Thornhill Elementary School


Public School
operated by Oakland Unified School District
390 students
Phone: (510) 339-6800
5880 Thornhill Drive Oakland, CA 94611

Parent Q&A

We're in the Thornhill neighborhood - will we get in? Sep 6, 2018 (3 responses below)
Thornhill and Montclair Elementary Schools Nov 14, 2016 (1 responses below)
  • My oldest will be entering kindergarten in a year or so, and my husband and I have been trying to figure out how the various local/area school v. lottery situation works. We have a general idea of the system after speaking with a few folks, and have determined our local school would be Thornhill. It sounds like in general people do get their area school, although it sounds like last year there might have been some issues with incoming students being placed well outside of their area. I am curious if any families who had Thornhill as their area school did NOT get the school and where they were placed instead. Similarly, if families had any luck with the lottery to get placed elsewhere, how did that process work for you?  In general, I'm just hoping we get Thornhill as our area school, but we are curious about Hillcrest b/c of the benefit of the school going through 8th grade.

    And along those lines, I'd love to hear about experiences with the Oakland Public Schools, particularly for K-5. I'm most interested in hearing about experiences with Thornhill, but curious about Montclair and Hillcrest as well since we are located close to all three.

    Thank you!

    [Moderator note] Lots of past advice about OUSD school choice + school reviews here:

    I believe a few families in the Thornhill zone did not initially get in last year, but got in after the numbers shook out. That's unusual, though, and the first year I can remember it happening. That said, it is always good to have some backup choices. Go visit all three, and you'll get a good sense of how they're similar and different, and which might work for your daughter. Then rank accordingly. (You don't lose your priority at Thornhill by listing it second or third, and that is most likely where you'll get assigned.)

    Hello!  All of the approx. 22 neighborbood-zone kids who were on the most recent Thornhill waitlist eventually got a spot in the kindergarten class after about 2 months.  Re: Hillcrest, my understanding is that your child is only guaranteed a spot through 5th grade.  There is a random lottery for the 6th- 8th grade spots at Hilcrest.  I would suggest including some charter, parochial, and private schools in your search as back-ups.  If your child does not get a spot at Thornhill initially, she will likely be offered a spot in one of the other schools that feed into Montera or another school if you rank it high enough and get lucky.  I know that the waitlist kids were offered spots at schools including Piedmont Ave. Elementary, Kaiser, Chabot, Joaquin Miller, and Carl Munck. 

    We don’t have personal experience but my daughter’s friend’s neighborhood school is Thornhill and she did not intitially get in last year for kindergarten. She was ranked 25th on the waitlist. After a couples months she did eventually get in but by that time they had found a private school they really liked and decided to go there instead even though she had gotten in to Thornhill. She was assigned to a school ranked a 1 initially and it was 20 minutes away from their house. Hillcrest is a great school but it seems most years there isn’t even enough space for the neighborhood kids so it would be a gamble picking that school as one of your top choices. Crocker Highlands is another one that frequently doesn’t have enough space for the neighborhood kids. Any highly ranked school will be competitive but some of the larger ones may have space. In all likelihood your child will get into Thornhill but there may be some initial stress if they are waitlisted first. 

  • Hello All,

    My daughter is going to enter t-kindergarten this coming year, most likely at Thornhill elementary. I wanted to hear from parents that whose children have or are attending the school. Also what has the afterschool been like?

    Also we are looking at Montclair Elementary, so if you have experience there let us know.



    Hi! Both schools are great. I suggest that you attend their open houses and check out the facilities and ask questions. Our sons both went to Thornhill and we had a great experience there! Montclair does have a nicer campus, and I love their Principal. But for us, it was more about the community and lessons taught than the facility. The thing that makes both schools good is the level of parent involvement and fundraising. Get used to it now, you will be asked for money. But...think of how much you would be paying if you were sending your kid to private school. The class sizes are not super small, but our sons did fine. There are some teachers who are outright incredible, but most are really great. You may have a year though where you get a teacher that just does not suit you, but for us, there was only 1 of those teachers. I also love the community that was built at the school, it felt very much like a protected world where the kids knew each other and felt welcome. There are also some amazing traditions at the school musically, culturally, and there are overnight learning trips for all 4th graders and then again in 5th grade. We moved to Berkeley for the rest of our public school experience, but we still love and miss Thornhill. Also, both of my sons were able to coast their first year in the Berkeley schools because they had learned so much at Thornhill, which gave them a chance to relax and focus more on making new friends. But you can't go wrong with either school, honestly.

