About Piedmont Public Schools
Thank you so much for posting this question and to the anonymous commentor who gave such insightful info on gifted learners and lack of differentiation from public schools. To the anonymous commentator, I would love to hear what private schools you have found that offer gifted learners more academic challenge/differentiation. We are doing that search right now. We are in the Piedmont school system and it is not any better here, it's exactly as the anonymous commentor described. Even for families with an IEP it's a fight. We loved Albany and lived in Albany before our kids were school aged so we always wondered if it was a mistake we left. But from the comments here I think our question is answered. Thank you for the insight.
If you join the Piedmont community you are in for a facilities treat. A new high school STEAM building was completed last Fall and it is supported by a very large and advanced local maker community. The new high school theater building is scheduled for completion by this Fall. I think at least one more high school building will be rebuilt from the ground up, following the current project. In parallel to all this activity, the community pool facilities are expected to be redesigned and rebuilt by 2024.
Piedmont elementary could do a better job of supporting its advanced learners but there are notable if infrequent efforts to group students briefly for differentiated tasks in math during regular school hours. In spite of this, our daughter was still bored. There is no district support for putting advanced learners in a separate track at the elementary level. On the one hand this could be viewed as a disservice to advanced learners. On the other hand, these kids are spared the parental pressure of getting into certain tracks. If you value mental health, Piedmont is a good place to be at any grade level. I reached out to PUSD's Dr. Wozniak years ago with questions before we moved and she was very receptive then. You might consider calling or emailing her with any specific questions. A lot will depend on her workload of course and how much extra work my little comment here generates. :)
We've had our kids in private schools prior to Piedmont and there's really no substitute for small class sizes (<16) and high co-teacher to student ratios (1:10 or less). Co-teaching is definitely better than teacher + aide, and some private schools have two co-teachers plus an aide in each classroom of <16 students. Differentiation works well in small classes because they can track groups of students and still keep them together. Piedmont's classes are not the largest but they are not private school sized either.
As long as expectations for Piedmont (or any public school district) are reasonable, your family will probably be pretty happy. One interesting dynamic is that the recently passed proposition for more flexibility in carrying a lower property tax basis to a new home may be generating more home sales in Piedmont. With more tax revenue and a potentially growing base of families with school-aged children, we could be on the cusp on a new golden era in community support of public schooling, as strong as it already is now.
Piedmont is wonderful in many ways but we do not have a gifted and talented program. Unless you plan to skip grades he won't get any specific support for his advanced learning and you'll have to supplement on your own. I haven't done much research on surrounding districts but my impression is that gifted and talented programs are out of vogue and fairly limited around here.
I would not consider public schools based our experience. We were actually told that unless a child is two grade levels behind, public schools will not provide adequate assistance.
Our experience in the Piedmont School district was terrible for learning disabilities (dysgraphia). We had an IEP and our child scored 12 grade level in all standardized tests from the first year in middle school. These tests are used by the public schools to show how great the schools are. Yet the school ignored the tests when we tried to keep our child in regular classes but ask for assistive technologies or other assistance. We had outside testing that stated that our child was gifted. Yet no matter how much we fought, paid outside advocates, our child was placed in remedial classes. Our child was not on tract for getting into college. Millennium High School was not a better option.
We eventually went to a private school and our child is not only thriving but in advanced classes.
I would consider private schools with proven track records of assistance for learning disabilities. After being in two highly rated and wealthy public school districts, that public schools just do not treat intelligent students with learning disabilities as capable of achieving along with their peers.
It really depends on what your child needs. Piedmont is known for having high quality public schools with good support for students with learning disabilities. It has an alternative public high school called Millenium which is reputed to serve students with special needs well. No public schools in the area that I know of do an adequate job at remediation. It can be a lot of work to fight at schools for accommodations. You might want to post again with more information about your child and the specific needs. Berkeley Unified is facing a class-action lawsuit for inadequately serving kids with dyslexia.
