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About Albany, CA Schools
Hi BPN families, I'm looking for your experiences, either direct or indirect, with the Albany TK-12 Unified School District. We live in SF and absolutely love everything about the city, but the rising cost and uncertainty of the public school system, which we are committed to sending our children, mean we are at a crossroads. The archives are very old (2004), we'd appreciate updated perspectives about moving to Albany for the schools. We're especially interested in the academics, diversity, lifestyle considerations, etc. Thank you! SF parent considering EB
I know you asked specifically about Albany, but since you inquired particularly about diversity, I would urge you to at least consider Berkeley. True diversity in every single classroom (thanks to the zone-and-lottery system). Each class looks like a mini United Nations. My kids' teachers have been Asian, White, African-American, Male, Lesbian... And the curriculum on the whole has been wonderful. (I truly LOVE the reading program.) My kids (upper elementary) have thrived, and have friends of many diverse backgrounds. When I walk onto one of the Albany campuses, it feels somewhat creepy it's so white. (But again, that's only from what I can see.) Albany Auntie, but Berkeley Momma!
[*Moderator: for actual demographic information on the Albany School population, please check this site: http://www.ausdk12.org/ The School Accountability Report Cards -- under the 'Schools' menu -- will have recent info for each school]
No schools are perfect and certainly AUSD has its problems. But this poster was simply incorrect and posted factually wrong information about the diversity in Albany. Albany USD is a majority-minority district, and there is no one ethnic group that is a majority -- it is nowhere close to 85% percent white, it is not even 51% white. AMS for example (the only middle school in the district) is 39% white, 32% Asian, 14% Hispanic, 9% African-American. There are people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds, lots of LGBT families (and teachers too). In one of my kids' classes, there are over 15 different languages spoken at home by the students.
Albany has been a wonderful school district for us, with lots of parents and teachers dedicated to making it a positive place. My children are thriving. Is it flawed? Yes. Has it had problems? Yes. But the problem of the district is not that it is 85% white -- because it isn't. Posting factually incorrect information about the demographics from someone who doesn't even have children in the district is a problem. For the person interested in Albany, I'd encourage you to visit -- one of the pluses (and minuses) of Albany is that it is a small district with only 3 elementary schools, one middle school and one high school -- it is easy to visit all of the school and Albany parents are usually more than willing to talk about the district. Albany Parent
Our son will enter kindergarten in 2012. We are considering moving to attend Albany schools. The most recent reviews on BPN are from 2010. Can you offer a more current perspective? I'm most focused on understanding elementary schools - pros and cons - and how the district itself is doing. But all comments are helpful. Thank you! Laura
I'm so excited, we will soon be moving to Albany! :) I just need help from the community in figuring out which school would best fit my son. He is a shy and sensitive child. He has difficulties with organization, so having a school where there is a lot of communication between the school and parents would be very helpful for me to keep track of events in school and homework in the classroom. An active PTA and a strong sense of community is a plus. Could you please help? I'd love to hear about your school. Thank you so much for your feedback! New To Albany
I'm thinking of moving to Albany for the schools there, but would like to learn more about experiences parents have had with the schools. I'm not too concerned about the academics, because I've heard good things. I'm more concerned about social and behavioral issues. Are you satisfied with how the schools address conflicts between students? With diversity issues? Do the schools make a point of accepting and teaching students to accept students of various ethnic backgrounds and from different types of families? warrick
Hello, My husband just accepted a position at UC Berkeley for the fall. We'll be relocating to the area from Boston. We're not sure where to live.
I'm interested in hearing people's current experiences with Albany public elementary schools, Berkeley public elementary schools, Oakland public elementary schools as well as some of the private schools in the area. Our son will be in first grade.
Specifically I'm interested in hearing your experiences with class size/ teacher ratio, use of outdoor time (we ARE moving to CA from cold and snowy Massachusetts), homework loads, resources for teachers, experiences with standardized tests, and after school care.
This seems like such an amazing community! Thanks so much for being here! Leah
Our daughters and their friends have been successful at Albany schools -- as are the majority of Albany school students; and the district is working to improve the school experience for the lowest performing students. My daughters and their friends are now at good colleges, where they are doing well.
