Going to BHS after Private School
Berkeley Parents Network >
K-12 Schools >
Berkeley Public Schools >
Berkeley High School >
Going to BHS after Private School
I'd very much appreciate up-to-date information about Berkeley High
and how it might work out for my shy daughter who has been in a
private school. For example,
1. How are budget cuts impacting the quality of education at
Berkeley High? What is the prospect over the next few years?
2. How does the small school concept work today? Students express
their top choices and then they get into each small school by
lottery? There were some postings a while back about how kids from
the wealthy part of Berkeley tend not to get into Academic Choice.
Is that still true? (We are not wealthy; we are just curious...)
3. Is the school safe? How prevalent are bullying, theft,
harassing, other violent acts? Is Freshman Friday egg throwing
still happening? Do kids get to spend most of their school hours
concentrating on learning and not avoiding potential physical or
4. How is the quality of teaching during the first 2 years, which
we believe to be most important in establishing good learning
foundation? What is the average class size?
5. How are student advisors? Are they normally available when
6. We don't live in Berkeley, but are thinking if it might be worth
it to rent in Berkeley so our daughter can go to Berkeley High
(legitimately). We also think of St. Mary's as a (gentler, kinder)
option. If you have compared these 2 high schools in terms of
academics and safety and college opportunitiesn and general
happiness for your child, we'd very much appreciate hearing from you.
My shy daughter is finishing her first year at BHS in AC after coming from private school.
There are a lot of myths out there about how wonderful as well as how scary/dismal BHS
is. It's all true and it's all highly dependent on your child and the teachers they get and the
peer group they find.
1. How are budget cuts impacting the quality of education at
Berkeley High? Class sizes have been quite large - the school does not publish accurate
numbers. My daughter has over 30 students in 5/6 classes. Given the state's problems, it
will likely get worse.
2. How does the small school concept work today? You set your choices. If you only want
the big schools - AC and IB, don't put any small choices in your lottery setting. Small
schools get disproportionate amount of resources (smaller class sizes, more counselors)
but have not done any evaluation of outcomes of program. The standardized test results
are dismal for students in the small schools, but it works for some students exceptionally
well. It's just not well studied. Out of the 20 families we knew from private high schools,
only 1 chose a small school - AHA - because of the art program.
3. Is the school safe? It's been mostly fine. Freshman hazing is institutionalized and
accepted- pretty disgusting. My daughter avoided it as did most of her friends, but it
scared them for months.
4. How is the quality of teaching during the first 2 years? Very mixed. 3 good teachers
this year out of 6. 1 horrible that no one has done anything about. Teaching may be
better, but expectations are very low. The school has well intentioned, but poorly
conceptualized reform ideas. They consistently change seats on the titanic.
5. How are student advisors? My daughter's advisor has over 800 students. It took 2.5
months to get a returned call after several emails. She got to see him once after waiting for
awhile to sign a form and then his office lost it. Took awhile to track it down. ugh
6. Is St. Mary's (gentler, kinder). True - much less variance in highs and lows. When we
looked at it, the academic program looked really skills/drills and traditional discipline, etc,
but the facilities and student body and activities are much more controlled and ''high
school'' like. More diversity in the higher courses than at BHS, though, which can get
pretty segregated by the AP years.
I have an 8th grade student in private school and we are considering BHS for her next year.
We had a teen son who was very unhappy there for his freshman year, now happy in a small
private school. I am hoping to avoid the same mistakes as last time and wanted to ask for
some''pearls'' of advice from parents of kids who feel like they have some tips to share. My
daughter is bright and motivated but not overwhelmed by ''pop culture'', kinda of a nerd (self
described) Give me your tips!!
trying to get my nerve up to give it another go
My son is a Freshman at Berkeley High , the IB program and he came from a private school.
have to tell you that we have been pleasantly surprised, it is a big school but the
know my child, the classroom size is small, 20 to 25. The teachers are young and
enthusiastic. I am glad i don't have a to pay a huge amount of money for it...
I have some questions about east bay private high school. I have been
reading the reviews on BPN and they all sound wonderful.
will start looking at possible high schools this year and any input
from parents of kids at area schools would be great.
Or should we just bite the bullet and send her to Berkeley High?
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks to all.
(See Private high school for N.Berkeley kids? for the full question and all replies)
Check out Berkeley High.
After all, BHS has the most number of
AP and Honors classes than any school in the area, the
largest/most varied athletic program of any high school west of
the Mississippi, and an incredibly visual and especially
performing arts program (the jazz band of course is nationally
ranked). In addition, BHS offers more languages than many
colleges (Spanish, French, Latin, Swahili, German, and starting
next year Mandarin Chinese). With this year's implementation of
the new International High program, every student has the
opportunity to be in a community-based setting. In addition to
the IH program (where students will be able to choose to receive
an international baccalaureate degree), there is Academic Choice
(traditional, college prep), and the small schools:
Communications/Arts/Science (CAS), Community Partnership
Academy, Social Justice, and Arts/Humanity (AHA), themed and/or
somewhat non-traditional college prep. Not to mention the
amazing number of clubs, associations, and other student
activities. Yes, Berkeley High can be intimidating for some
students and for some, the independence and freedom at BHS can
be too much to handle but I truly believe that NO PRIVATE HIGH
SCHOOL IN THE BAY AREA provides more overall than BHS in terms
of academic opportunity, academic rigor, and more importantly
We investigated private high schools, went through the whole
application process and enrolled our daughter in a private
school for ninth grade. (She was accepted at multiple
schools.) She ultimately decided to attend a school in Marin,
and the commute was awful even though the school provided a bus
from N. Berkeley, upwards of three hours per day. She also
found that she really needed to be in a larger school
environment, having attended private school for K-8. We
finally agreed to let her transfer half way through her first
semester to Berkeley High, despite already having committed to
the tuition at the private school, and the experience has been
great for her.
