Which High School for Learning Differences & Special Ed?

Parent Q&A

  • HELP! Best high school for child with an IEP?

    (3 replies)

    My son has an IEP and starts high school next year. We are looking for any feedback on how Berkeley High, Millennium High or Bayhill are for a child who needs a lot of extra help and remediation. We aren’t exploring other schools so any feedback on these three only is REALLY appreciated! It’s a confusing process and since he didn’t get the help he needed in middle school I’m really nervous about making the wrong decision for high school. We are relatively new to the area so need some help! THANK YOU! 

    I can only respond with personal experience about Berkeley High. My stepson had very specific special needs that were totally ignored and in fact exacerbated. He was nearly flunking out when we transferred him to El Cerrito High; once there, he got straight As, personal attention, and was no longer lost in the shuffle between in-fighting teachers and departments competing for students' time. I'm glad we got him out but the low grades were an issue at college-application time. As in, he didn't get into any UCs. That's all I can tell you. 

    I did a lot of research for my special needs son and we went with Bayhill, started Aug 2019. It is all about fit and I urge you to schedule a tour at all of your schools of interest.

    I think Bayhill.is a fantastic school for different learners looking to find their "peeps" while finding their niche in school and that Donna Austin, the director of admissions, is an incredible support person and knows exactly if this is the school for your student. 

    Best wishes in your search.

    My daughter attended Millennial High.  Because it is a part of the Piedmont Schools we were told it has the most resources of the three schools you mentioned.  This came from a therapist who coaches people on IEPs.  I do believe this was true at the time.  She graduated in 2015.  That said, I have heard things have changed under the current superintendent.... Still, it is a small school and kids do have the options of taking some classes at PHS.  They were extremely flexible with our daughter and we are grateful.

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  • High school for student with dyslexia and slow processing?

    (1 reply)


    I am looking for more recent experiences with St. Joe's High school in Alameda for students with identified learning disabilities? No behavior problems, but dyslexia and slow processing. Any information would be so helpful!  These decisions are so hard! 


    I do not have a student there so cannot speak to your specific question, however I do have a LD student and believe it is really important that when they are entering any private school you do your due diligence in investigating any support system a school has in place for LD students, because their HS academic success is so very important. I would recommend that you contact their learning specialist directly and have a discussion about what programs they have in place to help your student, and compare them to other schools to which you are also applying. The decisions ARE hard and it's best to be as educated as possible. Good luck!

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  • Searching for Magic Mystery School

    (3 replies)

    The schools that are NOT the magic mystery school although each has it's merits for the right student: Seneca schools, Spectrum Center, Phillips Academy, Oak Hill, Fusion, Holden, Tilden Prep, Mentoring Academy, Bayhill, Springstone, Orion, Rise Institute. Maybe you know the mystery school for the smart high school east bay area kid who needs some specific emotional regulation support. This magical mystery school is not too restrictive so as to make a kid feel like they're bad nor does it employ physical restraint, yet it has some positive therapeutic aspects. It has small class sizes and individual attention, solid academics plus opportunities to make friends and is supportive towards all kinds of diversity. If you know where this magical place exists, please let me know. Bonus if it's a NPS certified school that accepts IEPs. I have to lighten my post with a bit of humor, else this search will do me in. Seriously. Know a place? Have creative solutions?

    Boy, I remember this search. So sorry you're not able to find the One. You might check out the Santa Rosa Anova Center for Education (not the Concord location) and Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo. Good luck.  —Mom of Dysregulated Teen

    For us, this school is the Marchus school in Concord. It's changed our lives.

    If I forgot to add Anova, it was because I blocked it out. Our family had a traumatic experience with Anova because they use dangerous restraint practices. I would never again send my child to an Anova school. They STILL use these practices instead of positive behavior support plans, so no thank you. Been there, done that.

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  • Alternatives to Tilden Prep?

    (6 replies)

    My sophomore, who has been in and out of school for the last two years, is currently at Tilden Prep and making strides. We are not sure, however, that we can afford to do this for another 2 years at the tune of 40,000. In addition, our child is wanting some more social interaction than a one to one learning situation provides her with. I don’t think our public school (Albany) is the right place for her. Does anyone have any suggestions of a good private school with small classrooms and a supportive environment for students with academic anxieties and learning differences? Thank you in advance!

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()

    Maybeck offers exactly what you’re describing—I t’s almost as expensive as Tilden though. St. Mary’s is cheaper but maybe less good with learning  differences. 

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()

    Hello, I graduated from Holy Names high and so did my niece 23 years later. I loved that it’s an all girls school and college prep. Don’t think it’ll be as expensive as Tilden and the class sizes have dropped tremendously since my time (70’s). It may worth your time to do a little research on it and schedule a visit. They’ll soon be celebrating 100 years. 

    Good luck!

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()

    Mentoring Academy in Oakland provides a strong emphasis on community building and may be a good fit for your child.

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()

    Hate to say but most private HSs will put you back $35-50K.  You might look at Mentoring Academy in Rockridge, which will still be a chunk of change.  Also, Holy Names in Oakland is a girls school, but does well with certain kids with LD.  Also, look for charters.   