Our kids enjoyed througthful, dedicated teachers K-12, a literature-based curriculum, a solid education, and a responsive administration. Albany has a diverse student body, who speak 37 languages, including the Albany Village students, whose parents are UC students from around the world.
Public schools are always easier for well-organized students who can follow directions. Due to limited resources, Albany - and any other local public school - will struggle to assist 'special' students and those who have difficulty controlling their own behavior.
Albany has taken good care of its financial resources and will have to cut less, in the coming year, than neighboring districts, even with the Governor's draconian cuts to the education budget. The District invites parent and student input in making these tough decisions. Parents are very active in the schools, and you will be welcomed as a volunteer at any school.
That said: Anyone coming from another state to any California school will be shocked at the paucity of resources. California is now 47th in the nation in per-student spending (thanks to a so-called ''anti tax'' revolution that has shifted taxes from corporations to individuals, and lowered funds for all state services, including schools). That means few resources for teachers or students, maximum-size classes, limited electives.
Although some have not had a good experience in Albany schools, ours has been almost entirely positive. You can check AlbanySchools@yahoogroups.com for the latest on school issues. --Appreciative parent of Albany grads
I'd love some current feedback on Albany schools...preferably middle and high school, but elementary school information is welcome too. We're looking at a few different options for our children for next year and are very interested in whether the Albany community feels confident in the AUSD's ability to ride out the current fiscal crisis in California and continue to offer the high quality education the city is known for. Are there any warning bells ringing that are giving anyone pause? I'd also welcome all positive or negative comments to help paint a picture of what the schools/community offer... Finally, any insight from parents who live in Albany and have chosen not to send your children to public school there, for any or all grades, would be much appreciated. Thanks, wondering about albany
Suggest you start with the Albany Schools website, where there is a lot of good information posted: http://ausd.ca.schoolloop.com/
For school budget info and downloads on finances, see the AUSD Budget Watch page: http://ausd.ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1233498129657
The Albany community strongly supports our schools. Last year, two school bond initiatives passed with over 70% support for each.
Lucky for Albany - the School Boar, faculty and community worked together last year to to make cuts that will allow the school to weather the current rounds of cuts in the Governor's budget (as many nearby districts are facing drastic cutbacks in staff and services).
As with any public school, the more you, as a family, can put in, the better your experience will be. It helps if you can volunteer time in the elementary classrooms, come to PTA meetings, and show up at school dances. You get to know the staff (the district is relatively small), and other families that way.
No school district is perfect. Our kids had great, dedicated teachers, a literature-based curriculum, and very few dingy teachers along the way. If your student is self-directed they will do better in Albany and any public school than a child who is easily distracted or disabled. There are social pressures for tweens and teens, and for those who are 'different'' as at any school; though the district works hard to offer anti-bullying curriculum and challenge day at the high school.
The relatively flat income in the district also helps. There's not a huge difference between those with the most and those with the least. So that relieves some pressures, and makes it easier for students and families to connect with each other. By high school, over 75% of the students have know each other since elementary school (which has lots of plusses and a few minuses).
All California schools now face draconian cuts from Sacramento. We are now 47th in the nation in per-student funding (think what that means!), -- any politician calling for cutbacks should know there is nothing more to cut. If we're lucky, there will be enough political change in the coming years that today's elementary students may get a few more elective classes by the time they reach high school. merry
Albany expected these cuts and addressed them before the storm hit. Prior, the budget was very closely watched as well. Albany also successfully passed 2 measures regarding parcel taxes in November to help the schools. They won by 78 and 76% - proof that the community is dedicated to the schools.
I know one family that home schools, and another family that has a child attend the private school where the parent teaches. That's it. It is unusual in Albany to not use the local public school - and for the rare few who don't, they are not as much a part of the community.
