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African American Kids and School

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Keeping black boys successful in the classroom

Dec 2013

I work in a public Berkeley elementary school, and am saddened year after year as I see many boys of color go from bright, inquisitive, eager learners in Kindergarten, to 4th and 5th graders who are constantly ejected from the classroom to the office or hallway because they cannot or will not control their behavior in class. We have about 6 boys who spend as much time sitting on a bench somewhere in trouble as they do sitting at their desk in class. The teachers are torn between wanting to help these kids and needing to teach the other 25 kids in the class. How do we stop this downfall of boys of color in so short a time? They come in with such promise, and leave with such troubles! I know the school only has them for 6 hours a day, and we don't know what they have to deal with at home, but I'd love some input, and ideas of how to help these kids. Mentors? Small group learning instead of being in a class of 30 kids? They have counselors, reading coaches, math coaches, and dedicated teachers & principals, but the trouble persists and the cycle continues... Something Needs to Change!


While I am thrilled to see this topic raised and discussed, I am somewhat dismayed at the implication that the family is to blame. If the children come in as bright and eager learners, the family must have been doing something right to begin with during the first 5 years of life. And just because a teacher/principal is dedicated and even a wonderful teacher and a nice person, doesn't mean they necessarily have the tools to be aware of or work against institutionalized rascism that contributes to the problem. Additionally, at our Berkeley public school there is no teacher in the classroom that is male and African/African American. This may be the same with your school. While I don't have the answers, I sign this Hoping my son's spirit won't be broken!
Here's one innovative (yet very concrete) little program that has made a difference: Mouse Squadhttp://ca.mousesquad.org/aboutus/mission/index.html They train kids starting in 4th grade to be part of a team of computer techs in the classroom! The kids self-esteem is boosted when they ''come to the rescue'' to help our poor tech-challenged teachers, and the classroom teachers and schools benefit as well. Obviously the STEM skills aquired are tremendous, too. STEM plus cool factor--what more could you want? The program is fairly inexpensive to set up in a school, and there has been some interest by Berkeley Schools Fund people in helping. Check it! Tech Enthusiast
Read Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, by Jawanza Kunjufu. The problem is not the boys. The problem is the dominant school culture / culture of the teachers is typically white and female. Read the book, and then share it with your co-workers. Mother of African-American boy
I commend you for your active concern. I'm a 62 year old black male San Francisco school teacher, who has been studying this issue since my return to teaching in 2007. I have discovered that students are carrying around a lot of unresolved baggage and are reaching out. Teachers often fail to realize that they may have been the most stable adult figure in a student's life since that started school.

Earlier this year I taught a neat black male kindergartener who would suddenly become angry at a classmate during the day. He would stand straight up with his arms stiff at his side, hands in a fist, teeth grits, brow wrinkled and both eyes watering. He just stood there with his little chest pumping, but he never physically lashed out at the other students. It was obvious that someone had taught this young man right and wrong behavior, and the importance of self-control. But something kept triggering this reaction. I believe it could have been the lack of the right mixture love and discipline at home or school, or internal issues of self-confidence, self-esteem and perhaps a feeling that he was a bit different from his other classmates. I have been using my technical background and experiences as a substitute teacher to address the last three possibilities in my list. I'm using various fundamentals Tech, math, science and language arts to stimulate these students. Thanks again for your concerns. CR


I'm not exactly sure if this will be helpful to the on-going conversation here, but... there is an excellent book written by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.:''Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity'' (1997). Ms. Tatum (at the time of the printing) is a Professor of Psychology and Dean of Mount Holyoke College. My understanding it that this esteemed book has been used in courses in Education at the graduate level at various colleges. Ms. Tatum also wrote ''Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community.'' I got introduced to this book about 15 years ago because my former partner's racially-mixed son was attending an essentially all-white, upper-class, middle school in Marin. There was only one teacher of color at that time and the school did not even have any special events for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. His Dad and I were both concerned about where, and how, he would find suitable, and excellent, role-modeling from African-American adult professionals as well as school-age peers. It's an important topic for ALL of us as an interracial society--and world--and I believe that the way we educate our kids, and ourselves, about race, class, and cross-cultural backgrounds, is key to a better-functioning and caring community. Molly

