Mills College Children's School

Community Subscriber

Private School
operated by Mills College
English, Spanish
100 students
Email: children [at] mills.eduPhone: 510.430.2118
Mills College 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94613
Editors' Notes: 

Here's what makes our K-5 lab school special:

  • HIGHLY-QUALIFIED HEAD TEACHERS and dedicated student teachers
  • SMALL MIXED-GRADE CLASSES that specialize in differentiated learning
  • THEMATIC, PROJECT-BASED LEARNING that fosters a sense of autonomy, belonging, and competency
  • UNITS OF STUDY that integrate science, social studies, language arts, service learning, and design thinking. Visual arts, music and movement, and physical education round out our curriculum, all with a strong social-emotional component.
  • Strong parent involvement
  • Technology introduced as teaching tools in 2nd-5th grade
  • After school care until 5:45 pm daily, including a variety of enrichment options, such as cooking, dance, drama, or martial arts

Student interest, teacher passion, and State of California content standards form the basis of our curriculum mapping, with units of study that integrate science, social studies, language arts, service learning, design thinking, and a social justice component called “peaceful changemakers.” In each of our classrooms, a myriad of instructional models are employed to meet the needs of all children: workshops, centers, learning stations, direct instruction, and project-based learning. We do not administer state assessments; instead, formative and authentic assessments inform our curriculum decisions. We offer parent-teacher conferences twice a year, as well as bi-annual progress reports that convey a description of each child’s mastery of content knowledge, without letter grades.

Why K-5?

In our Elementary School, we focus on the crucial primary years of Kindergarten through 5th grade. Here, children are still children: Imaginative play and read-aloud haven't disappeared, students get individual attention and time to develop a love of learning and recess is full of fun and games for all ages to enjoy. The Elementary School program currently has five mixed-grade classrooms (two K/1s, two 2/3s, and a 4/5), all of them serving students with a range of ages and skills. As psychologist Lev Vgotsky describes in his “Zone of Proximal Development” theory, children working in collaboration with more capable peers are able to learn at a higher level. In our multi-age classrooms, children have expanded opportunities to both learn from and to teach one another as they develop a strong sense of community. Our 4th and 5th graders have the opportunity to be the “big kids on campus,” to take on leadership roles and mentor younger students, without feeling the need to act like teenagers before their time. Our graduates leave prepared for the academic and social challenges of the best middle schools in the Bay Area.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Elementary School

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • With the state wide budget cut, we are reluctantly looking at private school options. How has MCCS has been with the pandemic response and remote learning? MCCS is attractive to us because I understand that they have a large outdoor space which can help with learning during the pandemic. 

    I just saw this.   I'm a MCCS parent in the early childhood program.  I'm feeling really calm and safe about the plan they have in place.  We have a big beautiful campus and they are capping classes at 12 students, staggering start times, cleaning schedules, etc.

    I really also appreciate that the administration has emphasizes that while they will be wanting the children to wear a face covering, they will not be punitive or discipline or shame. Staff will also be wearing face coverings.

  • Hello families,

    We are very interested in Mills College Children’s School starting in K but have some specific questions. 

    • How rigorous are the academics? Are advanced kids supported/challenged?
    • Is there attrition? Are kids leaving before 5th grade? If so, why?
    • For kids who go through 5th grade, where do they typically go to middle school?
    • We are attracted to the lab school concept, but are there any negatives that we’re not considering?
    • Does the school feel financially stable?
    • Any other general impressions?

    Thank you!


    My daughter has been at Mills since preschool and is now in the 3rd grade. We have been VERY happy there and I would highly recommend this program. I am an educator myself and have a keen eye toward curriculum and I feel confident in Mills. They have strong academics and social emotional teachings. The community is diverse, welcoming, and close knit. My husband and I have been nothing short of satisfied. Each classroom teacher we have ever had has been excellent. The admin team is wonderful.

    As to your questions: 

    There was a time when the 5th grade class shrunk and the students left the program but in our years there this has changed and now, the kids are largely staying through 5th. I think many parents believed that it was too difficult to get accepted to middle school so this was a way to solidify a placement. Now, the student population has grown and remains stable, it seems.

    Our experience has been that the kids matriculate to different middle schools around the area--some continue in independent and others move to public. 

    The lab school has been great. They are current on ed practices and there are many hands on deck. 

    As far as we know the school is financially stable. We have only seen it grow since being there. 

    Like I said above, I highly recommend this school. Best of luck in your decision! 