If your son needs a lot of support you could consider Raskob, a private K-8 school for students with learning disabilities. From there your son could go to Bayhill High School in Berkeley for high school.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We're considering moving to Piedmont, and would like to hear from other parents about the accommodations for gifted elementary school students. My daughter (currently in first grade) is reading and doing math several grade levels above her current grade, and I (a) don't want her to be bored, and (b) want to maximize her potential. I understand that GATE identification doesn't even begin until 4th grade - what do they do for students before then? Once kids are identified, are there actual programs, or is it just talk? Does a lot depend on the teacher each year, or are there systems in place? Would you recommend Piedmont schools for this type of child? Thanks! Lisa
I would not move to Piedmont for the GATE program. It's getting better, but minimal at best. The district focuses mostly on differentiated learning, with some breakout math enrichment in elementary school. There is more opportunity for acceleration in middle and high school. Parents are advocating for more teacher training and more specific programs, but there's not much budget so expectations are low.
A larger school district might have more money for specific GATE programs, but there don't seem to be a lot of good models right now. Let us know what you find. A Piedmont mom
I am considering moving my business to Piedmont and would most likely want to rent out a residential one bedroom or studio apartment instead of a commercial space because it is less expensive and more comfortable for me that way. I am curious about the requirements for applying to the Piedmont School system and have heard that you can use a local address even if it is for work and not your permanent living address. Has anyone else out there done something similar? Did you do so with permission of the school district or under the radar? What are the risks if you do something like this without approval of the school system and get caught? I would hate for my kids to get expelled!! We are also considering moving to Piedmont but currently our house value is low so we want to wait a few years, but improving our child's school is an immediate need. Looking forward to hearing responses! Curious about Piedmont requirements
Hello, I cannot answer most of your questions about office space, but I do know that the school district DOES check up on where people live. I would not try to go under the radar. Good luck! anon
I am pretty sure the requirement to attend Piedmont schools is that the child must actually reside in Piedmont; I don't think using an apartment as an office qualifies. The residency documentation requirements are stringent and enforced here. I don't think trying to attend school in Piedmont ''under the radar'' is a workable idea. Piedmont is a small town with strong communities at each school. Everyone knows everyone and also where they live. You are not anonymous the way you might be in other school districts. Among other things, your children would have to lie to teachers and friends, and never have playdates. Have you considered renting out your current house and moving to a rental house in Piedmont? That is not uncommon for someone in your position these days. we moved for the schools
The answer to this question can be found by googling. First I googled ''california school district residency'' and I found this page on the ca.gov site: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/fq/districttransfers.asp
It says that the Allen Bill ''permits a school district to deem a pupil to have complied with the residency requirements for school attendance in the district if at least one parent/guardian of the pupil is physically employed within the boundaries of that district.''
However if you read the regulation, you will see that the school district IS NOT REQUIRED to admit your child under this provision. Also, your home district (where your child resides) must agree to the transfer.
Next I googled ''Piedmont school district residency''. Here is the page that pops up first (on the Piedmont School district website): http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/district-info/enrollment
It says: ''All students who live within the city's boundaries are guaranteed a place in the Piedmont Schools.'' I think that means your child has to actually live in Piedmont. You'll need four proofs of residency which are described on this page.
There is also a section on this page about Inter-district Transfers which is probably very similar to those in other school districts. You can read the full regulations on the above link, but basically, it looks like working in Piedmont isn't going to get your kid into Piedmont schools unless you work for the school district or the city of Piedmont, and even then, your resident school district needs to release you first. And, your transfer can be revoked at any time.
So, in summary, it looks like you could set up a business in Piedmont, and then you could apply for your child to attend a school in Piedmont, but Piedmont does not have to accept your child. And even if it does, the school district that you actually live in would have to release you first. I am guessing that this is possible but not very likely. But you could always try. googler
You should talk with the superintendent's secretary, but my understanding is that Piedmont schools are available to Piedmont residents only, and to PUSD and City staff on a space-available basis. We residents have to provide a copy of the deed or a lease, and a current bill with our names on it (I even had to do that for my incoming high schooler, who had two brothers already in the district and had himself gone to elementary school in Piedmont just three years earlier).
Unfortunately, (legal) rentals are relatively hard to find in Piedmont, and the school district definitely does home visits if there is reason to be suspicious. The address has to correspond with a home, the landlord has to have a business permit on file for the tenancy, and any unit (apartment or in-law) has to be on the list of 80 or so legal second units in the City. Separately, any business operating in Piedmont (including home-based businesses) needs a City permit, and must meet various criteria (re: employees, client visits, that home is used primarily as a residence rather than as an illegal commercial use in a residential area, etc.). The District number, for more info, is 594-2600. Maureen
Hi! Can anyone offer a current review of the Piedmont Elementary Schools? How do they compare to one another? My daughter will be starting Kindergarten in September. Would you recommend moving to Piedmont for the schools? Piedmont has a reputation for being snobby-- is it? How would you describe the community(ies) of the schools? Thanks for your help!
