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College Preparatory School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > College Preparatory School



March 2013

Re: Private High School: the ''value proposition''

''Value'' is, by definition, subjective. Every family has different variables, and only you can weigh them and assess the value of a private school education for this kid and for your family. I'm not sure anyone can help, but I will try.

My sons went to CPS; one is in college, one is now a Senior. CPS is an extraordinary place. I have never seen such a group of engaged and bright students, or gifted teachers, as I have seen there. I just went to the student-run Cabaret Night. The talent of the kids was breathtaking, the enthusiasm and support from their friends in the audience was heart-warming. CPS's small size means no one can back-bench the education. The teachers really get to know the students and vice versa. My Senior loves his classes, his activities, his teachers, and his friends. He keeps saying how happy he is at CPS -- particularly that he has found a community of kids who don't think it is weird to be smart, read The Economist, or quote Shakespeare. Both my sons have gotten a superb education at CPS -- learned to write well, and to think deeply and broadly and for themselves. I am grateful there is a school like that for my kids.

But be forewarned: Your kid, however bright, will be average at CPS. All the kids are smart, and many are scary smart. Different kids respond differently to that environment. My older son found it deflating; he had effortlessly excelled in school before, and was discouraged to work way harder for less stellar grades. The academic challenge undermined his confidence. My younger son is more academically motivated and is exhilarated by the intellectual environment. He is not undone by the high standards, even if it means he gets some B's. How will your son deal with not being the smartest in the class?

On college admissions: CPS has great reputation with the colleges, which go deeper into the class to accept CPS kids. But the top colleges still expect top grades, and it is not easy to get top grades at CPS. I wouldn't go there on the expectation it will yield an Ivy League ticket. And the mix of demanding classes and super-smart kids can depress GPAs enough to make it harder for CPS kids to get into UCs, where admission is rigidly numbers-driven.

Is it worth scrimping for? That's a tough call. We have gulped at the tuition, but have been able to manage it and still pay for college. If it were a choice between CPS and paying for college, though, it would be a hard choice to make. For the older son, I'd have opted for public school; although he got a great education, CPS was not such a perfect fit for him that it would have been worth putting him in college debt. For the younger son, who has thrived at CPS, the foundation for a life lived fully and confidently was probably worth it. Mom of Big Guys


Yes, I think there is value for certain kids. My kids went to BHS and wouldn't have been happy at a school like CPS, but my husband went to CPS and for him it was a life-transforming experience. He was always a smart kid who loved learning, but his impulsiveness and obsessiveness drew him to the ''bad'' kids, and often got him into trouble in public school, and as a result his grades were mediocre. He went to CPS as a sophomore on scholarship. There he found his ''people'' -- years later many of his closest friends date back to CPS. His peer group at CPS inspired and challenged him to higher levels. That was a big value. I think he would say the other great value was gaining an adult-level appreciation of art, literature, music, history, and philosophy, taught by skilled teachers who related to their students almost as peers, holding them to high standards. He had always been good at math and went on to get a PhD in engineering, but at CPS his world opened up to include the humanities, which still give him a lot of pleasure.

In terms of pay-off, I would say that a smart motivated student would succeed regardless of his high school, and also that a school like CPS does not guarantee later success, however you define that. My husband's CPS friends are now in a variety of careers - writers, college professors, elementary school teachers, small business owners, even a priest. But for him, his experience at CPS started him on a new road and made him the man he is now - lover of books, excited by new ideas, curious about the world around him, and eager to learn new things. local mom


CPS vs. Head-Royce for high school

Jan 2012

Hello BPNers,

This question was last posted in 2007. Could we please get your advices on this subject one more time? We're comparing CPS and Head-Royce and having a hard time judging how these two schools will fit our daughter who is academic-focused, motivated, doing well in school, but also wants to have a social life (doing music/sport, chatting with friends, shopping, having fun, etc.) Our questions:

1. Can such kid be happy at CPS? Because of our daughter's academic success to date, everyone we know assumes that we'll want her to go to CPS. We do have CPS at the top of our list and we care very much about the academics. However, we do want her to be happy in school as well.

2. Are CPS teachers caring and friendly? Do they create joyful, fun learning experiences that motivate students to want to learn and explore more? We were surprised at some teachers (9th grade teachers) during the open house -- they appeared disengaged and not particularly friendly. Our daughter had this same experience with two teachers during her visit. Did our family just hit two bad days?

3. How welcoming are Head-Royce kids and families? Will cliques be an issue for a new kid? Will a nice, middle-income family (with an old Honda and no BMW or Volvo) fit in?

4. From the BPN comments we read, many families suggested that CPS is the stronger academic high school than Head-Royce. We, as an outsider, cannot identify the major factors that would make it so. Is it the teachers? The teaching style? The classes offered? The kids? If a motivated-to-learn kid can magically be in these 2 schools at the same time, what about CPS could make her learn better, happier at CPS, and what about Head-Royce could make her learn better, happier at Head-Royce?

We thank you for any insights you can share with us. Anonymous


My son is a junior at CPS (and his older brother is a CPS alum, now in college). CPS is an extraordinary place. I have never seen such a group of engaged and bright students, or gifted teachers, as I have seen there. I am profoundly grateful that there is a school like that for my kids. Answers to your specific questions:

1. Kids at CPS are like all kids, and they are involved in a million different things (including hanging out with friends). My younger son, now a junior, does debate and theater. He loves school, and his activities, and his friends. He is working hard, but managing everything. He keeps saying how happy he is at CPS -- particularly that he has found a community of kids who don't think it is weird to be smart, read The Economist, or quote Shakespeare.