    As another MCCS parent, I concur with the March 13th respondent. My son has been there since kindergarten and is now in 2nd grade. We feel so lucky to be at Mills. The school provides a good balance between academics, social/emotional, and arts/exploration-based learning. We were particularly drawn to the serene and green setting, the diversity - not just of the kids, but of the leadership/teachers, the welcoming of all types of families (including single parents, LGBTQ, multi-racial, various economic backgrounds, etc.), and the peaceful quality of the the small classes.

    I was at first concerned about the laboratory school and student teachers in the classroom, but that aspect has been nothing short of fantastic for my child. To have skilled, committed teachers, who get support from a younger teacher-in-training, who is totally dedicated to the art and skill of teaching in the classroom, is such a gift. I wish every child could experience the education that MCCS provides - it is a treasure.

    The school seems solid financially, and it seems the 4/5 class is growing...

  • Hello Parents! I'm looking for parents to share their recent experience with Mills College Children's School. There hasn't been any posts since Dec 2014. I am particularly interested in hearing about your child's overall experience, opinions on the no grades system, and how your child transitioned into another school structure post-Mills. Thank you!

    Hi all.  All three of my children attended Mills College Children's School (MCCS).  My youngest started in the preschools.  My children and I love MCCS.  To illustrate how they have thrived personally and academically, I will share with you a story about my oldest child.  My oldest started MCCS in second grade.  She spent first grade in a classroom doing a disappearing act.  She was very quiet and shy.  She did her work, never raised her voice, never asked questions, and got through the school year writing the same story at the beginning and the end of the school year (same story line; same number of sentences).  The teacher told me that she was doing great because she was a good girl.  I took her out of the public school and found MCCS.  Teachers knew her strengths and weaknesses at MCCS.  She was still shy, and one of the goals the teachers had for her was to have her work toward speaking up in the classroom of 15 kids.  Even in 5th grade, she would break down and cry because she needed to do a classroom presentation.  Nevertheless, she was supported and did everything she was supposed to do (presentation and all).  We put her back into the public school system in the middle school.  That's when I really saw the difference that education at MCCS offered.  My daughter was organized, had solid study skills, asked teachers for what she needed (she learned to advocate for herself at MCCS), and went after information for the sake of learning (her curiosity and thirst for information was nurtured at MCCS).  She got grades for her work for the first time, and we were all pleasantly surprised.  She learned to understand and manage the grading system and the testing system.  Best of all, she monitored her own progress and asked for help whenever she needed it.  In general, she did not want me involved in her middle school life.  Last year, she graduated middle school with honors and made a speech to the whole school at graduation.  She has grown from a child who was afraid of her own shadows to become a confident person.  I give MCCS a lot of credit for building the foundation that she needed to navigate and succeed academically.  My second child is entering a public middle school this year after graduating from MCCS.  I'm looking forward to seeing how she utilizes what she has learned from the teachers at MCCS.

Parent Reviews

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Mills College Children's school is a wonderful place! We've had both our kids there since they were toddlers now in Elementary.  It's a small school with skilled, involved and caring teachers and administrators. It's nestled within the beautiful Mill's college campus that's explored frequently by their class. I highly recommend Mill's to any family that's looking for a diverse community and high-quality education for their children. What we love most about Mills is the that our family is connected and held within the community, and our kids wake up excited to learn with their friends and teachers every day.

If you walk into Ms. Marijke's K/1 classroom 10 minutes before the end of the school day, you are likely to see a bunch of busy little bees, enthusiastically buzzing around, completely engaged in whatever activity they've chosen to do. Every child is busy doing something they are enjoying, and they are all learning at the same time.

Our 6 year old had a terrible kindergarten experience at a Marin public school. Consequently, it was extremely important to find the right first grade experience.

We have found that MCCS creates a nurturing, thriving learning environment. Children are very comfortable and engaged with their teachers and other students. They learn cooperation, they show concern and caring for each other, and they talk about appreciating each other at the end of every school day. They are learning to be mindful, and becoming aware of their bodies and "centering" themselves to be able to focus and pay attention and listen. All of these very important subjects are discussed, along with the academics being taught.

MCCS takes a very integrated approach to learning. The teachers incorporate many facets of learning when teaching- music, visuals, art projects, field trips, foreign language, along with science, reading and writing. Creativity and originality are are encouraged and supported by all.

The diversity of the staff and student body MCCS is excellent. Differences between our cultures, along with accepting and respecting those differences is discussed openly. The staff is experienced, sincere, and dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment where children can feel like they have a "home away from home".  They take all appropriate safety precautions, and keep parents informed and updated on all pertinent events.

As a result of attending MCCS, our 6 year old has developed a true love of learning. She's not afraid to ask questions and learn new things, she's open to trying new ways of doing things, and she loves going to MCCS. Her confidence, her sense of security and her positivity are through the roof!