We moved from Berkeley to Piedmont 3 years ago for the schools. Our daughter just started 1st grade and our son is in Kindergarten. We were concerned about the change in culture from Berkeley to Piedmont. It was a hard decision but we went for it and I'm glad...
The school has been fantastic (Wildwood). Both of our kids love it, are doing well and involved in many great after school activities. There are many benefits we weren't expecting; the close proximity to new friends and the ease of having impromtu playdates, very little driving, we are close to Grand Ave, Piedmont Ave and Lakeshore which offers so many great choices and diversity! The friends we have made are down to earth, thoughtful and interesting. Liz
My sister and I both went to piedmont schools K-12 and am so appreciative of all that I learned while attending Beach Elementary School, Piedmont Middle School, and Piedmont High School. Currently in college, I recognize that the Piedmont school system taught me the value and importance of a good work- ethic, academic integrity, time management, and resourcefulness. Furthermore, the piedmont schools provide a safe, supportive environment for students to excel. However, I believe that the piedmont schools best serve above-average students who more or less meet all of the developmental milestones and who are socially adept. From my experience, students struggling academically or socially have a much harder time fitting in and thriving as a whole. anon
Personally I don't think that you should move anywhere just for the schools, but if you want an excellent school district and want to be part of a strong, cohesive community and are willing to give as much as you take - then Piedmont might be the place for you.
We have lived in Piedmont for almost 9 years and love it. Personally I can't imagine living anywhere else. Yes, the schools are excellent, but may not be the perfect fit for every child, but what school is? There are 3 elementary schools and they vary in size and personality. Both of my children went to Havens which is the largest of the three - one is still there. It is also the newest and most state of the art. It is truly an amazing place - the physical space and the caliber of the teachers and staff would be hard to match - even at the most elite private school.
Please keep in mind that one of the things that makes Piedmont and its schools so special is the parents and families. the majority of Piedmont families give back to their community and that included the schools. Parents work in the classrooms, drive on field trips, serve hot lunch and give financially. The current request is $1500 per family per year - though it is not required. You will also be asked to join the Parents Club, give to individual classroom funds, field trip funds, and school fundraisers. The parents in Piedmont contribute approximately $5,000 per child to the annual school budget.
Is Piedmont snobby? There are snobby people, but there are snobby people everywhere. I have not found it to be snobby, actually quite the opposite. Most families that I know have taken the ''it takes a village'' approach and we all help each other out, keep an eye on each others children and help our neighbors. If you have a baby, are sick or have a family disaster - there will be meals on your doorstep before you can think twice.
So, yes the schools are great and are a great fit for most kids, but it's also what you put into it. If you want to become part of a wonderful community that puts its children first then Piedmont is probably a good fit - if you only want to come for the schools you may want to keep looking happy Piedmont mother
I am interested in hearing from families about the 2009 school year experience in Piedmont elementary schools, especially from those who also have been at an academically-geared private elementary school like Bentley. What do you like about it, what do you not like, what was unexpected both good and bad? What are all the elements that make this the right choice for your family?
How many kids are in K-5 classes and how many teachers are there in each classroom? Does the elementary school have art, technology, math, science, music, spanish and PE and if so how many times a week?
I often hear Piedmont families talk about how happy they are with schools; and a lot about the nice social scene and that students and parents get along. What about academics?
Thanks for sharing your experience. anon
I will agree that the best thing about Piedmont schools is the level of parent support. Through volunteer work and donations, Piedmont schools are able to offer all the extra classes you asked about. PE is 3x a week. Music, Library, and Computers are once a week. Spanish is available through the Piedmont Language School. Classes are organized around school schedules, but cost extra. Many families also go through the recreation department for extra classes.
Having visited many of the private schools in the area, plus having friends in them, I would say the academics are comparable, though I think a few schools probably have more kids excelling at higher competency levels than the Piedmont schools. It is still a public school district and teaches to the middle. Piedmont also has a lot of schools and a lot of teachers, so there are weak spots and bright spots, but I think most classes do pretty well in presenting a rigorous program, considering.