Because she came in mid-year she didn't get a choice of program
or classes, but the school worked with her to get her into the
right level of classes, and she is certain she made the right
decision. She is the only Freshman in several of her classes.
So, my advice is, look into Berkeley High as a positive option,
not a last resort. Many people outside of the city find ways
to enroll their children in BHS because it is a vibrant
community with excellent academic options.
The right school for your child depends on their personality
Happy BHS parent
I am the mother of an small 7th grade boy. He has organizational issues, and
so is not good at navigating beaurocratic mazes. He's been at small
independent schools so far. He's intimidated by the idea of so many students,
and by the idea of having to find his way around the campus. He's not good
at advocating for himself. He doesn't do well in chaotic environments.
We are attracted by some of what Berkeley High has to offer as far as
programs and ''life experience'', but we wonder whether it is realistic to
expect this kind of kid to succeed there. I'd love to hear comments about
this, as well as what it's like to advocate for your child there (tutoring, class
choices); what's the likelyhood of getting into one of the small schools of
your choice? How are small schools, and the academics in general?
As a ninth Grader, I came to BHS feeling nervous abouyt the large enviroment
and all the beuracy there. I have organizational difficulties and I survived
there for all four years and am present At UCB. AT lunch and after school
there's often tutoring in Math and the sciences .Whatever your son's interests
there will be class for him. If you select a small school ,there's a high
probaly that he would get in to the small school As a former Academic Choice
student, I would recommend either AC or CPA, In the large school ,
Academics are very IFFY. If you want more specific info on BHS, conevt me
Dear Mom who is worried about the disorganized 7th grader
going to BHS. I understand your concerns, but want to
reassure you. They've expanding the number of small schools,
and your son should have no problem getting into one of
them, even if it's not your first choice. The academics in
the small schools are good, and the students benefit from
smaller class sizes in many cases. And last, but not least,
I'm willing to bet that you'll be amazed how much your 7th
grader matures before he has to start the 9th grade at BHS,
some 16 months from now. I know I was. As long as he has a
group of friends from his middle school that are also going
to BHS he should do fine. Even if they're not in the same
small school he is, it's good to have friends to hang out
with at lunch time.
Dear Torn Mom,
Your letter describes my son to the letter. He is now
completing his 2nd year in the small school CAS at
Berkeley High School. Unfortunately, as a public school
teacher, parent and advocate it pains me to say that he
will not be returning next year. The classes are too big,
his teachers over worked and he is lost. I believe
Berkeley High is a great school for some kids but they
are not able to serve all kids (yet). We are leaving it for a
small school (10-12 kids ) in each class with a learning
center and homework hotline built in. There are some
great resources at Berkeley High but they weren't
enough for my son. I wish you luck in your decision.
I have been watching this newsletter for a year and a half - and have put out
"tactful queries" in the past about the tough decision we face about whether our
son should leave private school to go to Berkeley high. No responses have been
forthcoming. He just finnished 7th grade and is quite interested in changing to
BHS, but has only social reasons ( which have some merit). The more I read at
this site - and talk with parents - I am perplexed as to why would I choose to
give up great teachers, access to great courses, lots of sports and resources and
support - for BHS - which, among other things, is now eliminating history in the
Freshman curriculum. All tact now aside - my kid has a strong sense of social
justice, and is not in an ivory tower. He doesn't need BHS to get a taste of the
"real world" _ So what is the draw, if we can afford to do otherwise. My son is
not a "self-starter" who will jumpt to take advantage of what BHS has to offer
academically - and is not likely to "fight" to get a few good classes" He will
slide and have "fun". Lately - however, I feel like I am the only one left that
doesn't see the attraction of BHS. So please - I could use some read benchmarks
on which to base this decision. Thanks - Anon parent of 8th grader in fall.