2. CPS teachers are all caring and committed. Some are friendly, some more reserved -- like people everywhere. There are many wonderful and inspiring teachers. Most teachers make close connections with kids who seek them out.

3. We liked that everyone at CPS is new. There is no existing social scene that kids have to fit into.

4. Both schools have strong academics. I suspect the education you get at either place is equivalent. CPS doesn't do a lot of AP classes -- just a philosophy that AP doesn't mean much in a place where all classes are challenging. It does not at all affect college admissions; CPS kids all go to great colleges. (The college counseling there is fabulous.) CPS also encourages cooperation rather than competition. It is an intense place, because the kids are all smart and engaged, but not because kids are vying to edge each other out.

One observation: Your kid, however bright, likely will be average at CPS: All the kids are smart, and many of them are scary smart. Different kids respond differently to that environment. My older son found it deflating; he had effortlessly excelled in school before, and was discouraged when he had to work way harder for less stellar grades. For him, the academic challenge undermined his confidence. My younger son is more academically motivated and is exhilarated by the intellectual environment. He is not undone by the high standards, even when his grades are not quite what he'd like. You know your daughter. Will she be okay if she works hard and still gets Bs? That is the experience of many, probably most, CPS kids. If she has to be at the top, it may not be a good place for her. Happy CPS parent


My daughter transferred from Bentley to Head-Royce in elementary school to get a more rounded education. HR did not challenge her academically. She was years ahead of her grade. Socially she was accepted, had may friends, playdates, sleepovers, etc. but it was a little too much, over the top. After two years she left HR.

HR did however have a fantastic music and sports program - outstanding!

Today, she is at CPS and loves it. She is academically challenged and loves it. The kids are kind, caring, and supportive. Like any high school, there are drugs and alcohol but it's at a minimal and has not been an issue with us. There is not that pressure to be or not-to-be. The school is diverse in every way, you can be who you are and feel good about it.

She spends up to 2 hrs Mon - Thurs and Sun (when needed) on homework. Does music, has friends (at CPS and outside of CPS), and a social life. She is thinking of joining a sport.

There are some teachers she absolutely loves and others she does not care for. Regardless of how she feels, she respects all of them, and does her work cause that's what's expected of her. I can not imagine an environment where she absolutely loves everyone and everything. Life just isn't that way.

CPS is not for everyone. It's a school for extremely bright kids who are self motivated and enjoy learning. . A Very Happy Parent


I've had children on both schools-- they are quite different so their different school experiences reflect that to a certain degree but I have also checked out my impressions with other parents who know both schools. My overall advice is: Don't reflexively pick CPS because of its more academic reputation and 'selective' college admissions record. CPS selects its ninth-graders based on high test scores (which four years later help with college admissions), whereas Head-Royce students are admitted in kindergarten, sixth grade, and other years as well as ninth. That being said, Head-Royce students attend an impressive and interesting array of colleges. Head-Royce students are diverse in background (plenty are middle-class), interests, and learning styles and the school works hard and successfully to form a community. The high-school program is thoughtfully designed. Teachers are generally warm, caring, and supportive, and engage with students in non-academic pursuits (e.g. community service, advising) as well as academic matters. The school conveys the positive attitude that parents, students, and teachers are partners in an effort to make the high school years both academically challenging and personally happy for students. CPS is a cooler, less welcoming social environment and is less concerned with supporting the student-as-teenager and in developing a sense of community. It is academically intense and teachers are available for academic help, but your impression that some teachers are quite disengaged was borne out by my experience. There are some great and inspiring teachers at both schools, but my sense is that CPS teachers focus on academic instruction and are less willing to engage outside the classroom. However, CPS has a new head so changes may be coming. In terms of academic intensity and curricular rigor, CPS may have a slight edge, but Head-Royce is a kinder, warmer school. HRS/CPS parent
Our son is a junior at CPS. I had heard that the school was very intense, rigorous, competitive, and stressful. I have been thrilled to discover that while the curriculum is rigorous, the atmosphere is friendly and supportive and not the least bit competitive. For example, the teachers do not curve the grades; everyone has the opportunity to receive an A in a class. The teachers and administrators are accessible, accommodating, and do everything they can to help students succeed. Compared to the excellent public school that my daughter attended, I must say that the quality of the teaching and the curriculum at CPS are better.

The students are friendly. Although most students come to the school already knowing a few classmates, for the most part, the students are all new. As such, pre-formed cliques do not appear to be a problem. There are plenty of extracurricular activities as well. happy mom


I don't usually respond to postings but this one really touched me. It was just two years ago that we were facing a similar decision! My daughter chose CPS despite our real family concerns that it puts too much emphasis on academics and wouldn't create space for her to grow socially and emotionally. It turned out to be a great choice. She's a sophomore and is absolutely thriving. The teachers are wonderful, her friends are terrific, and she's discovered dance! The fact is that motivated kids like to be with other motivated kids and that's who is at CPS. She definitely works hard but she and her friends find lots of times and spaces that aren't all about working hard too. The socio-economic mix is quite diverse; some parents do put a huge amount of pressure on their kids to succeed but that's not true for everyone. I know my daughter has a friend who is happy at Head-Royce so I don't want to be negative about the comparison. I can say, however, that one really positive thing about CPS is that everyone starts together as freshmen so there's no need for outsiders to ''break in''. Good luck with the choice! Happy CPS Parent
Nothing else to add to what Happy CPS Mother wrote in her letter last week. Go wonderful CPS mother! Happy CPS Teacher
Hi--your daughter sounds as though she will have a fine experience wherever she matriculates: both schools offer excellent programs and feature happy, successful students. They are different schools, of course, and one of the overarching differences is that HRS is K-12 and Prep is 9-12. This affects (for better and worse on both sides) everything from social life and school spirit to the academic range of the students. Because of this, HRS is in some ways more comparable with, say, Bentley and Prep with, say, Marin Academy--K-12 schools inherently feature a different dynamic than do the 9-12.

