Bret Harte Middle School

Public School
operated by Oakland Unified School District
600 students
3700 Coolidge Avenue, Oakland, CA 94602

Parent Q&A

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  • Bret Harte Middle School

    Feb 3, 2022

    Can anyone share recent experiences with Bret Harte? I would be especially interested to hear how kids with IEPs are supported (my kid has ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia), but would also love to hear more general experiences with the curriculum, homework, teachers, community, etc.  There are some (older) positive reviews in the archive, but I would love to hear more recent experiences. Thank you in advance!

    No responses received.

  • Bret Harte now and future

    Jun 15, 2017

    Hi parents,

    I've noticed that many middle school scores drop. I know that parent /teacher involvement tells a greater story, but in comparison to the elementary scores, it's quite drastic.  What are thoughts on Bret Harte? It's score currently is a 2/10...Does it have a promising future? Is it worth it to invest living in the area knowing that will be your designated school? Would love to hear from current-ish parents attending or thinking of attending.

    For middle school scores in general, first, the new tests have had a lot of logistical problems such as the schools' computers not working well enough to support the online tests, so the kids give up. Second, by the time kids get to middle school they have figured out that the tests have no impact on them personally, so they don't even try. The tests don't impact their grades and teachers don't look at them. The biggest impact of scores is property values.

    The middle school scores drop primarily because many affluent families leave OUSD by middle school.  Test scores are highly correlated to income, for a variety of reasons.  Some families choose charter or private schools for middle school, and others move away to other districts.

    Our oldest is in 4th grade, and the biggest question that parents ask each other is "What are you doing for middle school?".  Some families choose an OUSD middle school, but many do not.  If you want your kids to form friendships that can last from K-12, Oakland public schools are not the place to do it.

    Only you can decide whether Bret Harte is a good fit for your kids.  There is more to a school than the test scores, so you might want to tour the school to decide whether it might work for your family.

    Good luck!

    I have been a teacher for over 20 years and I am not worried about the test scores at Bret Harte. I teach middle school and I think the tests are awful for many reasons! The school has a high percentage of English language learners, and scores are always lower for ELLs. My child will be going to Bret Harte in the fall along with many other awesome Sequoia kids, and I am really excited to join the Bret Harte community. I know many students who have moved on to high school after having wonderful experiences at Bret Harte! The principal is a rockstar. Morale seems high and all of the teachers and staff I have interacted with are really friendly. Every time I tour the campus I am impressed with how mellow and on-task the kids are. The library has been updated recently and is warm and welcoming. The music program is great! The school was restructured so that there is now a 7-period day, which means class sizes are low and all kids get to have two electives instead of one. So yes, Bret Harte is promising. That doesn't mean there is nothing to worry about, but I have found that getting involved in a school can help you see what it really is and isn't, can help improve it, and can reduce parental anxiety. I love my neighborhood! This has been a wonderful place for my kids to grow up. I heartily disagree with the idea posted earlier that children in OUSD will not form friendships that last from K-12. That has not been the case (so far) for me or many of my neighbors.   

Parent Reviews

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I have been a Bret Harte parent for 3 years, and have been really impressed with the effective and engaging teachers as well as the strong leadership from the administration. My daughter is very enthusiastic about the classes and social environment at Bret Harte, she likes her classes, (and loves a couple of them), and is growing intellectually. This is a diverse school, with students from all kinds of backgrounds, and the school works tremendously hard to make this a place that feels welcoming, supportive, and challenging for all kinds of students. I really appreciate this - it is very hard to do, and is part of the ongoing challenge facing urban public schools that serve ALL children. There are so many gifted teachers and administrators who truly give their all to the students. I am extremely satisfied with Bret Harte, and encourage parents and students to check it out.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Edna Brewer, Claremont, or Bret Harte Mid School?

Dec 2013

I am looking at Oakland middle schools for my son who has an IEP for dyslexia and adhd. Any advice to which school might be a better fit? I need after care as well. I really liked Edna Brewer but I wasn't sure if I could get into the aftercare - it seems pretty limited in how many kids they can accept. Anyone have any experience with that? Claremont has seen lots of encouraging improvements and that school would work for dropping off my other kid at Kaiser and then heading to work. Bret Harte has a great new principal and is our neighborhood school but my son really wants to go where some of his friends will go. Any guidance is greatly appreciated! middle school worries

I am a new parent to Bret Harte, and so far, I have been really impressed with what I have observed myself and heard from my daughter. The school is well-organized, well-led, academically challenging, and culturally rich. My child has been fully engaged in her classes and is learning critical skills around study habits, organization, and responsibility. The Bret Harte community seems committed to creating and maintaining a very positive and inclusive culture that empasizes their core values or respect, resilience, and hard work. My daughter is regularly bringing home interesting topics from class discussions. I have also been really impressed with the principal, who is in his 3rd year at Bret Harte. He is extremely accessible, intelligent, and committed, and speaks honestly about the school's strengths and challenges. He handles problems efficiently, and has great energy and savvy in working with middle schoolers. This is definitely an Oakland middle school that is under the radar with a lot to offer. I would recommend that Oakland parents take a closer look! Amy B