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

New 5th grader making friends at Thornhill Elem

Aug 2014

Hi Thornhill Elem. families-- My family and I will be living in the Oakland Montclair neighborhood for the 2014-2015 school year. Our daughter has been given a spot in Thornhill Elem--she'll be in the 5th grade. We're wondering if anyone with a child in Thornhill, particularly a 5th grader, would be willing to meet with us and our daughter when we arrive in Oakland, about a week before school starts, to help our daughter meet some of the Thornhill kids. Many thanks! -Susie

Hi! I am a mom to a 5th grade boy at Thornhill and have known most of the kids since Kindergarten. There are some great girls, so she should not have trouble finding a friend. We had at least 3 new girls join our grade last year and they were able to join a group of buddies fairly fast. If you are able to, come to the 5th grade playdate on Saturday 8/23 at 10 am on the school playground. A few kids will be there, but lots of folks travel this last week before school. Another thing, if you can swing it, enroll her in 1 or 2 enrichment classes after school- friendships are formed around shared likes. Hope to see you at the playdate, it should start off a fabulous 5th grade year for our kids! Lou

Dec 2011

I know there are LOTS of general opinions out there about whether to start your child in kindergarten early or late, what the potential consequences are, etc. I am particularly interested, though, in hearing from parents who have put their children in kindergarten at Thornhill School. Our daughter has an early October birthday. She will be turning 5 this coming fall, so she will make the public school kindergarten cutoff even under the new November 1st date. She would not, however, make the cutoff if we were making this decision next year when the cutoff will be October 1. If you had/have a child at Thornhill, did you find that children tended to be older or younger than the cutoff would suggest?

My daughter has a late October birthday and started at Thornhill when she was 4 (she is now in middle school). I knew she was ready and we are happy we did not have her wait another year. She never had any issues in regards to her age. Good luck with your decision

March 2011

Re: Montclair Elementary Schools
My son is currently in 4th grade at Thornhill elementary, and has been in AT since he started Kindergarten. We love it there, and for my son (with a minor learning disability involving handwriting) it has been far better for us than private school. Great community too.

There is homework starting in Kindergarten, but we've found it pretty reasonable. The K homework is mostly reading -- which we've never thought of as homework. It increases pretty slowly; currently our 4th grade homework each night includes a math sheet, a spelling sheet, writing two paragraphs on a particular topic (an extremely helpful thing for our child!), and practicing his instrument of choice for 10 minutes. Takes a total of 30-40 minutes at most (usually less), including the instrument. Oh, and the ''non-homework'' reading is a bit extra, but our son regards it as pleasurable. There are a couple of larger projects per year starting in 3rd grade (science fair project, writing/research projects).

There is art (I don't know how often exactly, but at least once a week), and PE twice a week with a coach. There is gardening on site. Also weekly music starting in K. AT is great. It's very safe, and our son often asks that we go away and let him play longer! They have sports when its not raining, games, art projects, and so on; or kids can just play as they wish (either indoors with toys and games, or out). They also will have the older kids finish homework there if the parents request. Most of the senior staff has been there since we got there. And you can schedule 5 hours per week or more, as you wish; you're charged hourly per month (must schedule monthly; extra ''late pickup'' hours are a bit more).

There are also enrichment programs after school that you can sign up for (they are paid): Spanish, fitness, martial arts, drama, Lego engineering, Sarah's Science, and more. AT will pick kids up afterwards if you want (and you don't have to pay for AT until the kid gets there, as long as you include this in the schedule). Altogether, we've found it a very positive experience for our family. Karen

Montclair vs. Thornhill

Oct 2010

Hi there. We may move to Montclair, so our child can be in one of the good elementary schools there. But we've heard mixed things about the schools ... If you have children in either of those elementary schools, what do you think of them? How is the homework? the arts? the PE? I am having a tough time getting adequate info from the schools. Also, what do parents do for middle and high school? I know several families that went private after elementary school, due to poor middle/high options in Montclair area. We both have graduate degrees and were lucky enough to attend some exceptional schools, so education is a HUGE priority for us. We're really interested in your thoughts, your stories. Thanks! sw

Our son is in 4th grade at Thornhill elementary. We have had thus far a very good experience. Most of the teachers are excellent, the Parent Faculty Club is active and well-organized, and raises enough funds to pay for library, music, PE, and art resources, as well as a school garden (most of which is not provided by OUSD). The PFC provides fun community activities in addition to fundraising -- there's a WalkAThon in the fall that the kids love, there are back-to -school breakfasts in most grades, there's a school carnival, and many other things. The kids go on lots of field trips. In 4th and 5th grade the kids take an overnight field trip. And though people always complain about cliquishness in the PFC, I have not had this experience -- it seems to me if you go in ready to do some work, and looking for friends, you will find them. There are plenty of resources here for kids who need them (our son has had some resource and OT for a handwriting problem), and there's a great set of after-school possibilities for working parents, and kids who want to do extra things (PE, martial arts, drama, science, languages, you name it, you can probably find it here). Our homework experience has been pretty reasonable, too. it's never taken us more than 30 minutes a day -- usually much less -- and that's with a child who writes very slowly. My son's not a big art fan, so I don't hear so much about that, but I know there's a kiln for clay and glass projects, I've seen lots of extra stuff like paper mache, papermaking and printing, and painting, plus there's after-school art available too. I'm glad we've attended this school. It's been very good for my son. We are looking into Montera as a middle school but have not decided yet; we also may move before then (mostly due to house size and configuration). anonymous

Can't respond about Montclair or Thornhill elementary (we were at Redwood Heights, which we couldn't have been happier with), but I can throw in my .02 about Montera Middle School as I've got two kids currently attending.

