please don't base high school choice on college hopes, you may be disappointed (this isn't sour grapes, my son is at Princeton). Be glad to talk.

Editor note: see also reviews of CPS in response to this question.

Jan 2012

Re: Considering Head Royce and Bentley for kindergarten

My children have attended both Head Royce and Bentley lower schools and I have only good things to say about each. Both schools have extremely nurturing environment with involved parents and teachers, and there is no dearth of art, music, science, math, all incorporated in a variety of ways into the curriculum. Additionally, the kids are wonderful, bright and exuberant, and the teachers by and large committed to their classrooms!! I believe the HRS lower school may have a few more students than Bentley, although the class sizes were the similar when my kids were in elementary school. The parents at both schools are devoted to their kids and come in many stripes and colors so it is not difficult to make lasting friends.

The main difference is that Bentley tends to be a bit more rigorous in lower school, and does not have a pool or tennis courts, which HRS kids enjoy. HRS is K-12 on the same campus, and is bigger overall, which is a plus for some and not for others. Both lower schools are extremely good. Feel free to email me [the moderator will give you my info] if you would like to know more. Grateful for, and happy with, Bentley and HRS

We too had the opportunity to experience both lower schools. They are both excellent academically. My sense is B may be slightly more rigorous with homework and class materials (one grade ahead in each grade is often quoted). At HR homework did not begin until second grade and in a very relaxed manner. At B language in lower school include French, Spanish, and Mandarin starting in K. HR only French and Spanish, but I think they plan to add Mandarin. I do like that at HR middle school doubles in size. At B the only new addition of students (due to campus size limitation) is from attrition until high school. Some like the fact that the high school is on a separate B campus, but I like the one campus location at HR which allows students to interact academically, benefiting both the younger and older kids. Having a pool is nice for the lower school kids and also access to tennis courts, etc. I also feel that over the past several years there has been more stability in faculty at HR than at B. There has been some issues with instability of the administration at B including the admissions department and head of school. This may be improving. HR head who was phenomenal retired after ~30 years 2 yrs ago and a new head, Rob Lake, joined HRS and his 2 kids enrolled in school. Seems like a good fit. Teachers at both school are excellent and I think it is really important to meet them and get a sense of their methods as well as how they feel about the school. Also really important to meet as many parents as possible, though overall I do not see a significant difference in the personalities, socioeconomic, ethnic diversity between the two schools. Possibly a bit more diverse at HR at least socioeconomically. In these economically challenged times you need to look at the financial stability of schools as well (like the Windrush school bankruptcy scare). B had plans to start building a new middle school, but they halted those plans few years ago. HR already finished the construction of a beautiful high school 4-5 years ago. Parking (neighborhood relationship) is an issue with both schools, but I think a bigger headache at B. I did not like that Friday's were short days at B, and also school being out the entire week before Thanksgiving (though rumor has it HR may close for the TG week in the future). Both are excellent schools. We did end up moving our Bently child to HRS as it was a better fit for us. You will know too if you spend the time to get to know the schools which is a better fit for your child(ren). anon

Hi there!

While I do not have any experience with Bentley, which I hear is a great school, I have two kids at Head-Royce, one in Lower School and one in Middle School (the Middle Schooler went through Lower School K-5), and I thought I'd share a few observations about Head-Royce. We have been very happy with our time at Head-Royce for both kids. Foremost, the teachers are excellent. The Lower School teachers have creative and targeted ways of teaching kids language arts and math, and they also care deeply about the social development of the kids. Both of my kids are very shy, but their teachers all took a special interest in them and helped nurture their strengths and challenged them to take risks and speak up. By the end of Lower School, my daughter received enough support to read her poetry in Lower School assembly -- something that I, as an adult, probably would not be able to do!

There is much that is strong about the Head-Royce curriculum, and I will highlight a few things. Kids get a lot of practice writing early on, and their writing skills develop over time from creative pieces about their hobbies to analytic pieces about American social history. The math program is also very intelligently put together -- but what I appreciate is that it is always under evaluation for improvement. The 5th grade class this year has incorporated some elements of Khan Academy to address different skill ranges in the classroom, and more problem solving skills are being taught in earlier grades (so that kids are not being taught math in a rote way, but asked to apply math skills three dimensionally). My kids both took (younger one still taking) Spanish in Lower School, and I think the teacher is fantastic. My son is conjugating simple verbs after his first semester of Spanish. And intermixed with language instruction is a fun dosage of cultural exploration, so that students understand some of the cultural background that forms the backbone of the Spanish language. Right now, Head-Royce offers two foreign languages in Lower School: Spanish and French. But as one other parent noted, next year, Mandarin will be added into the Lower School language curriculum. My older child is currently taking Mandarin in Head-RoyceC",E!s Middle School, and the teacher is absolutely amazing (the kids have already acquired knowledge of, both written and oral, a sizable amount of Chinese characters - no easy feat).

Just as important as a strong academic program is the school's emphasis on helping kids develop into thoughtful and socially aware kids. This year, the school has incorporated the theme of "Welcoming Schools" into the curriculum, which focuses on "creating a positive school community, reducing gender stereotyping, and inclusion of all kinds of families." The program's activities are designed to help kids become strong, unique individuals, but also respect, embrace, and connect with the diverse school community around them. Indeed, while Head-Royce is a very friendly environment (both my kids have very good friends there -- even though, as I mentioned, they are very shy), it is vigilant about maintaining its welcoming environment and handles social conflicts in a thoughtful, compassionate, and constructive manner. All in all, I highly recommend Head-Royce and would certainly encourage you to apply to its kindergarten program.

I realize your original question asked for a comparison of Head-Royce to Bentley. I do not know enough about Bentley to comment on it, but I have heard wonderful things about Bentley and have no doubt that your child would thrive there too. The one comment that I did want to make relates to academic rigor. It seems to be the prevailing belief that Bentley is perhaps one of the most academically rigorous schools in the area. My daughter went through the entire Lower School at Head-Royce, and I wondered how she would fare in Middle School when the class size doubled, and new kids from top public and private schools (including Bentley) were welcomed into the class (and this expansion, as one other parent also commented, is a great thing for the kids). So far, so good. She loves the teachers in Middle School (and here I need to do a little plug on the Middle School -- just an outstanding program and the teachers are amazing!!), is very intellectually engaged, and seems very well prepared by the Head-Royce Lower School to handle the challenges of a very rigorous Middle School. So, by that measure, I would say the Head-Royce Lower School's academic program is rigorous too, as well as creative, fun, and prepares kids well for their next step.

All in all, after having experienced a wondrous K-5 in Lower School, and seeing the dynamism of Middle School in 6th grade, I can wholeheartedly recommend Head-Royce as a school where kids can learn and thrive. I hope this helps! Happy HRS Parent

Dec 2010

Re: What GPA is needed to apply to CPS or Head Royce?
Your child does not need to have a 4.0 GPA to apply to the Head-Royce School. HRS looks for a well-rounded child and promotes the same in its education. Neither of my 2 sons had perfect grades going in or while at the school. They did, however, get an excellent education and various nonacademic opportunities. No school is perfect, and neither are the kids that go there. Don't let the school's reputation stop you from applying--visit the school and judge for yourself. HRS mom

Dec 2010

Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
I have two children who attend Head-Royce and our perception is quite different from yours. I suggest you apply to the schools you're interested in and ask to speak to similar parents once you've been accepted to get more information before you accept. You have no guarantees you'll get into the first school of your choice.