I am a Bret Harte parent and really love the school. The principal and teaching staff are awesome and there is an after-school program that goes until 6:00. My kid doesn't go to the after-school program, but I have heard that kids like it. I have also heard the special ed department is strong there. So, I think you can be confident in Bret Harte as a choice. That said, I think you are right about wanting to keep friends together as they make the transition. I felt that way too, and luckily the group of friends almost all decided to choose Bret Harte as the first options choice-- we did that strategically, knowing it is never full. Leading up to 5th grade, we had seen groups of friends going all different ways for middle school because by lottery some would get into Montera, others Edna Brewer, etc. So talk to your son's friends' parents-- and definitely check out the great things happening at Bret Harte; it really has a lot to offer. Good luck in the transition! It is bitter sweet to watch your kid grow up, but so amazing to see the people they are becoming. A happy Bret Harte mom

May 2013

My daughter was recently assigned to Bret Harte Middle School here in Oakland, our geographically closest school. We have lived in this neighborhood for a few years, and love our elementary school, where less than half the 5th grade class will go on to Bret Harte. We are pretty committed to public education, and we'd love to hear from some families considering Bret Harte or attending the school currently. We have heard good things about the Principal there and would love to hear any experiences you have had with the school. curious about Bret Harte

Hi, My daughter is in sixth grade at Bret Harte. It's May now and she loves school. When she started the school year she had a few problems, most of which were predictable middle school type problems, like schedule changes and being really tired by the end of the day. But she did also encounter a real case of being verbally bullied by an older girl in the after school program. She told us about it and we contacted the after school program coordinator by e-mail and she in turn contacted the school's principal. He was immediately responsive to us, but the best part was how they handled the situation. They have a program called Restorative Justice, which is led by a counselor who brings kids together to help build relationships instead of just punishing the perpetrator. Our daughter had a series of meetings with the counselor and the girl and the problem was pretty quickly solved in a way that humanized everybody. We were very impressed with the whole process from the principal's attentiveness to the quick response and the lasting peace that has been achieved . We were afraid that they would just punish the girl and then our daughter would feel unsafe. Instead the problem was resolved, there have been no other incidents, she feels safe, and she's having a great year. The school is building a culture of inclusion and using innovative programs to solve real problems in a constructive way. A Bret Harte dad

My children have both had very positive experiences at Bret Harte Middle School. In particular, I would highlight the music program. The Bret Harte music program is unique in Oakland. Beginning students may choose between band and orchestra and which instrument they want to play. For my son, there were enough instruments in good condition for him to keep an instrument at school and rent one for $20 to keep at home for practicing. The level of skill that students achieve over the course of three years is impressive. My son started taking trumpet as a 6th grader this year and was invited to join the jazz band next year in 7th grade. When I ask my kids what they like most about music at Bret Harte, they tell me that they enjoy playing music well with their friends. They also tell me that Bret Harte's music teacher, Mr. Worm, is funny. They say that ''he's always there'' (for his students). He's also a great music teacher and very organized and competent (not your typical stereotype of a band teacher). He basically functions as the building and grounds department, and is devoted to the school. The music concerts are entertaining. When my daughter attended Bret Harte, in 6th grade she played flute in advanced band. In 7th grade, she played flute in orchestra and began playing the tenor saxophone in jazz band. In 8th grade she played flute in advanced band and tenor saxophone in jazz band. My daughter told me, ''jazz band is the only real team sport in middle school.'' Playing well made her want to continue. She credits her experience at Bret Harte with her decision to attend Skyline High School, where she plays tenor sax in the jazz band and flute in the marching band as a 10th grader. Half of the members of the Skyline jazz band attended Bret Harte. Being committed to music, being busy, helps her to be a better student. Making friends in music class with other students from older and younger grades creates a cohort that continues to make connections from middle school to high school (and college).

I am glad to hear that you are considering Bret Harte. We decided to send our 5th grade daughter to Bret Harte in the Fall, and here is why:

1.It is our neighborhood school - this means a lot to us, in that our daughter will have the opportunity to walk to school with classmates, she will continue to have school friends in the neighborhood, and we will stay connected to families we have known for years, not just next year, but in the following years as they join the school. It also important for us as parents and residents to put time and energy into our neighborhood school, which we will hopefully impact for the better. We all have our anxieties about middle school, but if we stick together and channel them into small contributions, we can help a lot more than just our own kids. This has absolutely been the case at our elementary school - which has been able to flourish over that past years of increased neighborhood enrollment and parent involvement.