Ours is a College Prep family, so I can answer some of your questions based upon our experience there. We have a Prep alumna, a son currently at Prep, and middle-school child. Both of our Prep students are/were active outside of class in music, athletics and youth groups. Both have/had extra-curricular time to spend with friends and family--the time devoted to social activities driven more by each child's temperament than by school culture or pressure.

The Prep curriculum is indeed demanding, and Prep works best for those teens who truly love to engage intellectually. At Prep, the word ''joy'' is taken very seriously--the school really wants students to find delight in their peers, work, teachers, activities and themselves. They make a significant effort to create a rigorous, engaging curriculum and concurrently build support into every aspect of the school so that students can lead balanced lives. Both of my Prep kids have loved their education there, but in different ways reflecting their very different personalities.

Given this, I am concerned to read that you felt that some of the Prep teachers were ''disengaged and not particularly friendly.'' That has not been our experience at all in the past five years. I would be happy to learn more about your impressions of the open house and shadow day and perhaps provide some additional information if you would like.

As you work through the application and admission process, don't forget that the Admissions Office at each school is a source of of a wealth of information. They can probably recommend current students for your daughter to contact for an unedited, teen view of the experience at each school. If, in March, you all are choosing between HRS and Prep, your daughter can take advantage of a second shadow day where she can revisit the schools and see how they feel from her perspective as a second semester eighth grader. Good luck! Prep parent


I was astonished at some of the comments from the parent comparing College Prep and Head-Royce, describing College Prep as a "less-welcoming social environment" with teachers focused narrowly on academics. Nothing could be further from our experience, and the post prompted my daughter to write her own reply, which I am including.

At College Prep our daughter has found a community of diverse learners, aptly characterized by a teacher as having "crackling intelligence" (not necessarily measured by academics) and "genuine kindness." The latter is a very important aspect of the school community, and considerable institutional effort goes into nurturing it. Freshman and sophomore classes begin the school year with class retreats incorporating many team-building activities, and the entire school goes on a snow trip together between semesters. Teachers interact with students on many levels outside the classroom, and share some of their non-academic interests in courses offered during an annual intra-term week. Choices include cooking, photography, knitting, auto repair, films of several different genres, visits to local museums, hikes and other topics. An atmosphere of caring about each other and about the community we live in permeates the school.

My daughter wrote: I am a junior at College Prep, and I love it. I love my fellow students, I love the teachers, and I love the atmosphere. College Prep not only welcomes striving to excel academically, but it also encourages you to strive to be a better person. College prep has students from an array of different backgrounds, learning and otherwise. Students are not only chosen because of test scores; we are chosen because our love of learning. The teachers at College Prep share that love, and love sharing it with us. Class discussions, especially English, can range from deep conversations to witty badinage, but throughout all the classes we experience different points of view, which helps us grow as students and as people. We may not be as sporty as Head Royce, but we grow together as a community, each student and teacher with their own niche, coming together because of our joy in learning.

Editor note: see also reviews of Head Royce in response to this question.


Dec 2010

Re: What GPA is needed to apply to CPS or Head Royce?
Call the College Prep and Head Royce admissions directors and ask about their admissions criteria. If you/she are really interested in these schools you should also attend an open house and take a tour. I'm a College Prep parent ('09 and '12), while the school is focused on academics, they are interested in a diverse and well-rounded student body. It's been a great academic experience for both kids, my older son was well prepared for a rigorous university experience. Good teachers, no teaching to the test. My older son did very well on college entrance exams without any external courses, just the prep he did with a book. The student body tends to be somewhat self-selecting, kids who aren't academic aren't interested in the school or leave shortly. The school also has strong music and drama programs. Can't speak to team sports, my kids weren't interested. Very few discipline issues, no campus violence. College Prep parent


Nov 2009

Re: Which middle school for CPS students?
My daughter just graduated from CPS and loved it. It is, however, not for everyone. Most of the kids are very bright and academics are everything. My daugher attended the Academy for middle school and they, at the time, did an adequate job preparing her (she is in college now). My son now attends The Academy and it is much better now than it was five years ago. They have beefed up the science and math programs tremendously, as well as French. They have also hired a teacher to come in exclusively to help with writing(one area that has been a bit of a concern to parents). I would highly recommend the Academy. CPS, in my opinion, is the best of the private schools in the area and one of the best in the country. sc


Nov 2009

Re: Which middle school for CPS students?
Students come to Prep from a wide variety of middle schools--private, public, charter, alternative, parochial, homeschool. As the parent of two current Prep students, I would say that the main factor in success at Prep is not a specific middle school as much as the characteristics of an individual student. Prep is a great fit for energetic teens excited about learning in all its many guises. Some children, notably those from very academic schools, do come better prepared in the mechanics of grammar and mathematics as well as in time management. Yet, in terms of overall happiness, intellectual engagement, extracurricular involvement, social interaction, and connection with faculty and staff, most students seem very successful no matter where they went to middle school. Even if ''success'' is defined strictly by grades, students from every type of school background have the chance to do well at Prep.

The homework load can be challenging at first for students who did not attend a highly academic middle school. My two students, who attended an arts-based alternative school, needed to refine their time management skills--they both play sports and musical instruments and had to figure out how to incorporate homework into the mix. That said, their homework is generally very engaging and even exciting. My kids will often say how much they enjoy what they are studying, even if it takes longer than anticipated to complete assignments.

