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King Middle School (old reviews)

Nov 1997

My daughter graduated from King Middle School last spring, and was very pleased with it, as were her mother and I. The principal, Neil Smith, is excellent, as are some of the teachers--Mr. Delepine (math) and Mr. Stanley (orchestra), to name two. The weak points would be social studies (which seems usual in California schools) and the science department--Ms. McCullough is very good, but we're still digging up gems from another science teacher (the first was that Archimedes designed the Trojan Horse). Watch out for teachers who are too fond of the kind of "group work" that is really one or two students per group doing the assignment while the rest goof off and the teacher catches up on paperwork or takes a nap.

Regarding boredom in school, it seems to have been endemic at least since Shakespeare's time:

"Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books,
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks."

There is repetition, but at least some of it is unavoidable: some kids are unprepared. (One of the drawbacks of having a good math teacher in 8th grade is that you hear a lot of the same things again in 9th.) Some call for stringent academic standards to deal with this, but I favor moderation: I would rather see some repetition in 9th-grade math classes than see kids kept in middle school another year until they get the Pythagorean Theorem right.

And 14-year-olds as a group tend to complain a lot; a hopeless-ennui hormone seems to kick in around then. I certainly attend to complaints of boredom, try to find their roots, and suggest or take measures to deal with them--but at that age a person is more than old enough to take some responsibility for their own education. If they're bored, they should do something about it--either on their own, or by rattling adults' cages till something happens. That's my take on it, anyway.

Regarding 6th-graders in middle school, the Berkeley schools as a whole endorse the idea: the layout now is K-5, 6-8, high school. How that works for a particular kid varies, of course; most seem to benefit from the wider horizon and greater challenges of middle school. John

April 1997

I have one child at Longfellow and one at King. My son, 13, was at Longfellow for Elementary School but King seemed a better choice for him because I felt he was ready for an intermediate step - more like high school - which King is. I also wanted him to be able to take part in more sports, which he loves, and King provides much more of a setting for that - it has a pool and lots of acreage for all sorts of field and court sports, which Longfellow does not. King seems like an excellent school. I am happy with the level of instruction and the principal seems really on top of it. We have had no threatening or scarey incidents and I believe my son feels safe there. He has made lots of good friends. Barbara

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