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()


    You may want to check out Bayhill High in Berkeley. Not certain what the tuition is, but it is designed for students with learning differences and offers a nice community and differentiated instruction.

    This school is our Plan B in the event our kid with dysgraphia can’t get the support plan she needs to manage at public high school.

    Good luck!

    RE: Alternatives to Tilden Prep? ()

    These recommendations are mostly based on doing an overlapping search. Check out Mentoring Academy, Bayhill, there's also Millenium in Piedmont that accepts lot of transfers.  We've also had people suggest Holden and Orinda Academy

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  • Moving to the East Bay and looking for best public high school for special needs

    (5 replies)

    I am moving from the South Bay to the East Bay for two reasons. 1. to be able to help my mother out more who has been ill. She is in Walnut Creek. 2. To find a better school for my daughter who will be entering 9th grade and has dyslexia and ADHD. She has been in private school her whole life but did not get in to the schools she applied to because of her testing. Specifically, I am interested in anyone who has any info on the following schools and their learning difference programs: Los Lomas, Northgate, Acalanes, College Park, Alhambra Senior High, Cal High. Also open to any of the surrounding area if anyone has any stellar reviews. Private is not an option so please do not suggest that. I have no idea where to get this info so if anyone has any insight, experience or even hear say, I would love to hear from you. Thanks.

    Good luck on your move!  It sounds stressful.  After working in public high schools in San Francisco for 20 years I would say that schools can be different from year to year in the quality of their responses to students with learning differences, depending on the experience and longevity of the administration, counseling, and teaching staff.  Most students with ADHD and dyslexia have a 504 plan or an IEP plan.  If you are not familiar with 504 and IEP take the time now to learn all you can about them.  The school psychologist is a key person, it is great if they are at the school full time but should be at least half time.  I'm a nurse practitioner and have been involved in many 504 plans that worked well, and many that didn't work well. Parent involvement is crucial.  And much of the success of the plan will depend on your daughter, too.  One last thing, has your daughter ever been tested?  Knowing where her strengths and challenges are, in terms of processing and memory, are key to helping making meaningful classroom  accommodations.  It also doesn't hurt if the school has a health center, and a nurse, as these support staff work behind the scenes for the success of your student.  I wish you well!!

    I am not sure about locations, but you might want to check out REALM Charter High School in Berkeley. I teach Special Ed there and we have a good full inclusion program. School is small and focus is on project based learning and college prep.

    Google SEED in Lafayette.  Can't remember the exact acronym but they're a very active parent organization for kids with special needs.  They should know the specs on the area schools.

    Our daughter also has dyslexia and ADHD and has been VERY well served by her school, K2, in El Cerrito.  It is a public charter school and they are wonderful there at working with each child's particular strengths and weaknesses.  Best of luck finding a wonderful school for your daughter!

    I have a child with ADHD and dyslexia (but no behavior issues), so I understand how hard it is to find good options.

    First, I would recommend contacting DREDF to understand the public school process for special needs.  You can talk to a counselor who can provide some information and leads that might be helpful.  DREDF is a free parent information center that helps parents understand their rights for special education kids.  

    You might contact Decoding Dyslexia CA for information, too.  In the past, the website has highlighted school districts that start making positive changes in dyslexia education.

    If your child needs more help than the local school can provide, then Bayhill High School might be an option.  According to Bayhill, "Bayhill High School is the only WASC accredited, A-G approved, NCAA eligible for college admissions, non-public certified school in the greater Bay Area."  

    As a non-public school, the tuition can be paid by parents or it can be covered by the local school district (if your child qualifies by failing in the regular school).  For us, this has been our Plan B if our child starts failing in regular schools, but it hasn't come to that yet.

    Personally, I think the best way to find out whether a school might be a good fit is to call the Principal to discuss my child's needs.  I have found that the Principals are quite honest in discussing what they can offer, and it has allowed me to make better decisions about which schools would be a good (or bad) fit.  

    Also, some school districts sometimes allow kids that don't live in the district to enroll in the alternative high school if they don't have full enrollment. In some  years, Millenium High School in Piedmont will accept certain select out of district students.  It is worth asking the Principals about their out of district policies for enrollment in the district's alternative high school if you think the school would be a good fit.  Please understand, this is just for the alternate high school.  It is almost impossible to get boundary exceptions to attend the regular high schools in a district.

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  • Best public schools for MS & HS students with dyslexia

    (2 replies)

    Hi, I am moving to SF next month. I will temporarily be living in SF for a few months before we buy a home somewhere in the Bay Area (most likely East Bay along the BART line or down to SSF. I am looking for recommended schools to try to get into that successfully address middle school students with dyslexia. 

    It really depends on what your child needs. Piedmont is known for having high quality public schools with good support for students with learning disabilities. It has an alternative public high school called Millenium which is reputed to serve students with special needs well. No public schools in the area that I know of do an adequate job at remediation. It can be a lot of work to fight at schools for accommodations. You might want to post again with more information about your child and the specific needs. Berkeley Unified is facing a class-action lawsuit for inadequately serving kids with dyslexia. 


