Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

The Academy (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > The Academy (Berkeley, CA)



Reviews of the Academy


Jan 2014

We toured The Academy a year ago. While I saw some drawbacks to the school, it was/is one of my top choices for my son. He will start Kindergarten this year in 2014, so I need to prioritize the schools we have applied to and might get into. I liked the very small class size at The Academy, and it seemed the children were really focused and engaged as a result. I loved the science teacher. I was also impressed with how articulate the middle schoolers were, who gave a quick speech about the school.

Compared to a place like Head-Royce, The Academy obviously doesn't have all the bells and whistles that go with the big campus, but some of those things are important. I'm also at a loss as to whether the progressive or whole child approach is the right way to go (as appealing as it sounds on paper) vs. a place like The Academy. If you have any input there, I'd love to hear it.

In any event, I am interested to know what current Academy parents think of their school. It seems there's been a LOT of turnover lately. When we toured a year ago, there was a brand new head of school, who is now gone! I also found out that at least two teachers have left the school in the last 12 months. What is going on over there? When I toured Head-Royce a few months ago, I recognized a HRS parent that I had met as an Academy parent last year! He was reluctant to tell me any specifics as to why he pulled his children out of The Academy. I'd love some current input on the school. /s/ Future Kindergarten parent


We have one child that is currently in middle school at The Academy and started from Kindy so we have seen a lot of the changes; some good, some not so good.

The pros:

1) The Kindergarten (Ms. Crippen) and 1st grade (Ms. LaBarca) teachers have been at the school a long time and both are first rate so you cannot go wrong. The new French teacher has been well received though the science teacher is very new and I cannot speak to her skills. Overall, the academics are very high.
2) I don't know what the 'whole child' term really means but if you want a school that cares about your child's academic progress, their integrity as a person and with a focus on caring about others, then I say this is a great school.
3) Tuition is not nearly as bad as some of the other privates and fundraisers are not a focus at this school (no calling and asking you for more money).
4) The families are really nice - parents are interested in the academics and progress of their children but no one cares what kind of car you drive or where you vacation.
5) The community is multicultural. Many of the kids speak another language at home. One year I counted 6 different languages in my child's (small) class alone. I think all the spoken languages gives the kids a sense of the bigger world around them.
6) They offer Latin! Fewer and fewer schools offer it now.

Cons:

1) There has been a lot of turnover. Some of the changes have been good and others have been unfortunate. I think there is a lot of unknowns at the school right now and that freaks people out.
2) It's a no frills school - there isn't a swimming pool or tennis courts.
3) Class sizes for some grades are incredibly small. It really varies a lot by year and some of the low enrollment has been due to the economy and some has been due to all the changes.

Overall, most of our years at the school have been very good and it has been a good fit for our child. Even with all the changes, we will miss the school when our child graduates. anon


I can't imagine a better place for a kindergartener than with Ms. Crippen at The Academy! Your child will feel so fortunate and loved if you choose it. I had to look up what you meant by a ''Whole Child'' approach to education. I would say that The Academy definitely matches this!

There are many things about the school that I value as a parent, but one thing is the personalized learning that my child gets. The small class sizes really facilitate this, and it occurs even in kindergarten. The school is very diverse and international. As the poster mentioned last week, it is a school of many languages (my child is in a different class than hers, yet we also have 7 different languages spoken in a class of 10) and nationalities, and my child is learning so much about her place as a global citizen. This might seem like a trifle, but to me it is so important that they have morning snack time (and running around time), because I can clearly remember that mid-morning hunger that would make me fuzzy and cranky and impaired my learning.

One of the things that most impresses me, though, is how caring the community is. I am amazed at how respectful the children are to each other. As a kindergartener, my child would say who her friends were in each grade, even in 8th grade, and I would see those older kids treat her with respect and affection. The older kids support the younger ones in a way that I think has big payoffs for the older kids---they are so mature and kind. The younger kids get to stay little---nobody is going to make fun of them for playing this or that on the playground. Nobody is going to make fun of them for dressing this way or expressing this like or that like. As a result, my child has had the chance to really explore who she is without outside influence and have fun being a kid in her play. The after-school care provider is amazing, and she really fosters this respect and creativity too. There are lots of great organized after-school activities (math club, cooking club, sports, art, adventure club, ukelele club, etc.) As for the teachers, I've found that they really want to ''get'' our kids. And, you have all the teachers looking out for your kid, not just the teacher for their grade.

While it may not have fancy facilities, the kids are incredibly active! They are always on the move when they are outside, and they get outside to play several times a day.

I could go on and on, but I hope that I've given you a flavor of some of the things I value about our school. Best of luck with your school search!