Go visit Montera before you totally rule out public middle school in Oakland. You'll be pleasantly surprised. We've been nothing but happy there. Both my kids are engaged and excited about learning - and doing well. Teachers are communicative, open and responsive. API test scores are up. The PTO is organized and very active. And our family is active and involved in the school.

It's not a good fit for everyone, obviously. But if you live in Montclair, go take a look. It's only getting better each year. Lauren

Feb 2009

Re: Art programs in Piedmont/Montclair/Rockridge
Thornhill School includes (through the Parent Faculty Club donation drives) music classes during the day; an Orff-trained teacher for the lower grades, and a singing and instrumental teacher at the upper grades. They include art, generally just projects supervised by teachers with parent assistance, also. Again, materials are via donation. Karen

Jan 2008

We are in the process of looking at various schools for K. We understand Thornhill is an excellent school with good teachers and great parent volunteers. I would like to find out how parents feel the educational experience compares to local private schools. Many kids enter private schools for middle school. Are they well prepared? Will an advanced child be adequately challenged? Does one see the strain of teaching to test and ''no child left behind'' pressures of public education? neighborhood parents

We moved to the Thornhill neighborhood for the school when my oldest son was 4. A year later when I visited the school I was so saddened by the kindergarten that we moved (yet again!)! I was a teacher for 12 years, so I had certain expectations, but the amount of seat work that is expected because of low test scores was nothing less than ridiculous on the day we observed. It is a good school in its spirit and there are some very dedicated teachers and fabulous parents, but we felt we could not put our sons into that situation. We decided it would be less financially straining to move to a good public school system than to go private. If you talk to some parents who are at the school you will hear good things-they are a dedicated bunch!-but after observing and then speaking ''Teacher to Teacher'' with the very dedicated, but frustrated kinder teacher, we had to make our own decision. Good luck with your decision! Old Neighbor

My son is in his second year at Thornhill. There are some very good things about this school, including lots of parent involvement, excellent after-school programs, and some very experienced and caring teachers (not all teachers are equally good however -- I don't think there is any school with a perfect teaching staff). There are also some significant negatives (as I'm sure there would be in any school). The two biggest, in my opinion, are the reading/math curricula mandated by the district, and the heavy fundraising pressure. The latter's pretty self-explanatory, and also most likely pretty universal. The former is my biggest complaint with the public school experience. Although many of the teachers here are able to work creatively with Open Court reading and Harcourt math (to their great credit), the curricula themselves more or less embody the pressures of public education that you ask about. They are pretty formulaic and unimaginative, and for my son anyway, are both hard to keep up with logistically (in terms of filling out all of the worksheets and reading all of the little booklets), and yet not intellectually challenging (math is very repetitive, reading booklets don't actually qualify as good stories). Kind of the worst of both worlds. In terms of comparison to the private schools, I think it all comes down to your child and what will work for them, and the teachers you happen to get. If the match is good (as it is for us this year), the experience will be fine. If the match is poor, the experience will be too, and I think this is just as true in private as in public schools. Karen

Nov 2006

There are few reviews in the archives about Thornhill Elementary in Oakland. I have heard great things about Thornhill, and was hoping some current or recent parents would share their experiences. One thing I am wondering about, is there a formal program or ad hoc way that the school teaches kids to include each other / not bully? Overall, are the parents and kids friendly to each other? Does it seem like most of the kids are enjoying it there? thank you

My son, now in 8th grade elsewhere, went through Thornhill and was very happy there. We participated in the parent organization (I ran one committee for several years) and always felt included, even though I was a working parent. (There is a core group, thank goodness, that is around the playground and in the classrooms to do art, help with fieldtrips etc.) Teachers include some very longtime veterans who are dearly loved and newer teachers that fit in well and are very popular with the kids. (Remember that my perspective is 3 years out of date, of course.)