Education is most important in our family, and we feel so fortunate to be at MCCS. They accommodate working parents in every way they can, including offering childcare before and after school, offering enrichment classes after school, like art classes, Lego camp, soccer camp and hip hop dancing, and they provide our children with wonderful, creative learning experiences every day of the week.

We feel we have found an unknown secret, a" jewel", in the middle of Oakland!

D. Mann
Walnut Creek
February, 2019

Dear Parents,
I just wanted to take a moment to share what a wonderful treasure MCCS school is in our lives. I have a 7 year old in 2nd grade. I toured 25 elementary schools - both public and private looking for the right fit for my little boy, who is bi-racial, artistic, mystical, and deeply connected to nature. We didn't get any of our 6 OUSD options, and while we got into 3 other reputable private schools, we opted for Mills. I often ache that every child doesn't have this experience -- to be surrounded by nature, multi-racial teachers, leaders, and students, with small class sizes, a social equity focus, and a deeply nurturing environment.

The green grassy space and walks through the campus to the two gardens on the grounds is a gift. Most of the elementary schools I visited did not have leaders of color. It was important for my son to see people in leadership roles that look like him. He gets to study amazing "peaceful changemakers" who are making a difference in the world, as well as learn about math, science, reading and writing, Spanish, and music weekly, with an integrated approach to learning. The parent community has been truly wonderful - as a single, working parent, I have many allies in the community.

My son has a reading challenge, and Mills caught it early, and have created lots of support systems, so my son can get the extra tutoring he needs. I love the mixed-grades - so he can learn from younger and older classmates every year. I also am so relieved that he is not forced to do state testing, as he is allowed the time and space to develop his mind in a way that befits his learning style. Having a devoted student teacher in the class every day creates even more support.

Finally, Mills is known for its incredible care to social-emotional learning. My son is a little wise man, teaching his younger friends how to "center" and breathe. He even has advise for his busy mama! If you get a chance, go on a tour and see if it might be a good fit for your little one.

Our daughter is in 1st grade, her second year at MCCS and she loves it! The class size is just right (ranges from about 17-22 kids), the master teachers are truly phenomenal, the student teachers that cycle through from Mills College ED program are thoughtful and the kids get to have even more support and make personal connections, the outdoor spaces are safe and fun, the PE program is great for every age and the before and after care programs are well organized and supportive.

Because the classes are blended age (K/1 for my daughter currently), students coming in are made to feel welcome by the older students and older students get to experience a sense of leadership and pride. And of course peer learning is happening at all times in many ways. The curriculum is a robust blend of reading/writing/math that uses a sensible, meaningful and accessible approach to learning. An equally robust and key aspect of MCCS curriculum includes social justice, restorative justice and self-awareness practices.  It is the real deal!

I very much have enjoyed connecting with the MCCS families and have made some (hopefully!) lifelong friends. As a full time working parent (I'm an art teacher) I also would say that there are many different ways to fulfill my volunteer hours and give to our school community. I also qualified for financial assistance and the admin team of MCCS are so clear and helpful!

I hope to stay with MCCS all the way through 5th grade.  I think my daughter is and will benefit greatly from the experience.

It’s our first year at MCCS Kindergarten, but it already feels like our home. Very qualified teachers, great and diverse parents community, beautiful facility surrounded by redwood trees. My son feels very comfortable there, he quickly developed friendships, he loves his head teacher and all the student teachers. Every morning he is looking forward to go to school, and this itself is already a positive sign that school does a lot for the kids to thrive.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Dec 2014

I just wanted to give a current review of the Children's School at Mills College. Our daughter started out in the preschool when she was 3 and she is now in the 2nd grade in the Elementary School. We couldn't be happier with school, teachers, community and her education at Mills. We also love that the student population at MCCS is incredibly diverse. It is such a wonderful community and nurturing place. We had only intended for her to do Kinder and then switch to public but we loved it so much that we've stayed. Each child receives focused attention in and out of the classroom. The curriculum is both challenging and inspiring to my daughter. As a lab school, they employ some really innovative learning techniques (such as a Japanese Math program). My non-math lover has really excelled with math this year! With the small class size and the addition of student teachers there is a great student/ teacher ratio. My daughter loves going to school every day and I know she is getting the best education possible being at Mills. There are also many great enrichment programs both within the school day and after (Spanish, Art, Music, Drama, Chess, Hip-hop, Cooking). Not only do we love the Elementary School, but we are huge fans of the preschool. Our younger daughter will be starting there this next year and we know she will love it as much as her big sister. Happy Mills Mom

Nov 2014

RE: Progressive school with black students/teachers?