Piedmont does have larger class sizes than private after third grade. They vary, but in this budget climate they are likely to stretch it to the maximum allowed.
Piedmont does have a pretty reasonable program for kids with learning differences, which private schools are not required to provide. They have a school counselor, a district psychologist, resource teachers, and enrichment for kids who are ahead. Not all private schools offer these resources. Moved for the schools
We may have the opportunity to send our kids to Piedmont schools in a few years for middle and high school on an inter-district transfer. They would enter at the start of middle school and continue through HS after we let them finish out at their current elementary school. I've read all the posts about moving to Piedmont for the schools and discussion of people's concerns about lack of diversity, potential snobbishness regarding social and economic class. What I haven't found is information about what it might be like to add another layer of ''outsiderness,'' namely, having your kids attend Piedmont schools while you live in, let's say, Berkeley, Albany, or El Cerrito. Would this be ridiculously difficult socially, beyond the obvious challenges of geographical distance? I have heard of parents getting teaching jobs in the district in order to send their kids there. Just wondering what that feels like for both the parents and the kids. anon
I was a former teacher at Piedmont High School a decade ago and then worked with PHS students for years after that on a one -on- one basis. The student body is amazing, many of the students are involved in community service, and most of them are very well rounded. The parent organizations were, and probably still are, generous with their time and extremely supportive of the professional advancement of teachers. I remember going to a few conferences that were fully funded by them. All in all, from a teacher's view, the pros and cons of the PUSD are the same- involved parents. If I were still a teacher there, I would definitely send my children to the schools. As it is now, I am no longer a teacher, but looking for a home there.
I had students in my class from Oakland, Albany, Richmond, and El Cerrito. They all had parents that taught in the district and really seemed to thrive academically as well as socially, and seemed to integrate really well with their peers, although I'm hoping other parents will chime in to give you a first person perspective. The only drawback I could see is that if you don't live nearby you will have to work out logistics for carpooling to and from activities, games, or just to give your kids the chance to hang out with their classmates. anon
There have been a number of kids in our daughter's classes whose parents live outside Piedmont--some are teachers, some work for the Piedmont Rec Dept, etc. It has never been a big deal where kids lived, since they all go to school together and participate in extracurricular classes/sports together after school and on weekends. Sure, she can walk to some of her friends' houses, but many of them she needs us to drive her toC3so whether we are driving her across town or to Berkeley is moot. Granted, this is just our experience but there has never seemed to be a differentiation based on where kids live. Piedmont parent
Hi, Looking for opinions on Piedmont public schools..We have 3 children ages elementary to high school. Thanks so much.. Undecided parents (private vs.Piedmont) Paula
Our daughter just started at kindergarten in a Piedmont school. We are so happy with her teacher's teaching philosophy and even her child-rearing philosophy. (She encourages parents to not over-praise and gives tips on giving specific feedback to your child; asks that we send food in reusable containers and not send sweets; etc.) Our daughter turned five after the start of the school year, so is on the younger side. Both her dad and I are impressed by how much she seems to be learning. She loves everything about kindergarten, especially the friendships and PE. Typically there are at three teachers, including assistants, in her classroom of 20 students -- and frequently additional parent volunteers. The other parents have been friendly and involved. She's also taking a couple of classes through the school's enrichment program and the recreation department. They offer ballet, carpentry, Spanish, cooking, gymnastics, and more. For our daughter who has no special learning issues, we are very very pleased so far. kindergarten mom
We are trying to choose between Piedmont, Berkeley and Albany schools. I see very little positive information in the archives for Piedmont; there must be some happy/unhappy experiences out there? At issue are my 12 year old's perception that Piedmont is boring, nothing is 'happening' there, and she'd rather go to Berkeley or Albany. She is very bright, does well in all subjects, and makes friends easily. She has had some years in public school where she had less than mediocre teachers, and fewer years where she had great teachers. I have supplemented where i could, but would like some consistency from here on, and want good teachers every year! I want her to be engaged and interested, but in past years, she has spent much of her day reading under the teacher's nose. She is a gifted writer, great reader, and wonderful artist. She gets A's and B's in everything else. I am worried that she will stray in the middle/high school years, and develop other interests if she is not fully engaged with an interesting curriculum and excellent teachers. Boys are now asking her out, and most of her friends have boyfriends! ? I am also concerned about homework; Is is true that Piedmont gives hours of homework each night? Have you had kids in any of these schools, and can you share your experiences? also have one 9 year old boy entering 4th grade in 2009, and he too is a great artist, and loves sports. anon
Hi: I can only speak about Piedmont schools. I have three very different boys, and two of the three have thrived at the town's schools over a dozen years. Those two sound very much like your child. I'll let other parents talk about kids with special needs, and Piedmont's ability to serve them. Our third child really benefitted from attending small, close-knit classes at Black Pine Circle in Berkeley for his middle school years (he's now doing well at PHS). He was one of about 12% of Piedmont kids who go to private school, according to the census, for a variety of reasons.