If your child is enthusiastic about learning, Prep can be a great place no matter where s/he is at school presently. Prep parent


August 2009

Re: Public vs. private "real life" experience?
Hello to you. Wanted to share our experience. Our son went to a private K-8th grade school, and we were eager to put him into Berkeley High School come 9th grade, which we did. That was our intention all along. However, 9th grade there was a lost year for our child, at least academically. It matters which small school your student is in. The fit has to work, the whole environment has to work for your kid. It wasn't good for ours, and after a negligent response by the school administration to verbal and physical threats our kid received at the end of the year, he wanted out. He's now at CPS, so we've experienced both environments. Both schools have pros and cons and my heart was broken when we decided he needed to leave BHS. I do not believe a kid at this age needs those ''real life'' experiences we all have dragged on about. There's a level of cushy entitledness at the private high schools that makes me ill, but they get plenty of experience outside of school, and there's time after high school, too, to be involved in their communities... CPS and I'm sure others, have many wonderful volunteer programs. One might say that at this age when kids can be vicious and out of control, that the intensity of it isn't real, either, that it's endemic to the age. Frankly, it can cause some real hurt. Then again, BHS is an energized place filled with interesting kids and they're seriously trying to make a go of it there - to bring everyone together... it always comes down to who your kid is and to try to make the fit a good one, if one is able. I just don't go for that real life stuff anymore. (I'd be happy to talk with you more, let me know) g.


August 2009

Re: Public vs. private "real life" experience?
When my husband and I thought about schools for our kids, I knew that a college prep high school was not necessary to do well in college and graduate school. I had attended a rural public high school that had no college level courses (e.g., calculus), and I had done well in college and law school. However, I also knew that I had to work harder to catch up because I was not as well prepared as my fellow students. I had survived many mediocre high school teachers who did nothing to stimulate an interest in the subjects they taught.

We decided to send our son to College Preparatory School, where he is thriving. CPS is 40% students of color. More than 25% of the students receive financial aid. The average grant for those students is $19,000 (on tuition of $29,950). CPS will distribute more than $1.7 million in financial aid in 2009-2010. Community service is important to us, and it is an integral part of the schoolC",b"s culture (http://www.college-prep.org/Program/community_service). It includes maintenance of an Oakland playground, bi-weekly preparation and serving of a meal at the Berkeley MenC",b"s Shelter, and academic enrichment for underprivileged students from Oakland public schools (http://www.college-prep.org/Program/partners/partners-brochure-05.pdf/view). DC


Jan 2009

Re: Which private school for North Berkeley family?
Hi, my daughter is a freshman at CPS (now officially College Prep) this year, and is thrilled with it. The teachers are all fabulous, and are always willing to spend extra time with her, be it to give help or just to chat. The kids are all ingratiating and supportive. Though the workload is heavy, she enjoys what she has to do. The small classes are intimate and rewarding, and she is challenged in a way that was rare in her past education. The school is definitely suited to a certain kind of student though, and kids who attend must be willing to work hard. However, alongside this academic rigor, the school offers many opportunities for fun and enjoyment. I don't know how it compares to Marin Academy (she didn't look into the school), but she certainly loves everything about CPS. Hope this helps. j


Dec 2008

I am very interested in the academics CPS can offer my child, but I am overwhelmed by what I can see of the overall culture of the school. Is it possible to go there without doing all the extra things?--extra-curricular activities, many trips, paying all the extra things for the parents' organization? We have an extremely close family--we already have a culturally-rich home life and take a lot of trips, and I am not inspired to give my money for the things their PTA selects--decorations for events, etc. (I am otherwise an Involved Parent.) Is it possible for a student to study there without being swallowed up in the school's plans for my child's private time? I have made personal/professional changes to be present in our home life, which is very joyful, and I am concerned about being in a school that intrudes on that, or insists on my child's participation beyond what is healthy for our family. I asked a CPS parent about that: she said oh, it was very painful but time to let our children go. This made my concern much worse. My family very naturally spends inter-generational time together, like many families we know, though you wouldn't know we all exist from the popular media. If my child can get into CPS, it seems like a shame to pass up such wonderful academic training--but will we be free to find our own level of participation in the larger school picture? Joining a school, not a cult


My child started CPS this year and has not been swallowed up by extra-curricular activities. Kids are free to choose what activities they want and the level of engagement they want as well. Some activities like sports and debate take a lot of time and, given the amount of homework, don't leave a lot of free time. But it's definitely OK only to do what you care about and not be pressured to overextend yourself. The academics and teaching are great-- that's why we picked the school. cps parent
I was a freshman at College Prep 21 years ago, but have stayed an active alumna, and was also staff at the school last year. Granted, the culture may have changed, but the leadership and many of the faculty remain, and in my dealings with the students last year, I recognized the student ''types'' and the atmosphere from my own days there. In my experience, there is no institutional pressure to participate in extracurriculars, beyond the fact that some classes are required (such as a certain number of units in the arts and physical activity before graduation). The bigger issue is that the programs are so strong that many students (myself included) were drawn to participate fully. In fact, my faculty advisor had to routinely ask me to sign up for fewer classes and activities, because I was trying to do too much. As for the money or time expected of a parent, that is also highly individual. I had a single working mom who could not afford the time or money to contribute, and while she wasn't an active member of the parent community, I never felt that she or I was judged for it. And there are many ways for a parent to shape their own involvement, whether with the community service program, or by joining the grounds committee to work with the gardener, or offering an Intraterm class. I did not have the strong family that your child is lucky enough to have, and so I found all the family I needed within the College Prep community, but I had many friends who balanced family and school life more evenly. Given that, it is a very rigorous and demanding school, and your child, if s/he chooses to attend, will be very busy with homework and school projects. In my experience, it was worth it.