What can I tell you about HRS Middle School? They give the students a strong foundation for high school in both academics and study skills. By the time they start high school, their study skills are pretty much in place. You can see how the school is getting them ready for college.

My oldest has a friend who is very strong in math and is two plus years ahead of his peers. In 6th grade, he took Algebra, 7th grade Geometry, 8th grade Alegebra II honors, etc. By the time he graduates, he will have taken every advanced, AP math class at HRS. In high school, students can take a summer accelerated Geometry course too. My oldest found science in middle school to be very interesting and challenging. There is quite a bit of lab time and it's very hands on. In 8th grade they learned about physical science and the year ended with a sludge project. Each team had to apply what they learned to determine the components of their sludge. Plus, each team had a different ''mix.'' The kids loved it.

In middle school, the fine arts consist of chorus, drama and art. The middle school orchestra is great, plus there's a jazz band. The school highly values a balanced, well rounded student. HRS also understands the importance of public speaking and it is nurtured from day one in kindergarten.

Every school has parent ambassadors. Ask them to put you in touch with parents of similar children. You can see how they navigated the middle school years.

The students at HRS are very engaged and excited about the process of learning. The faculty and administration are too. Good luck in your search. HRS parent

Oct 2010

Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Dear Interested Parent,

I have a school for you -- Head-Royce School! We are in our sixth year of being a Head-Royce family and have found ourselves liking Head-Royce more and more every year. There are several things that I love about Head-Royce, and I think they coincide with what you are looking for in a school (same things we looked for too!).

First, the incomparably fabulous teachers. You remember that teacher you had in school that you thought was the ''best teacher ever?'' Almost all the teachers we've had at Head-Royce are like that. All the teachers have taken the time to get to know our kids -- their strengths and weaknesses -- and they work hard at bringing out the best in them. My daughter was very shy when she started at Head-Royce, and her teachers gently encouraged her to speak up and write down her thoughts. One day, my daughter's teacher asked her to read her poem out loud -- she did and was roundly supported by her class. Today, she participates actively in class and understands that learning does not mean always being right, but it does mean always giving it your best try.

What I also love about Head-Royce is its desire to keep improving. The teachers are always thinking ''How can I do this even better?'' Since I do have two kids going through the school, I am able to see how my younger son's class is taught differently from my older daughter's. For example, I can see curricular changes that have improved the way math is taught to kids with differing capabilities -- making it fun and challenging for everyone (and to be honest, things were really good the first time around with my daughter's class -- what's nice is that the teachers don't rest on their laurels -- they want to improve). When I asked about the improvements, the teacher answered that she had learned new methods at a seminar she attended. Because Head-Royce teachers are given many opportunities for professional development, they are able and eager to review and revise their programs in a way that best works for our kids.

And I smiled when I read about your desire to have a ''joyful classroom'' because that is one of my favorite aspects of Head-Royce. From the moment you walk into a classroom and are greeted by friendly faces, colorful art, and fun activities neatly arranged in the room, you know you are in for a fun, interactive learning experience. Learning occurs in so many settings at Head-Royce -- in the classrooms with journal writing and math games, in the edible garden as you learn about photosynthesis and composting, in the science lab as you investigate electrical circuits, in the art room as you create a self-portrait, in the soccer fields, in the library, in dance class, in rehearsing for a class play, in visiting a senior citizens' home to try and brighten their day, in computer class, in exploring a nearby creek, in simulating a pioneer trip at a nearby wooded area, in creating music books for a homeless shelter, in putting together a musical extravaganza, in an overnight camping trip where an entire class bonds and learns to appreciate each other and the world around them...the possibilities seem endless, and I cannot tell you the number of times that my kids come home and tell me excitedly, ''Guess what I learned today?'' And I get this excitement from my 2nd grade boy and my 5th grade daughter, two very different kids. For a parent, it does not get much better than that.

Finally, I want to touch upon your question about bullying. Like all schools, Head-Royce has its share of students who may be more assertive than others. But what I have been so impressed by and pleased with, is the absence of any real bullying in my kids' classes. I have not met any ''mean kids'' thus far. Both of my kids are somewhat shy and both have wonderful friends. I do feel Head-Royce proactively addresses this issue by stressing respect for each other inside and outside the classroom. The classes often come up with ''rules for the class,'' and what I have seen in these class rules year after year -- is being kind and respectful to one another. The other helpful aspect is that the classes are very diverse -- my kids have friends of different color, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, and both genders. One of Head-Royce's strong messages is that every one can make a difference, and that every person's uniqueness should be embraced.

As the kids get older, the school tries different methods of reaching out to the kids on how to treat each other kindly. For example, one of the lower school counselors started a weekly girls group for the fifth grade girls. In a letter to the parents, she wrote ''the group came to fruition after faculty, teachers and students voiced an interest in having a space where girls could talk with one another about building stronger community, better communication, and managing conflicts more effectively. I have had significant experience with facilitating groups for school age kids that focus on building more collaborative relationships, so I am a very willing and energized group leader! The response to the group has been overwhelmingly positive and the girls are already actively expressing a desire to use the space to voice their needs and hopes.'' My daughter has enjoyed these lunch meetings a lot, and I can tell you, these meetings were not precipitated by any bullying -- rather, it was an insightful way in which Head-Royce recognized community building could prevent bullying.

I hope my somewhat long message has helped answer some of your questions. We truly love Head-Royce, and I can go on and on about it. If you have an opportunity, please visit! It is a wonderfully special experience. Parent of Happy Head-Royce Kids

Oct 2010

Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Please come take a look at Head-Royce School, you might be surprised by what you find! Our experience in the Lower School (we have two boys, one in K and one in 2nd) has been amazing. The school really values teaching the whole child, incorporating academic as well as social and emotional skills. The classes and the children are joyful and there is tremendous respect and support for the many different styles of learning children exhibit. There is art, music, dance, computers, an exciting science program, an amazing P.E. program focused on skills not competition, a mindfulness curriculum in every grade that is woven into the daily routines, and more. Most important of all, the teachers are enthusiastic, creative, flexible, well-supported, dedicated to ongoing professional development, and they love the children and what they do.

We are a two-mom family, and we have felt welcomed and supported at Head-Royce. There are over two dozen LGBTQ-headed families at the school, who form an active and tight-knit network which also includes allies, students, and parents of students who identify as LGBTQ or who are non- traditional in their gender expression. The school is truly committed to its diversity mission and recognizes that diversity is never ''done,'' it is an ongoing conversation of learning from and about each other. There are many different ethnicities, faiths, family structures, socio-economic backgrounds, and viewpoints at the school, and the bottom line in all interactions is respect for each other and bonding as a community. Feel free to e-mail if you'd like to talk more about Head-Royce, and I encourage you to come for a tour - it is really worth considering among the many terrific schools out there!