As I've said here before, about 1/3 of the cub scout population is non-white based on my rough headcount when heading the program (note that the town's Boy Scout council was the first in the country to reject the national organization's position on gays in scouts, and that's not enough for many of us).
Parent, grandparent, and business fundraising is important though not oppressive, and that funds a wide variety of special events and programs (e.g. today's Not a Genuine Black Man event by Brian Copeland at the high school). While school doesn't necessarily offer everything to everybody, there's plenty of enrichment and challenging work closeby, and a long tradition of parents stretching to expose their kids to it, and celebrating the work kids do.
For instance, in the last month or so, we've seen Dr. Demento speak on freedom of speech at the Berkeley Rep (free), taken a class at the Exploratorium, gone with a carload of kids to the Olafur Eliasson exhibit at SFMOMA (required of one kid by the ceramics class), and we can always run up the hill to CPS's great speaker series. One son plays in an East Bay symphony. All three run cross country against East Bay public and private schools. Friends' kids are taking classes at Berkeley and Cal State when they outstrip offerings at the high school. And see, for instance, high school art displayed at the local orthodontist's office, at local banks and Piedmont Avenue coffee shops each spring.
I'm sure this is what you'd see at many other local schools as well--and kids with special interests everywhere find and riff off one another.
Overall, we've been really happy with our decision, and thankful for insightful and sure-handed parent leadership on such issues as earthquake retrofit and some key issues at the high school. Our boys cycle around the East Bay, take BART to music events in SF, and take public transit to West Marin. We trust them and their friends. And maybe the biggest benefit of living in the Piedmont community is the ''it takes a village'' approach to raising our own kids, and feeling comfortable stepping in with others' kids if necessary.
''Hey, guys. Can you pick up all that trash at the bus stop please?'' Piedmont parent
We've had really good experiences in the Piedmont schools. My husband works in the district, so we have the perspective of living in Oakland and sending our kids to Piedmont schools (they started there in middle school). Contrary to stereotypes, we have found the students to be pretty well grounded, and not materialistic. Most parents we spend time with seem interested in buying experiences for their kids with their privilege (as opposed to buying ''stuff''), which seems to me a pretty good thing to me to do with your privilege... I don't think you hear a lot about Piedmont, because quite frankly, Piedmont has no interest in -- or need to-- shout its own praises . Enough people ''get it'' and it's as simple as that. I just hate to hear stereotypes reinforced, so I felt the need to respond.
How much homework your kid has really, truly, depends on your kid and his/her abilities. My daughter is in the 7th grade and she typically has about 45 minutes- 1 hour of homework a night.She is also a very talented reader and writer. My son is now in 9th grade and his 7th and 8th grade load was also about 45 min-1 hour nightly. In 6th grade, however, I'd say he spent at least 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours every night on homework. Some of this was due to the fact that he did have a more academically challenging core teacher, but a lot of it was due to the fact that he just wasn't very efficient when doing his work that year, and he's improved a lot his ability to focus and to be organized. I really feel like the middle school has a vision for what they want the kids to experience academically and socially, and we've been impressed with how competent and thoughtful the teachers are at PMS ; we've been altogether very happy.