To this day, I still tell people my four years at College Prep were the best in my 18+ years of schooling. Class of 1991


My son is a senior at CPS. He is a student there, but his life is focused elsewhere. That has been fine with us, fine with him, and (I assume) fine with the school. It is an extraordinary learning environment, with the brightest, most engaged collection of kids you will find anywhere. It can be much more than that -- a community that defines your kid for four years -- but it need not be. Yes, the auction can be a bit over the top, but other than that the school is pretty down-to-earth. The local trips (class retreats) are wonderful opportunities for the kids to bond and learn about each other. The snow trip is optional. The more exotic trips are intraterm options, which you need not choose. I have never thought of CPS as cult-like. No Kool-Aid Here
Dear ''Joining a school, not a cult,'' If ''cult'' is the word that first comes to your mind when you think about CPS, it may not be a good fit for you. Here's my take: If you're going to do anything with excellence, it takes time and commitment. Your child is entering a four-year period during which s/he will become a young adult. There is no telling what s/he will find a passion for, but I can tell you that CPS is a wonderful place for that to happen, that you will be amazed at the talented and mature person your child becomes, and that, no, you do not have to yield your life to school but can define how much time you and your child want to commit. You're going to have to learn to give up some control wherever your child goes to school, however. Prepare yourself for that. Parent of a CPS senior
We're a CPS family, and before that we home-schooled, so I'm with you on the commitment to rich family life and other involvements outside of school. I'd say you and your child will be completely free to choose any level of participation in extra- curricular activities and involvements at CPS, with no disapproval if you are less involved. The thing to know is that the academics themselves take up an immense amount of time, and your child will be occupied more of the day than any of you are used to. If you can absorb that shift, and it's a big one, I don't think you need to worry about the rest. CPS families are an eclectic bunch and you won't find it cult-y at all. Best wishes, from one involved family to another. CPS parent
My children graduated from CPS in 2001 and 2004, and both had an overwhelmingly positive experience there. The high school experience is one of moving away from one's family (sorry to re-state that, but it was true for my kids, and we are still a very close family) and CPS is a great place to do that. My adult-ish age children learned how to be involved and invested in their learning at CPS; they had fabulous relationships with teachers and deans...some of their best friends at age 25 and 22 are from their friends that they went to high school with. It can be academically challenging and hard to be in a place with so many bright kids (especailly if you are an ''average'' kid at CPS, which can feel like you are not the great kid that you had to be, in order to get into Prep in the first place). As far as CPS culture, we as a family had minimal involvement with the school...we made a few ''family'' friends and went to a few school plays...It's a great place with nice kids and bright and engaging teachers...not perfect, but worth a serious look! Former CPS Mom
have you looked at maybeck high school in berkeley? they're also very academic and a great high school, website http://www.maybeckhs.org/ both my children go to cps and the idea of it being a cult never occured to any of us. for us, outside school activities are minimal. perhaps it's because our kids do very little of it [although daughter does more than son] and they've never felt the pressure to participate. sometimes a student will have a party and the whole grade is invited. cps really tries to include everyone especially in the freshman year. please, don't feel you have to do anything you're not comfortable with. sometimes people ask to be nice, they just want to make everyone feel welcome. feel free to say no and after a few nos, they usually get the hint. Anonymous
Hi, You don't mention whether your child is currently in public, private or homeschooled, so I'm not sure what your experience thus far has been. But for us, coming from a very tight-knight independent school community, actually the transition to CPS was a bit of a shock in the *decrease* in parent involvement as well as a substantial *reduction* in the connection between our child's school life and social life.

There is actually very little that we as parents are expected and welcome to do at school. The school's attitude seems to be that high school kids need to be as independent as possible, and so parent involvement is kept to peripheral things, mostly having to do with fundraising. You can get involved with the parent association (and/or pay the dues) or not, volunteer for the booksale, the gala, multicultural evening, diversity committee, etc., but you sure don't have to.

As to requirements for extracurricular involvement for your child that might impinge on your family time or finances, again, there isn't a whole lot. There are only two things I can think of that are particular to CPS, and that is the winter snow trip and the spring intraterm. I think something like 70% of the kids (maybe more) go on the snow trip. Like the freshman orientation, or sophomore/junior/senior retreats, these are good opportunities for your kid to get to know their classmates outside of class. It is heavily subsidized by the school, so not a lot of cost involved unless your kid opts to ski. Many kids go and don't ski, just hang out at the lodge.

There is also the spring intraterm, the week before spring break. It is obligatory, not an extension of spring break. This is a week of interesting activities/classes/trips that the kids select ahead of time, offered by a teacher or group of teachers, most of whom are sharing a hobby or avocation outside of the usual academic interests. So one option might be spending the week repairing bicycles to be sent to Botswana, or learning Vietnamese cooking in the morning and discussing the social ramifications of the Simpsons cartoons in the afternoon, or hiking at Joshua Tree. The trips involve some fundraising, the rest are either free or have a low fee for materials. It's not taking away from your family time as your kid would ordinarily be in school that week if they were elsewhere - but it does provide a nice break from the academic schedule.

Your child may choose to get involved in extracurriculars such as sports, music, drama, dance, etc., and if so, that's great. I must say, the most pleasant surprise to us at CPS (aka College Prep) has been in those sorts of programs. Dance is an outstanding program, appeals to both boys and girls, and puts on an extraordinary show. Likewise the drama and musicals (in alternate years) are of very high caliber and offer multiple ways to be involved, either on the stage or behind the scenes. Lots of kids play sports - a very high percentage are involved in at least one sport, and that often provides a stronger social bond than the classroom does.