Feb 2009

We are applying to Kindergarten at Head Royce this year, and I have heard mixed reviews about the school. I am curious about all aspects of the school, of course, but I am specifically wondering about the financial diversity at the school. We are a family that is somewhere in the middle, and I worry that our kids will feel intimidated by the huge wealth of some of the other students. Is this an issue? Or are there other issues I should consider? I would also love to hear about all the great things going on there :) Thanks!! proactively curious

As a parent of a 12th grade student at Head-Royce, I hope I can speak to some of the concerns voiced regarding socioeconomic diversity and the overall experience at the school. Our child started at H-R as a kindergartner and opted to stay until senior year, in large part because of strong friendships developed over the years with students and faculty, as well as a great academic program. We are a middle class family, with a small house in a middle class neighborhood, older cars and both my husband and I are products of public schools. We, too, were somewhat concerned, initially, that there might be issues to overcome regarding wealth and pedigree! I can honestly say we have not felt this to be a problem - for us or our child (I just asked the question of her, as I was writing this, just to confirm)! Our child has friends who are from very wealthy families, friends from families with less than we have and friends in between. The kids seem to accept each other on their own merits, regardless of their affluence or lack there of. Almost all the families we have met over the years are committed to education and that is the strong common denominator, transcending economics. We have benefitted from the school's financial aid program, as well. Head-Royce has offered our child a wonderful educational experience and she has made what I'm sure will be life long friends. We hate to see this chapter end and will miss the school after graduation! Having said this, in regard to your child, every child has a unique personality and learning style and each family has different needs. If the school's teaching style and academic programs fit your child and finances and logistics work for your family, I can sincerely recommend the school. Good luck and best wishes for the school years ahead! Happy H-R Parent

My kids started Head-Royce in Middle School on significant financial aid. Of course many H-R students are wealthy, and some are extremely wealthy. Most families are better off than ours. Bottom line - yes this is an issue but really not that big of a deal. Both my kids made a super smooth transition and quickly made many close friends - both rich ones and middle income like us. There's never been an instance of a put-down or anything like that. Yes, kids notice the obvious differences in lifestyles, but that's OK.

We would probably be considered quite comfortable in most parts of the US, But to send our kids to H-R (even on financial aid) requires a lot of sacrifice and makes us feel rather poor. But is soooooo worth it! Head-Royce has been an incredibly rich academic experience for my kids (no pun intended). The high school, especially, is amazing: smart and dedicated teaching staff and low student/teacher ratios. For the most part your kid's classmates will be high achieving, interesting, hard- working students who are also well-rounded. It is a friendly place.

My kids tell me H-R kids think the H-R high school is best, followed by the middle school and then the elementary school. So their recommendation is to send your child someplace else for elementary school and then apply to Head-Royce for middle or high school. Some kids who start in K want to try something else by the time they hit high school, so they leave and go to BHS, BOD, etc... missing out on the best H-R has to offer. Of course there are a handful of ''lifers'' graduating every year too.

Head-Royce's elitist snobby reputation is very undeserved, in our experience. Happy being part of Head-Royce's economic diversity

I am a parent of two Lower School kids at Head-Royce, one in third grade and one in kindergarten, and we love the school! Your questions and concerns, however, are ones that we shared when applying for private schools -- so I'll try to be as helpful as possible.

Regarding financial diversity, we had the exact same concerns, and in this regard, Head-Royce was a pleasant surprise. Two things stand out. First, Head-Royce has a good financial aid program that helps to make private school affordable for a wide range of families. Second, and just as important, is that money is far from the center of life at the school. The main reason, I think, is that the school goes out of its way to find families who, even if they are fortunate enough to be financially successful, have a healthy sense of where money belongs in the large scheme of things. In fact, the school environment is such that no one really knows (nor is it important to anyone to find out) each other's financial standings. And at the ground level, my kids have never come home discussing the material wealth of their friends, only how much fun they are having learning and playing with them -- a source of happy relief for me. Indeed, what the school community does share, is a deep love for their kids and a commitment to continually making the school a better place for it's kids to grow and learn -- this can be through donations, but it can also be through spending time helping kids in and out of the classroom. Everyone's contributions, in whatever form, are appreciated.

The second part of your question asked about great things going on at Head-Royce -- and there are so many! Since I don't want to inundate BPN, I will try to be brief. Foremost, I think the teachers at Head-Royce are fantastic. They not only teach academic skills in creative and effective ways, they are also extremely caring and take the time to get to know your kids. Both my kids are on the shy side, and when we started our journey at Head-Royce, I worried about whether they would disappear in a crowd of overachieving, outspoken kids. No such thing. Since kindergarten, my third grade daughter's teachers have been encouraging her to speak up, take risks, and share her talents -- and they do so by making her feel that what she has to say is important. Today, my daughter, who loves to write (and those writing skills were very much nurtured by her teachers at Head-Royce), enjoys reading her poems out loud in class, taking on speaking roles in class plays, and raising her hand -- even for those difficult questions where ''I might be wrong, but at least I'll try.''

My son, who is currently a kindergartener, is also shy (I guess it runs in the family!), and during our first conference, his teacher had many insightful observations about him. I was really surprised that she understood him so well in a few short weeks. And she said, ''Well, I talk to him, and I listen to him -- I mean, really listen to him. He has a lot to say. He's a deep thinker, but you have to ask questions, and listen.'' I was really touched by that -- kindergarten is a busy place, but my son's teacher took the time to listen and to find out what made my son tick. Armed with that knowledge, my son's teacher created a nurturing environment for him, where today, he has many friends, loves school, raises his hand, loves to read, and looks forward to the ''project of the day.''

In addition to it's great teachers, Head-Royce also has a wonderful education philosophy. First, Head-Royce does embody academic excellence -- children start learning how to write early on -- kindergarteners keep a weekly journal, and it is amazing to see how their writing develops from a few words at the beginning of the year to several sentences by the middle of the year. By third grade, children are writing a wide range of compositions -- poems, book reports, research projects. Math is also taught both in traditional ways and through math games, puzzles, and math problems that require ''outside the box'' type thinking. But Head-Royce is more than just excellent academic skills. Throughout their teachings, Head-Royce teachers instill in the kids a sense of curiosity, desire to learn more, willingness to push themselves to do better, and most importantly, the ability to cope with mistakes and failures on initial attempts -- the so-called ''exercising of the disappointment muscle'' as some teachers call it. Indeed, our lower school head insisted that Head-Royce be a place where kids would not be afraid to make mistakes, because making mistakes is how one learns.