We have been at the Academy for two years now. My child is in Middle school currently. Yes there have been some teacher turnover. Very unfortunate. However some of them were out of the administration's control and can happen anywhere. Since it is a small school, impact is larger when such events happen. Fifth grade teacher Mr. Cochran is awesome. Very engaged and open to ideas. For middle school Ms. Wolley (Math) and Ms. Jondle (History) are top notch. The new English teacher Ms. Lazarus is very experienced and is doing very interesting writing projects with the class. The science teacher is too new for us to know her impact. The French teacher is well received and has the children motivated. Latin teacher provides lot of out of school options to develop love for all things Latin. Mr. Ruff, Arts/Humanities teacher is currently having students work on a Mosaic project. The academics is top notch and teachers are engaged. The school has regular assemblies, annual musical,field trips to museums/labs, trip to Marin Headlands, participate in math competitions. It is a no frill school. That could be an issue for those who want their kids to have lot of options for organized sports, fine arts or other activities. Nothing wrong in that. It really depends upon the experience you want for the child. Thanks Anon
The original post asked for input from families who are currently at The Academy, so I didn't respond. But I feel I ought to respond to something in one of the responses you got. It saddens me to think that the misleading response may cause others to have go through what we went through.

I agree with the positive feedback you got regarding the K and 1st grade teachers. However, after that, The Academy was never academically ''top notch'' for our child, - very far from it.

I am happy to say that the quality of the academic work at the school we switched to is substantially higher, in the Humanities as well as in Science and Math. My child is happy and once again loves school.

Different families want different things, of course, but if you are looking for a school with a stable, strong academic focus, you can do a lot better than The Academy.

Moved on


Oct 2012

Like many Bay Area parents, we spent a considerable amount of time deciding whether to send our children to public vs. private school. We looked at many different private schools as we got our last choice in the Berkeley Public School lottery, and we even considered moving through the tunnel. Overall, we have been very happy with our decision to send our kids to The Academy.

The Academy is a K-8 school located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley. The Academy has a diverse student population and a traditional academic program. Each class has a maximum number of 16 kids per class which allows the teachers to focus on and give assignments to each child's ability. The teachers are wonderful; the kindergarten teacher is energetic and the kids hardly know that they are being taught a wealth of information. The first and second grade teachers are also fantastic and supportive. Our oldest child currently is in second grade (started at The Academy in kindergarten) and youngest is in kindergarten.

The program is academic and will support accelerated learners.Creativity is fostered and encouraged.The school has a large art studio in the back of the school.PE is four days a week, they have an excellent science teacher, and learn French starting in kindergarten. The kids go on monthly library walks. They have school assemblies where the kids learn to speak and sing in front of an audience (the school and parents).The school has a yearly science fair focusing on age appropriate projects teaching the scientific method at an early age.There is a yearly talent show for all grades along with a fashion show where the upper school kids design clothes made of recycled goods.Field trips have included multiple plays per year at the local Berkeley playhouse, the Marin Headlands, and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Upper school kids have the option to go to Washington DC or France.

The school is small, emotionally supportive, and student interaction across grades is fostered. Overall, the group of children are kind, thoughtful, and respectful. Each day I asked my children what they liked best about their day and what they liked least. Both answer that they liked everything best and nothing least relating to their school day.

The parent community is strong. The parent club organizes movie nights which serve dinner and show an age appropriate movie. The evenings are fun for the parents to mingle and the kids to enjoy each other outside of regular school hours.

The graduates of the school typically attend high school at Berkeley High, CPS, Head Royce, Bishop O'Dowd, Bentley, and the Lamorinda high schools and do very well secondary to the student's strong academic background.

I hope you will consider this gem of a school! Happy Academy Mom


May 2012

I have two children attending The Academy and I've been very happy with the school. The teachers are excellent! The school has a casual and friendly atmosphere. My kids love it and are thriving there. If you have questions or need more information about the Academy, please fell free to call me. Rana


May 2012

Re: School for ''gifted'' learners?
You may want to check out The Academy school in Berkeley. It does not claim to be a school for gifted children, but depending on how your child is gifted, he or she may thrive there. The school is clearly academic. They have small classes (max 16) and GREAT teachers. They are also starting a differentiated instruction program in math and language arts at the elementary level to better place advanced students where they need to be. Most families I have met who transferred to The Academy said that their child was bored in his/her previous school, but not at The Academy. Having said that, the school has a friendly atmosphere and kids interact across grades (K-8) in a very positive way. Very happy mom at the Academy!


Oct 2011

Re: In Need of Current School Reviews/Recommendations
You might want to check out The Academy (located near the Julia Morgan Theater). Our son is very happy there. There was some turnover among teachers in the lower school last year, but the teachers who are there are fabulous, and many of them have been at the school for a long time - so teacher retention generally doesn't seem to be an issue here. Our son is younger than your daughter, so I haven't experienced what things are like in the middle school grades, but I'd definitely recommend that you check it out. Happy at The Academy


May 2011

My family had a very negative experience with this school, where we sent our first daughter with a real positive outcome, and expected the same for our second daughter; to our surprise the school really changed, the educators and administrators were replaced by the owning family's members, the teachers we thought were best were gone, the class size issue became a conflict with us and many of the parents, and a teacher they newly hired had little to no experience teaching young children, having taught only in ''tough'' high schools and now headed for our 2nd grader's class. We pulled our daughter out the third day, but as we remained on the parent's e-tree, we regularly read about the way the parents and school administrator continued to have conflicts over class size, the questionable teacher (who was either fired or quit within a few months) and more. The worst was that the HeadMaster refused to meet with us about our concerns. A.


