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I've discovered that the only Bay Area schools specifically for gifted learners are all located in highly affluent areas, with student populations that are overwhelmingly white. Where are the gifted kids of color? For that matter, where are the gifted kids of any background from non-affluent households? My son has been evaluated as in the range of exceptionally to profoundly gifted. I don't want him to be the one face of color he sees at school, and I can't afford the 20K tuition at a gifted academy, either. Financial aid is in short supply these days. Outside of homeschooling, which isn't an option for us, what have other families done? worried about my child
I am not familiar with all of their activities, but know that they have a superb record of helping children of color access elite educational institutions, regardless of family financial means. Even if you decide that their proposed solutions are not for you, the opportunity to network with the other families that approach them may offer other ideas that you'd like.
I wish you and your son the best of luck with your search. An ''ABC'' fan
We can't afford private school, but if we could we would bolt in a second. The trauma of an affluent all-white environment is far less than the intellectual and emotional trauma of being stuck in the public schools here. I would beg, borrow or steal to get your gifted kid in a private school where at least his or her intelligence would be recognized. The class stuff is frustrating but at least your child would be getting a much better education. Frustrated w BUSD
I think our school is particularly good, and I can imagine many public schools that wouldn't be as accommodating-- but I'd suggest not giving up on your public school option until you check it out. I don't think you necessarily need a specialized school for a PG child, though each child is of course different. As long as teachers are willing to accommodate your son by making sure he is given challenging work (in my son's case I provide some of his work to do at school), and making sure that bullying doesn't occur, as well as more subtle social pressures around high achievement, it can really work. Of course no school placement will be completely ideal, and you'll probably want to do a lot with your son at home anyway. Like many gifted kids, my son is constantly exploring and learning, more outside of school than in, and so we are less concerned about academic content at school than we are about socialization and emotional development. That might change as he gets older, but right now we could not be happier with the immense growth our son has made in his most challenging areas. Grateful for Berkeley public schools
You don't mention which district you are in, but if it is BUSD, I'd love to talk with you about jump starting a BUSD parent support group/e-tree. It can be such a lonely experience, parenting a gifted child, and finding other parents to talk with certainly helps. I'd also like to recommend James Webb's excellent book ''A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children'' and the organization ''Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted'' (www.sengifted.org). In the Bay Area, The Summit Center has links to SENG support groups in Oakland and Walnut Creek (www.summitcenter.us). These are not free, but financial aid may be available for families in need.
Wishing you the best on this challenging journey. Please feel free to ask the moderator for my e-mail. BUSD mom of 2 gifted children
We ended up moving to Lafayette partially because it was the only district in the area that has a program specifically for highly/exceptionally gifted kids, although it's only for 4th-5th grades. They call it their AIM program, and admission is solely based on testing in the top 2% of the district population, which means a subset of the top 1% of the national OLSAT test. Lafayette is still around 80% white and obviously a fairly affluent community, although there are several apartment complexes that are more affordable. When I visited the AIM program I found it was more diverse than the average Lafayette classroom, with several mixed race kids, including several Asian kids, and a few Latino kids, and one African American child. I know several people who have been happy with it, and our daughter is starting there next fall. With each census the Lafayette population gets more mixed, and my other daughter's kindergarten class has a few African American kids and a few Latino kids. Lafayette Elementary seems like the most diverse of the Lafayette elementary schools, and has an amazing after school science program. As far as Oakland schools, I know a few parents with gifted kids who have been happy with Kaiser and Sequoia, so it's worth investigating them if you are in Oakland.
As far as private options, there are a few schools in the greater Bay area specifically for gifted kids, one in Marin and one on the Peninsula, both farther than we wanted to commute. There's a relatively new program in Oakland called Bayhill.
The private schools probably vary considerably in terms of how much they do for gifted kids and in terms of scholarship resources. Head Royce would probably be worth checking out, since they are more oriented towards gifted kids than many of the other schools, and I was surprised at how diverse the school was when I visited. My impression is that they have more of an endowment than many other schools, so scholarship options may be plentiful. Other friends with gifted students of color have been happy with Berkwood Hedge and Windrush, both on the more progressive side. -sympathetic parent
My experience as an invoved parent in a BUSD school is that gifted kids of all ethnicities are celebrated, just as are the achievements of kids of all ethnicities who have lots of challenges. The key, for you and your student, is for you to be involved in the classroom when you can, and in the school community as a whole. Work WITH the teachers as a team for your student's success.