    If your son needs a lot of support you could consider Raskob, a private K-8 school for students with learning disabilities. From there your son could go to Bayhill High School in Berkeley for high school.

    Good luck!

    I would not consider public schools based our experience. We were actually told that unless a child is two grade levels behind, public schools will not provide adequate assistance.  

    Our experience in the Piedmont School district was terrible for learning disabilities (dysgraphia). We had an IEP and our child scored 12 grade level in all standardized tests from the first year in middle school. These tests are used by the public schools to show how great the schools are. Yet the school ignored the tests when we tried to keep our child in regular classes but ask for assistive technologies or other assistance. We had outside testing that stated that our child was gifted. Yet no matter how much we fought, paid outside advocates, our child was placed in remedial classes. Our child was not on tract for getting into college. Millennium High School was not a better option.

    We eventually went to a private school and our child is not only thriving but in advanced classes.

    I would consider private schools with proven track records of assistance for learning disabilities. After being in two highly rated and wealthy public school districts, that public schools just do not treat intelligent students with learning disabilities as capable of achieving along with their peers.

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  • Very bright kid with emotional regulation issues-high school?

    (4 replies)

    We need to start looking for a high school for our smart and challenged kid. High IQ, anxious, social/emotional regulation challenges. I know that mine isn't the only kid like this out there. We are in Oakland. Where do all these kids go? I am finding that schools who handle the emotional/behavioral aspect don't offer appropriately challenging academics and those who offer great academics want nothing to do with emotional/behavioral support. All the websites for the schools that have been recommended to me make it clear that if behavior is an issue, you're out of luck. But his current placement is failing him in a big way. Our IEP is coming at the end of this month and I want to be ready to suggest placements.

    I've heard good things about Holden High in Orinda.  Holdenhigh.org

    This is a tough one. What about Anova? Of the two campuses for Anova Centers for Education, the Santa Rosa one may be the best fit for the type of student you describe, but there's also a campus in Concord. My son attended Anova for many years, and definitely learned skills to help him manage his anxiety-based behavior issues. He is now able to attend a great public high school, which I see as a huge step forward. The academic piece should be part of the "individualized" portion of the IEP, and a skilled teacher can do it—there just may not be many peers with which to interact at that level. PM me.

    Speaking of academics, I have toured Tilden Prep in Albany and could possibly see it as a solution for a bright kid with anxiety, though just to be clear there is no behavioral support, just the freedom to work at one's own pace and lots of one-on-one attention. Good luck.

    Not sure what your child's issues are but you might check out Mentoring Academy. I was really impressed with the director and the staff.  They will work with kids who have issues but I'm not sure to what extent.  It's a very small learning environment, less than 30 kids.  Good luck in your search!!

    I had a very hard time with this type of placement because a lot of schools that seemed appropriate were not "certified non-public schools", and those were the only types of schools that the IEP would accept. The certified NPS's that had psychological support had a lot of very emotionally disturbed kids in them, and the academics were not high. The only one that seemed moderately appropriate was Bayhill, which wasn't a good fit for us, but you might check it out.  My daughter is placed at Star Academy, which is turning out to be a compromise for us, and not the best placement since a lot of the kids are on the autism spectrum and my daughter is not. Good luck! I am curious to see what others suggest. 

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  • What options do LD children who can't afford private schools have?

    (5 replies)

    Does anyone know of a good public MS and/or HS that has a good program for LD children? I have two children with LD and they are both struggling in the public school system. I can't afford to send them to a private school. 

    This is what Ive learned.

    As our kids mature, it is important to have current comprehensive testing, whose responsibility belongs to your school district. So you need to advocate strongly that your district perform testing on your children to understand the degree of disability and the best practice to intervene. You may need an educational advocate to help you with this process, and you can find a list of advocates through DREDF. We used Toby Adams, toby.adams [at] gmail.com with great results.  

    There are great NPS and Public Charters schools in the Bay Area like Orion Academy, Phillips Academy, and Realm Charter School, who are stakeholders committed to equity education. Our experience at BUSD was less than satisfactory.

    Hi there! I'm sorry for your struggle. As the parent of a LD child in a private school my experience is while some have (limited) resource departments, they are not really equipped (or meant) to fully remediate your child, especially if their LD's are moderate to severe. So 'private school' per se is not necessarily an answer (unless you mean schools ONLY for LD students). I would suggest the route of hiring an Ed Therapist to work with your children as often as you can afford in conjunction with their regular school. I can't speak to the IEP process but assume you have gone that route as well. Wishing you and your kids all the best!

    I totally feel your pain... my daughter is in 10th grade and has ADHD.  I haven't been able to find any good public schools that handle LD's well, and I also think that private schools aren't necessarily the answer either.  I actually just took my daughter out of her high school and she's going to do K12 public school online with a tutor.