I saw the review describing the negative experience somebody had with The Academy in Berkeley. I wanted to respond by saying we are so glad we moved our son to The Academy this past year. Our son had always been very happy in preschool, but seemed utterly bored and frustrated when he started 1st grade (well, ''year 1-3'' at a Montessori school). As soon as we switched him to The Academy (1st grade), we had our happy, interested, engaged child back! Our son goes to school with excitement every day, and he has been learning a lot. Yes, the class size is very small, but kids from all grades interact and play together during recess and in the afternoons. Our son really likes this, and it's wonderful to see a lot of the older kids being great role models for the younger ones. Happy at The Academy
I am a parent of two children who currently attend The Academy in Berkeley. While I understand the frustration this parent felt I had a very different experience. I have a lower school child in 1st grade and an upper school child in 7th. This year we did have a few teachers leave from both the lower and upper school, all schools experience this. Yes, the children (and parents) had to readjust to new teaching styles and yes we did have concerns. Not only did the headmaster and new Dean of Upper School meet with us she implemented changes, many of which were recommended by parents. We saw changes before the second quarter ended. Sometimes it is how you approach a situation that makes all the difference. The new second grade teacher is wonderful and both the parents who remained and the children are happy and learning. I am looking forward to my child advancing to her class. All the teachers have the children's best interest at heart and are more than qualified to teach the accelerated program The Academy offers. My suggestion is to look around and compare. Take the time to come in and tour the school and meet the teachers. Then decide if this school is a good fit for your child. We love it here! Diane
Dec 2010

Re: Ecole Bilingue, Head Royce, Prospect
I am writing regarding your question about EB, Head Royce, and Prospect. We have friends in all those, but no first hand experience. If you are looking to move your child to a school for the gifted, may I recommend the Academy in Berkeley (Elmwood district). It is academically excellent, small, socially diverse, and a very supportive and respectful environment. They combine the academic rigor of a traditional European education with a modern value system of debate dialogue and discussion, mutual support, and cooperation over competition, which we love. Our two children are in the lower (elementary) school, love their school and learning, and they are quite advanced academically and socially. We know at least one family that came from EB, and several that came from Bentley, all are very happy. The Academy also offers a great French program, which you might appreciate coming from EB. For some reason the Academy is not as famous as other private schools, it is a gem we are blessed to have in our area. Please feel free to email me if I can help with any questions. farshid


Oct 2010

I'd love to hear from parents about their children's experience at The Academy in Berkeley. While the accelerated curriculum is a parent's dream, how do kids continue to thrive if they begin to ''fall behind'' for whatever reason? What support system is in place for this situation? I also recently saw ''Race to Nowhere''. Have you encountered issues with homework load, stress, etc., especially starting around 3rd grade? Thank you so much. Sarah


We have two kids at The Academy in 5th and 2nd grades. Overall, we have been very happy with the school. There is a great community and family spirit about the place. All of the kids know one another and there is a lot of respect. The school is academic in its approach and a lot is expected of the kids (sorry, didn't see Race to Nowhere so don't really know your reference point) but it isn't excessive. I love that the kids are taught another language (French), read music, sing, conduct science experiments, and learn Latin. There are a lot of European families at the school and many of the kids are multilingual; the diversity is pretty good for a small school. My kids are not 'brainiacs' and, yes, sometimes we struggle with homework but not often. I love that they are getting a solid foundation in the three Rs and have a school they love. -anon
My three children went to the Academy. It is a wonderful ''community'' and my children received a very solid foundation, including study skills and a broad knowledge base (science, latin, music, arts). My Children are now all in their 20's and our kids experienced occasional gaps in consistency in the mostly excellent teaching staff. I believe that the current owner / director of the school has done an excellent job of stabilizing the teaching staff. ~ O.
April 2010

Re: East Bay Private K-4 Recommendation
Our son is at the Academy which is small, intense and very warm, with a community of parents who are very diverse in styles and professions but who all seem equally eager to support and nurture their kids at the school. I'd recommend you take a look! It's in Berkeley but not West Berkeley. anonymous


Nov 2009

Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
My son is extremely interested in science and attends The Academy, in Berkeley on Benvenue. There is a specialty teacher, Mr. Aho, just for science for all the grades. We were discussing his science class recently and my son commented that every time they meet for science class Mr. Aho has them do a hands-on experiment. My son is constantly building models, doing crafts, 3-D art - very kinesthetic, and his science class has been a good match for him. Mr. Aho is an extremely gifted teacher and brings science education to a new level. Also, there's a science fair every spring where children dream up and carry out their own projects, your son might like that. Parent of a kinesthetic child