I'm not sure if you're inquiry was for public or private schools, if you're considering private independent schools I would encourage you to take a tour of the Mills College Children's School. The school is based in a progressive, constructivist, inquiry-based school that is student-centered. Yes, there are black students, and black families that are actively involved in our small community. The racial diversity of the school overall is quite diverse without a clear majority of any particular ethnicity. As for faculty, the Head of School is an African-American woman, and several teachers are also African-American. Check out the Facebook feed to see more- Happy African-American Parent at MCCS

Oct 2014

Re: Seeking Mixed-Grade School for advanced kindergartener

Mills College Children's School also has mixed grade classes, K-5, and it's a wonderful school! Marie S

Mills College Children's School leadership?

May 2014

We'd love to hear from current MCCS parents about the school's overall environment and leadership. Our child may be starting there this Fall, and we would like to be prepared. How is the Head of School? Are the students kind and respectful with each other? We plan on contacting the school directly to get specific questions answered, but we'd also like to hear from parents who have experienced it. -concerned prospective parent

I could not be more pleased with the leadership at MCCS. The Head of School, Miss Brown, is outstanding. She's out on the school yard every morning, observing the kids. She's sat in to assist substitutes within the classroom. She meets with kids who are having trouble during the school day. She makes time for concerned parents to meet with her and she proactively contacts parents when bigger issues come up during the school year.

The students at MCCS definitely form a community and I have been consistently impressed with the way the older kids in particular interact with the younger children (my kids are in the K class currently) in a caring and respectful way.

The teachers, too, are quite capable leaders in their own right, and I can tell they feel supported by the administration as a whole.

Are there any specific concerns you have about MCCS? I'd be happy to give my impressions. Lori S.

My daughter attended the geranium classroom it's a mixed age preschool class. Mills is amazing! I'm working on my BA in child development and deciding where to send my daughter left me feeling very picky. I'm not sure what grade your child will be in but the staff is amazing. Not just the teachers and awesome student teachers but the people who work in the office too. They teach with a constructivist theory which was what drew me in. They really go above and beyond to care for the kids and the children and parents are wonderful! We just had our ice cream social and it was so fun to get the pre school classes and upper grades together. And I can really attest to the student teachers! I had the pleasure of taking classes with my daughters student teachers so it made me feel better knowing directly the education they were getting. We left for financial reasons and even then the school did whatever they could to try and help us. I would be happy to chat more with you. Becca

My child has been at Mills College Children's School since age 2 and she's graduating from 5th grade this year. Although we've had different leadership across that time, it's always been good leadership. Both of the Head of Schools that I have dealt with have had real sincere interest in the needs of all of the children, so much so that the children feel very at ease and comfortable. Our current director is approachable and willing to listen to parents. Children are given skills to handle conflict and I have not seen a lot of issues arise on the playground, but if something does, it is always dealt with quickly. Basically everybody at the school--parents, head teachers, and student teachers--have the same common goal and we are in unison with the type of atmosphere that we want to keep here at Mills. Tamra

May 2014

I'm writing to recommend Mills College Children's School. My daughter has attended the Elementary School for the past three years (full disclosure, I also work for the college) and has been very happy there. If you're looking for a school where children are engaged with hands-on learning, challenged academically, but supported socially and emotionally, you owe it to yourself to check out MCCS. The teaching staff is stellar and I can not be more pleased with their knowledge, warmth and dedication to our children. It is a small, warm community. For more info, Please do not hesitate to email me for more information. I am also on campus a lot so I can easily meet at Mills. Nancy

Jan 2014

I am a current parent with two children at Mills College Children's School (one in their elementary school and one in their preschool). I am writing to share a little about our family's experience at MCCS. We have found it to be an extraordinary learning environment for our entire family. It is small and wonderfully diverse. The quality of the school both in terms of learning environment and community sense is absolutely great. We had a good experience in berkeley public schools prior to moving on to MCCS. We chose to try MCCS and are incredibly happy with the addition it has been to our family. I highly recommend MCCS for families who are interested in small learning communities that value diversity in many many respects and community based learning experiences. Natashia

Oct 2013

I chose to bring my children to Mills College Children's School because of the small class size, the individualized learning in a mixed age environment, and most importantly, the thoughtful and intentional teaching that helped my children to love learning. The experience my family have had at Children's School is in direct contrast with the experience we had at a public school.

My oldest child spent a year in a public school during the time when districts are forced to reduce their administrative support and do away with class size reduction. It was simply chaotic. My child is an introvert and quietly went through the school year without drawing any attention and learned nothing. For her sake, I looked into private school for a more suitable learning environment.