The one challenge is that the schools are becoming more crowded, so maybe I shouldn't even write this posting!!! Albany resident
We too, moved to Albany for the schools. We moved from out- of-state. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed. Yes, the teachers can be fantastic and committed. Yes, they work hard for the students. But school, for us, is more than academics. Our child needs to feel safe, and that the grown-ups there are people he can go to when in trouble. This year, our son was choked, punched, kicked in the head, head-butted in the classroom, and called ''loser'' several times over his handball skills. He has complained that boys peak through the stall while he's urinating, and feels uncomfortable exposing his privates in the public bathroom. We knew of no consequences to any of the perpetrators. He had 3 different teachers so far, and did I mention he's only in the 1st grade!!!! this is suppose to be a wonderful time of wonderment, learning, excitement, not a year of self-defense, confusion, and just hurtful behavior. I just never expected. Yes, the school has all these great curriculum programs, but for us, their execution is lacking. After he was choked early in the school year, we battled the school and the district because of their lack of attention they gave to MY child and our concerns over the incident. We felt dismissed and disregarded. And even though there's this ''no child left behind,'' well, our gen ed kid got left behind!!! It took our son weeks to return to his normal, sweet self, and nobody seemed to care about this but us. The superintendent even told us it was ''normal'' boy behavior. Well, we're not drinking the Albany Kool Aid!!
The short of it is he's only in the 1st grade, and we foresaw nothing changing. In March, against the policy, the principal at a perochial school allowed our son in, after I told her he had 3 teachers! did I mention he's in the 1st grade? The whole thing was surreal to our family. Our son has holes in his academics, but we expected that with 3 different teachers. Our son is no angel, and can hold his own. But he's a nice boy, who is respectful of people and rules. and we wanted to keep him that way! He was just too little to reconcile why all this happened without consequences. The first day at the new school, he noticed the consequences given other students immediately! He's thriving, although playing catch-up, and enjoys his new school The classroom is smaller (18 vs. 24), and with 2 teacher assistants.
The bottom line is this: everybody raved about AUSD. And it may be fine for many. In our case, it was not. But the leadership and administration did not align with our expectations. And that's as polite as I can be given the public forum of this medium. I strongly suggest you talk to MANY people, from all schools. That will give you a better flavor for what goes on. Then, and only then, will you be able to make the most informed decision. Good luck to you! And stay involved. It's our kids' only chance. rj
We're planning on moving from Oakland to Albany in order for my child to start kindergarten there next fall. I've read all the postings about the three Albany elementary schools, and get a sense that Marin is the most coveted of the three, but I'm not sure why that is the case. Is it because it is smaller? Better funded by the PTA for arts, etc? Does Ocean View get most of the non-English speaking students from UC Village or is this more evenly distributed? And, if Ocena View does have the highest rate of non-English speakers, is it disruptive? beneficial? does the school have a method for integrating the students quickly? I really don't have any sense for Cornell...can someone fill me in? Finally, are the Albany schools really worth the move from Oakland? We can afford private school, but I'm a public school alumna myself...and think community and divirsity rate up there with academics...just trying to strike the right balance. Jennifer
Our children attend Albany schools, and they are good. There is ample parent involvement, and the PTA has money.
But, the teaching is not excellent by any means. The reason the test scores are high is in large part due to the demographics. I am much more impressed with schools in El Cerrito, where, despite all of the challenges teachers face with the demographics, they continue to move children forward in amazing and innovative ways. Albany schools are also very crowded.
Is the $800,000 housing price worth it? I am not sure. It is a nice town, small and sweet. But there are nice neighborhoods next door in El Cerrito, too. I am still on the fence as to whether or not the school is right for us. Not swayed by the test scores
The downside of O.V. is, they've had to take in a big portion of the increased student enrollment in the last couple of years - more than their fair share, I've heard. So there is some tension about having enough playground supervision to keep everyone safe; my kids have survived it, but my older kid did find it a little too noisy (may just be her temperament, though). O.V. parent
One of the things I love about Marin is that it IS a neighborhood school; the ease of walking to and from school is an advantage not to be scorned! We do feel that there is a very strong school community, something that is important to me too as another public school alumna.