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


Oct 2009

We have a 2nd grader and soon to be in Kindergarten next fall. I am torn in between The Academy and Bentley School.
1- French Foreign Language from Kindergarten onwards Both schools offer this but I would like to know which has better foreign language program in terms of teacher (native speakers) quality of teaching, curriculums. And if the class is conducted in French only or English or both? How would you rate the proficiency level of a child by the time they reach 8th grade?
2- Science I understand that Bentley School use the hands on approach, thesis, experiments and project base. Is this the same case for The Academy? And at what grade do they start using this method, from kindergarten onwards or only until they reach at a higher grade?
3- Are the teachers specialist and experts in the field they teach for all grades or teachers that have at least a Bachelor's Degree?
3- What is the classroom ratio for both schools? I understand that Bentley has a maximum of 20 per class. Do they have a ratio of 20:1 or 10:1?
And of course, the fees between this two schools is about $6k.
4- Financial Aid for Bentley is it given out only to middle school and high school or do they offer it to lower school as well?
5- Middle class income parents do you feel uncomfortable or have you ever been put in that situation among other Upper class/Rich Parents? I am torn... Anon


We are a former Bentley family now at the Academy. We left because we felt our children were not being challenged enough at Bentley. To answer your specific questions:

1. When we were at Bentley, it was French 1/2 year, Spanish 1/2 year til one of the higher grades. Our child came away not learning much as a result. Don't know if Bentley still does the same split now or not. As for the teachers, I believe Bentley has a very new French teacher, so I can't comment on French there now. But the French teacher at the Academy is superb. She is a native speaker and in the earliest grades runs a very oral immersion sort of program, so the children have very good comprehension and accents. As the grades go up, she gives them more written/reading work. And in all cases she has high standards and demands excellence from her students. She's very warm with the children but the same time runs a tight ship. The Academy has a French spelling bee every spring; the children are given a word list with over a hundred words to study for a few weeks, and then there's an all-school competition. It's wonderful fun and the children rise superbly to the challenge. Bentley had nothing like this. In our experience the French program is of extremely high academic caliber.

2. There is simply not enough space here for me to rave about the academic excellence of the science program at the Academy. For one thing, there is a specialty teacher just for science. When we were at Bentley, science was part of the regular classroom curriculum and didn't go into much depth. At the academy, not only do kids do hands on work from the get go, it's detailed, sophisticated science that they are doing. Among many other topics: sophisticated planetary science & plant biology in the 3rd grade, human biology & electromagnetism in the 4th grade, chemistry in the 5th grade (this list is not exhaustive for these grades). The teacher is imaginative, dedicated, inspires the children immensely. He encourages creativity, insists on excellence in written work too. Every March there's a science fair where every child designs an original science project. As of this year, there's a beautiful new large science lab as a result of renovations this summer.

3. I'm not sure what you mean by 'specialist and experts in all grades': in the lower school there are specialists for French, Science, Music, Art,P.E. Beginning with 6th grade there are specialist teachers for math, history, literature, latin as well. The teachers bios on the school website lists their credentials.

3b. Academy class size maximum is 16, our grade currently has 12. Kindergarten is usually somewhere around 8-10. While there were 16 in kindergarten at Bentley, Bentley had more than 20 children in the class in the grades above that when we were there, I think it was 22 or 23.

4. My understanding is that financial aid is available at Bentley for all grades.

5. Atmosphere: we at times were uncomfortable with the 'country club' atmosphere that can be perceived at Bentley, the Gala and the $$$ bidding that goes on there, recognizably different financial cultures in different families. Folks there just had a lot more money than we did and were focused on different things. There are some awfully nice people there we got along well with, but there was enough of an atmosphere to be noticable. When we first visited an open house at the Academy to explore moving there, we felt ''Ahhhh, this is where we belong''. Lots of parents are scientists, programmers, faculty at Cal, drs. We're an academically oriented family and what we perceived at the Academy felt like the right culture for us.

We have no regrets about our move to the Academy, only wish we had started there in kindergarten.

One final comment: as for the social scenes, our child was pretty lonely at Bentley, easy to get lost on the big playground among 40+ people in your grade. At the Academy no one falls through the cracks. At least in our grade, the class is like a family, everyone interacts well, and, crucially, everyone interacts. And the children get to know the children in higher & lower grades well as they have music & P.E. together. Our child has blossomed socially at the Academy. Glad we moved to the Academy.


My child had a negative experience at The Academy. It's a very small school, there were few students in her grade, and she felt the social aspects of school were difficult.

She went to Bentley. Socially there were more students to choose from and she felt she could be herself and choose friends with similar interest. Yes, Bentley is a small school but bigger than The Academy.

My daughter did not like French at The Academy, she felt there was too much busy work and as a result, hindered learning. She love science, lots of hands on work, and says Mr. Aho is the best science teacher ever!

Bentley classes were much more structured, expectations were clear and although her teachers knew her, they didn't know her intimately, and as a result, did not judge her. She felt she was treated fairly by her teachers. Anon


I personally really like the Bentley school. I love the small campus feel, teachers, and children. I like that all the specialty teachers love what they do and are specialist in there fields. anon
Oct 2009

Re: Move from Berkeley to Lafayette for the schools?
Instead of a move, you might consider checking out The Academy, an independent school in Berkeley's Elmwood district. The school has the best academic program in the east bay, hands down. Many children there, like ours, came from other schools, sometimes the ''top'' private schools in the area, where they were bored (in our case to literal tears). Your child can visit the school for a day and attend class with their grade - after his visit, our child came back just glowing, a glow that lasted for a good 4 days he was so happy at the school!

