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Longfellow test scores: Longfellow was just created as a Middle School (converted from an old elementary school, I believe), about 4 years ago. So they were really starting from scratch with new teachers, programs, principal, everything. This is the sense that they are playing catch up. They are building two new large buildings; I understand that at least one will be a new auditorium. Longfellow's emphasis is on the performing arts.
My daughter is in the 7th grade and she has had a very good experience there. This year she has terrific teachers, a number of them young and energetic. A woman math teacher and a woman science teacher who are terrific. The science dept has a joint project with UC Berkeley Astrophysics Dept which has been wonderful. It's also a small school - 350 kids - which has been good. Responsive principal. Main drawback now is that they are starting construction which may be disruptive. Feel free to reply to me directly and we can talk by phone.
I have one child at Longfellow and one at King. My daughter, age 11, wanted very much to stay with several of her friends who were remaining at Longfellow, sports was not as much of an issue, and it doesn't feel like she is as ready for that larger school. I'm hoping she will mature a lot in the next two years. We have had some excellent teachers at Longfellow and Susan Tanisawa (6th) grade, who co-teaches with Ms. Merritt, is my idea of the perfect sixth-grade teacher. I'm not as happy with the principal as at King and I don't completely buy into this "arts and technology" theme because it seems slow in developing, but all in all, the school seems to be alive and growing. The last open house was wonderful, with a steel-drum band (made up of the kids) and a pot-luck buffet - it felt like a happy, lively school.
As an additional matter, I went to all the planning meetings for the reconstruction of Longfellow and my kids will both be out of there before it is the school it is promising to be. I have some environmental concerns about my daughter going to school in a construction zone for the next two years but we'll just have to wait and see about that one.
I can't address elementary schools, but here's my two (or maybe more like 50 ;)) cents based on my one year of experience with Longfellow Middle School.
I found Longfellow to be a good school programmatically. Their aims and ideals were wonderful. However, I had some serious problems over the course of the year, some of which were the responsibility of the teacher, and some of the school. At one point my daughter was allowed to miss 14 assignments before we got a call from her teacher! I found this unacceptable. Additionally, other communication with the school was poor. When we asked for a list of assignments that she needed to make up, this list NEVER materialized, despite repeated requests. I liked the vice principal a lot; I felt she did a good job of keeping communication open between students, parents, and staff, but that wasn't enough to make up for poor communication at the classroom level.
My other main gripe was with the unremitting emphasis on Black history. I know there are some that would claim that this bias is necessary to redress a historical imbalance in the direction of dead, white males. However, I do not feel that any imbalance is appropriate, and I got very tired of the teacher's and the school's seeming attitude that Blacks are the only repressed minority in the world worth talking about.
Nor did I ever feel encouraged to participate in the school. In fact, when I did volunteer to chaparone one trip, I felt decidedly ignored by other parents and teachers. Our other attempts at involvement met with similarly lukewarm to cool reactions.
I have limited experience as a parent of a school age child; however, our experience this year at Bancroft School in San Leandro is light years ahead of our experience in Berkeley. The teachers are all very concerned with the welfare of their students; I got a call within the first week from one teacher. And for those who might object that San Leandro is a bastion of white supremacy: it just ain't so. The school is very racially mixed, and the program appears to be balanced for gender as well as race. I truly look forward to the rest of our time associated with this school.
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