In addition, at most BUSD schools, there are after school enrichment classes offered. For example, my student takes a chess class, an engineering class and a music class (in addition to 2x/week music class during the regular school time). The after school music class and engineering class are run by enthusiastic, smart and dedicated UC Berkeley students. Great mentors! There is also a summer camp called Academic Talent Development Program (''ATDP'') run by UC Berkeley. http://atdp.berkeley.edu/ -another BUSD Mom
1) K-5: since your child will have essentially ONE teacher, there is great opportunity to work collaboratively with the teacher so your child's needs can be met. Grade school teachers get to know their students on a much more personal level than secondary school teachers that have up to 150 students per day so are more likely to see ''giftedness''. Having said that you NEED to be an active parent - the truth is that children of active parents tend to receive closer attention and by being active (Site Council, PTA, classroom volunteer, etc.) you (and by extension your child) will be perceived as ''different'' than the stereotype some teachers/staff have of black families/students (unfair but reality). Expect and if necessary help with differentiated instruction - provide feedback on homework assignments, talk to your teachers about alternatives to rote assignments, such as math problems of the week or deeper writing assignments. Talk to your teacher about how she/he motivates students to do their personal best (for example, in one of my child's classes, receiving 100% on multiplication quizes, excused you from doing any more homework on that module and instead the child worked on multi-step, complex, thinking problems of the week - had one teacher that gave certificates for personal best, for some students that might be getting a 75% on a math test but for others an A might not result in the certificate and the teacher would talk to the child about EXTENDING the assignment beyond grade level ''A'' work or that getting 100% AND doing the extra credit problems were ''personal best''). In addition Berkeley Scholars to Cal (BSC), which is a college prep program designed for high achieving Black/Brown youth (through Stiles Hall) starts in 4th/5th grade but not every elementary school has this program (there is opportunity to join in middle school).
2) Secondary School:
BSC is at the middle schools and is wonderful (unfortunately new cohorts aren't started every year because of funding...one starts about every 2 years). Kid's get weekday academic enrichment and Saturdays at Cal campus. Each gets a Black/Brown Cal student as a mentor. College tours start 8th grade (have done Atlanta, Boston area, D.C, and this year Southern Cal schools). Also has various summer program options, depending upon grade level (for example, admission to Cal's Academic Talent Development Program). Best of all, a PEER group to combat some of the peer group pressure to ''dumb down'' that may impact your kid. Also, a support system for the parent as well (the program monitors academic progress, will talk to teachers if you want, etc.). Middle school is the toughest for smart kids of any ethnicity. Probably the hardest for black boys (some friends have sent their sons to an Afro-centric private school in West Oakland that did wonders for self-esteem/academic focus - and then sent their son to Berkeley High as a very grounded student). Also due to now having 4 or 5 teachers, with high student loads, you are more likely to have to deal with some teachers with low expectations.
Berkeley High has amazing educational opportunities. The issue there is FOCUS and resisting peer pressure. Also MUCH more likely in my experience to have issues with low expectations by teachers (and some students and their parents that are overheard by or actually told to your child or by you). SO, expect to have to work with your child to be their own advocate and advocate for them. The various small learning communities have various strengths/areas of improvement - the International High School has been very good for our child. ALSO, make sure your kid is involved in student leadership or sports - will help with peer issues. BSC goes thru 12th grade and provides SAT prep and college counseling/assistance with applications. BSC also has ties to multiple summer opportunities, including college residential programs for high schoolers.
Bottom line is that you have to advocate and keep a close eye on how your kid is being treated and is relating to his peers - BUT Berkeley schools have amazing opportunities, more so than private. And remember, stereotype low expectations of students also exist in private schools - at least according to my friends who ''went private''. Having said that, St. Mary's is probably 1/3 black students, many of which are above average/high achieving students whose families didn't want to ''risk'' public school issues. Sign me, anonymous (for my kids!)
As I approach the kindergarten season with my son, my heart sinks as I hear story after story about my friends' African American sons still treated as either the school pets or repeatedly grouped together (in first grade) as troublemakers. Have things not improved at all since my school days? Are there any elementary schools, public or private, in Berkeley or Oakland, where your African American sons are thriving? I can prep my son for the worst but would love to expect better. Hopeful mama
p.s. I've heard great things about Ile Omode and when I've been to their events--the students are amazing. www.ileomode.org happy homeschool mama
the class is diverse and curriculum reflects that. the staff keeps its ear to the ground so it can address any social issues that come up among the kids and the curriculum is flexible enough that it can accomodate many learning styles and skill levels. the dedicated math teacher and art teacher are both african american, and there are other minorities on the staff.
when i went throught the process last year i remember wishing there was a school which had the kind of flexibility and great academics where all the teachers and kids looked just like him ( and where the teachers weren't demoralized becasue of the budget cuts). in the end the curriculum won out. there is also an argument to be made against keeping kids in a monoracial environment: the world just isn't that way.
anyway, it was sad to read about your friends' experiences. hope you find the right place for your son. anon
My son is a first grader at the school and we love it. I encourage you to make an appointment to tour the school and meet with the prinicpal. It's in the Hiller Highlands area of Oakland off Highway 13, so a bit out the way for many, but we have families attending from many different neighborhoods. There really isn't a feeling of ''neighborhood'' kids versus the handful of kids from outside the neighborhood which is common in other schools.
The School's phone number is 549-4900. anon
If the number of schools overwhelms you, talk with folks who know about school assignment policies in Berkeley and Oakland (2 different assignment policies) and see which group of schools are your most likely candidates. Not sure where you live, but much of school assignments depends on that. Anon Mom
I am sure the admissions director would be happy to let you speak with other parents of color to discuss their children's experiences at the school.