2.You mention the new principal, Tom Hughes. I have already had the opportunity to meet with him multiple times, and I have been incredibly impressed. He is really bright and clearly loves the students and what he does. He is honest about Bret Harte's challenges, and has solid ideas on how to impact them. He is completely approachable and responsive, and reports I have heard from both teachers and parents is that the school climate has been much improved in the time that he has been there.

3.When we have visited the school the last two years, both for organized classroom tours, as well as for special events (music concerts, open house, etc.) we have been impressed, and our daughter has felt right at home. During classroom visits, I saw students very engaged, on task, and focused. The hallways were empty, the campus seemed very mellow, well-managed, and clean.

Like many middle school parents, I have had my fears about the upcoming years, but once we started visiting Bret Harte and getting to know the school, staff, and students, we became excited to become part of the community. I urge you to check it out! Amy, an incoming BH parent

Oct 2012

Hi there, I am looking for current parent reviews of Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland. I know through word-of-mouth that there are many great things happening at Bret Harte, including a wonderful new principal. I'd love more current parents to share their perspectives. Thanks, Amy parent of 5th grader in the neighborhood

My daughter goes to Bret Harte. She is in 6th grade. The new principal really is great-- he is generous with his time and a good communicator. All the teachers my daughter has are organized and have good classroom management. The school is really big compared to elementary school, but the 6th graders are mostly kept together on what they call the ''6th grade hill.'' There are mixed classes for electives. The elective classes are really high quality-- the music program is well known and the teacher is also very generous with his time. The practice rooms are open before and after school for students to use. Other electives are: Art, Spanish A/B, 1 & 2 (which count for HS credit), journalism and leadership. The student body is a beautiful mix of what Oakland has to offer--many students walk to school from the surrounding neighborhoods (the feeder schools are Sequoia, Fruitvale, Redwood Heights and Laurel) and others are driven from other parts of Oakland. The classes are pretty big, but the adults at the school really make an effort to know all the kids as individuals, and so far the academic expectations have been appropriate. All in all, we are pretty happy with Bret Harte-- even though it is hard to leave the nurturing nest of elementary.My daughter says what she likes most is ''hanging out with friends at lunch and that even though the lunch period is kind of short, there are a lot of nice places to sit.'' It's true, the inner courtyards are really pretty and clean. a new Bret Harte parent

May 2000

My son is having such a good experience at Bret Harte, I just wanted to add my two cents!

We moved Oakland when my son, Max, was entering the 7th grade. I was nervous about his education because I heard that Albany schools (which he attended since the 2nd grade) are superior to Oakland schools, etc. My main concern was that Max has several learning disabilities, and while he is quite intelligent, he was only an average student in Albany. I was afraid he'd "fall through the cracks." Since coming to Bret Harte, Max has just thrived! He is an honor roll student, and is in the more difficult "core" class (Eng/Lang Arts/History taught by the same teacher in a 3 period block). Although they claim they do not "track" students, if a 7th grader is enrolled in Algebra, they are automatically enrolled in the more challenging core class.

The difference for us is the support my son receives from his teachers and from Mr. Scott,the resource specialist. The faculty and staff at Bret Hart recognize that a child can be both learning disabled and gifted. They encouraged my son to take challenging classes--and if it didn't work out, he could always change his schedule. At AMS, he was discouraged from taking electives, such as Spanish. (but don't get me started on Albany schools, I could go on all day!) I highly recommend Mr Fitzsimmons for Core and Mr Khamis for Algebra, they are engaging,interesting, and treat their students with dignity and respect. Max really enjoys the conversations he has with them.

My son and I both feel fortunate that Bret Harte is our neighborhood school. It is the second highest rated Oakland middle school, after Montera. Bret Harte is also a target school for the MESA program here at UCB, which is a great program (and another reason my son is doing so well!) Another parent who wrote about the diversity, the GATE program, the improvements in the test scores, all of which are very important. The only draw backs: this year the kids didn't have lockers and the campus is often littered, both resulted in injuries for my son--a broken toe when a heavy backpack was accidently dropped on his foot and a sprained ankle when he slipped on a bottle while running near the basketball courts.

All in all, it has been a positive experience. My landlord recently sold the house we were renting, and I am doing all I can to keep Max at Bret Harte. And if we move too far from the school, I will try for an inner-district transfer, cry or beg to keep him there. It's that important to both of us. Good luck! Patricia 

May 2000

Bret Harte is one of the other middle schools in Oakland. Given the complaint of the parent with the child in Montera, it might be of interest to parents of teens Subscribers.

It's located off of MacArthur in the Dimond district and is ethnically diverse. It's been making some good progress test score wise and apparently has some very good teachers and an excellent gifted/talented program.

The school my son attends is actually a feeder school (Redwood Heights).

Bret Hart Expo is this Saturday 5/13 from 10 - 2. Its a chance to see the kids work, meet some of the teachers, buy a hamburger and get a feel for the school. There will be a program that also lists performances in the cafetorium - ie. drama presentations, jazz band, etc. And the 8th grade class is doing a car wash to help off set year-end activities.