Head-Royce's education also embraces what they call the ''whole child.'' Kids are exposed to a rich program of music, dance, art, gardening, and athletics. One of my favorite events is the ''May Dances'' in the spring. Every class puts on a dance show, and our music faculty (which is phenomenal) manages to create new dances from different cultures and societies every year! And of course, there is the cute factor too -- last year's kindergarteners put on a really good swing dance :-). Gardening has also become an integral part of Head-Royce. You may have heard that Head-Royce is committed to being a ''Green School.'' In constructing it's new facilities, the school very carefully chose construction that have lead it to being certified as a green business. In the classroom, kids learn about waste reduction, recycling, pollution prevention, caring for nature, and energy conservation. Having a garden that the kids care for, brings them closer to the nature that they are trying to protect (and as a side benefit, according to my kids, kale can taste good! Especially when it comes from the school garden).

In addition to activities that promote kids to think about being ''green,'' community service is taught and encouraged even at the youngest age. Kindergarteners make trips throughout the year to a senior citizen's home to visit, put on shows, and play games and chat with the residents. All grades collect wish list items during the holidays to gift to needy families. And citizenship is taught at every opportunity to kids, reminding kids of their privileges and the ability they have to improve the lives of others less fortunate. And alongside citizenship, kids are taught compassion toward everyone -- including each other. Starting in kindergarten, there is an emphasis on kindness and learning how to be a ''good friend.'' And our kids have reaped the fruits of these teachings -- they both have made wonderful, good friends at Head-Royce.

Finally, I want to say that the Head-Royce community is one of the warmest, kindest, friendliest communities I've been lucky enough to be a part of. We have met so many families that have become good friends, and have simply fallen in love with the kids in both of our kids' classes. Corny as it may sound, there are so many nice people at Head-Royce -- in the parent community, in the kids' classroom, in the administration -- it is a very welcoming community. And a quick note on diversity -- Head-Royce strives and I believe has succeeded in creating a student body that is diverse racially, culturally, financially, and personality-wise. A quick glance at the classroom reveals the diverse yet complementary nature of the students, which I am confident is the reason why you hear so many parents and kids say ''wow, I love the kids in my class.'' Happy Head-Royce parent

Trust me, your kids shouldn't feel intimidated by the ''wealth'' by some of the other students. Sometimes, I think it's the parents that become intimidated and worry more than the children. If you know that your family can't afford certain things, then that's just how it is. I'm a single parent on financial aid and if anyone should worry it would be me because I am far from wealthy. You can't let that bother you and/or prevent you from applying to a good school. Your child will be missing out, not you. If you like the school, if you think your child will thrive at Head-Royce and if it's a good fit for your family, then apply.

My daughter is a student in the lower school at Head-Royce and we love it. I think the school gets a bad rap because of its location, tuition and the reputation of being a school for the lwealthyn. I'm sure that Head-Royce is well aware of its reputation and they admit a variety of students. Yes, some of them are from wealthy families and some aren't. The people that start these types of rumors usually do not have children who are students at the school. It's a very warm and nurturing community where everyone works together to achieve a common goal and that is to educate young minds. Everyone that I have come in contact with has been very nice. Remember, there are rich families whose children attend public schools too, so therems no getting around the rich thing. The only way you can see if a student has a wealthy family would be if a classmate has a birthday party or a play date. Otherwise the so-called rumored wealth isn't flaunted, at least not in the lower school. Maybe another Head-Royce parent has a different opinion than mine. Imm telling you what Imve experienced since my daughter has been a student there.

The only way you can feel at ease will be to tour the school. and ask any and every question imaginable. You can even ask about the lwealthn issue that you think could be a problem. After all, you are spending your money and you have to be comfortable with your decision.

I hope I answered your questions. Please check out some of the BPN posts about Head-Royce. Most of them provide accurate information about the school. Good luck with your search. Head-Royce Parent

Nov 2008

Re: Which Private High School?
I have had two children in HRS for high school, one graduating last June; a few yrs earlier I had another at CPS. CPS is indeed a fine school: strong academics and great teachers. HRS also offers plenty of academic challenges, especially in science, and every year graduates very competitive students. The student body is more diverse academicaly at HRS, which results in more choice within the subjects and greater sensitivity to individuals but all the courses are intense and the students work hard. I thought both the faculty and staff were quite dedicated. Both of my HRS students (as well as my CPS student) have proven themselves well prepared for college courses. Socially,both of my HRS students arrived in upper school grades and had no difficulty finding a comfortable place on campus; at CPS everyone is ''new'' but at HRS students come in not only at 9th grade but also all through middle school, so the flux is continual. New kids seem pretty popular as they stir the student mix around. There are surely cliques in both places, with slightly different compositions (nerds, jocks, artsy students, socialites, academic overachievers etc) but everyone finds a good place. It sort of seems that as HRS continues to grow more diverse, the older aura of ''rich kids on the hill'' is antiquated. At CPS, it was my experience that there is great reliance on the students to make decisions, to take responsibility and to mature quickly, all good goals, but applied across the board. At HRS, i felt there was more choice for students, and more support for students with different strengths on both ends of the scale. HRS was for us a kinder, gentler place and a great fit for my kids. In my mind, the two schools are competitive in mission but with different approaches to education. E.S.

Oct 2008

Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
If you are looking for a K-8 program, I highly recommend and hope you will take a look at Head-Royce School (although FYI, Head-Royce is technically a K-12 school -- Lower School comprises of K-5, Middle School comprises of 6-8, and High School comprises of 9-12). I have two children there -- one, a daughter in third grade, the other, a son in kindergarten. My kids have different personalities, but both love school and are thriving. They come home every day rattling off their latest adventures in the science lab, in music class, doing messy art, growing tomatoes, figuring out math games, and writing poems. Head-Royce is truly a special school.

There are several reasons why we like Head-Royce so much. First, the teachers are phenomenal. At every parent-teacher conference, I've always been impressed by how deeply the teachers understand our kids and help them overcome whatever challenges they face. An example is my daughter. She entered Head-Royce as a shy child who was very nervous about raising her hand in class. Her teachers gently encouraged her to speak up. And when they realized my daughter had a passion for writing, they encouraged her to share her work with the class. One day, my daughter did share her work -- telling me that stories are written to be heard. Her story was greeted with such enthusiasm from her fellow classmates and teachers, it made her realize that she could speak up without being afraid. Afterward, her teacher even wrote her a kind and touching card congratulating her on a job well done. It was a moving experience for me to see my shy child take such an intellectual and emotional risk, and even more moving knowing the support she received from her teachers and friends.

This leads me to my next point. Head-Royce is a place that encourages intellectual risk-taking. Our Lower School Head once said that Lower School is a place where kids should be free to ask questions, to be curious, and not to be stopped from learning for fear of making a mistake. And I have really seen this in action. My daughter is happy about raising her hand every day -- and when I asked her if she only answered questions she knew for sure was right, she said no. She tried answering the hard questions too, ones she was not sure about. Testing her theories was part of learning, and if she got the answer wrong -- well, she was taught, that was one step closer to being right. Indeed, kids are encouraged early on to express their ideas. In first grade, for example, kids keep an ''opinion journal'' where they can express their opinion on a variety of issues, ranging from recycling to the latest field trip to eating green vegetables for dinner. By the time these kids graduate from Lower School, they have received lots of writing experience and have developed a good sense for oral and written communication.