Progressive school with a critical mass of black children

Nov 2013

Hi! We're moving from the peninsula to Oakland next year and I am researching schools in Oakland. I'm very interested in putting them in public schools, but am looking for a school that practices progressive teaching methods, has small-ish class sizes, and is racially diverse, but with a critical mass of black children. I know there are several independent schools that would meet this criteria, but I want to support public schools. My children will be entering 3rd and 2nd grade. Along the same lines, I'm looking for a preschool (not day care) for my two year old. Does anyone have recommendations for schools to look at? LC


I think you should look into Kaiser Elementary in Oakland. They are racially diverse, high-scoring, and families are very happy there. A couple of years ago I would have said Peralta, but there is no longer a critical mass of black children there unfortunately. For preschool I can highly recommend The Model School, although it's technically in South Berkeley, not Oakland. While not completely diverse, it is definitely more diverse than most preschools in the area. It's also affordable and they offer a very flexible schedule. Also, it was founded and is still run by a black woman, Dr. Mante, who really knows her stuff. Many of the teachers are of color as well. Rockridge mom

AA family new to Bay Area -- looking for schools

March 2013

We are a black family relocating from Phila. to the Bay Area. My kids are 12 and 13 (a girl and a boy). They are very bright (honor roll students here in PA), not athletic, more interested in computers, music, etc. We are looking for a school district (we prefer public) that is diverse with a good mix of activities (esp. a drama and music program).

My inclination is to stay close to Oakland or the penisula. However, we also looked at new construction in Fairfield (the purchase price was enticing). I've also heard good things about Walnut Creek. My main concern is to find a school where they will fit in and make friends. Any recommendations for a school district (Oakland, WC, Dublin, Livermore) or information about Fairfield (is there anything good out there?)? Thank you so much! Lisa S.


Districts on the Peninsula tend to be better off. Berkeley is also well-funded for a California School District. Basically before you choose a district make sure that they have passed some kind of tax over-ride because funding levels in CA schools are lower than on the east coast. If your children are very strong in music or drama you probably want to be in Berkeley/Oakland or on the Peninsula as it is easier to get into SF for advanced programs at the high school level than from the eastern suburbs, and there are also local high-level programs in Berkeley and in Palo Alto. If you do choose Berkeley my impression that at Berkeley High AA students of highly educated parents tend to be concentrated in BIHS, (the International Bac. program), and also in Academic Choice. anon
Oakland School for the Arts might be a great fit for your children. You can learn more about the school on its website, and in BPN reviews. Kids audition for admission.

The school offers a wonderful arts based education for grades 6-12. It's a public charter school, so Oakland residency is not required; approximately 2/3 of the students live in Oakland, many others are from nearby areas. My daughter has friends from Orinda, Piedmont, Berkeley and Alameda, as well as Oaklnad.

I have been very happy with the academics, the art instruction,the wonderful teachers, and the social environment. my daughter is receiving an amazing education and genuinely loves her teachers. OSA is in Uptown, a vibrant area in downtown Oakland well served by BART and bus transit, in the beautiful Fox Theater. It's a true gem, and I feel lucky to have found it. Happy and grateful OSA parent


For information on the diversity and test scores of any school/school district that you are considering, you should check out www.greatschools.org Most of my AA friends that live in Oakland, send their children to private schools (Bishop O'Dowd is popular). Walnut Creek and Dublin have great public schools, but few African American students.