At the end of second grade in May in our old school, the children did one week of simple division. At the Academy when we visited second grade, the children were doing long division - happily and eagerly. In addition to excellently taught math, the science program is phenomenal - they have a fantastic specialty teacher just for science, with a science fair in the spring. The creative writing program is taught by a well-known children's author who happens to live nearby. Social studies and literature in the lower grades is intellectually rich and challenging. The French teacher is also exceptional - my child can actually speak French now to a basic degree and he uses it spontaneously, which I find amazing. Class size is max 16, but often smaller - right now our grade has 12 students. Lots of individual attention, teachers can recognize where a child needs more challenge and give it to them. And to top it off, the school has a warm, wonderful community. I feel like I'm home when I'm there. The school is having an information event for families on Sunday Oct. 25 from 1-3 p.m., so you can check it out, meet the teachers and ask current parents about the school, curriculum and community. Here is their website: http://www.academyk-8.com/index.html Love The Academy


May 2009

Re: Looking for a wonderful kindergarten
Our son is in kindergarten at The Academy, which is a K-8 school in Berkeley. We've been extremely happy with our experience there. It's a very small school (with a maximum of 16 kids per grade), so everyone gets a lot of individual attention, and all of the kids seem to know everyone in the school. The academics are outstanding, and the teachers are wonderful. I would highly recommend that you consider it. Happy Academy Parent


April 2008 Re: Creative Welcoming School for 6th Grader?
The Academy, on Benvenue in Berkeley, may be the school you are looking for. The school is small, one class of 16 students max per grade, academically high-achieving - in fact, hands down the best academics in the East Bay - and full of interesting children with all sorts of off-beat interests. In our experience the smaller student population is one of the school's greatest assets - it means that individual personalities are embraced by teachers and students. We ourselves were looking for a school where our 'different' child could stay different - thanks goodness for The Academy!!! love our school
Jan 2008

Re: Seeking Diversity & Top Academics K- 12 Bay Area
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
Jan 2007

Re: Individualized instruction for advanced student?
The Academy in Berkeley has a fair number of academically gifted children. They teach to the child and, because of the small class size, can work with each child's level of skill. Your child would be hard pressed to be academically bored. The program includes Latin and French so an older child coming from a less rigorous program would have to work to catch up. Our child has attended for two years and we have been quite happy. She's not one of the astoundingly advanced kids but she is working well above grade level and, best of all, she's having a lot of fun. The parents and kids are a warm and welcoming community as well. Best of luck in your search. - Academy Parent


January 2005

We've been touring private schools in and around Berkeley and really liked The Academy. Our daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. We'd love to hear from Academy parents about the current goings on at the school (the archived reviews are a couple of years old). - R.K.


We are looking at The Academy School in Berkeley for our fourth grade son. He is bright, very introverted and needs a smaller school environment. He tends to rebel against the rote work in his current school and would benefit most from a creative curriculum that will stimulate him and allow him to work independently. We would appreciate hearing from current/former families about whether The Academy School would be a good fit.
We have a daughter entering kindergarten this Fall and have applied to the Academy. The academic program looks excellent and we think the structure would work well for our child. Besides the academics, how are the programs like art, music and French (do the kids become fluent by 8th grade) ? Also, do kids that enter in kindergarten tend to stay through 8th grade ? - (soon to be) Kindergarten mom

My son started at the Academy in kindergarten and is now in second grade. The kids adore the art program. The after-school art classes are always very popular. The two art teachers love a variety of materials and the kids cover a wide range - from making creations out of ''junk'' to studying the work of individual artists. The upper school also studies architecture and art history. Art is not restricted to art class. It is used frequently to bring out ideas in social studies, science, etc.

All the kids learn to read music and all of them sing. It's a small school and they put on a lot of shows, so everyone performs all the time. The Gilbert&Sullivan shows put on by grades 3-5 have been remarkably good. In the regular school curriculum there is no individual instruction in instruments (many kids get that outside school, and I seem to remember some kids getting individual music lessons in the after-school program). There's an after-school chorus which is very popular.

Fifth grade is holding monthly poetry-reading sessions this year. We hope that this will soon spread to the rest of the school. The upper school puts on a Shakespeare production each year.

As for the French, most of the kids have good accents and are solid on grammar by 8th grade, but they don't speak fluently. When they enter high school they place very well (skip a couple of classes) and do very well, even compared to the kids who come from French-immersion schools. I think they should speak more, and better, but there's no problem with the reading and writing.

The kids are physically active and very fit. We were worried about the size of the yard but it doesn't seem to matter. They use Willard Park as well. They have an enthusiastic but perennially losing basketball team, and good soccer and volleyball teams. Again because it's a small school, pretty much anyone who wants to can get on a team.