And, besides all that, it is a wonderful school! Good luck. A Happy PS parent.
I have found that my child, who until now attended private schools, is very happy, challenged and accepted for who he is. I suggest you look at the school, we are delighted to have found a public (free!) school that meets the needs of African American children. Scores are solid (824 API this year) and parent participation is good. Happy Grass Valley parent
When I drop my son off in the morning, he joyously runs into the building. When I pick him up in the afternoon, it's the best part of my day. Besides seeing my son, it's great to see all the other kids. I'm continually amazed at how the kindness and respect shown to the kids by the faculty and staff continues to be on display as the kids interact with one another.
My son previously attended another private school in Oakland where, sadly, AA children (especially boys) were treated horribly. I'm thankful every single day that we were lucky enough to find Beacon. I'd encourage you to pay a visit and see for yourself. Beacon Mom
We also have a diverse teaching staff. The second and third grade teachers are both African American males with many years of teaching experience. This influenced our decison to go to Archway because finding male role models was very important to us. These men are well loved in our community for their ability to support, nurture and educate all of their students with an emphasis on the individual needs of each child. My son truly loves these men and Archway School. An important aspect of Archway's mission is the committment to creating a community where everyone is valued and supported. It is a community where chilren thrive and develop a love of learning. The biggest complaint of parents is how difficult it is to get the children to leave school at the end of the day.
Please take the time to visit our school, meet the staff and take a tour. You can contact the office at 510-547-4747 to ask questions, arrange a tour, sign up for an information night and get to konw us better. The office staff would be very happy to refer you to other African American families who are happy to share their experiences with you.
Good luck with your school search. Jackie
Redwood Day School has been a nurturing and supportive environment for him. Every day he enjoys going to school because he feels safe and respected as a whole person. The curriculum at the school works to be very inclusive and diverse. For example, parents are encouraged to come into the class to teach the kids about their heritage and experiences and topics around race are openly discussed with the kids, but in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner.
While I would always love to see more diversity at the school, I will say that my son does not feel isolated because every day he sees kids in all of the grades that look like him as well as teachers, staff and administrators that reflect the diversity of Oakland and the Bay Area. Adrienne
We started out at one of the most supposedly progressive private schools (in Oakland) that brands itself as a leader in elementary education with regard to "educating" about and working to eradicate all of the "isms". This school is quite upper middle class and wildly popular, so it is also difficult to get into.
Our experience there was horrible. They stereotyped my son from day one and never understood him as a person. The disingenuous preaching about diversity by their white administrators and teachers only made the experience worse. My son, on a gut level, knew what was going on. Needless to say, we didn't stay long.
From there we moved to Walden on Dwight Way in Berkeley. Walden is a very small, sweet school with a ton of heart. There is a real community there that embraces children, and even parents, with genuine warmth and support. Like nearly all private schools, the student body is not extremely diverse; however there are long-time African American teachers who are at the core of the school's program and (collective) decision-making functions. They are fabulous role models for all the children at the school. If you are open to a truly alterative school, I recommend that you check it out. Anon
Hello All: I heard from a friend that there is an organization of African American families that have children in private schools here in the East Bay, or maybe in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. If anyone knows about this group I'd love to find out more. Thanks, Alison
We are looking for an elementary school with african american diversity (18%+) and a top academic program. We are currently considering St. Paul's in Oakland - which we were very impressed with. We are hesitant to select a public school due the limited resources we have seen at the ones we have toured. Please let me know if you have any recommendations anywhere in the bay area. Thanks! rana
My daughter is currently in first grade in a very academic private school. For the second year in a row, she has asked that we move her because she feels ''lonely'' ''singled-out'' and like the ''kids tease her'' because she is the only African American in her class. These are her words. The school cannot do anything about the racial composition of the class and so it falls on us as parents to find a better fit for her. Any suggestions for a private school in Oakland that has openings for second (or even first grade this year) with African American students in those grades? The one school we toured would not say how many African American students they had on the grounds that they care about all kinds of diversity. While we certainly care about diversity in its many forms, and our family is very diverse in many ways, our child is in terrible emotional pain at being the only AfricanAmerican child in her grade. Any school suggestions much appreciated. black like me
Hello. I am doing a lot of research (and narrowing down) on East Bay private schools. My son is 4, smart, and African American. I am also a single parent. I want my son's future (next fall) elementary school to be academically challenging and stimulating (but not inappropriately or rigidly structured as he loves to run around), but equally important is the diversity amongst the student body and staff. I don't want him to be in a racially homogenous school and I feel it is important for him to look around his environment and see a decent representation of the Bay Area's cultural and racial diversity (in school). Does such a place exist? We live in Hercules, but we are looking at Windrush, Berkwood Hedge, Aurora and Pacific Academy. Am I barking up the wrong trees? Can anyone suggest any other schools anywhere in the East Bay? Any insight would be most appreciated! Thanks! marn
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