Both my kids went through Berkeley High-- my second will graduate in June
2002 and I would likely make the same decision again. BHS is not without
it's frustrations and limitations, it's bureaucracies and it's share of
mediocre teachers. However, it is most importantly an exciting, vibrant,
creative school with dedicated teachers and every possible color and shape
and inclination of kid. We as parents have seen both our kids collectively
participate in Lit Mag, Soccer, Cross Country, Jazz Ensemble, the truly
exceptional Latin program, Orchestra, senior streak, proms. They've made
movies, learned photography, served on committees. We recently had the
pleasure to attend the performance of Grease and the final Dance
Performances, both of which were fun and wonderfully done. The spirit of
these kids and the camaraderie among the performers and the pride coming from
the audience put me in touch with all that's the best in this school
Academically there are highs mediums and lows -- I'm sure you've heard
testimony regarding all three. Much what you hear is true, some of what you
hear is tainted by parental experience with their particular child and his
or her struggles and strengths. I've heard parents who are considering BHS
over private schools think that allowing their child to follow their desire
to go to Berkeley is tantamount to dropping them into a garbage dump. Despite
it's rough exterior (literally) and the complexity of running a huge school
in an ethnically and socio-economically diverse community I find that there's
so much life and a good deal of excellence there that I am pleased to have
given my children an opportunity to be a part of it.
In response to the parent wondering why he or she doesn't see the benefits
of Berkeley High but continues to think that he or she is missing
something: If you don't see any benefits to Berkeley High for your child,
don't send him there.
It sounds like the school he's in is fine, he's not a self-starter and
might float too much in a big school. He may not want to take advantage of
all the opportunities there. That's okay. So leave him where he is, feel
good about it and stop worrying.
Berkeley High already has more than enough students. If yours is happy
elsewhere, that's great!
I'm sorry that no one responded to your question. I'm happy to share my
opinion- but you raise some good questions. If your son is happy,
thriving, and in a positive environment, and the cost of private school is
not crushing you and your family why move him? We have had a very positive
experience with BHS. It is definitely a complicated place with the bad and
the good mixed in. My daughter would often say she hates it, but my
observation is that she is thriving. She is definitely a go getter, and is
becoming more so as she is at BHS. She is challenged taking AP science and
honors math classes. History and English were okay this year, great last
year. She gets a real world experience which I think is important. It is
making her savvy, cynical, jaded, less idealistic, angry, more practical,
able to fight for what she needs for herself.....what else can I say? It's
part of growing up. As I watch her move in the world I like who she is
becoming, and I think her experiences at BHS have a lot to do with that.
The fact that race and class so often run along the same lines is a complex
thing for all of us to deal with, and I think being at BHS brings her face
to face with the injustice of our educational system for some. Grappling
with these issues makes her a more thoughtful person. Educationally, I
think she gets enough of high quality that she will do okay long term--but
she may learn to write in college, since it is not happening in high
school. I'm not sure what you should do, I can only offer a description of
our experience. I am hoping we can pull together enough money that my
daughter can go to a smaller private college and get more individualized
attention. It seems like it would be a reward for wading through the
complexity of BHS. Maybe a great private high school, then a state
university does the same thing in terms of teaching kids to function well
in different learning environments. There are so many right ways to do this.
Hope this is helpful.
My children, nieces and nephews have all gone to Berkeley High. Our
family adult peers are all college graduates as well as our parents/
their grandparents. The girls all did well. The boys flunked out,
went to alternative, private schools or just barely graduated. I
think to succeed at BHS, you have to be well disciplined and involved
in extra-curricular activities. If your child is already having
trouble at school, they will not get the extra help and support they
need to graduate. The open campus and the loose attendance policies
of the past have made it more fun to not come back from lunch and to
stay in the park with friends and wander off.
I think the students at BHS are incredibly talented, vocal
and multi-faceted. BHS is like a junior college. It doesn't have
the same sort of "school spirit" that other high schools have. The
students who graduate can articulate their experiences and social
relationships in a way that most adults have trouble . Students have
great teachers, the courses are of the highest quality for college
bound youth. Kids who aren't going on to college or don't have the
drive, interest, skills are left behind quickly. If your child joins
a sports team, or club, that will help pull them along. But extra
tutoring is often necessary.
If your child wants to go to BHS and you can afford a
private school and you think they have the motivation to succeed.
Then I would send them to BHS and monitor the situation. If they
start to fail, pull them out and send them to a private school.
First time reply on my part; our daughter just finished freshman year at
Berkeley high and had what I would consider a great experience. Most of it
is based in the fact that she joined the womens crew team and had an intense
experience (virtually yearlong workouts some of which are at 6am at Lake
Merrit). Also she has a huge group of great friends (30 or so on the team).
BHS is huge, no denying it, and if you feel your child can benefit from a
larger school than do it. If where he is is great then why change. BHS is
great for us. I just never see other people say this in this newsletter.
We too have been following the discussions regarding Berkeley High for some time and
share your concerns about children who are not "self-starters" who will fight their way
into the "good" classes. We have decided to move to Orinda solely because we have come
believe that attending Berkeley High is not the only way to insure that our son
from high school with a sense of what the "real world" is all about. We are planning on
sending our boys to public school in Orinda. Our son too wanted to attend BHS because
"all of his friends are going" but that wasn't reason enough to sway us. We just decided
we didn't want to possibly sacrifice our son's physical well-being to the political
correctness gods who feel that people who choose alternatives to inner city public
education don't care about their communities. Are we heartbroken to be leaving
you better believe it. It was a tough decision but one we felt very compelled to make.
Good Luck -
this page was last updated: Sep 27, 2010
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Berkeley Parents Network