The fraction of students that stay till 8th grade varies quite a bit by year, but is at least 50%. Families go through many changes as their kids go from age 5 to age 14 - job transfers, separations, etc. Those are more common reasons for leaving a school than dissatisfaction with the program. There is always some back-and-forth with other schools, e.g. some families leave to go to School X and other families move from School X to The Academy.

My son is happy at the school, enjoys a variety of activities, and is hardly ever bored. Academically he and his classmates are very strong and have already developed good work habits. They know that practicing a skill is not a punishment - it's the only way to develop the skill. So there are no battles about hw, or about practicing piano. At least there's nothing more than occasional grumbling.

Hope this helps. Good luck in your search. Academy parent


December 2003

Re: School for highly gifted 7-year-old
Try ''The Academy'', small private school in Berkeley. I know quite a few very gifted children, who came to ''The Academy'' after being frustrated in other schools, and who are very happy now. Call the school and go see it yourself. Sit at the class your child will be going to if you decide to send him there. I will be happy to answer your questions. A happy ''Academy'' parent

November 2003

The school has very high academic standards, small class size (at most 15 kids per grade, about 120 kids in all), ethnic/cultural diversity, an international community, and an informal family atmosphere. Details are available on the school website: www.academyk-8.com.

The lively arts are an integral part of the program. All the kids perform in musicals and plays, all learn to read music, and all do arts and crafts and study art history and music history.

I recommend visiting the school when the kids are in the playground. You'll get a real sense of community - big kids playing with little ones, groups of friends of both genders and all ethnicities. No cliques, snobbery, or ugly language.

My son and his first grade classmates treat the school as an extension of their homes. In addition to the three R's (as well as French, art, music, science, computers, and PE, all taught by specialists starting in kindergarten) the school teaches them to treat others with respect and affection and to be tolerant of differences. The teachers are nurturing and supportive, and the small class size enables them to ensure that each child rises to the high expectations of the school.

It has been a delight to watch our son grow in confidence and ability over the past year. I'll be happy to answer questions about the school by email, but please put ''Academy'' in the subject header. Ani


January 2005

We've been touring private schools in and around Berkeley and really liked The Academy. Our daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. We'd love to hear from Academy parents about the current goings on at the school (the archived reviews are a couple of years old). - R.K.


We are looking at The Academy School in Berkeley for our fourth grade son. He is bright, very introverted and needs a smaller school environment. He tends to rebel against the rote work in his current school and would benefit most from a creative curriculum that will stimulate him and allow him to work independently. We would appreciate hearing from current/former families about whether The Academy School would be a good fit.
We have a daughter entering kindergarten this Fall and have applied to the Academy. The academic program looks excellent and we think the structure would work well for our child. Besides the academics, how are the programs like art, music and French (do the kids become fluent by 8th grade) ? Also, do kids that enter in kindergarten tend to stay through 8th grade ? - (soon to be) Kindergarten mom

My son started at the Academy in kindergarten and is now in second grade. The kids adore the art program. The after-school art classes are always very popular. The two art teachers love a variety of materials and the kids cover a wide range - from making creations out of ''junk'' to studying the work of individual artists. The upper school also studies architecture and art history. Art is not restricted to art class. It is used frequently to bring out ideas in social studies, science, etc.

All the kids learn to read music and all of them sing. It's a small school and they put on a lot of shows, so everyone performs all the time. The Gilbert&Sullivan shows put on by grades 3-5 have been remarkably good. In the regular school curriculum there is no individual instruction in instruments (many kids get that outside school, and I seem to remember some kids getting individual music lessons in the after-school program). There's an after-school chorus which is very popular.

Fifth grade is holding monthly poetry-reading sessions this year. We hope that this will soon spread to the rest of the school. The upper school puts on a Shakespeare production each year.

As for the French, most of the kids have good accents and are solid on grammar by 8th grade, but they don't speak fluently. When they enter high school they place very well (skip a couple of classes) and do very well, even compared to the kids who come from French-immersion schools. I think they should speak more, and better, but there's no problem with the reading and writing.

The kids are physically active and very fit. We were worried about the size of the yard but it doesn't seem to matter. They use Willard Park as well. They have an enthusiastic but perennially losing basketball team, and good soccer and volleyball teams. Again because it's a small school, pretty much anyone who wants to can get on a team.

The fraction of students that stay till 8th grade varies quite a bit by year, but is at least 50%. Families go through many changes as their kids go from age 5 to age 14 - job transfers, separations, etc. Those are more common reasons for leaving a school than dissatisfaction with the program. There is always some back-and-forth with other schools, e.g. some families leave to go to School X and other families move from School X to The Academy.

My son is happy at the school, enjoys a variety of activities, and is hardly ever bored. Academically he and his classmates are very strong and have already developed good work habits. They know that practicing a skill is not a punishment - it's the only way to develop the skill. So there are no battles about hw, or about practicing piano. At least there's nothing more than occasional grumbling.