    I highly recommend Educational Therapist Amy Cheifetz who has been extremely empowering for my daughter and me.  She's amazing and would be a good resource for you.   Amy's contact info is (510) 207-2995.  She completely changed our lives for the better and I can't say enough how awesome she is.  Good luck!

    Have you thought about applying for financial aid? We go to Orinda Academy and it has been a great help to my LD son! They offer 8-12th grade and serve a large LD population. It is a warm, supportive environment that helps the kids feel welcomed right away. There is a Learning Support Coordinator that can work with you to identify the best learning tools to help your students. There is an open house coming up April 19th in the evening. I will be there or you can always message me with questions.

    As others have mentioned, every child is different and LDs are so varied that what works for one student may not work for another.  IMy comment is just directed at private school cost.  We would never have considered private school for our daughter with LD until public school absolutely wasn't working despite lots of advocacy on our part.  We are middle-income parents ($160,000 for family of 4) and were able to get significant financial aid (2/3 of cost of tuition) for middle and high school.  It depends on a lot of different factors and you need to advocate for yourself/your kid, but if you have 2 kids with LD, I am sure you know all about advocating! Coming up with the remaining 1/3 was still a stretch, but it was definitely the right thing (for us).

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  • High School for Learning Differences- how to chose?

    (5 replies)


    I'm looking at Orinda Academy, Bayhill High School, Sterne High School, Holden High School and Millenium High School for my child with learning differences. It's hard to tell how these schools might be similar or different. Anybody have any thoughts on how to distinguish between these schools? Size, who they serve, extra curricular activities, quality of education, quality of staff, etc? Which serves more kids on the spectrum vs just kids with LD's? 

    thank you,


    You don't mention Springstone and Orion, the primary high schools for kids on the spectrum.  My son went to Springstone and was in a class of 8 kids from sixth grade through 12th (not always the same 8, but many of the same), and as a result, they formed a really tight bond.  The school was great for a number of things, including protecting these teens from everything from smoking to drugs to sex (they knew all about it, but I don't believe that any of them did anything more than look at the internet).  Two and a half years on, my son's graduating class remains a tightly bonded group, and that is more than anything else I could have asked.  My son is not on the spectrum (he has bipolar), but he has learned to get along with a group of friends who all have their particular quirks and stick with them through everything, and that, to me, is the true measure of a great education for this group.  All of the schools will provide about the same educational outcomes, but I don't know how many of them can provide this.  Feel free to contact me.

    I'm in the same position.  I think it depends on your child's specific LD, social and learning profile.  We have experience at Sterne and I was told it's the best in the Bay Area but it's a drive or a BART commute and can be overwhelming for some kids.  Bayhill has an open house tomorrow I believe.  I have a couple friends who have LD children at Orinda Academy and seem to be happy but I know their program, while LD friendly, does not have some of the hardcore supports that our son will need.  Honestly, all the LD specific schools I have researched in the bay area are rather light on academic rigor compared to east coast boarding LD schools.  It's a totally different ballgame but something to think about if you have a "twice exceptional" kiddo who needs some tools and support to uncover her/his gifts without losing their spark.

    Hi there,

    I'm a parent at Orinda Academy. My son has learning differences and it has been an amazing experience for him. Starting with a socially safe environment, the students are able to blossom academically. Small class sizes, individualized support and strong communication with teachers go a long way. OA attracts students from both sides of the tunnel with easy access to BART which many students use. They have many lunchtime clubs, which any student can start or join. The curriculum is college prep with the intention of meeting each student where they are and giving them the tools to be successful past high school into college, or whatever they choose to do. The school serves learning difference kids, anxiety, dyslexia, dysgraphia, also has a small international population and kids without learning differences. The teachers are committed and build relationships with the students.

    My son has blossomed here into a confident student. He has many friends and also gets together with his friends outside of school. 

    There is an open house December 4th from 1-4pm at the school. A great way to learn more about the school as well as meet parents and hear the student panel answer questions.

    Please message me if I can answer any more questions.

    My son is thriving at Tilden Preparatory School, which should be on your short list. Some kids simply need one-on-one instruction to learn, and Tilden has the process to successfully do this. Unlike some of the ASD-specific schools, Tilden has the academic curriculum both for the students who are struggling or are looking for something far more challenging than public schools.

    My son has several neuropsychological conditions including dysgraphia. He cannot complete a simple math exam without accommodations and has severe trouble writing anything due to the dysgraphia.  The local school district wouldn't give the necessary accommodations for him to survive, yet he is brilliant in some subjects with an amazing ability to memorize subject matter. Challenges include getting what he knows on paper and helping him see the "big picture" (details that keep running through his mind prevent him from answering test questions). Tilden determined how to he optimally learns within the first two weeks and found him the right teachers for each subject. He improved his writing to an Advanced Placement standard within six months, is improving the way information is processed and communicated, and is challenged in amazing ways. Today he is taking AP and Honors classes, has made friends, and is involved with several clubs. Wow.

    Private schools offering one-on-one instruction can do amazing things with a wide variety of kids, but some are going to be better with certain categories of kids than others. We interviewed several, which you will obviously do. Consider Tilden (Albany and Walnut Creek) during your search.