So I'm not sure why you think CPS is like a cult, as there is no more expectation for parent involvement (and in many ways, I'd say less) than at other schools. If anything, I'd say it's the reverse - in my opinion there could be more opportunities for parents to be informed and involved, and more ways for kids to connect, hang out, and blow off steam from the academic load. But I think the school is trying to walk a fine line given the fact that some parents, if given the option, would be overbearing in their involvement. Our family is also very tight knit, we have a great network of relatives and friends with whom we spend our free time, but I wish that our child felt as much of a connection to her high school as she did to her previous school. The families are more geographically far-flung so that's part of the problem, but if you're not an extrovert, it can be hard to feel connected to the new community. Do allow your child the opportunity to explore the extracurriculars and make CPS feel, if not like home, at least a place they really want to be. ....CPS parent


Nov 2008

Re: Which Private High School?
I have had two children in HRS for high school, one graduating last June; a few yrs earlier I had another at CPS. CPS is indeed a fine school: strong academics and great teachers. HRS also offers plenty of academic challenges, especially in science, and every year graduates very competitive students. The student body is more diverse academicaly at HRS, which results in more choice within the subjects and greater sensitivity to individuals but all the courses are intense and the students work hard. I thought both the faculty and staff were quite dedicated. Both of my HRS students (as well as my CPS student) have proven themselves well prepared for college courses. Socially,both of my HRS students arrived in upper school grades and had no difficulty finding a comfortable place on campus; at CPS everyone is ''new'' but at HRS students come in not only at 9th grade but also all through middle school, so the flux is continual. New kids seem pretty popular as they stir the student mix around. There are surely cliques in both places, with slightly different compositions (nerds, jocks, artsy students, socialites, academic overachievers etc) but everyone finds a good place. It sort of seems that as HRS continues to grow more diverse, the older aura of ''rich kids on the hill'' is antiquated. At CPS, it was my experience that there is great reliance on the students to make decisions, to take responsibility and to mature quickly, all good goals, but applied across the board. At HRS, i felt there was more choice for students, and more support for students with different strengths on both ends of the scale. HRS was for us a kinder, gentler place and a great fit for my kids. In my mind, the two schools are competitive in mission but with different approaches to education. E.S.


June 2007

Re: CPS vs. Head Royce

My daughter just finished her freshman year at CPS and has been very, very happy there. She also was accepted at Head Royce and has friends there.The friends that she has made are all very kind, bright and motivated young people. There is an intensity in the academic area, but she seems to thrive on that (although, I must admit that there were a few moments of high drama during exam, term paper time). She joined the CPS softball team, having never played softball before in her life and that was a great experience too. Since we are not a Head Royce family, it's hard to compare. The word seems to be that Head Royce is a bit more ''social'' - but, as I said, my daughter is quite social at CPS and happy there. I've also heard that there is a bit of cliquishness at Head Royce between the kids who have been there for middle school and/or elementary and the kids who come in at the high school level, but don't have any direct experience of this. This was very important for my daughter, who wanted to go to a high school where everyone was starting fresh. As for where both schools draw from, I would guess that there are just about as many students from your area at CPS as there are at Head Royce. The Rockridge BART station and College Avenue bus lines are a very short walk. Finally, I have found the parent community to be a nice one. There certainly isn't the same camaraderie between families that there was in elementary school, but I have felt welcomed by the parent community. Good luck! Ann


I can't speak to Head-Royce, but CPS is an incredible school. Our son just finished his sophomore year there, and we are so pleased and impressed by everything at the school. The student body is a rich mix of personalities and backgrounds from all over the East Bay (many from North Berkeley and the Oakland hills), and the most insightful and engaged group of teenagers I have ever seen. The faculty is terrific and committed. The culture is healthy -- the school encourages cooperation, not competition, and the kids are generally nice to each other. The counseling/advising team really watches for issues and supports kids who hit a rough patch. The facilities are good, except for the absence of sports fields (Head-Royce is far better in that regard). CPS uses facilities elsewhere (e.g., fields at Merritt for soccer and lacrosse), which works out fine but means teams get home later from practices than they would if playing on-site. Rockridge BART is a 15 min. walk away, and I think there is a CPS shuttle to get kids in the morning. The parents at CPS include many successful professionals, and some are quite affluent. But many CPS families are not, and the culture is decidedly NOT snobby. (There are not a lot of seniors driving new BMWs there, as there are at some other schools.) We feel incredibly lucky that our son has the opportunity to learn and grow at a place like CPS. Happy CPS parent
April 2007

Re: Private high school for N.Berkeley kids?
We live in N Berkeley and my older son is a sophmore at CPS. He really likes CPS and the school is a good fit for him. CPS's strength is academics, but they have a good arts program. We've been to some very impressive student music and drama performances. I've seen art shows of student work that were also amazing. My son isn't an artist per se, but he's been taking stagecraft this year and is really enjoying it. While they do have sports teams, yes there is a field and they use other facilities, I don't think the sports programs have the strength of the arts and music programs. Kids at CPS come from every where, not just Oakland. There are other kids who live in N Berkeley, some come from Marin, Walnut Creek, Moraga, etc. Kids pick a common place to meet to get together, meet on Shattuck to go to a movie, etc. Sometimes they will go together for burritos or pizza on College Av after school. As a full time working parents (and I do a lot of business travel) we really appreciate it that the CPS teachers and administration have their act together and we spend no time dealing with school issues. CPS Parent


November 2006

We are now looking for private high schools. I have read the old postings. I would appreciate any info concerning amout of homework per night at Head Royce, CPS, Bentley High, and Lick in the high school. Also, I have heard some of the schools are extremely stressful to the poiont of making the kids unhappy or depressed. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thankful Parent