Hope this helps. Good luck in your search. Academy parent


December 2003

Re: School for highly gifted 7-year-old
Try ''The Academy'', small private school in Berkeley. I know quite a few very gifted children, who came to ''The Academy'' after being frustrated in other schools, and who are very happy now. Call the school and go see it yourself. Sit at the class your child will be going to if you decide to send him there. I will be happy to answer your questions. A happy ''Academy'' parent

November 2003

The school has very high academic standards, small class size (at most 15 kids per grade, about 120 kids in all), ethnic/cultural diversity, an international community, and an informal family atmosphere. Details are available on the school website: www.academyk-8.com.

The lively arts are an integral part of the program. All the kids perform in musicals and plays, all learn to read music, and all do arts and crafts and study art history and music history.

I recommend visiting the school when the kids are in the playground. You'll get a real sense of community - big kids playing with little ones, groups of friends of both genders and all ethnicities. No cliques, snobbery, or ugly language.

My son and his first grade classmates treat the school as an extension of their homes. In addition to the three R's (as well as French, art, music, science, computers, and PE, all taught by specialists starting in kindergarten) the school teaches them to treat others with respect and affection and to be tolerant of differences. The teachers are nurturing and supportive, and the small class size enables them to ensure that each child rises to the high expectations of the school.

It has been a delight to watch our son grow in confidence and ability over the past year. I'll be happy to answer questions about the school by email, but please put ''Academy'' in the subject header. Ani


Summer Program at the Academy


Jan 2010

Dear fellow parents, Have your children attended the summer camp at the Academy private school in Berkeley? Could you, please, write about the experience. Our daughter is currently in Kindergarten in public school. Since we do not speak English at home she was labeled as an ESL student, but does not receive any additional instructions from the district. She is considered to be early advanced, and they only have one teacher for 3 elementary schools. We would like our girl to strengthen her reading skills, but do not want to spoil her summer. Is the Academy summer program too rigid? Who is teaching the classes? Looks like they group all kids entering 1 - 3 grade together. Was it a problem for the younger ones? Please advise.


Our daughter attended The Academy last summer before going into K and had a great time. They have the academic program in the morning and play in the afternoon. The academics were focused to each child's ability. We didn't notice any problem with several grades in each classroom. The kids were very nice and respectful of one another. We liked that the program allowed all the kids to interact and the older kids were especially good to the little ones. It's a nice intimate atmosphere. -mom
Feb 2009

Re: Summer math catch-up class for 8-year old
The Academy, a K-8 private school on Benvenue Ave. in Berkeley has a summer math program exactly geared for children in situations like yours (i.e. aimed at children who need to catch up). The Academy itself is an academically accelerated school and many people assume the summer program is accelerated & for math whizzes, but in fact it's not the same as the regular academic curriculum and Academy children do not generally attend the summer program (sometimes children do who are switching into The Academy for the fall & need to catch up). Contact them and see if it fits your needs. Very happy Academy parent


May 2005

Re: Summer Academics for Gifted 7yr old
My son had a wonderful experience with the summer camp at the Academy, around the corner from Willard Park in Berkeley. The morning consists of an academic program. Incoming 3rd and 4th graders will be taught by an author of childrens' books (and popular but occasional subsitute teacher at the Academy), Doug Evans. My son took the program for entering 5th and 6th graders, half of which was taught by a math teacher, the other half by the English teacher. Both programs were very structured and paced according to the skills level of the individual child. Both teachers were great. One can pick up one's child at noon or childcare & other programs, such as swim lessons (or just water play at Willard Pool), are available until 6 PM, and there are outings such as ice! -skating on Fridays. You pay for extras, but the basic childcare of hanging around the yard is also good. The after-care staff (who work year-round) have been with the school, one for 20 years, the other for about 10. One of them is an older man who helps kids with basketball. You are charged only for as much after care as you actually use, though you get a better price if you pay for it in advance. (But you'll be refunded whatever portion you don't use). My athletic kid had more fun there than he did at Golden Bear, which he went to the previous summer. xp


Jan 2003

We only spent one year at the Academy. My children met the academic challenge pretty easily, but the extremely limited social environment was actually damaging for one child, while the other made the best of it. Neither wanted to go back. We now realize how important the social environment can be as an integrated part of their academic experience. They are happier in the public charter school they now attend with three 3rd grades. Mary

2002

After reading about another parent's experience at the school (not signed or dated - her son attended for one year), I would like to post my opinion of The Academy K-8 school in Berkeley. My son began in Kindergarten this past September (2001/02). He has been challenged academically. While he excels in certain subjects, there are others he is not as interested in. The Kindergarten teacher has done a wonderful job in channeling his energy to work harder in those subjects he needs help. The Academy is certainly an academically based school but because of the small classroom size, each child gets very individualized attention. There is an expectation that each child completes assignments and participates in classroom discussion. My son began in Kindergarten and the level of expectation is formed right from the start. As for the social aspect, the school has one play yard which is used by all grades, at first this was hard for me as a mother to let my son mix in with much older kids. What I have found is that many of the older kids are mentors to the younger. My son enjoys the social exchange with the older kids. Our experience has been very positive from both an academic and social perspective - we think our son is being adequately (not overly) challenged. The teachers and headmaster have a genuine concern for the students and have been very open to discussing individual issues. Jill

1999

My son was only in this school for one year, fifth grade, so I do not have as much experience with it as a longer-term family. But here is my opinion:

This is the kind of school that only a certain kind of kid will thrive in. It is targeted toward the child who is highly motivated to spend most afternoons reading and writing and studying, and whose classroom behavior is very orderly, compliant and predictable. (Or, it's for the parent who is motivated to make the child be like this. It was kinda sad - the kids who were not into it at all, but whose parents were.)