    When our son was diagnosed with ASD, we did an exhaustive search and found Orion Academy in Moraga was one of the few high schools specifically for college-bound students who have Asperger's or NLD. They provide an academically challenging curriculum that is structured, rich in its offering, and nurturing in developing personal growth, responsibility and independence. In the span of 18 months at Orion our son has seen remarkable progress, with a tight group of friends that he hangs out with on weekends as well as in school, a leader in clubs, on the honor roll and a clear plan for working on his specific challenges. The school's focus on "scaffolding" your child towards independence, while providing rigorous academics, makes it unique. Our son had attended a more general LD school in San Francisco -- they were well intentioned but didn't have the right expertise, it wasn't challenging enough and our son was bored. I mention this because schools have a tendency to position themselves as LD institutions when your child's specific challenge can make a significant difference on their ability to provide supports. Orion is not for everyone, but they are one of the best at supporting ASD/NLD students in an academically rigorous environment. Good luck with your search. You're welcome to contact me.

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  • ISO high school with therapeutic support AND strong academics

    (3 replies)

    Anyone know of a high school that could support a teen with significant anxiety/depression who has the potential to attend university? It seems like many schools that provide significant therapeutic support don't fufill the UC A-G requirements. Thanks.

    Holden High School in Orinda.  My kid sounds just like yours.  Holden is a private, college prep school that provides a calm, nurturing therapeutic environment and individual support and works closely with students (and parents) to ensure that they fulfill UC A-G requirements, if that is their goal.  Reasonable tuition as private schools go, and some financial aid available. 

    The Phillips Academy in Alameda is a "Non-Public School" for kids with emotional disabilities.  If your child's IEP allows a NPS placement, you may want to consider this school.  Usually the school district authorizes transportation to and from home as well, if you push for it.  I believe they are very academic with tailored curriculum, compared to other local NPSs.

    Also Tilden Prep in Albany or Walnut Creek, but many parents have to pay out-of-pocket for it.

    You didn't mention in what location you are looking.  If you are flexible enough to go to the peninsula, Lydian Academy and Fusion Academy are good options with 1:1 tutoring models.  It's an expensive route, but literally a life-saving route for my teen.

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  • High school for well-behaved kid with learning differences

    (2 replies)


    Our son is well-behaved, well-liked, works hard but REALLY struggles academically. He has an IEP and we also supplement with after- school private tutoring. He would not survive school without the extra support. He tries hard but just needs a lot of hand-holding to get his work done. I'm seeking recommendations for high schools in the East Bay that would be a good fit. My biggest concern with putting him in a high school for children with learning differences is that these high schools often have children with behavioral problems or quirky kids or have  very small enrollment. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with any type of child, it's just that my son doesn't want this type of environment. He wants to be with typically developing peers, play sports, go to school dances, etc but needs a kinder, gentler school that will be accommodating to his learning challenges. So far, Bishop O'Dowd, St. Mary's, Bentley and Athenian have been recommended to me. We also live in the Oakland Tech district and I'd be interested in hearing from people who have Oakland Tech experience for kids with learning challenges? 

    thank you!


    My son, now 21, also well behaved with learning issues went to Bay Hill HS which is now in Berkeley (it was in Oakland when he was  there).
    Bay Hill was established by teachers and parents from Raskob Learning Institute (grades 3-8). Bay HIll and Raskob saved our lives!!
    We were able to get reasonable financial aid for the 3 years my son was there (for 12th grade he went to El Cerrito High).

    Wishing you the best.

    You should definitely look at Bayhill High School.  It's in Berkeley a few blocks north of Berkeley High School.  My son just started there as a sophomore so I don't have much first-hand experience, but my son sounds like your son - he also needs a lot of handholding but he does very well academically if he gets that.  We sought out Bayhill after freshman year at the public high school where he did OK socially and academically thanks to a 504 plan and a ton of intervention from us. But he needs MUCH more scaffolding to learn and succeed than the public school was able to provide. So far we are all very pleased with the school. Bayhill's curriculum is college prep and follows state standards closely, but the teaching style is customized for kids with learning differences. They don't accept kids with behavioral issues although there do seem to be quirky kids here and there. It's pretty diverse - kids come from all over the east bay, many of them are there because their school district placed them and pays their tuition, so it's not your typical affluent mostly white private school.  Classes are very small, no more than 10 kids. So the teachers know exactly where every kid is, and can support them as needed. There are only 20 kids per grade, 80 total in the school, so socializing is easy for shy kid like mine.  The first week at Bayhill my son told me excitedly that he likes being called on in class at Bayhill, because he knows the answers, so he can help out his classmates.  This is in contrast to last year, where he was the slow kid in class who got complaints and teasing because he was holding up his group. Bayhill is not a big school, but they seem to make an effort to offer the same kinds of activities as bigger schools. There is an after school sports program, there are clubs that meet twice a week during the school day, kids can leave the campus at lunchtime, there are dances throughout the year, lots of field trips, and a prom - Bay cruise with dinner and a DJ!  Everybody I talked to seems happy to be there, including the teachers. I know that their freshman class is full to capacity but when we applied they had a few openings for sophomores and juniors, and it is not unusual for kids to come in after freshman year.  Good luck with your search and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Private high school for disorganized smart kid