When we visited the Mills College Children's School, we were in awe. We entered a classroom environment where children literally lived in the subject of their learning. The visuals and the conversations spoke of the children's exploration and the wonder they held with what they were learning. In addition, when my child visited the classroom, the other children opened their arms and welcomed her. They were the most friendly, sensitive, and wonderful hosts that any anxious parent like myself could ask for. My child loved the school from the beginning and she continues to love it today.

The logical side of me finds appeal in the fact that Children's School is a laboratory school nested within the Mills College School of Education. The teachers and administrators are educational leaders in the Oakland community and are held accountable for their teaching responsibilities and teaching ethics by the School of Education. There is always someone watching them, taking note of what they do. All the teachers are master teachers training student teachers in their classrooms. They have to explain their actions not only to the administrator and the parents, but also to the student teachers, college researchers, and college administration.

In a small private school where there is a lot of scrutiny, it is hard for anything to go by unnoticed. There are always different perspectives to every incident. From my family's perspective, we love Mills College Children's School. My children love their teachers--including the PE teacher-- and continue to love learning. They are thriving in the environment provided by the Children's School. That's what matters to me. a satisfied parent

Dec 2012

Our son is in his first year at MCCS as a Kindergartener and we are so pleased with the school in every aspect. We love the small, multi-grade class with 17 students of Kindergarten and 1st graders. There is such an amazing diversity within the school. One of the important aspects of the school is feeling a sense of community. Our family has felt that since the first day of school. The students and teachers are there to help and support one another, no matter what grade or age. The teacher's doors are ''always open'' and will always take time out to talk to the parents. Our son started school just 3 months ago, and we are amazed with his academic achievements. He has always been very social, and continues to be at MCCS. The campus is beautiful, the staff very warm and welcoming and teachers are wonderful. He is also part of the SAC (after-school) program and absolutely loves it. The gentleman who runs the program, Gyasi, is amazing with each student. There are always many activities for the students to chose to participate in after school, and during lunch and recess. We feel so fortunate to be a part of the MCCS community and hope to be for years to come. MCCS parent

Nov 2012

I highly recommend the Mills College Children's School for a number of reasons. As a mother and educator myself, I have been consistently impressed with the quality of the academic and social-emotional curriculum my sons have received, and the level of care they have received in both the academic day and in the after school program. The small school environment lends itself to a great sense of connection and community amongst all of the students and families. As the mother of two boys of color, I have been so grateful for the diversity in the students and families who make up the school, and the incorporation of concepts of equity and diversity in the learning in the classroom. Unlike my older son's experience in a reputable preschool, at MCCS his sense of pride and comfort in his identity as a person of color definitely blossomed beginning in his kindergarten year. The students at MCCS are also very fortunate to consistently benefit from at least one student teacher in the classroom from the reputable Mills School of Education all year long, which allows for each student in the already small class size to receive more individualized attention and instruction. There are also a wide variety of enrichment classes offered in both the academic and after school programs. I am very grateful for the quality of education, care, and support both of my sons are experiencing at the MCCS. Happy MCCS Parent

Nov 2012

I want to take the time to recommend Mills College Children's School to families that are looking for a small, nurturing, challenging, and truly diverse learning environment for their child. My daughter came to MCCS in 1st grade and is thriving at MCCC. Mills offers a wonderful alternative for families who are looking for well-trained, devoted teachers in a small school environment with multi-age classrooms that is more affordable than most private schools in the Bay Area. The class sizes are small so each student receives individual attention and instruction. Each classroom benefits from having a student teacher in the class and thus, the students benefit from 2 adults in the class. For more information or a tour of the school please contact the Admissions Director, Whitney Walker @ 510.430.2053 or go to the A happy MCCC parent

Nov 2012

Are you looking for smaller class sizes for your 3rd, 4th or 5th grader? Mills College Children's School has caring and talented teachers, a strong curriculum, and a beautiful campus! Check it out... MCCS parent

Nov 2011

I want to recommend Mills College Children's School to any family that is looking for a small, nurturing, challenging, and truly diverse learning environment for their child. My son has attended MCCS since Kindergarten (he is currently a 2nd grader) and he is thriving both academically and socially. There are many wonderful things I can say about the school, but I want to emphasize the amazing diversity (ethnically, culturally, socio-economically) that the school has committed itself to maintaining. My son's class of 14 students is a mix of African-American, Asian, Persian, Caucasian, and Hispanic. Private schools have the luxury of hand picking their student body and MCCS has worked extremely hard to create a unique place where there are no ''tokens'', where all the children of one race don't play only with one another at recess, where teachers speak to children with respect no matter what they look like, and where every child is expected to excel and all parents are expected to participate in their child's education. For more information or a tour of the school please contact the Admissions Director, Whitney Walker @ 510.430.2053 or go to the website kristi