Fairfield is a long commute if you plan to work in downtown San Francisco or Oakland. It's the suburbs, so the number of African American students is less than Philadelphia. Also, the schools have mixed reviews and ratings on www.greatschools.org. AA Parent


Welcome to the bay, I am a resident of Oakland and would not recommend it. Diversity is important to me but I recommend you select a school district over a city. Oakland is wonderful but the spike in crime and underfunded schools make it a challenging choice. I also wonder if you are open to the peninsula? Being close to Silicon Valley has many advantages. I also think there is a proportionate relationship between the price of home and the quality of schools. Finally, of the communities you mentioned, walnut creek is consistently well rated but be careful, there is a line which puts you in the better school district. If you're not open to the peninsula, I recommend you also consider San Ramon and Dublin. Welcome!
While I admit a bias (I am one of the Assistant Principals) I suggest you consider Dublin. We are a small but growing and increasingly diverse school district. Our high school has an Engineering Academy that offers a variety of classes, a Robotics club and a number of academic opportunities. We also have community involvement and a high level of school spirit. Feel free to email me directly if you have questions. Maureen Byrne mobetterbyrne@hotmail.com Maureen B.
I was really surprised that you didn't get more responses. As an African-American parent, there is way more to think about than ''is this a good school?'' As a black parent, I want high academic standards, I want a diverse environment (my child is not going to be the only black child in the class) including the teaching/leadership staff. I want a caring environment where attention is paid to social-emotional learning. I want an environment where attention is paid to the curriculum and attention is paid to anti-racist curriculum (Lincoln freed the slaves? get me out of there).

How do we educate our children so that they develop a positive sense of self and high academic standards. Check out African-centered schools like Ile Omode in Oakland. You may also want to consider homeschooling/unschooling. We're two working parents and finally we had to differentiate our childcare needs versus our the educational needs for our children and we've found a really happy place for our family. Best of luck to you in this very complicated decision. black mama


Gifted and Black: Where are the gifted kids of color?

March 2011

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


Once source of information worth investigating is ''A Better Chance.'' Their website is here: http://www.abetterchance.org/

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


If you haven't checked out this resource yet, you may find it invaluable: The Davidson Center for Talent Development--specifically their Young Scholars program for kids ages 5-15 (http://www.davidsongifted.org/youngscholars/). The website lists their specific testing qualification criteria. It has been a godsend for my best friend in D.C. who has one exceptionally gifted, and also a highly gifted child. They are not wealthy folks and had no idea how they could afford to educate their super-intelligent young kids (job-loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure-- the works). Even though it is an extreme hardship to them financially, their mom decided to homeschool their kids. (I know you say this is not an option, but that is just how my friends felt until it just came down to the fact that they absolutely ''had to.'') The Davidson Center offers a lot amazing resources to them at no cost. Also, it has provided an essential network of like-minded folks in similar situations for both her and her kids to connect with. (Through their network of Davidson folks, their 9 year old HG daughter was able to score a paleontology mentorship at the Smithsonian, and she is finishing her first scientific paper!) If you haven't checked it out, please do. And, should you decide to try homeschooling, you couldn't be in a better part of country to do so. So many resources, and parents are doing it out here. Best of luck to you. Leigh
You may want to check out one of these Schools 1. Kipp Academy (Charter School) 2. Native American Charter School (Charter School) Hopefully Helpful
I have a gifted child of color as well and we are in the Berkeley Public Schools. It is horribly frustrating. Frankly, we hate it. For one, there is a level of condescending behavior from school officials to the PTA that is maddening. I have found that the BUSD can only recognize black students as troubled and dysfunctional. Gifted black students, or middle-class black students don't fit the ''oh we need to help these poor creatures'' paradigm and they ignore them or, worst yet, figure there must be something wrong with them that hasn't yet become manifest.

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


Hi there, My son is also profoundly gifted, though he is white. We decided to send him to the Berkeley public schools, in part because of diversity issues-- race/ ethnicity and economic diversity- and he is thriving there. It has taken some careful management-- his giftedness, as is so often the case, is accompanied by challenges in other areas-- social and emotional, as well as some more specific learning challenges, and of course fine motor/handwriting issues-- but with the help of a 504 plan and absolutely *amazing* teachers and an incredible principal, he is doing really well. I have a lot of meetings throughout the year with the very caring school staff, and I've been fairly proactive about that, asking for meetings before he entered kindergarten, for example-- and they've been incredibly responsive.