Oct 2013

My child is very smart (scores high on standardized tests/IQ) but fails in school due to disorganization and lack of time management and not turning in homework. We don't think public high school is the way to go even with an IEP for Executive Functioning Disorder. From our experience, public schools don't seem to get smart but disorganized, really!! Our school district is highly rated but that doesn't make a difference. We've tried organizational help but it doesn't stick and gets expensive with the amount of support needed and for the frustration and cost we could pay for private school. We're looking at private schools in the East Bay and would love to hear from other parents. We heard about the Mentoring Academy and Tilden Prep. Any experience with either? Any other schools we should consider? Thanks. Anxious Mom of Smart but Disorganized Student

We had a great experience with the Mentoring Academy after a disastrous experience with a small provate school. Mentoring provides a self-paced, individualized learning experience. The director, John Muster, is a caring and engaged individual. He will spend significant time and energy getting to know your child and designing a program that is a good fit. He looks at the whole child \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c not just the academic piece. Mentoring is an all-day school with little to no homework (schoolwork is done during school hours, 9-5). This is a wonderful relief if you and your child are tired of homework dance. Hope this helps. MM

Check out Bayhill High School on Bowden Way in Oakland (off of Lakeshore). It's a small high school for kids w/ learning differences of all ranges. My son went there for 3 years (he's now at El Cerrito High for his Sr. year). The classes are small and the kids get a lot of attention. They learn how to deal with their differences, how to succeed and use their strengths, and to be responsible for getting their work done. Bayhill was a great school for my son for 9, 10, 11th grades. Good luck. anon mom

Do visit Orinda Academy in Orinda and talk with them. Spend a day visiting as well. Sounds far but it's very near the BART station in Orinda and many students take BART there. The faculty and staff are great, small classes and a very good and structured environment. parent of Orinda Grad

Hello- I would like to suggest Holden High School in Orinda, www.holdenhigh.org. It is a small school, with small classes and lots of individualized attention, where each student is recognized for their uniqueness and their unique learning style. The majority of the students travel from all over the East Bay to attend Holden, it is on the BART line.

My student has struggled with being disorganized for many years. Before Holden, when he finally did complete his homework, he would forget to turn it in. There was no organization to his backpack or planner. When we found Holden, (this is his second full year at Holden, after spending grades k-9 in public school), helping him to be organized was one of our first priorities. And within a couple of months this was no longer a problem. His grades have improved dramatically, his attendance is fine, he loves his school.

One of the other many things we love about Holden is that the students are not overloaded with homework and are given ample time during the school week to complete it, thus eliminating homework battles at home.

There is much more I could say about Holden, including how the students are supported emotionally as well as academically, but you can learn more by visiting their website, or better yet, have your child go for a visit.

Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck in your search. A grateful parent

We are parents of a 13-year-old 8th grader who is high-achieving, but disorganized. Starting with 7th grade, we enrolled him at Tilden Prep. It's been a great fit for him. The one-on-one teaching keeps him focused and moving forward. The school is well-managed and extremely responsive. We definitely encourage you to check it out. Berkeley Dad


High school for LD student with dyslexia

Jan 2011


We are moving to Berkeley and wondering if BHS is a good fit for our dyslexic son coming from Charles Armstrong in Belmont. He prefers small classrooms, using his computer in class to take notes and requires quite a bit of tutoring in math. We do have an IEP in place but I wonder if anyone has had a good experience who LD kids at BHS. Are there any other private school options? sylvie

Take a look at Bayhill High School in Oakland. It's a private school with NPS status. It specializes in kids with language-based learning differences. Bayhill parent

There are several private HS within driving distance of Berkeley that specialize in students with LD. The one I recommend is Bayhill in Oakland. I can't remember the names of many others... sorry. I would guess that they all belong to professional organizations perhaps your current school could provide some names. If not try calling the Raskob Day School in Oakland. They are a 3-8 school that specializes in this area and they can probably give you names of some schools their students go on to. in the same boat


High School for learning disabled teen

Nov 2009


With our LD son in 8th grade it's time to start looking at high schools for next year. UGH!!! Our son has reading/processing/organizing issues. He's a hand on and visual learner. Also some ADD. He's currently at Raskob (and only for 8th grade). What high schools did you apply for for your ld kids? We were very impressed with Bay Hills, are considering possibly maybe our local public school as a last resort (and would have to get an IEP or 504)...Maybeck and Drew were suggested to me as possiblities. They seem very academic according to their websites. Any other hs's for ld kids? Also...I've been told that sometimes a district has to pay for a child to go to private school if that child can't be accomodated in the district. How does that work? Thanks in advance, anon mom