I can't speak to your specific questions about the other Albany grade schools because we did get Marin. (As you may or may not realize, students who live in Albany are guaranteed a spot in an Albany school, but not necessarily the particular one to which they live closest.) It is more or less true that the Marin neighorhood is a tad more affluent than the Cornell neighborhood, and somewhat less diverse than the Ocean View neighborhood. (Though Albany in general is much less diverse than Oakland, of course.) Parent involvement and spending may be a little higher at Marin. But all of the Albany schools are good. If we'd been assigned to Cornell or Ocean View instead, our biggest disappointment would have been the farther distance to travel from our home to get there. Marin School Mom
What's good about Albany--for the most part, kids can attend the school in their neighborhood. It's a friendly town and families are very nice. Since 98% of the elementary kids show up each day fit and ready to learn, there's very little classroom disruption. Parents participate--a lot at Marin, less at Cornell, and much less at Oceanview. However, as compared to our previous elementary school, even Marin has fewer parents participating. Lastly, the district is finally giving the staggered reading program a hard look. They added 20 minutes to grades 1-3 school day this year, and they're re-examining the utility of the staggered reading program. Marin School parent
The teachers do seem to have a traditional as opposed to an innovative approach to education. But, I believe they also have more flexibility in curricular design than those of other school districts.
After care is abundant and inexpensive. Yes, it is basically babysitting and not enrichment as one poster commented. But, again, this is not private school. My kid is cared for and relatively happy while I work. I'm satisfied.
If you are considering public school in the immediate Bay Area, Albany is an excellent choice. -Cornell parent
Parents participate--a lot at Marin, less at Cornell, and much less at Oceanview.
First, there is no way that the poster from Marin can judge parent participation at schools such as Cornell and OV that her child does not attend. I believe that according to the newsletter rules you are only supposed to post from personal experience of a school? I have two children at Ocean View and there is a very large amount of parent participation. When my son was in kindergarten there was a parent volunteer in his classroom almost every day, sometimes more than one. Parents help supervise the playground before school and at lunch. Any time a teacher in one of my children's classes has requested volunteer help there are always plenty of willing participants.
Also left out of the description of the early bird/late bird program is that the purpose is to provide individual reading instruction. During this time there are only 10 children in the classroom, and at least at OV there is often a parent volunteer and sometimes a teacher's aide present, giving an opportunity for an adult to work with the child one on one. I was a parent volunteer during this program when my child was in first grade so I can personally testify how helpful it is for children to get that type of individual attention.
My experience at OV has been a very supportive community of parents that highly value education and dedicated teachers who are highly committed to providing an exceptional eduation for every child. -Ocean View Parent
We are considering which of the 3 Albany elementary schools to send our kids to. The archives are a few years old, and it appears that people who wrote had good things to say about the school their child attended. But other than choosing the school that is the closest to your home, what other considerations come into play? How are the teachers, parent participation, class size, resources, quality of the school buildings and grounds, diversity, etc., for each school? Would there be a reason NOT to choose the closest school? Thanks!
Any current info/opinions on the three Albany public elementary schools? How do they compare to eachother? The District seems to have a good reputation, though I'm gathering a lot of that from older posts. My daughter will be entering first grade in the fall, and as we just moved, we don't know which school she will be enrolled in yet, but I'd like to get a general feel for the schools. thanks, singeli
If your child isn't enrolling this fall, watch for elementary school Open Houses in May, and visit each of the schools to see what the kids and teachers are doing. You can take your child and it's really fun. I'd also encourage you to visit the schools when class is in session (call each school for visiting days and hours - used to be that you could only visit silently on Tuesday mornings). Also watch for school events (often posted on this list), where you can get a feel for each of the schools.
At this point, you may not have a lot of choice for the coming year. The district aims to balance the classes (so you don't have 15 boys and 5 girls or vice versa), and aims to keep siblings in the same school if they wish; preliminary assignments have probably been made by now. You can get morning daycare if your child is assigned to afternoon kindergarten; and I notice that Cornell may be offering morning Spanish classes to kindergartners in afternoon kindergarten, for the first time this year.
Do join the albanyschools e-list on www.yahoogroups.com, to get a flavor of the district and the issues that are under consideration (including a brand new bond measure this fall, to provide ongoing support for small classes and counseling).