My son never seemed like a particularly strong student when he was there, but he was accepted in all 3 of the middle schools to which he applied. I think that Thornhill's basic preparation of its students is thorough and as creative as any CA standards-based education can be. The long tenure teachers manage to integrate their experience and their favorite teaching topics into the standards-based curriculum, even with Open Court reading (if they still use that.) Hope that helps.
a 6 year Thornhill parent (1998-2004)

My son's just started Kindergarten at Thornhill. There are many very good things about the school -- my son's teacher is one; the principal is a caring person who already knows all the new kids' names, the parent community is very involved.

I don't believe there's a formal class for inclusion and not bullying, but it certainly appears to be emphasized in general. I've felt pretty much that the community is friendly.

I'm always concerned, however, when people refer to Thornhill as ''the best'' school in Oakland. Yes, it has the highest API scores in Oakland, but those are primarily a function of socioeconomic status and educational level of the parents -- which are very high at Thornhill.

The big downside is Oakland School District. In addition to being broke and paying for nothing (library, music, PE, facilities repairs -- all are funded by the parents through fundraising, not the school district), Oakland forces the use of a simply awful reading curriculum called ''Open Court'' -- the teacher has to follow a script with limited use of his/her own professional judgment, must be on the same page as everyone else in the district regardless of what the students need -- and there are absolutely endless worksheets (and there's a ton of research showing that worksheets are not good for kids). Unfortunately, the math curriculum looks similar.

The teachers and staff do the absolute best they can, the kids are great, and the parents are involved. But the school district is enough to make me seriously rethink the private school question

June 2006

Hello, My daughter will likely attend Thornhill next year but wanted to hear some recent reviews of the school. Also Is there an aftercare program?? If so, what is it like and what are the hours?? Thanks

My children are in the Oakland Public Schools - we live near Thornhill but are at Chabot (long story) so I can not tell you directly what is happening at the school but I have good second hand info from another family on our street, and our general experience. The schools are terrific because of the wonderful energy being brought to the schools by active, involved families who care about education! There is a wonderful after school program called Adventure Time at the school (my son attended AT at Chabot last year during his K year) but they often fill quickly for upper grades so call the central office now.

Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about OUSD and the public school experience.

My son just finished kindergarten at Thornhill. He was in the all-day kindergarten with Mr. Thompson, who we were very pleased with. I have also heard great things about the other kindergarten teachers. I especially liked the diversity of the class and the Thornhill community geared toward helping all kids achieve their best. Parents at Thornhill help out extensively in the classrooms. Thornhill also has a very active parent faculty club that raises money to help fund the librarian, music teacher, p.e. coach and art. I was very pleased with my son's progress during the year.

Thornhill has several after school options, including Adventuretime, which is located in a portable classroom onsite. Another option is Jewish Community Services (you do not have to be Jewish to participate). They pick the kids up from campus and take them to a site on Redwood Road. Both are good options and worth checking out. There may be others too that I am not aware of. My son spent some time at both Adventuretime and JCS this year and enjoyed both.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your decision.

Afterschool Care at Thornhill

Feb 2005

My son is starting kindergarten at Thornhill Elementary in the Fall. I'm looking for a good aftercare program. There seem to be three choices: Adventure Care, Smiles Day School, and Jewish Community Services. These three are either on-site or pick up from school. What I've heard is that Adventure Care may be a bit too unstructured for some younger children who are used to a more structured preschool. I like what I've heard about JCS because they offer programs like swimming, gymnastics and piano lessons. I've heard little about Smiles except that it is big and possibly impersonal. Can anyone comment on these or recommend any others? Thanks.

Oct 2004

Re: transferring into Oakland schools
my son went to thornhill from k-5 and it's a great school...just look at their test scores,,,that say's it all. their is a great parent participations and the teacher's are wonderful...i have another child and i have no problems sending him back their..that is the best reccomendation of all

April 2003

We're about to move to Montclair and are considering Thornhill School for our soon-to-be first grader. I'd love to hear people's perceptions of it -- the good, the bad, the strong, the worrisome. All are welcome. We plan on visiting the school next month. Thanks so much. Nancy

Thornhill Elementary school has been a fantastic educational experience for our child. I cannot say enough good things about the teachers and education. The State test scores for Thornhill have been very high for a number of years. There is a very strong PFC (similar to PTA) that fundraises to supplement within the school what is no longer available; such as music, art and the like. And there are also fee based programs before and after school such as Spanish, Drama, Science, Chess club, etc. which you can take advantage of. Many parents in the area have actually taken their kids out of private school to attend Thornhill. BUT the district is in trouble as you probably already are aware. At tonights PFC meeting we discussed what type of support Thornhill is at risk of losing based on the district financial problems and it looks like the PFC will be on top of things to minimize disruption to the kids. Thornhill Parent

I have heard nothing but praise for Thornhill school. It has an active parent group, a stable teaching staff and excellent test scores. It's a highly sought after school in intradistrict transfers. It also seems to do a better than average job at handling social issues. Good Luck. Oakland Mom