Our ninth grade daughter is attending Star Academy in San Rafael. It's a wonderful school, but, obviously much less convenient to those of us here in the East Bay. We looked at Bay Hill and really liked it, but it wouldn't have met our daughter's needs. Star Academy has many services that she needed built into the program, such as OT, Lindamood-Bell and speech therapy. Your son may not need as many services, but that is all available at Star. We were lucky enough to connect with other families from the East Bay and we're in a carpool, which really helps out on transportation. Here is their website if you're interested: http://www.staracademy.org


High School for learning disabled teens

Oct 2008


HI All, My 13 yo son has a pretty severe learning disability. He is in 7th grade in a private school and is being so amazingly accomodated. We feel very lucky and grateful. He sees an ed. therapist, tutor, psycho therapist...OY!!! My question is....what do we do for high school? Our local public hs is not an option. I know about the hs near Lake Merrit that is connected to Raskob and that is a great option, but.....what if he doesn't get in? Where else do we go? Do any of the other public districts have transfer accomodations for ld kids? WHat other private hs's do? He's not a self motivator so an independant hs program is not the thing for him. Thanks in advance. thinking ahead

You should know about a terrific high school option for your child. By way of background, my son attended Raskob for six years (grades 4-9). Although we live by Lake Merritt, we opted to send him to Sterne School in San Francisco for his remaining high school years. Sterne has been around for over 30 years and was started by instructors affiliated w/UCSF's dyslexia program -- a pioneering center dating all the way back to the 1950's. Sterne has been fully accredited for many years, has a highly experienced and loving faculty, a cheerful and friendly student body (with a mix of dyslexia, NLD, Aspergers, and ADHD), a great technology program (employing Kurzweil, for instance), enrichment classes, optional tutoring, a new experiential learning program (students will go to Yosemite this fall), AND it has a brand new head of school, Ed McManis, who spent 25 years in executive and academic leadership roles at Denver Academy. (Denver Academy is one of the premier LD schools internationally.) There are many East Bay families who have placed their middle and high school students at Sterne, so there are reliable and convenient carpool, as well as public transit, options. We could not be happier with the education our 16 year-old son is receiving. Check it out at http://www.sterneschool.org; or call Ed directly at 415-922-6081. You'll find him to be very friendly and down-to-earth. I'd also be happy to talk to you. Sincerely, Kathleen

I think it's great that you're thinking ahead for HS now. It helps to start going to open houses and networking with other parents now. As for getting district funding for a private school placement, I've never heard of that happening without significant effort by the parents. That said, maybe have a look at the following schools:

  -  Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo: http://stanbridgeportal-com.web08.winsvr.net/ -  Sterne School in SF: http://www.sterneschool.org/site/sterne/ -  Star Academy: http://www.staracademy.org/ -  Children's Learning Center: http://www.clcalameda.com/ 

See also schools listed at: http://www.baprivateschools.com/specialed.htm and http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/schools/ld_schools.html (this page)

Good luck! Meri

Take a look at Orinda Academy (private, in Orinda), The Gateway School (public, in SF but accepts kids from all over the Bay Area, through a lottery system), and Drew (private, SF). Also check out the Parents Education Network, or PEN, a tremendous resource, sponsoring lectures, workshops and a well maintained website: www.parentseducationnetwork.org .

Orinda Academy is not specifically for kids with learning disabilities; but they do have a learning specialist on staff and make an effort to accept and accommodate varied learning styles. Classes are small and kids can participate in multiple grade levels simultaneously to match their skill set (e.g. 12th grade English and Algebra I in the same year). Most classes use a mastery learning system, in which grades can be improved by making corrections. Mandatory study halls for those who do not complete homework encourage development of good study habits.

Gateway is a public school specifically for LD kids, but open to others as well. It accepts students from around the Bay, with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Call to find out the details on admissions.

Drew, in SF, is similar to Orinda Academy, twice as big, older, with newer facilities and higher tuition. -OA parent

I missed your original post but I wanted to mention Children's Learning Center in Alameda. They have two separate buildings, one for younger kids and the other for kids up through high school. My son went there for six years and was able to transition to the public high school full-time. I never paid for any of it because I hired a special ed lawyer (for the second time) who negotiated with the school district and got approval for my son's placement there. However, this agreement happened nine years ago, so I'm not sure how different things are now. Nancy


Schools for Bipolar Teens

April 2008


My teenager needs a school geared to bipolar kids. Does anyone have any recommendations for schools that really treat the underlying stresses of being bipolar? Thanks so much.

If your son is high-school aged, you might consider Millenium High School, the Piedmont School District's alternative high school. It's my impression that inter-district transfers into MHS may be easier than transfers into other Piedmont schools. I have found the Piedmont School District to be very supportive of my bipolar child's educational and health issues.

Also, are you aware of the New Hope Support Group, which meets monthly in Lafayette? It's a group for parents of bipolar, school-aged children and is a good source of info. and support. For more info, you can contact 3kids1dog [at] comcast.net. Fellow parent

High School Choices for LD kids

Sept 2006

Looking into to appropriate high schools for LD kids. Would like a high school in the East Bay, but would consider a San Francisco setting. Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated.