Another quick word on the academics. Head-Royce has an excellent academic program. In all facets of their teaching, Head-Royce teachers, while teaching all the fundamentals the kids need to learn, go beyond to encourage ''outside the box'' critical thinking. Math is learned not merely through computation worksheets, but through math games, logic puzzles, and being ''banker'' for the class simulation of a town.

Another point I truly admire about Head-Royce is its insistence that compassion and respect be nurtured early on in the classroom. Starting in kindergarten, teachers discuss what it means to be a good friend, how to be a good listener to other people's ideas, how to respectfully disagree, and ways to express appreciation towards one another. I have actually noticed my little boy saying, with much greater frequency, things like -- ''thank you for making me snack, Mommy -- you are always so nice to me'' -- since he began kindergarten. The kids are also taught to be socially aware. Service learning is a part of every grade, and social issues are taught in class. One of the issues being emphasized this year is what it means to ''go green.'' Recycling, creating edible gardens (and the school has a wonderful garden!), and minimizing waste -- all these have become such an integral part of our kids' thinking. My son is the enthusiastic recycling guru in our household, and my daughter reminds us to save water. And on an administrative note, the school does take environmental issues seriously. For example, when expanding its campus, Head-Royce committed to building ''green'' structures.

I wanted to share one final observation about the Head-Royce community. It is a wonderfully warm and receptive community on all fronts -- from the teachers, to the administrators, to the children, to the parents. Indeed, the families that we have had the fortune of becoming friends with have all been some of the most supportive, generous, and thoughtful people we have ever met. And the kids -- well, I fell in love with my daughter's class because all the kids were just... well... so nice. They encourage each other, appreciate each other, and are so earnest and thoughtful about learning. I thought I would never find a comparable class. Then I met my son's kindergarten class and fell in love again.

Well, as you can tell, I am a big fan of Head-Royce and could probably go on more about why I feel it's a special school -- but I have gone on for so long already! So, to sum up, I do believe that the combination of intellectual stimulation, citizenship, compassion, and community make Head-Royce a uniquely wonderful school. I encourage you to take a look at their website: http://www.headroyce.org/. I hope this helps! Happy Head-Royce parent

I wanted to recommend Head-Royce as a great K-8 (actually through 12) school. I have 2 Lower School children there, and we are all extremely happy with our experience thus far. The teachers are top rate, as are the facilities (new buildings, pool, extensive vegetable garden). H-R has managed to make the classes reflect the diversity of all groups of the Bay Area: racial, socio-economic, and sexual preference. In fact, I think the diversity percentage in both of my kids' classes is over 40%. You will hear this from many private schools, but H-R does really focus on the whole child. This is accomplished by integrating arts, science and music into what they are learning in the classroom. They are socially nurtured and service learning is part of the curriculum. Academically, children are challenged based on their individual needs; as an independent school, they don't have to ''teach to the test'' in order to get funding. As most H-R parents will agree, the community is warm and inviting. All parents are asked to participate and volunteer, and they do. On their own, parents form book groups, have annual camping trips and put together social events. Because we live in an area with no kids around us, H-R has become our true community. I encourage you to check it our for yourself. I believe Head-Royce is having an open house for applicants to the Lower School (which they didn't have when we were applying). We feel very fortunate to be there and a part of this great school! Happy H-R Parent

After-school programs

Jan 2008

I have applied for my son to attend Kindergarten at Redwood Day, St. Paul's and Head Royce. I wondered if parents with experience in these schools' aftercare programs have anything to say about them. Thank you! -prospective mom

I am both a Lower School parent and a teacher at Head-Royce and can say that the after-school care and class offerings are amazing. If kids choose not to take classes, there are games, independent art projects, time in the computer lab, and homework help. I have to drag my kids away from the fun they are having. And each season the School offers abundant enriching classes as well. They include choices like swim lessons, carpentry, Mandarin, sewing, chess, tennis, puppetry, world dance, and ''adventure club,'' to name just a few. We feel lucky to have so many gifted teachers who share their myriad talents with our children. Happy with HRS Afterschool

June 2007

Re: CPS vs. Head Royce

We were in your same place a year ago. Fortunately, our son was accepted at both CPS and HRS and he chose HRS. He just finished 9th grade and it's been a great experience for him academically and socially. We were concerned that at HRS he'd be a new kid in a sea of ''lifers'' but he fit in easily and had friends there already and has made new ones. We also heard rumors of HRS parents being snobs but we haven't experienced it at all (and i do occasional volunteer work so i interact with other parents). In fact, the HRS parents i've encountered have been polite, kind, and helpful. One even turned me on to the preschool my youngest child will be attending in September. My kid said he did not choose CPS because it seemed rigid, overly structured and not as focused on his ''whole person'' as he believed HRS would be. He's happy at HRS and we're pleased he chose it. Hope that helps. Good luck. What a great choice u get to make!

April 2007

Re: Private high school for N.Berkeley kids?
If you are looking for quality sports facilities for a high school you might consider Head Royce in Oakland. It is located near the mormon temple off of Hwy 13. My son is going there for middle school. While we have yet to experience the school, I can say the campus boasts beautiful sports facilities and we were very impressed with the classes we observed. They also have a strong drama and art program to go along with academics. Terri

November 2006

We are now looking for private high schools. I have read the old postings. I would appreciate any info concerning amout of homework per night at Head Royce, CPS, Bentley High, and Lick in the high school. Also, I have heard some of the schools are extremely stressful to the poiont of making the kids unhappy or depressed. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thankful Parent

My three children have attended Head-Royce, from the 9th grade on. As far as I can tell the homework load has been quite manageable. Some nights or weeks are a bit more intense, and every school year there are one or two major homework assignments, but those are scheduled over a long period of time, broken into smaller steps so students can handle the deadline. The faculty also schedule some occasional ''no homework'' days. Depending on how many elective courses students pick, they get free periods in the day, which are an opportunity to do some of their homework at school,too. My kids seem to find plenty of time to socialize and watch their favorite tv shows once homework is done, so I don't think the term ''pressure cooker atmosphere'' would apply to their experience so far!