Finally, when your child is assigned to a school, plan to volunteer in the classroom and to attend PTA. That's easiest to do in elementary school (teens are less thrilled to see you in class in middle school and high school) -- and it gives you the best view of what's going on in class, and the best access to teachers and the principal, if you have any ideas to improve your child's learning experience.
My opinion is that you and your child will do well at any of Albany's three elementaries. Merry
The parent community at all three elementary schools is involved and active. The schools are wonderfully diverse. The budget problems are signigicant, but the parents and teachers are all dedicated to providing a great educational experience for the kids. It's wonderful to go to a community public school -- a lot of kids and parents walk to school, for example.
We are very happy with the Albany schools thus far and feel fortunate to be a part of this district. Anon
Standard & Poors compared the 350 school districts in California. Albany was one of about thirty districts that out-performed its peers. [Around 15% of Albany students are economically disadvantaged. Albany students, on average, scored higher than students in other California school districts with similar demographics.]
State test scores for the 2004/05 school year will be released on August 15. Test scores do not tell the whole story; but, they do provide some useful information. Debbie
Re: Kindergarten Options in Albany
Our older two kids also attend Albany schools, but went to kindergarten through second grades at now-defunct Vista, so I can't speak to Marin or Cornell for kindergarten. The big advantage to Ocean View for kindergarten, in my view, (in addition to the excellent teachers), is for parents needing onsite child care. It is also available at Marin, but I understand that there the kindergarteners are mixed in with 1st and 2nd graders, while at Cedars it's only kindergarteners.
After having had kids at the elementary, middle and high school levels, I can say the following about Albany schools:
* My children have had (particularly in elementary school) dedicated, enthusiastic and excellent teachers. There appear to be a few more duds in the higher grades, but overall I think the teaching staff is amazing.
* My kids have benefited tremendously from the diversity in Albany schools, due both to the UC Village and Albany's permanent residents' demographics. As one little example, in 2d grade, my child's class had a ''trip around the world'' program in which once a week a child (and her parent) presented information about a different country. They did France, China, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, and many more I can't remember -- all by kids in the class whose families came from or had lived those places!
* While ethnically diverse, Albany has neither really rich nor many poor people. As a result, I think, there's less conflict generally among kids, and certainly way less pressure on my kids to buy or have certain material things than there would in other schools in the Bay Area.
* There is lots of parent participation and involvement with education, and lots of smart kids, so that my kids have friends and classmates who are also very engaged in their schoolwork.
* Maybe I notice this because I went to a couple years of high school in Walnut Creek, but one of the things I like is that at the middle and high schools, it isn't considered cool to wear lots of makeup!
* Kids generally seem to get along well. The fact that it's a small community and high school means that by high school everybody knows each other. As someone who moved a lot growing up, that seems to me to be a good thing, especially when you've got big-city advantages nearby too.
On the other hand:
* There's not as much for bright kids (resources, expectations, AP classes in high school) as there would be at private school, or even in a bigger district.
* School hours are too short in elementary school. They say the split schedule for first through third grade (or is it second) (half go 8:30-1:30, half 9:40-2:40) is so that the kids get more individual attention for learning to read, but I think an extra hour of school per day would help at least as much. And it's really a pain for child care arrangements if your kid is a ''late bird.''
* Inadequate resources devoted to music, math, science and foreign language, at least through middle school; inadequate resources generally.
All in all, whether Albany schools work for you depends on what you want for your kids. My kids are getting a decent, if not great, education. They're also in a place that feels pretty safe and pretty supportive, have friends from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and are not growing up either with a sense of entitlement or with the feeling that they're poorer than everybody else. It works for us.
They're happy, so I'm their . . . Happy Mom
All Albany schools have the same registration process. Then you can select which school you prefer. Our kids (now grades 2 & 5) have had a WONDERFUL experience at Cornell School. The other two are Marin (slightly more "hills" oriented) and the new Oceanview School, which is adjacent to the Village. There is only one Albany Middle School. At this moment, parents seem not to have any say in which 6th grade teachers their child will get, nor (at present) do parents find it easy to be involved in the Middle School. If you can, visit the middle school in its current location (adjacent to the Village; that site will become Ocean View elementary) before June 11, when school ends. In the fall, the new middle school opens across from El Cerrito Plaza in a big new building.