The school is academically oriented, and children are tested before admittance is granted. There is French beginning in Kindergarten, and Latin begins in 6th grade. The school is K-8. It's very small, one class per grade. My son's 5th grade class had fewer than 10 students. This appealed to me originally. But it turned out that the school's expectations of students were so rigid that small class size made no difference in the way the teacher responded to each student. Every student was taught in the same exact way, regardless of learning style or background or special talents. There was no tolerance for anything outside of the school's model of how students should learn and how they should behave.

My son couldn't keep up with the homework demands, even though he was starting on homework right after school, and doing nothing else till bedtime. If all the homework was not turned in, the child's parents were called and the child stayed after school for detention. This got to be a regular everyday thing for my son, which is not exactly encouraging to a kid. Worse, the teacher began to ridicule him in front of the class. She would say "Well, I see ____ has managed to finish all the math problems for a change." I confronted her about this - I couldn't believe my son's stories - and she confirmed them by saying "Well, what do you expect me to do if he won't do his homework?" This really surprised me - I never saw anything like this in public school, where teachers had many more students and kids who really needed help. Here, there were 10 kids, all smart and all well-behaved, but there was no individual attention at all.

I think we had a rather bad teacher, which may be more a reflection on the teacher than on the school. Nevertheless, the school had kept her on board for many years. And other teachers were similar in their intolerance. The French teacher graded my son as if he had been taking French since Kindergarten with the other kids, even though she knew this was his first exposure to a foreign language. The headmaster had assured me when we first applied that this wouldn't be a problem, but it was, and there was never any attempt by the school to catch him up. He just got Fs. The playground supervisor asked my son repeatedly "Why do you want to look like one of those drug dealers down on Telegraph?" referring to my son's Berkeley-post-punk taste in clothes. He just didn't fit in.

I know that there are children who thrive on a demanding and highly focussed academic environment. I might have liked the school myself as a child. But it's not for everybody. If you have a child who spends a lot of time quietly reading, drawing, etc. and who is very conventional in habits and tastes, then this might be the school for you. But for other children, it may be a very unhappy and discouraging place. Anonymous


This is in response to a parent who wanted to know more about the Academy. I am glad someone asked about this fine school because there has been no mention of it in the past discussions that I have seen.

Our elder daughter attended the Academy for the 7th and 8th grade. Before the Academy, she attended a good local public elementary school. Our younger daughter also followed the same track and now attends the 7th grade at the Academy. Obviously we have been satisfied with our daughters' experience at this school.

Before either of our daughers commited to attend, they spent a day at the school attending all classes to get a flavor of the school environment. Children are tested before school admittance to determine if they are significantly behind the rest of the class in any area.

The classes at the Academy are small, about 12. The school puts emphasis on academics, which we parents liked. Students get homework each day for almost each subject. The homework load is average 3 hours every day at the 7th and 8th grade. As one parent reports in the Jan 14th digest, it is possible that a student who often brings in unfinished homework may face ridicule in class.

The enrollment is quite diverse in terms of national origin and ethnic mix.

Both our daughters started in the second year of Latin class (7th grade) when they joined, with no prior exposure to Latin. The school made some accomodations for easing their entry into the language. The elder daughter attended the 6th grade Latin class and the rest of the subjects in the 7th grade classes. The younger daughter attends the 7th grade Latin class, but seems to be doing fine.

The French language classes teach at a pretty leisurely pace, so only about 65% of one year's coursework (one book) is covered over the 6th, 7th and the 8th grades. Both the daughters picked up 7th grade French directly joining the 7th grade class with no prior exposure to French.

There is an informal dress code. If a student puts on make-up, hair-do, or clothes that are deemed unacceptable by the principal, the student is sent home to change clothes or asked to wash off the make up before attending classes.

We were looking for a school that would provide a solid academic foundation for going to high school, and we were not disappointed. - A Dad


April 1999

The Academy (2722 Benvenue 549-0605) has 6 weeks of academic program from 9am to 12pm, 6/21-7/30. The academic program is divided into Math and English session and the classes are small. I asked the teacher to give my son the 2nd grade Math when he went to the 1st grade class last year (they are flexible but you will have to initiate the request). I believe the English program for 2nd grade will also have some writing besides reading. The Academy also has other recreation program/daycare in the afternoon so you can leave you child there full day. Yuteh


Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Mar 9, 2014


The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network