Oct 2011

Re: Homeschooling Community w/African-American Boys
Hi, Sorry your son is having this experience. We too had a similar experience with both of our children (multi-ethnic- Af. American and Latino) at two different public schools and chose to withdraw them for similar reasons. We transferred to the Mills College Children's School (pre-K-5 grade), where our children had attended pre-school and I have to say that it was definitely the right choice in both cases. Mills is wonderfully diverse- truly amazing for a private school. There are many families of color (it actually feels like the majority) and good socio-economic diversity as well. It is really a gift to see our children thrive in a diverse community.It is also just a progressive, more student centered/project based environment, and the staff (leadership, teachers, and after school staff) are gifted educators. The curriculum is really designed to build on student interests and based on an assessment of individual strengths and needs. Unlike many public schools, Mills is a school where parents really do have a voice- if there is an issue, there is really an open door policy. The school is always looking for opportunities to be responsive. I strongly recommend that you check out Mills. The number is 430-2053. Best of Luck to You Happy Mills Family of Color

Nov 2010

Went to an open house at Mills. Program looks great. BUT it appears the K/1 class is full, 2/3 is not full, and 4 has only 8 kids. I would love to hear from parents of children who have or had children in this program. Why did you leave? How are the academics? I have heard from a few sources that the program does do well with kids who have learning troubles. How about for kids who don't? Whats up with small class size!

This is our fourth year at the Mills College Children's School. We have a 3rd grader and a Kindergartener there who absolutely love their school. There is no single answer to the small class size, but keep in mind that if each grade has 10 students (due to mixed grade model) even a small drop in enrollment will have big effects on the school. There are no fifth graders this year because the head of school decided enrollment was too low last year to have a 4/5. Why small #s? Multiple reasons--the economy, a bad teacher hire (who has since been replaced), and for some families not enough boys, although that seems to have balanced out this year. As a current family we can reassure you and anyone else considering Mills that the teachers are amazing, the philosophy sound, the families kind and committed. If you are looking for a small school with a commitment to the best approaches in learning, both academic and social-emotional, take a second look at Mills. happy Mills family

Mills is a small school and we love it that way. There are three mixed-grade classrooms with a max of 20 each, so just 60 kids max in the Elementary School. It's true that simple attrition can cause smaller classes in the upper grades, but I see that as a bonus. As children get older and academics become more challenging, Mills students get more attention in the classroom, instead of competing with 32-35 students in the upper grades at other schools. In a small school, kids form strong bonds with each other and feel safe to take academic risks. Plus, head teachers have more time to devote to all types of learners. I would not say that they specialize in students with learning difficulties, but since it's a lab school, they do try to get a balance of learning styles in the classrooms. There are lots of pros to being at a small school, but it has to be the right fit for your family. Mills parent

I'm a parent to a 3rd grader at MCCS, and my son has been through 5 years of their program (with preschool included). I can understand your question, and it's a good one to address. First of all, let me share my story with you, then I'??ll answer your questions. My goals when selecting a school were to have my son get a quality education, learn to love learning, and have a rich social and community life at school. These have all been met ten-fold and even a few more: academic success, for one. For example my son has been reading above grade level since kindergarten. And recently a visiting science teacher exclaimed, ''he would make a great scientist -- he asks such great questions!''. And socially, a small school means the kids play more with a variety of ages. This has benefits of its own. Now when we visit my friends with younger kids, parents say, ''your son is SO good with the little ones'' and ''he can come over anytime''. His social calendar is full with requests for sleep overs on the weekends, more than we can accommodate. And I say this to address the notion that some might see this school and think it is too small (my child will not have enough social opportunities.)