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


I'm afraid I don't have any real answers for you, but I wanted to write to offer support. I am a (Caucasian, non-affluent) mother of two gifted children, and the issue of identifying and supporting gifted kids of color/economically disadvantaged gifted kids is very important to me. In fact, it is one reason I joined my school site governance council this year.

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


The reality is that educational options for kids who are highly or exceptionally gifted are limited for kids in the East Bay, regardless of race. Most public school districts in this area have largely gotten rid of their GATE programs, both because No Child Left behind provides no incentive for them to support GATE programming, and because of political factors. Many districts say they are switching to differentiation in the general classroom, but the reality is that differentiation is often up to the individual teacher and many teachers do very little. When done well, differentiation can work well for kids who are moderately or mildly gifted, but it's harder to find a good match in either public or private school for a kid who is highly or exceptionally gifted. Davis still has a fairly large GATE program, but obviously Davis is beyond commuting distance for most people.

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


Some of the children of color in 5th grade in my child's Berkeley public elementary school do participate in a Scholars Program. It is on Saturdays, I believe. My understanding is that you need to test at a certain level in order to be invited to attend, but i am not sure. You can contact the District office to find out more. You could try the BUSD Office of Family and Community Partnerships. http://www.berkeley.net/parent-resources/

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


Hi, The offerings for profoundly and exceptionally gifted children are limited indeed, and that was largely the motivation for our forming the Co-op for Gifted Children in Alameda. Diversity is extremely important to me as the president and founder of the Co-op. Our lead educator is Latina and we have students of color in attendance now as well as on our list for opening our new young child program this summer. We also have tuition assistance readily available! Profoundly and exceptionally gifted children have a very difficult time ''fitting in'' to a regular school environment and research has clearly shown that they need an alternative environment with strong social-emotional support, multiage gifted peers, hands-on experiential learning, and to have a say in their own educational plan and objectives. We have followed the research to create this highly unique environment specifically for gifted children and we would love to meet your family, and I think you would like our community very much. Catherine Cook, MSEd Our website is http://www.ourgiftedchildren.net (510)219-9410 -Catherine
Very complex question but having 2 very bright Black boys (1 officially designated gifted and the other ''just'' a very strong student) here are my comments:

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!)


Elementary schools where African American boys thrive

Oct 2009

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


You may want to consider homeschooling. After a horrible experience with a ''diverse'' preschool, we have not looked back and we are sooooo happy with our son's education. By the way, we both work full-time.

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


it's just sad that parents of children of color still have to worry about these things. i had the same fears for my (dark- skinned) latino son. he's just started kindergarten at Berkwood Hedge and we're both happy.

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


Kaiser Elementary in Oakland may be a good option for you. It is very diverse, economically, socially, family make-up, race and ethnicity. In a recent newsletter, the principal commented: ''I received an invitation to speak at the Association of California School Administrators about the achievement of our African American students. We are one of the top nine schools in the state in this category.''

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


Please come by and visit the school that you may be interested in. When visiting, you can ask for phone numbers of any parent access coordinators, or parents of African American students that would likely be fine talking with you about their child's experience. At the Berkeley school that my child attends, I know of some parents of African American young men who would be glad to discuss their child's experience with you. Keep in mind that not all parents of these African American students are African American themselves, so don't just look for the African American adults to speak to. You might also know of families with African American middle school students who have very recent experieince with elementary schools. I recommend that you speak with those families, too.