High school, of course, becomes more challening. My son now has at the minimum an hour of homework a night-- although not usually more than 2... but he is just a freshman. I think it's probably hardest to be a truly ''average'' student with basic skills in the Piedmont schools, that's just my opinion. I wouldn't call it a competitive environment, but the kids are pretty skilled, (they do, after all come from a very educated parent base) and that's just the truth of things. Good luck. Piedmont parent
It's our daughter's first year at Piedmont Middle School and so far, so good. I was anxious about whether it would be a good fit for her. She is an excellent student and artistic too. I can't compare our experience to Albany or Berkeley schools. She has been in the Piedmont school system since kindergarten and has had wonderful teachers each and every year. I have heard a couple parents who were not as lucky as we, but the vast majority argue with me that they actually had the better teacher.
Our daughter has not had too much homework - this year about 1.5 hours Mon-Thurs, and virtually none on weekends/vacations. I have heard a parent say that their 6th grader did have too much, but again most parents share my satisfaction. I've heard that some of the middle schoolers have boy/girlfriends, but it seems to be only going on with a small subset of the 6th grade, albeit a highly visible subset. Our daughter is not in this subset, is very pretty, and like her friends does not have a boyfriend, has not been asked out, and has no romance on the horizon. She's busy with school, extracurriculars (I think Piedmont shines here in terms of what is offered: languages, sports, drama - but again I can't make comparisons).
My daughter seems challenged, seems to be really learning - she has a deep grasp of the topics covered and doesn't seem stressed but on rare occasion. This could change; middle school can be a tough, rapidly changing period. Our satisfaction seems to be echoed by the vast majority of the other 6th grade parents I've spoken to. I can't speak to the other middle school grades yet. Most importantly, she really likes her school; and we've delved pretty deeply into the possibilities with her, including going to a Berkeley school. Of course, all she knows about Berkeley schools is what she's heard from a few/several friends who go there. Good luck! satisfied parent
We're considering a move to Piedmont for the schools. Can any current Piedmont parent or teacher give me a sense of the instruction there--how textbook-based? how test-driven? how creative are the teachers in their instruction? do students sit in rows or have a chance to work in groups? do students do projects or primarily pencil-and-paper tasks (or both)? how much pressure is there to excel/acheive?
Prospective Kindergarten parent
I have 2 daughters, one graduated from PHS in '05, the other will be a '08 grad. We moved from Oakland when they were going into 2nd and 5th grades, so I don't have first-hand experience with K&1, but I think K-3 are much better at collaborative, creative teaching and learning than the later grades. PUSD has a pretty traditional, college-oriented educational philosophy. Our experience is that, while there is variation throughout the district, there is a strong texbook-based, traditional teaching style. Students generally sit in rows. There is ample opportunity for students to work in groups. The district did modify its grade-by-grade teaching plan to accommodate STAR expectations. There is a fair amount of pressure for students to excel and achieve, but it doesn't mean all students buy into the game. slm
I'm pretty relieved about the curriculum for my Kindergartener at Beach School in Piedmont this year. I've volunteered in the classroom a bit, so I've had a chance to watch. The kids sit in groups, have circle time, and have centers where they play games that also teach something. They do not sit in rows. There are parent volunteers in our class (at least one, often two or three)for about 45 minutes to an hour each day. My son has homework every day - not an inordinate amount - and not rigidly enforced, but enthusiastically encouraged. We've had several projects to do at home (i.e. decorate a book box, group 100 items by 5s or 10s, write the names of their classmates on their valentines and know how to read them, etc.). There is more work this year than I've heard was required last year - I guess the result of new state curriculum (''no child left behind'' requirements?).
I think the two Kindergarten teachers at Beach are amazing. The kids are having a blast while they are learning. The teachers integrate several subjects at the same time - so while they are doing a cooking project, they teach a bit of math, a bit of reading, a bit of science. Circle time is an amazing demonstration of virtuosity and fluidity - teaching new concepts from several disciplines at the same time they are going over simple reading lessons. The kids seem engaged - they don't look bored. The teachers sure don't have the discipline problems I imagined they'd have with these little ones having to pay attention.
I don't know if the upper grades are just as good. I've not seen those teachers first hand, but I've been hearing positive reviews from the parents I know. Concerning whether they sit in rows? From what I can see as I walk down the halls, it looks like the kids in other grades work in groups sometimes, and sit at desks other times. I'll be interested to see what replies you get. kimberly
I notice a recurring theme on this list--many people want the inside scoop on Piedmont (and other) schools. I understand people's anxiety about school and their own children, however, many of these questions are not truly answerable. (I also get the feeling that people really want their move to an expensive, privileged, exclusive community or private school validated.) However, since I have direct experience with Piedmont schools, here is what I have to say in response to your questions.