The program and the community are top notch and everyone in my family feels this way, including my son. Case in point: when people say things to my son like, ''I bet your glad it's vacation - no school and no homework!'', he doesn't even get where they are coming from. He loves his school! The point about reduced enrollment in the upper grades is due to circumstantial issues from two years ago, all of which have since been resolved. I was a board member at the time so got lots of inside scoop about the contributing factors, and would be happy to talk with you in detail. The most important thing to share is that all of the contributing factors were out of the current Mill's Administration's control; Mills has since hired a new Director. This is NOT to say the last Director was no good, she was there for 20 years and responsible for creating this amazing program! With regards to small classes, there is one important point to remember: we have mixed age classes/combo classes, which means a maximum of 10 students in any 1 grade (i.e. the K/1 has 20 kids and 9 of them are Ks). When there is any attrition with a grade level of this size it appears that the class is so small, when really we are starting with small #s to begin with. Due to the recession, I believe all private schools have experienced unusual attrition in the last two years. I personally feel thrilled to have found this small mostly undiscovered gem of a school, and expect the classes will be full again soon due to a number of reasons that I can't list here but can talk about if you want to call. I love talking about this school - it's been fantastic for us - so don't hesitate to email me if you'd like more information. Kim

Oct 2010

Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Check out Mills College Children's school--a little-known gem of a school on the campus of Mills College. It has many of the features you describe. happy MCCS family

June 2010

Re: Looking for an affordable K-4 private school
It's worth looking into Mills College Children's School, which has always been on the lower side of the tuition range. Most people know about their preschool, but not their elementary program... Small size, stellar staff, great facilities. MCCS parent

May 2010

Wanted to offer up a more recent review of Mills College Children's School (MCCS), which still has K-5 openings for the 2010-11 school year. We have been very happy there for the last three years. It's a very small school, just three combined classes with a maximum class size of 20 each, while many public schools now have close to 30 kids in even the youngest grades. Because they can focus more attention on each child's individual needs, the teachers at MCCS have been wonderfully supportive of my son, making him feel safe and comfortable in a positive learning environment. Especially for shy or anxious kids, like mine, the small, family-like atmosphere at MCCS helps kids to develop close relationships with peers and teachers, which fosters a love of learning and, from what I've seen, prepares 5th graders for the academic and social challenges of middle school. Whitney

May 2009

The 4/5 class for next year has openings! It is a great choice if you are concerned about the larger class sizes in the public school as the tuition is much more reasonable than most private schools. The kids at Mills are enthusiastic about math, love to read, are in a safe family-like atmosphere on a gem of a campus. The kids get tons of individual attention, and thier social-emotional growth is nurtured. The 5th graders who leave Mills are well prepared for the academic and social challenges of the best middle schools in the East Bay. Check it out! happy parent

March 2009

Next year will be my daughter's last year at MCCS. There has been turnover of staff in her past 5 years, but her education has NEVER been compromised. My daughter has received a top notch education, and has benefited from the small environment; everyone not only knows each other across the grades and among the staff, but are extremely supportive of each other. The curriculum is challenging and rewarding. This year (4th grade) my daughter wrote a 6,000 word novel, and is doing algebra! The school has recently implemented a Japanese lesson study for math, and the results are through the roof. The kids are doing advanced math, and understanding it inside and out. The campus is another benefit: it is beautifully landscaped, has a school garden, and terrific outdoor equipment. The school has openings across the grades; so please inquire. The tuition is much more manageable than most private schools in the area, and I think the education is as good if not better. Polly

Feb 2009

Noticed that the most recent review of MCCS is from last year, so I'd like to provide a positive report about all the changes this year. We had practically a full staff turnover in the elementary school: a new director, and 2 out of 3 new head teachers, because one teacher from last year ended up returning; they have all been wonderful. Our new director, Debra Brown, is truly committed to giving the kids the best learning experience possible, and to improving all aspects of the school. There is also an exciting new curriculum--the Mills College School of Ed works hard to develop the most innovative teaching practices-- which kids and teachers seem to love. Mills is a very small school--just three combined classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5), which is really good for my child, and is located on a beautiful college campus that the teachers take full advantage of. It is also one of the more ethnically diverse private schools you'll find in the Bay Area. There seems to be an impression out there that it's just as difficult to get into the elementary school as it is to get into the preschool, but with the changes and the economy, enrollment is down at the moment, so come and check it out!

April 2008

Mills Children's School is undergoing many changes this year (2007-2008). They are currently looking for a new director, a new k/1 teacher, a new 2/3 teacher and the 4/5 teacher will be new. This year's k/1 teacher was new (and excellent), but she is leaving at the end of the year for personal reasons. This year's head 2/3 teacher, who began working 3 days a week midway through the fall 07 semester for personal reasons, replaced the previous 2/3 teacher (who left for personal reasons) last spring. The permanent substitute who began in January is excellent, but will not be continuing in the Fall 08. The 4/5 teacher was new this year. We were very happy for our first two years at the school. Less so, our third. anonymous

November 2007

Any recent reviews on Mills K-5? I'm considering it for my 2008 Kindergartener... anon

My son started kindergarten this fall, and we chose Mills College Children's School (after the same lengthy search that many go through). I am more than pleased with his experience--it's a wonderful school, and the best of what I wanted for him. He is nurtured and loved by the wonderful K/1 teacher, and he's growing and learning daily. I would be glad to answer specific questions by email if you would like. Heather