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


This might be unpopular. I have two sons. One in 2nd and one in 4th grade. Both of them are incredibly well behaved and both get positive comments from their teachers, peer's parent's etc. Both are African American as well. We were in public school in Castro Valley with limited African Americans(19 out of 560?) Sadly almost all of the other boys of color played to type as disruptive, noisy, confrontational etc. This was not hearsay but what I witnessed working in the classroom two or three times a week for four years. In a place like Castro Valley, the only kid who threatens to bring a gun to school is African American? My boys were not stereotyped by their teachers or treated badly in any way shape or form by their teachers. In fact my youngest was requested by his 1st grade teacher(a veteran teacher of 20 years) after having my eldest. However they never fit any negative stereotype. In my whole life I have never made an excuse for any bad behavior on their part by saying, ''you know how boys are'' or ''boys will be boys.'' There is a time and place for everything. If you have taught your son to respect teachers, follow the rules, listen, use an inside voice, keep his hands to himself he will hopefully have the same experience as my sons. We are currently in schools in Piedmont, again with limited kids of color but almost all of these kids are well behaved because that is expected. My husband reminds them daily - school is a place to get your learn on - you can play at home after we work with you here. My husband attended a segregated school south of the Mason -Dixon line in Md that didn't de-segregate for 10 years after Brown vs, Board of Education. He finally got his learn on when he was bused to the white school in 7th grade - he's a doctor now so he stresses the importance of education every day. The biggest gift you can give your son is to model that education is important first and foremost and he needs to seek out knowledge at every opportunity and work hard at getting his education. mom to great sons
Bridgemount Academy (K-5th Grade), an offshoot of Shelton's Primary Education Center which has been in business for more than 30 years and is just what you're looking for!!! My daughter who is now in the 5th grade has been there since kindergarten and she absolutely loves it. Visit their website www.bridgemountacademy.org or schedule a visit. The staff there is great, I'm sure you will love just as I do!! bridgett
My children attend Prospect Sierra in El Cerrito and I recommend you check it out for your son. The school has made a huge effort in two areas relevant to your post. 1. There has been a steady increase in racial diversity in the past few years. 2. There is an emphasis on social/emotional health of children and, programmatically, that extends from teacher education to lots of work with the children - mutual respect, inclusion, conflict resolution, differences, kindness and more. It is a kind and happy place.

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.


My child just started at Grass Valley School, in Oakland and we are delighted with the school. It is a public school, predominantly African American and Latino children and the principal is an African American woman with years of experience and she expects ALL students to work to their potential. She and all the teachers, address the children as ''scholars'' and are really invested in their sucess. Unlike in many other public schools, class size remains small -- no more than 20 students per classroom.

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


My African American son is absolutely thriving at Beacon Day School! Beacon is a fabulous school where ALL children are treated with kindness and respect. The entire faculty and staff continuously works hard to create an environment where every child is nurtured and challenged to be their best selves.

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


Hi, We are a two mom family and have always been treated well at Archway School. My son has been at Archway (Oakland) since Kindergarten (now in fourth)and I have served on the Diversity Committee for these past four going on five yesrs. Archway values it's diverse population and each year the Diversity Committee tries to do something fun and unusual to support our efforts to get to know each other better. This year, three families are grouped together with each family taking a turn organizing a meal in their home, at a park, wherever, but focused on fun ways to celebrate our cultures through food and engaged communication.

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


Our African-American son has been at Redwood Day School since kindergarten and is now in the 3rd grade. He LOVES school and is thriving there. He has other African-American kids in his class and last year his teacher was an African-American male and his intern was an African-American female.

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


Check out Redwood Day School. dn
I'm writing to Hopeful Mama, whose heart is sinking at the thought of what will happen to her African American son in elementary school. That is exactly how I felt when my son was approaching kindergarten age. What I know now is that there is really no way to fully protect my African American son from these negative experiences. I try to avoid the obviously negative environments and, more importantly, listen to my son and advocate for him always, without overreacting or trying to politicize every problem that he encounters. I try very hard to partner with teachers so that he knows all the adults are working together to help him get a good education and start in life. At the same time, I am particularly watchful of new teachers or others in positions of authority over him. It gets tiring to always have to be vigilant, but it really helps when your child knows he has an advocate.

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


I personally think that the Bentley School is an excellent school for African American boys. I have 2 girls and a baby son. My 2 daughters go to Bentley and love it. They have teachers of color at the Bentley school that are fantastic as well as amazing white teachers who have a love for diversity in the classroom. My son is just a baby, but I will have him attend Bentley when it comes time for him to go to Kindergarten. You should really check the school out. I am sure that you would love it. anon

Support group for African American kids in private school?