Albany is undergoing what promises to be a good transformation. The incoming school superintendent (July 1) is community-oriented, promises an open door policy, promises to be on site and available. That may change parents' relationship to the Middle School, and should make it possilbe for the many willing parents to be even more active in the schools. I'd also recommend volunteering at your child's school to see what's going on.
Re: Albany Before I respond to the questions, I would like to point at that the open registration period for Albany schools is happening right now, and will continue through the end of the month, approximately (I don't know the exact dates). As I understand it, if your child is new to the district, you need to register during this period if you want to have some say on which school your child will attend. > 1) Albany parents: do you still believe that it is just as ok > academically and socially to send Albany kids to the Albany public > schools vs private schools? Yes, we certainly believe it is, and we have a lot of company. The other day, we found out a neighbor would be sending her son to private school, and that was quite a jolt! I don't think we know any other Albany parents who send their children to private school; it's certainly very unusual. > 2) Which kindergarten/elementary school of the four in Albany (MacGregor, > Cornell, Marin, and Hillside) do you think is best, (a) for boys; (b) > for girls; I don't think any of the schools is necessarily better for one sex or another. I can tell you what I see as advantages and disadvantages of each. MacGregor and Vista (not Hillside) schools are small (under 200 students), and have grades K-2 only. Some parents prefer to have their children in a small school for those early grades, and also like the idea of a smaller age range. Vista is in a pretty setting on Albany Hill, and is therefore very popular with Hill residents, as well as UC village residents. One of the big advantages of MacGregor is that it is the only school at which onsite afterschool childcare is provided, at least in the younger grades. However, like all Albany schools it is very crowded, and as I'm a librarian I couldn't overlook the fact that the school library is in the hall outside the office! Marin and Cornell schools are K-5, and have over 500 students each. Both are fine schools, and there's not much to choose between them. Cornell has received a grant for a bunch of computers, which may be of interest to some parents. Marin's administration may be more responsive than Cornell's, from recent comments on the digest and from our own experience: we have a girl in kindergarten at Marin, and have found administration and office staff to be great so far. > 3) What do you think are the best after school options for > kindergarteners and then grade schoolers in Albany? As far as I know, there are four main afterschool options. One is the Albany Children's Center (I think it's called that), which actually has 2 centers. One of these, as I mentioned earlier, is at MacGregor. Right now it's housed in a trailer, and from what I've heard can get *crowded* on rainy days. But the obvious advantage is that kids don't have to get on a van every day. The main Albany Children's Center site is in UC Village. They do not provide van service, but as I understand it they have parent volunteers show up at the schools every day to walk with the kids back to the village. (I hope someone who is in this program will add to this; I'm very hazy on the details.) At any rate, this option is obviously desirable to many Village parents. There are two more afterschool programs in Albany. One is the Kids Club, run by the YMCA, and located in the old Library building on Solano, between Talbot and Cornell. Since the Kids Club is just around the corner from Cornell School, it is a very attractive option for parents whose kids go to that school; but they also have a van that picks up kids at other Albany schools. The other afterschool program in Albany is the Friendship Club, located in Memorial Park. They also have vans that pick up and drop off at all the schools. I don't know too much more about these programs; I hope someone else will fill in. Finally, there's the Jewish Community Center, located at Rose and Oxford in Berkeley. We felt this was clearly the best choice for our daughter, especially this year, when she's in kindergarten: kindergarten classes in Albany are only a little over 3 hours long, which would make the rest of the day very long if she wasn't in a good program. JCC's vans pick up at all Albany schools. The site is very large, with many rooms and even an auditorium available, which was a blessing in this El Ni~no year. The "counselors" are a good mixed of experienced, wiser heads and young, energetic types. They have art and cooking classes as part of the regular program, and also "specialty" (gynastics, drama, tap dancing, martial arts, and one or two others) classes for an additional, but reasonable, fee. Our daughter's social skills have progressed greatly since we started her at JCC last summer, and we would recommend it highly, especially for kindergartners.
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