My son is a sophomore at CPS, a school that he really likes. I don't think it's a 'pressure cooker' school, though it's definitely an academic high school, which is what he wanted. He has homework every night, though he's able to get some of it done during his free periods during the day. Neither one of us considers the homework load unreasonable. CPS is conscious of the well being of their students and regularly considers whether the homework load is appropriate. There are no-homework weekends designated throughout the year. A point to consider is that my son does not participate in after school sports (his choice), a competitive athlete with a busy training schedule might have a different view of the homework. The best way to decide if a school is a good fit is to schedule a visit. After his visit day, my son chose CPS as his first choice school.
CPS Parent
October 2006

Anyone had any experience with College Preparatory School on Broadway, Oakland ? What is the homework load? victoria


My son is a sophomore at CPS, and both he and I love it. Although it has a reputation for being very academic, we have not found the homework load to be bad. The school has a real community feeling, inclusive of parents and all students. All students are very welcoming of one another, regardless of eccentricities. The administration and teachers are very accessible. It's a wonderful place.
anonymous
CPS is a fantastic school. Small classes, great (for the most part) teachers, and a beautiful (if somewhat small) campus. Opinions on the homework load vary. If your child went to an ''academic'' middle school, s/he may find the load less than what s/he was used to (at least in freshman year); others can find it daunting. The school does offer a summer program for incoming freshman who may need some extra help getting up to speed. Go to an open house and talk to the kids who will be there, and you'll get a sense of how good a fit it might be for you and your child.
My son just started CPS in September. It is a fantastic place. The curriculum is interesting and challenging, the culture friendly, the kids engaged and diverse, and the teachers committed. All the kids are very bright, so your bright kid will in all likelihood just be average there. If he/she (you?) needs to have straight A's to feel worthy, prepare for a shock. But what an environment to learn! There is a lot of homework, but manageable -- if your child is able to stay organized and use time well. We feel lucky to be there.
So far so good
The amount of homework depends on how compulsive your child is about studying. Our two boys did not study more than several hours a night for most of the time. The homework increases over the first three years and the junior year is the most demanding. One kid did a lot of sports and the other one was on the debate team and traveled a lot. Their grades were slightly below the average GPA. They both got National Merit Scholar awards for being in the top 2% of the students who were tested for the PSAT and so did 85% of the students in their class. They were well prepared for college and have much better grades-- practically straight A's.
Judy
April 2006

Can someone please comment on the academic pressures of CPS in Oakland? My daughter is a straight A student, bright in math and science, and loves sports. We want to understand how much homework the kids have on average each night, whether it is possible to juggle sports and homework (how frequent are deadlines/ assignments?), and what the social environment is like (lots of cliques? lots of bookworms?). She's looking for nice friendly people who are bright and mature but not obsessed with academics to the exclusion of sports and fun on weekends. Any comparisons to other high schools in the area (Head Royce, Bentley) would be very much appreciated.
Concerned Parent


My daughter is in her third year at CPS (attended public shool through middle school), and she loves it. I'd say it is a really good fit for her, but it's certainly not for everybody. We love the small classes (average about 15 kids), highly involved teachers, range of student clubs, active parent group, and committment to a well-rounded education. Every student is required to take several classes in the arts in order to graduate, and most take more than the minimum. They also have a variety of community service opportunities. Most kids at CPS are engaged in both academics and something extra-curricular (sports, music, drama, debate...), so they are pretty busy. The homework load is definitely heavy, but that seems true for her public school friends who are on the ''academic track'', too. Like other high schools, sports involvement is a big time committment, with practice and/or games just about every day during the season. Have you looked at the CPS web site? http://www.college-prep.org/ Click on the Programs tab, then Athletics (or any other area of interest) to see more specifics.

As for ''cliques'', I guess that's hard for me to say as a parent. There are certainly ''groups'' of kids who enjoy each other's company, but I imagine that's true anywhere.

I highly recommend you schedule a visit, when your daughter can spend several hours with a current student. You can also contact me via e-mail if you'd like to chat more about it. rk


My daughter graduated from CPS last year. She had a very good experience there and played sports all three seasons for three of her four years there. She had lots of homework but managed it pretty well. She got some of it done during the school day (free period) but did have quite a bit at night. Sometimes it was overwhelming but overall it balanced out. It really depends on the kid and their ability to organize and prioritize. It is certainly possible to juggle sports and homework - all the kids who play sports there do it. There are cliques but they tend to be based on interest groups (the drama tech group, teams, dance kids, music kids etc.) I thought the kids there were nice. They are definitely focused on academics - they wouldn't be there otherwise.

If you are interested in the school, ask to speak w/ some current parents. You have good questions and should be able to get direct answers. I can't comment on other high schools except to say that we didn't send our son there - it wasn't the right fit for him. He would not have thrived w/ the academic pressure.
Ellen


i was a cps student 90-94. it sounds like your daughter would do very well there. there was a lot of pressure, but in retrospect i think most was self-generated among the students.
anon
March 2005

Hi! This is a response to the parent who requested feedback about CPS vs. Marin.

If you are in the East Bay of course the commute is better to CPS: The Rockridge Bart Station is right down the street, lots of kids take the BART and walk up the one long block uphill to the school (the parent association makes discoued tickets available to families). Driving, it is right of highway 24.

It is hard to say which school is better for which child and which family. A school that is best for one may not be best for another based on any number of criteria including values. I have 2 daughters at CPS, a freshman and a senior. After a 4 year experience there I have to say that it has been a good place for my senior, she has consistently said that none of the kids are mean. My experience with the kids has been that they are a very polite, well behaved bunch. They are all bright but not arrogant and stuffy about it. My senior has consistently not spent more than about 2 hours a night on homework, she is organized and does use her free periods at school to get some work done. The exceptions are special projects and final exams. Through the years she has also done basketball at school, been in a school play, and done art, sewing, hip hop and ballet outside of school. She is not that academic a kid but she gets her work done. CPS is a nice place with some very nice people, both kids and adults.