May 2008

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


People of Color in Independent Schools

http://www.ba-pocis.org/


Seeking academic school with African American diversity

Dec 2007

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


Please consider Redwood Day School. The African-American diversity is not as high as 18% but I have found a very nice community of African-American families. My daughter is in kindergarten there and between the two classes, there are 7 African-American students out of 44. (We are an African- American family) Last night we attended the annual winter concert where all of the grades performed and I observed more than a few African-American students in each grade. I'd be happy to share with you my experiences with diversity at Redwood Day. It was a very important factor for me in selecting a private school and I have not been disappointed in the least. As far as the academic portion of your question goes, again, Redwood Day has surpassed my expectations. My daughter is learning and growing in incredible ways and I attribute a large portion of her development and progress to the outstanding faculty and staff at Redwood Day. The school sets high expectations for the students but the teachers instruct in a way that is developmentally appropriate. You should definitely check it out. I have found it to be an extraordinary school and feel fortunate that my daughter is attending. Alicia
We've been very happy at St. Paul's and came looking for the same things you mentioned. The teachers are awesome. The school has more than 50 percent children of color, which I didn't find at any other independent school we looked at. We get tuition assistance, as do a lot of families, so there's a range of economic backgrounds, too. One of the things I like best for my kids to see is the number of African Americans who are running things: the head of school, the head of the lower school, and the director of admissions are all African American. To me, this sends a message to my kids that's more powerful than talking about diversity. Also, St. Paul's kids end up everywhere in high school. My kids will be at Berkeley High when their time comes, but St. Paul's kids go to College Prep, Head Royce, Athenian and Bentley. jane
We chose The Academy for its small supportive atmosphere and strong academics, but the diversity is also amazing--not only different American ethnic groups but many nationalities-- children from all over the world, with many languages spoken in the homes, etc. It's a fantastic school, and I highly recommend it. I didn't see the original post, but only the replies, hopefully it is a place that will work for you! a very happy parent
You may want to check out The Academy in the Elmwood. It's a gem of a school. The school has diversity, strong academics and a great sense of community. We choose the school primarily for the academics but have been pleased with the wide range of activities and opportunities our children have had to grow. The school is diverse in many ways. There are children of color but also many children with varied backgrounds. Among my daughter's classmates , 7 different languages are spoken in the home. Take a tour. One other great feature of the school is the application process. Once children are assessed for readiness, applicants are chosen on a 'first come/first served' basis. A rarity in the Bay Area. Academy Parent
I'm writing to Hopeful Mama, whose heart is sinking at the thought of what will happen to her African American son in elementary school. That is exactly how I felt when my son was approaching kindergarten age. What I know now is that there is really no way to fully protect my African American son from these negative experiences. I try to avoid the obviously negative environments and, more importantly, listen to my son and advocate for him always, without overreacting or trying to politicize every problem that he encounters. I try very hard to partner with teachers so that he knows all the adults are working together to help him get a good education and start in life. At the same time, I am particularly watchful of new teachers or others in positions of authority over him. It gets tiring to always have to be vigilant, but it really helps when your child knows he has an advocate. 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
I personally think that the Bentley School is an excellent school for African American boys. I have 2 girls and a baby son. My 2 daughters go to Bentley and love it. They have teachers of color at the Bentley school that are fantastic as well as amazing white teachers who have a love for diversity in the classroom. My son is just a baby, but I will have him attend Bentley when it comes time for him to go to Kindergarten. You should really check the school out. I am sure that you would love it. anon

Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class

October 2007

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

Recommendations received:

  • Aurora (1)
  • Beacon Day School (2)
  • Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts (1)
  • Mills College Children's School (1)
  • North Oakland Community Charter School (1)
  • St. Paul's Episcopal School (9)
  • Sheltons Primary Education Center (1)
  • Walden School (1)

    Racially Diverse Private Schools

    October 2003

    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

    Recommendations received:

  • Beacon Day School (3) Oakland
  • Berkwood Hedge (2) Berkeley
  • East Bay Waldorf School El Sobrante
  • Northern Light School Oakland
  • Pacific Academy Normura School (2) Richmond
  • Park Day School (4) Oakland
  • St. Paul's Episcopal School (2) Oakland
  • Walden School Berkeley
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