I should add that there are other factors to consider since this is a somewhat subjective assessment. First, my daughters came from a middle school with an emphasis on academics and a sizeable homework load. Second, they are not involved in team sports that require a heavy practice schedule. Finally, their commute to school is fairly short, so there is less exhaustion during those homework hours. Incidentally, HR appears sensitive to the issue of homework overload and conducted a parent survey on that topic a few years ago. Feel free to contact me directly if you have more questions, and good luck with your search, Laura

October 2006

I have to make a decision about private vs. public school for my soon-to-be kindergartener. We live in Berkeley. In the event we go for private, we are seriously considering Head Royce. The academic reviews are great. I would like to hear from parents/students about the social environment of the school. Specifically,
1. the use and availability of drugs. Previous responses are silent as to this subject.
2. elitism. are there cliques based on socio economic class? is there a lot of pressure to dress a certain way, drive a certain car, have certain gadgets, have a certain type of birthday party, live is particular neighborhoods, etc? I know my daughter is one to succumb to such pressures and I want to know whether this is a huge concern.
3. any issues concerning bullying (not just aggressive stuff, emotional stuff, too)? if so, how does the school handle this? I would also like someone to address the academic load in middle and high school. I appreciate the academic challenge HR offers to its students, however, is it over the top? Are students able to cope with the challenge or is it so overwhelming and stressful so as to take away from the enjoyment of school? Anyone leave HR for this reason?
Are there a lot of hidden costs? field trips, after school care, tennis lessons, other electives, etc. in addition to the tuition? what are some big ones? is there a sibling discount? are siblings guaranteed admission?
Lastly, if someone could address the entrance process. How does one get in? What is the competition like? What are the admissions people looking for? How important is the preschool one attends? What should we expect at the 'interview?' etc. Thank you, kindly. Anon

We are a very happy lower school family at Head Royce. There is no secret way to get into the school. The admissions people are just looking for the right fit. Your child's age, school readiness, personal flexibility, readiness for a big school, and ethnicity all play a role. Specific preschool doesn't matter. Some of the questions you ask are a little hard to answer because our child is in lower school (drugs? for example or cliques based on SES) None of these things so far! We love the parents of the other children at the school and have made many great friends! anon

Regarding your question 'are there certain type of birthday parties and social pressures' at a school like head Royce, I can only say this: my oldest daughter went to a VERY fancy preschool, and now is in a great public elementary school, 4th grade. The academics are great. I do know that the birthday parties she attended at the preschool were a LOT fancier and more 'orchestrated' (with entertainment, etc.) then the ones she attends now. Hille

June 2005

Hi, as we consider kindergarten choices in the next year I have some questions about Head Royce not covered by postings in the archives. From older kids I know I have seen it to be a warm and lively school, but one that puts very stringent demands on kids even at a young age. (I have heard of 3rd and 4th graders having panic attacks about homework levels.) Our preschooler is very bright, and I'm not really worried about whether he'd be 'up to it', but I'd be eager to hear from other parents of kids in the Lower School (which I know will have a new Head as of next year) about their experiences. Do people feel their children are getting a well-rounded education, valuing the creativity and individuality of the child? Or is it really one long grinding journey toward the Ivy League education parents are hoping for at the end of the line?! We are eager to have our child challenged, and love what we have seen of the music and sports programs at the school, but are interested in allowing our child to thrive as the imaginative and curious person he is. Any comments much appreciated, thanks. anon

This the end of our daughter's fourth year at the Head-Royce Lower School. She will enter 4th grade in the Fall. Our experience so far is that the curriculum is not particularly stressful. There is no homework for the first couple of years, then it starts very gradually. The Lower School claims it tries to form well-rounded children who love to study, rather than pushing for academic achievement at this stage, and we agree that that's what they do. If anything, we wish they were a little more demanding, particularly with the math, because it's simple to the point of being boring to our daughter. We should note, however, that our daughter is a strong student and although we haven't heard any complaint from the other parents about stress, we know of a couple of students in our daughter's class who had trouble keeping up academically/socially. One of them went to a different school, the other repeated Kindergarten. It probably doesn't mean much, however. This is our experience. It may be that other families are more stressed and don't talk to us about it. If so, I hope that someone will speak up here. ---Anonymous

My child just finished Kindergarten at HRS, and I must say, the school does not live up to its reputation as being a pressure cooker, stress zone, elite establishment, etc.! We were 100% satisfied with not only the quality of his education, but also how well rounded it was. We were very anxious about what the year would bring, based on the school's reputation; however, none of it was true. In K, there is no homework, unlike some of the other private schools and the Oakland public schools, and there is a large emphasis on social interraction, creativity, etc. My son blossomed this year and the social and academic growth he experienced has been incredible! He loves school and! would often refuse to leave when I would pick him up. I have friends with children in the older lower school grades, and all of their children seem to be flourishing in a ''stress free'' way. Incidently, there is a growing number of parents who feel the lower school is not academic enough, if that helps your fear! All in all, we have been quite surprised how happy we have been at HRS, and appreciate the focus on educating the whole child. anon

Dear Stress Levels: I have a child in Lower School. I can honestly tell you that the school is very warm and nurturing. They try to keep the homework at an appropriate level. So much so that other parents who are less child-oriented have mentioned they should send their child to the Academy and/or to Bentley because ''those schools'' really make the kids learn. Whether the other schools do that or whether it is the perception is for the individual parent and child to decide. My experience with Head-Royce has been that the teachers are concerned with the children's welfare and development of the ''whole child.'' The school emphasizes a well-rounded education with civic and community service in 4th and 5th grades. Feel free to ask about the after school program which is rich in electives and activites. i.e. Circus Arts, Steel Drums, carpentry, drama In the 4th and 5th grades, since most chldren have a sport or music outside of the school time management is necessary. For instance, the student learns to break down the book reports and science projects to little parts that they work on over several weeks. The teachers are great in teaching time management by putting how much time the student should spend each night or where you should be in the project in the weekly assignment sheets. They send reminders and check-ups. They return calls or e-mails. Lower schools is challenging as you get older but is a great program. The Kindergarten and First Grade progams are wonderful and filled with music and field trips. Anonynmous

''Or is it really one long grinding journey toward the Ivy League education parents are hoping for at the end of the line?!'' Yes, and it feels, to us at least, that the culture isn't going to change any time soon because the parents want it that way. Some parent wrote a while backin the BPN that he or she thought that Head-Royce and a lot of the independent area schools were demanding too much, too soon, and I concur. I have a very bright child who is not served by the competition and at H-R. He is not at all interested in competing even though he performs very well. Likely we will be leaving by high school so as to avoid what I have heard is even more stress than the lower and middle school and a frantic push through curriculum. In evaluating any school I think that it is important to recognize the difference between authentic learning and mastery and regurgitation of facts. School has become a lot of drudgery. I feel for our kids. Anon for my child's sake

I did not see the original post but read today's responses. I have one child at HR. He entered HR at 9th grade from a public middle school and has just completed 10th grade. So based on two years worth of experience in the upper school - the workload is significant and my son can no longer get by solely on native intelligence and test-taking ability. His approach has been to do enough to get a B average and not be stressed out. He's not particularly organized and loses points on missed assignments, not showing his logic, etc. I am probably more stressed than he because I know he's smart enough to get better grades. But, I can't fault the school or teachers. They are excellent and my son is learning a lot. I am stimulated just hearing about what he's doing there. As far as college - he j! ust needs one good place to go and I'm sure we'll find that for him. anon to protect son

My son, now entering 5th grade at Head Royce, has been there since kindergarten. He has, for the most part, loved it. I have been happy with the attention to the emotional and social development in the lower school--There has been an emphasis on preparing the children to learn, and a recognition that children develop at different paces. I know that the pressure (often coming from families and the children themselves) will increase into middle school and high school, and I know that the school sees this as an issue to look at and help the children with. One thing that has been wonderful for us and our son, is the continuity of friendships that comes with a relatively small school like Head Royce--he is in class with children he's known since kindergarten, and he knows most teachers and staff in ! the lower school-- and they know him. All in all we are happy with our choice of schools, admittedly in part because we now have the option of his staying there through 12th grade. It's a tough decision, good luck! Head Royce parent

Feb 2003

I would still appreciate some more views on Head Royce. My son loves the school. We were a bit concerned about some things.
1. Do they not make the current HR middle school students pass the entrance test ISEE to the same level for acceptance into the high school?
2 The student newspaper focused quite a bit on religious discrimination felt by some of the kids. Is this that big a problem?
3. More drugs than usual?