My daughter is currently in the 1st grade at Mills and my son attends the Geranium pre-school there. My daughter also attended pre-school there, went to a public school in Oakland for K and returned this year. WE LOVE IT!!! THe K-1 Teacher is incredible, offering a student-centered and inquiry-based program that emphasizes social-emotional learning, problem solving, literacy development, developing mathematic literacy and conceptual knowledge of math. She offers a good balance of structure, with opportunities for students to learn through play, make choices, as well as engage in small group and whole group learning activities. We left a good public school in Oakland b/c we did not agree with the educational philosophy (i.e. too much Open Court, too many worksheets). Our daughter is absolutely thriving at Mills and progressing socially and academically in a way we didn't observe at the public school. Another added bonus, Mills is very diverse- as a multi-ethnic family this is important to us. In her class, about half of the students are students of color or mixed ethnicity. The staff is wonderful, as are the other families. If you care about pedagogy and social emotional learning, I cannot recommend Mills more highly. Brightstar

I looked at over 20 schools, public and private, and Mills stood out as 1) practicing what they preach (you can really see the philosophy in action), 2) having incredibly well-trained, thoughtful, and skilled teachers (if you have to teach children and supervise student teachers you need to be at the top of your game), 3) a wonderfully small and nurturing community, 4) a beautiful school site and campus. We are thrilled with our choice for our kindergartener and feel so grateful this gem of a school exists. happy K-1 parent

We just started at Mills this year and we're very happy. The new K1 teacher, Theresa Lozac'h, is truly wonderful and the entire staff seems committed to not only helping the children learn academics in a creative way at their own pace, but also to developing friendships and a sense of community. Our son is having so much fun, he doesn't realize how much he's learning. Feel free to email me offline if you have more questions. Best of luck! Whitney

Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
How about Mills College Children's School? I think there are openings in 2nd (it's a 2/3 classroom), but my son is in K so I'm not sure--you could call to find out. It's a racially diverse school in every class, not to mention being a great school in many other ways. We love it there! Happy MCCS parent

October 2005

There are no posting on the website about Mills' elementary program. Looking for any and all comments about what the school is like and how it would be for a 'spirited' (intense but basically happy) child. Mills?

I have heard fabulous things about Mills Elementary School, but it is extremeley competetive to get in! Kristen

My experience with the Mills Elementary School is slightly dated, but here it is: About three years ago, there was a very polarizing crisis at the School (initiated after the arrest of a former student teacher there--some of this was in the newspapers). We were among the 1/3 of the families who were so unhappy with what subesequently happened, that we decided not to return our children after that academic year. Best as I could tell, roughly another third were unhappy about how the administration handled the situation, but decided to stay anyway (various reasons I think: the difficulty of changing schools, the relatively low tuition, etc., etc.), and the rest basically decided not to get that involved, or were fine with the admin's decisions.

As far as I know, the administration of the school has not changed (though I hope they learned some lessons from this crisis). Also, FYI we had been generally happy with the teachers prior to this issue, but disappointed in them after. The school may still be under enrolled, so depending on how you look at it, your child will either get a good deal of attention from teachers or will have an inadequate variety/number of peers.

Another fact you might want to consider is that the school is a laboratory school pretty much controlled by the education department at Mills. As parents there, you will find that you do not have much power or say. We got the feeling that the main 'clients' were the graduate students in the education department, who are student teachers at the school, and who bring in considerable revenue to the college. In key decisions, the politics climb the ladder all the way up the education department and further up to top level college administration.

Another personal observation is that the theories of education there are practiced in a very rigid and inflexible way, again due to the connection with faculty at the education department. Though there are facets of the theory that I appreciated, you do get a sense that they have the 'bible' on education and they don't want to hear anything to the contrary. This may or may not become an issue for you depending on your child.

Anyway, hope this helps. I know there have been other posts on BPN about the School that you apparently missed finding (both positive and negative). anon

We loved the Mills College preschool, where our children started as infants, but the elementary school has been beset by many troubles. The adult-child ratio is phenomenal, given the many (wonderful) student teachers, but is SO small -- 4-5th graders are in a shared classroom of often only 12 students. Children learn in mixed classrooms (K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) which is stimulating the first year, but then I think it is not good for the second. There is significant student attrition as children get older, and so the school, needing to fill seats, often ends up admitting "troubled" students in 4-5th grade who have been in and out of many other schools. It is a laboratory school and the clear priority is the education department's ability to provide learning for their students. Anon