Recommended: Raskob School

High school for Berkeley 14-y-o with emotional impairment

July 2005

My 14 yr old nephew is coming to live with me from Michigan. He has an IEP there and has a designation of emotionally impaired. He has had a very rough life (mom doing drugs, chaos etc), has anxiety, is angry probably has ADHD and possibly bipolar. He is on meds but says they dont work. I need to find an appropriate high school for him. We live in Berkeley and I believe if he goes to BHS he will end up lost, doing drugs, and running around. He needs a lot of structure and not too much freedom at the moment. I am open to private school if need be, and am open to feedback about BHS. Thanks!

I'm sorry your nephew has had to suffer through this and think it's wonderful that you are taking him in. I would strongly advise against Berkeley High for a kid in such a situation. It's very anonymous, he WILL get lost, and worse, it will be nearly impossible for someone with problesm to avoid having those problems become much worse. I say this knowing Berkely HIgh is great for some kids, but not kids with problems, as I learned from hard experience. Instead, I'd recommend (1) Getting all the IEP information you have from his current school and getting started getting an appoiontment with the special ed. dept. in Berkeley Unified (you will need to write to ask for an appointment, they will do all they can to avoid helping you, be persistent and eventually they are great). There are schools that are o! ptions for him as a EI student that will be free because of his status that could be very beneficial. Once you have a clear and strong sense of what has been happening in his old school AND you get to know him, you will have a better idea what he needs. Get him in the most contained, supportive environment you can find. (2) Get him in to see one of the fantastic child psychiatrists around here to evaluate the meds he's tried, what's happening, working, not working, etc. RIGHT AWAY. The temptation to wait is not a great idea. Even if you decide against meds, you will know why you are deciding that and what has been tried before. (3) Investigate small, supportive private schools if you decide (after really looking at them and your nephew) that the special ed. schools (which can be great) are not the best option. I would particularly look at Orinda Academy as a place that can really ''hold'' a child! well and still provide a great academic and other programs. It's in Orinda but accessible by BART and there are lots of berkeley kids there.

Best of luck to you. This process will take time but your efforts to help this kid will be very rewarding. Hang in there. Anon

School for Teen with Learning Disability

November 2003

As a mother of a teen boy with severe learning disability that affects the language area, I am seeking recommendations for high schools. He has an IEP and is currently placed in a private school for kids with LD. Can anyone recommend a high school that provides an appropriate environment for him-he is great at math/science, willing to work and is not a behavior prob Trying to keep ahead of the game

My neighbor's son graduated from Spraings Academy in central Contra Costa County. (Their offices were in Orinda, but the school was in Lafayette, near BART, but they may have moved). He is severly learning disabled and he is now attending college. His mother, a low income single parent, fought with WCCUSD and eventually was able to get the district to pay for his high school education there as the district was unable to accomodate him. I believe she had help from RCEB. He attended Contra Costa College with assistance from their disabled students program and he will be attending UC Santa Cruz with assistance from Dept. of Rehab. She was also able to obtain Social Security Disability payments for her son which greatly assisted the process. Good Luck

I saw a query from a parent looking for a high school for her son with language disabilities. I, too am hunting for a school that knows what it is doing regarding high school students with a variety of learning differences. My daughter is very bright and deep, very talented and having a heck of a time at a private high school which is noted for accepting kids with learning differences. She has plenty brains but very very slow processing. This means she really cannot take in and put out the volume of product required of regular high school kids within the same time constraints. What takes the average student half an hour, my daughter will need three hours to accomplish. Some of it is anxiety (!!bad anxiety), and some of it is ADD, but some of it is neurological. She's no slacker, and her work is A+ work. It's just slow and tortured. She's currently taking two academic classes (English and Algebra) in the 10th grade, and has time in her life for virtually nothing else. We have gotten her a homework coach who comes every day to help her. Still, if she's sick one day, you can imagine how awful it is for her to catch up. The teachers love her. She participates in class, asks intelligent, probing, original questions and always has good ideas to contribute, but the physical output of paperwork is controlling every moment of her life. Her self esteem is suffering. The school wants to add on classes, and I can't seem to get some of the teachers to adjust homework for her. She also plays a musical instrument and is a gifted actress. She loves learning, but I'm afraid she's going to be turned off if this keeps up. I wish we could skip high school and all this anguish because I know she'll be a terrific adult. What do we do for such a kid? Tobie

Mid-Peninsula High School

Nov 2002

I just happened to run into your site tonight. I live in Saratoga, Ca. I know this is not your area, but if you are still getting requests for schools that will support and help high school kids with ADHD and other LD's to succeed, I found only one on the PENINSULA, that is not either accelerated, or so remedial that you would not consider it. It is MIDPENINSULA HS< Willow Road, Menlo Park/Palo Alto. They have a ratio of 15 to one. My son has severe ADHD. He went from a D- average in Middle School, and no hope of any support from the public schools (Saratoga/Cupertino) to a B+ average in Sophomore year and now,on the road to a decent HS Career Good Luck Roselle , USC Parent