February 2003

My 8th grade daughter has applied to CPS and Marin Academy for next year, IF she is accepted at either or both, we need some feedback from both satisfied and dissatisfied families. Not only about academics, but stress, social life, diversity (not only racial), and practical issues such as transportation (we live in Albany). Any feedback would be great! rk


Had a kid at both--CPS, the bastion of overwork and competition; Marin Academy, much gentler, albeit academic (but not as zealous as CPS). My older daughter was miserable at CPS; my younger daughter loves Marin. CPS is way too rigorous and prides itself on it. And, no, my older daughter was no academic slouch; she got into Brown and Tufts, opted for Tufts, and steadily maintains about a 3.7 GPA. Some parents and peers (at CPS) had a judgement about her picking Tufts over Brown, by the way. Marin is just way more sane and measured in its approac Been there
We don't have children at either school, but I've compiled a lot of opinions and observations from others, as we're looking at these schools now ourselves. Overall, both are excellent.

CPS is more academic, more intellectual. MA is more artsy, more creative. Kids at CPS are very engaged in what they're learning and debate is big there. Debate comes out of the classroom to influence conversations about current events at lunch, etc. MA has a block schedule. This allows for more classroom participation and the school is more student centered as well, leading to lengthy student moderated class discussions. While good in many respects, this can also lead to wasted time and less knowledge being absorbed as people do like to hear themselves talk...At CPS the teachers are more in control and lecture the students. The shorter class periods are intense and jam-packed. Competition for grades is intense as everyone is highly motivated. The kids at CPS are smarter (compare the SAT scores). Kids at MA feel the school is their school and it is designed to meet their needs and desires. It's looser, less structured, perhaps more accepting of learning differences. The teachers are closer to the students and take them on outings like bike trips, etc.

CPS offers Latin, MA doesn't. I hear the Spanish at MA is the hardest around. MA's theater is much nicer. CPS kids are more articulate. MA has a stronger head of school. CPS has an unusual math program that would either be great or a disaster. MA is stronger at several sports and has a pool and a great soccer field. It's usually sunny in San Rafael and a bit chilly in the trees at CPS. CPS is smaller (330 vs. 400 students). I get the impression that because the campus is organized the way it is students from different classes get to know one another. AT MA I hear the freshmen are all clustered at the lower building and they don't get to know the upper classmen as well.

Which would we choose? If we had the luxury of a decision, I don't really know yet! Opinions gratefully accepted. Devon


October 2002

I'm wondering about The College Preparatory School, a private high school on Broadway in Oakland, near Highway 24. Has anyone sent their children there and liked it/disliked it? How good a school is it? Thanks for any information. Amy


To the person who asked about CPS: CPS is one of the best private high schools in the area-- probably one of the two best. My daughter is a freshman there. We chose the school because the academics are excellent, but also because when we visited, and when my daughter visited classes there, it was apparent that the students were happy and very excited about what they were doing. [My advice: this was not true at every school we visited-- look for places where the kids are happy and happy about what they are learning.] I found when I investigated that kids who graduate from CPS go to great schools, but they also have made good close friends at CPS that they tend to keep for a very long time. The teachers at CPS have a light course load so that they can be available to the kids, and they really are-- and the kids talk to their teachers 1-on-1 a lot because of this. I was very worried about snobbery, and have found none. So far both my daughter and I are very happy with the school. The disadvantage-- it is SO expensive. Anonymous
Here are some pros and cons regarding CPS high school:

The pros:

- Caring Administration and Staff
- Some very good to excellent teachers
- An environment that takes learning seriously

The cons:

-intense, bordering on anxious, parent and student population regarding performance and college selection--can make it hard around exams and college application/acceptance time
-little economic diversity
-some not-so-great teachers, as well

My first-born felt stressed-out by all of the academic zealousness around her at CPS. She is a very motivated child and didn't benefit from what she considered an intense environment academically. She also didn't feel very supported by some staffs, peers, and fellow-students' parents when she opted to go to Tufts University over Brown University--she is a very happy sophomore at Tufts and is glad that she didn't go to any of the other schools that she got into--Brown, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, etc.

My younger child is a freshman at Marin Academy, and while MA takes academics seriously, as well, and sends students on to every bit as prestigious colleges/universities as CPS, the culture there is more low-key. In retrospect, my oldest would have benefitted by more ''laid-backness''--maybe, this is the culture at a lot of schools, but, all of her friends at Berkeley High who went on to top-notch West coast and East coast schools didn't feel this kind of extreme pressure while applying to schools. Maybe, there was greater diffusion of information of who was applying to what school at Berkeley High, and, therefore, less scrutiny of one's academic performance and college acceptance.

My daughter felt burned out by CPS, and deferred enrollment one semester to Tufts. She recharged in those three months and is now a happy, unstressed soph. at Tufts who maintains a 3.79 GP

Happy It's Over


To the Parent Who Wants Info on CPS,
My son is about to graduate from CPS. Although it has its limitations, it is a very good school for the right student. My son is not a 4.0 student who wants to attend Harvard. He is a well rounded person who will work work when it is required of him. He is active in sports and has a social life. I think the important thing is to figure out with your child where they want to attend school and why.

A child who is not prepared for the rigors of CPS may have problems if they blame themselves for setbacks or are uncomfortable asking for help. CPS is a wonderful school for the right student. Most of the teachers are interesting. They demand a lot from their students and they give a lot back. It is an intellectually challenging school but not unkind or snobby.
I.


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