In response to the recent query about the high school program at Head Royce,no, as far as I know current HR middle school students do not have to take the ISEE (unless of course they are applying at other high schools themselves). My impression is that most of them go on to upper school at Head Royce, hence the very small number of available spots each year.

I really don't know enough to address questions #2 and #3. In the hypothetical situation of an instance of religious intolerance I have to assume that the administration and faculty would step in fairly aggressively to deal with the problem and educate the students on the issue. As for more drugs than usual, as the parent of a Junior I sure hope that's not the case and haven't heard any fact or rumor to substantiate this notion.

You didn't ask, but I'll volunteer my own opinion that H-R offers a terrific high school program: outstanding faculty,and a very nice balance between academics and elective subjects. Best of luck to you and your 8th grader. laura

Jan 2003

My son went to Bentley and then Head Royce. He loved Head Royce which he transferred to in high school (Bentley at that time had no high school). We were very pleased with the school and the teachers and were somewhat let down when my daughter decided to go to CPS instead of Head Royce. However she has been at CPS for 2 years and both she and her parents love the school. I had thought and heard that it was too academically strict, but she copes well with the homework. The teachers take a very personal and active interest in the individual student and the parents are great. Stella

I would be happy to speak to anyone looking for information about Head Royce School. Our two sons have both been there since kindergarten - the oldest is now 9th grade, the younger in 4th - we have experienced the school at all three levels. We have been extremely happy with Head Royce - and at the same time do not see it as perfect. We chose Head Royce over 6 other area schools and have not regretted it.

There have been a few rough years - but this is to be expected as out kids grow and change. Many of our concerns have been addressed - such as the middle school head- where the new director is fabulous. Another was their implmentation of their committment to diversity - which is improving significantly - but still needs work. We have had extraordinary experiences with teachers - to the point of awesome, love the small classes and extensive on-site resources. The cost is high - but you get a very big bang for your buck.

The Lower school (K-5) is the best I have seen - great compassion, insightful teaching staff, emphasis on community, and making acedemics a pleasure. We are strong advocates of the school's philospohy to balance academics, the arts and athletics, and appreciate how both have been integrated into the curriculum from Day 1.

If you were to ask our son in 9th grade - he would say he is ready to move on to Berkeley High. He wants to be in larger - more diverse environment with new people. We are glad he fells this way!! - and we are dicussing it. Meanwhile he is taking Physics, Russian and Chinese History, English, Photography, Jazz Band, Honors Geometry, Spanish, is on the Basketball team and still has time for computer games and goofing around. We think the High School at Head Royce is terrific and might give him the structure he needs to focus and excel. Socially, it is hard for him to be in the same school for 12 years. The decision will be a balance of what is right for him- it will not be because we are unhappy with Head Royce, but because it is time for him to make a change.

If you were to ask our son in 4th grade - he would tell you he LOVES everything about it. We see him ''dancing through life - learning amazing personal skills - including social consciousness, self-reliance and self-motivation. Basics are so well in place now, he could go anywhere.


My daughter, now 30, attended Head Royce as a high school student, and it was the best investment in her/our future I could have made. She graduated with something like a B/B+ average and so-so SAT scores, but Head Royce staff made sure that she got into her first choice college, Barnard. Given her first rate high school preparation and academic confidence, she went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and is currently in an MD/PhD program studying to be a heart surgeon. But she also taught photography and ran the Barnard darkroom, relying on skills she picked up at HR. We received some financial help from the school, as I was a single mom, but my daughter would have had a far more circumscribed life had I not made this investment. Rondi

November 2002

We're considering Head-Royce for high school. I'd love to hear about the experience of other families who've had students there.. particularly feedback about the quality of education, competetive atmosphere between the students, snobbery, encouragement of creativity, etc. Thanks! a curious mom

To the parent seeking information about the high school program at Head Royce: my teenager (now a Junior) has been attending high school at HR after being a student in a different school up to the 8th grade. She and I both were concerned about the same issues you raise in your post;the administration at the school has clearly given some thought to the issue and strived to help new students through the first few weeks. New students start a day earlier with an orientation designed just for them, for instance. In terms of making friends, the ''lifers'' at the school appear by and large eager and happy to welcome newcomers. I am not aware of clique issues; as to possible issues of snobbery, all I can say is that, yes, some students are from very privileged families,as evidenced by a few extremely elaborate birthday parties! But those are not the norm as far as I can tell.

We couldn't be happier about the educational program: outstanding faculty, great individual attention given to students,detailed report cards that really tell you something about your child,etc. I am not sure what you mean specifically by ''encouragement of creativity''; all I can say is that the program strongly encourages students to pursue not just one but two electives in the arts,and that while challenging, the classroom/homework load doesn't seem overly intense.

By all means don't hesitate to email me directly if you have more questions about the school and my daughter's experience there. Best of luck dealing with the high school admission game, Laura

our son went to Head Royce and loved it. Our daughter went to CPS and loved it even more. I think the work load is much heavier at CPS and the classes are smaller. However, I think the work at HR is more balanced between academic and sports. Stella


I have a child at Head-Royce and I think I should correct what is a significant error in this post. HR does have a GUARANTEED sibling preference. Siblings are considered (along with children of faculty and those from traditionally disadvantaged minority groups) before other children who don't fit those categories. As long as a sib is found to be qualified (ie, can do the work) that sib will be admitted. If the child has a late summer birthday and the school feels she would benefit from another year in preK or preschool, admission will be postponed for a year. However, my daughter's class is replete with August, July, June birthdays. My daughter has an October 31 birthday and is definitely one of the older children in the class.

Also, I have found that the reputation the school has for having "well-to-do" families is somewhat inaccurate. While there are certainly plenty of kids from "two-lawyer" families, there are also lots of kids who receive financial aid, children of artists, writers, sports-trainers, therapists, academics, ethno-musicologists, tropical fish store owners, research scientists (and I'm just thinking of the families in my daughter's class).