How textbook-based? IT DEPENDS. How test-driven? IT DEPENDS. How creative are the teachers in their instruction? IT DEPENDS. Do students sit in rows or have a chance to work in groups? IT DEPENDS. Do students do projects or primarily pencil-and-paper tasks (or both)? IT DEPENDS. How much pressure is there to excel/acheive? IT DEPENDS.
You see, your child will be in 13 different grades if you move there for K-12. From 6th grade on, your child will have about 6-7 different teachers a year. Your child will be mostly safe (from a crime standpoint), your child will be surrounded by many children with fantastic advantages, and your child will be lucky enough to be in a system where parents generously supplement a budget that is not adequately funded by the state. However, your child will still be in school. Think back to when you were in school. There were probably good teachers and bad, good years and bad, interesting and not-so-interesting projects, nice kids and ones you'd rather not be around. Did you survive? My guess is yes. If your child goes to school in Piedmont, or anywhere, and goes on to college, your child will go to school with a new group of kids who all managed to make it there whether they were from even ''better''' places than Piedmont (!), or, more incredibly...places that are not thought of as highly. Kids have good and bad experiences in all kinds of schools. Sometimes you just have to wait and actually experience something to find out how it's all going to go. Some kids love Piedmont, and some hate it, and, this same phenomenon happens all over, in many, many schools and districts. -sick of the school panic
The level of instruction at Piedmont schools is varying, just like any other school system. The principals of each school strongly influence who gets hired/not hired for that specific school's teaching staff. Some principals are more intelligent than others. We moved to Piedmont when both our children were toddlers, and they went through the PUSD from K through high school. The younger one left to attend a private school after 9th grade. The type of student your child develops into is not the outcome of the level of instruction. I loved the fact that the PUSD retained their kindergartens as developmentally oriented, not academic. There were ''academic'' type of activities, but it was sugar-coated and very nice for the children. The school system is very supportive of their students. The child's family is the biggest influence of how well they do in school, not the level of instruction. Our kids would've done well at any school----they have parents who are actively involved in their school, interested in their lives and welfare, and provide a strong support system at home. Piedmont families are traditionally of that type. The child that opted out after 9th grade (he's very academic, but a non- pressure-seeker) attends Maybeck in Berkeley and is very content. He gets more personal attention, more teacher time/support, more hours of homework and is more qualified for college work now, as a junior, than his elder sibling was at graduation. We also pay a private school tuition.
The level of instruction at Piedmont is generally very good, but people who go into teaching anywhere are dedicated. It's very hard work. Parents are people; teachers are people. There were teachers who drove me up the wall who were regarded as splendid by other parents, and vice versa. Piedmont schools have more parental support than other communities. Other schools' parents claim they have to work and that's why they're not more active. That's not true. In Piedmont, the parents who are taking time off work to help in their kids' schools often have very demanding careers----executives , doctors , lawyers , professors, etc---moms as well as dads. Their children learn about time management and success from their home, not from school instruction. Piedmont parents provide a broad suport network (monetary and with their own labor) to fill the enormous gap between state funding and the costs of running a decent school system. Piedmont has parents that are truly dedicated to their children and back it up with actions, not words. Piedmont resident
My three kids (all boys) have gone to Piedmont schools for about ten years; our 8th grader has spent his middle school years at Black Pine Circle,one has just left Havens Elem for the middle school, and one is a sophmore at the high school. While Piedmont isn't as diverse as other surrounding areas, it works hard to ensure that all folks are very comfortable. I won't repeat anything said here by GLBT folks or people of color, but when I ran the Cub Scout program in town (we were the first Council in the country to renounce the national org's membership policy), I remember doing a head-count of the demographics of the pack at Havens Elem--the school that covers many of the more expensive homes in town. 27% were non-white--admittedly, mostly Asian-American or bi-racial/bi-ethnic. And as is the case with huge portions of the East Bay's high schoolers, it's impossible to tell the ethnic background of many of the students, if you thought that was a good use of time. My son who looks like his dark-skinned German grandfather is sometimes asked by kids at school if he's part Latino--perfectly plausible in this town, and he gets a chuckle out of it.