Furthermore -- as to drawing primarily from Piedmont/Montclair -- I've also not found this to be so. There may be families from Piedmont in Sophie's class, but I've never met them. There are many Oakland families, many Berkeley -- including North Berkeley (there's a bus), even the odd Fremont family. The draw is very broad. I've noticed that all the local schools have these very elaborate "reputations" that, in my experience with Head Royce at least, are not particularly accurate. When we were looking into schools we never imagined we'd send out daughter to Head Royce. It blew us away, however. And we're very happy with our decision. AW

re: preschool prep for private school
Our daughter goes to Head Royce and the most important thing I can tell you about preschool is don't sweat it. It's really irrelevant. The schools aren't looking for children who are "prepared" in any way. Just pick a preschool where the staff is loving and competent and the kids look like they are having fun


From: a dad in the EECS department

We have all three of our kids at Head-Royce School. We placed our first their because she wasn't being challenged by the public school she attended. They all love the school.

Let me refer you to their web-site. http://www.hrs.pvt.k12.ca.us/

Applications were due on January 20. This may explain the lack of responsiveness from the admissions staff. I seem to remember a sort of closed mouth attitude until our first was admitted. Addmission are very competitive, and require testing and letters of recommendation. The results of this years addmissions will be announced on March 15.

Families from all over the east bay send their children to Head-Royce. We live in Hayward, I know others in Dublin, Lafyette, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda, San Leandro, even Antioch. Many are putting their children through at great personal cost - driving old cars and living in small homes or appartments. Certainly some come from Piedmont and Montclaire and Orinda and extreme affluence.

I know a couple of other faculty and staff members at UCB who send their children. It is a strong community, I've had nothing but pleasant, helpful interactions with the parents. I'm particularly impressed walking through the school on an average day by the politeness of the students. The faculty have been very friendly and helpful.

The students get a lot of homework-- 30-40 minutes per subject per day (says the policy - we experience quite a bit more at times) in middle and high school. The Elementary students are supposed to be able to dispatch theirs in a couple of hours (our results vary) with no weekend homework for elementary.

The facilities are good, class sizes small-- 18 in elemetary 15 in middle and high. Sports is part of the program with tennis, swimming, volleyball, basketball, soccer, rugby, cross-country, baseball, etc. (no football- no marching band). Many types of after $chool program$ are avaiable. This is a VERY liberal education. They still have an affirmative action program. This is a k-12 school which features two 18 student classes k-5 and 15-18 students per class 6-12, with only 75 students at each grade 6-12.

Admissions are very selective. Tuition is steep. Profile of Head-Royce School

An independent, coeducational, college-preparatory, K-12 school that strives to inspire in its students a lifelong love of learning, a desire for academic excellence, a respect for diversity, and encourages constructive and responsible citizenship.

Founded: In 1887 as the Anna Head School for Girls; incorporated not-for-profit in 1957
Enrollment: 735 students
Faculty: 96 including full and part-time members
Average class size: 15
Student/faculty ratio: 10:1
Facilities: six structures on a fourteen acre campus, including a gym, swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, soccer field and baseball/softball diamond
Tuition: $8,600 to $12,775; additional fees for books, elective arts classes, class trips, and tennis lessons
School year: September 2, 1997 to June 12, 1998
Accredited by: The Western Association of Schools and Colleges; California Association of Independent Schools
Head of School: Paul D. Chapman, B.A. Yale University, M.A. and Ph.D. Stanford University


Concerns about Snobbery at Elite Schools

Nov 2003

We are considering Head Royce for Kindergarden. While there seems to be no question about the academics, we are more concerned about the social scene, particularly as she gets older. I have concerns about her being in an environment of predominantly smart privledged kids-- snobbery, materialism, competition--both academic and social. I have heard second hand of people being disatsified with the social enviromnent and even pulling their kids out. I'd appreciate any comments of parents from kids at all ages. Thanks.

don't want my kid to become a snob

Snobby children are certainly a risk, in so far as most of these kids only know a very limited economic lifestyle. This is true for many independant schools. What is done about this: on the school's end there is a large emphasis on community service as a way a to get kids to be aware and do something about the larger community. But even more importantly, I would say that most of the parents assume much of the responsibility. The kids learn their attitudes about money and material goods at home - and many of the parents seem to recognize that, and coach their kids accordingly. anon

I feel compelled to answer the question about how the wealth at Head-Royce affects kids socially. To begin, I should say that I graduated from Head-Royce almost 20 years ago and thing may very well have changed. But as a kid from a poor family at HRS, things were very hard for me. It's not that I didn't have friends, but rather that I ended up developing fairly skewed values about money based on my inability to keep up with the Joneses.

It is very hard in Junior High and High School if you can't dress in the right clothes. It's hard when all of your friends live in mansions and vacation in Europe over the winter holiday. I ended up feeling very embarassed of my family, my house, my vacations, my clothes - and consequently desperately wished to be wealthy. I remember at one point begging my mother to get a maid (if you can believe it!) My main goal in life upon graduation was to make a lot money and it took quite a few years before I came to terms with my issues surrounding money and realized that happiness doesn't always go hand in hand with wealth.

I got an AMAZING academic education at Head Royce - better than my college education in fact. But, I think that ideally a school is both academically rigorous and allows students to meet a variety of kids from all sorts of backgrounds. When I was there, that wasn't really the case.

If you child does end up going to Head Royce and is not from the kind of wealth that is prevalent there, then I would try to make sure that this is a topic that is discussed a lot at home and that there are other social opportunities outside of school for you child to meet other kinds of kids. Good luck wiser now...

We have a child in the lower school at Head Royce. I had no intention of sending my child to Head-Royce for the concerns stated. I thought they would be too harsh on my child and that we would not fit in economically. To be honest, the tuition is steep and we make a lot of sacrifices. But, we are happy with the education and the teachers. They are caring, concerned and insightful. The diversity is increasing which pleases us. We have met many nice parents who are grounded and have similar values. There are ''privileged'' children, but frankly, living in the Bay Area and even sending your child to private school places us in that status no matter how ancient our cars are. We are very happy with our social setting and the amount of enrichment our child receives in addition to the quality of education.

We have had two children at Head Royce since Kindergarten and feel very happy with our choice. The demeanor of the school - especially in the classroom - is of warmth and openness - with a strong emphasis on community. The Lower School is particularly intimate and supportive. While the academics at Head Royce are excellent - the school places strong emphasis on the arts and athletics and service. I recommend you visit the school for yourself - as the social atmosphere is quite obvious - from the kids longing on the patio and the hall at the High School- to the play areas and classrooms of the Lower School Our kids have never been excluded because we are of less means than most of the others. ''Social Cruelty'' is something the school has talked about alot with the kids - and is dealt with very seriously.

The reality is that all private schools have a large contingent of more affluent families - they cost alot!! The pressures that come from this (where your friends go on vacation, what gifts they get at the holidays, etc) is not unique to Head Royce - it is going to be an issue for you and your family at any private school. Acknowledging and rejoicing in our differences is part of the mission and curiculum at Head Royce, and we feel they "walk the talk." Very few families have left the school that we know of - and those who did had unique and complex reasons. Lack of racial/ ethnic diversity is a problem for all the private schools and no matter what the others say - they are all very similar. They all need to do better. The tone about social and material things is set by the administrators and teachers - and by what you project to your kids yourself.