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Albany Middle School (Albany, CA)
Hi! Our child will be starting Albany Middle School in the Fall. We live in town, but pretty much on the opposite side of town from the school. We're trying to figure out what are reasonable options for our child to get there and back every day, and wondering what parents consider safe and reasonable alternatives. Do most 6th graders get there on their own? Biking? Do parents walk or drive them? We'd appreciate hearing what people's approaches and experiences have been. Thanks! == New AMS Parent
We are thinking of relocating for middle school, and wondering whether our unusual 6th grader (drama bug, dreamy, loves to read and write but has trouble keeping track of assignments) would find a niche and acceptance there. Also, I have heard that kids are given alot of homework at AMS, and I wonder whether families there have trouble carving out afterschool time for their kids to explore their own interests. I would be interested in hearing about any recent experiences of families at Albany middle school that might help us figure out if this school would be right for us.
I'm thinking of moving to Albany so my son can go to middle school there. I have no idea if their middle schools are good. Does anyone have any recent experience they can share with me? He would be coming from a private school in Oakland so wouldn't know anybody. Sarah
Do any parents of AMS or fromer AMS kids have more recent reviews than what is on the website? Have your kids done well there? Are they happy? Do you get info from the school when you need it?
However, Albany schools don't seem to be in danger of becoming little islands of privilege like Piedmont - Albany Middle and High accept a lot of students from outside the district, many commute from poorer areas in Richmond or Oakland. Students are from a wide range of families, my son made friends with kids from every ethnic and socio-economic background. Again, I see this as a great advantage over his previous school, which was rather uniformly affluent and limited to European and Asian/Indian kids - a weird thing that happens in our old area is that the white and Asian kids don't mix much either - but they do all kind of! idolize inner-city ''ghetto'' culture - I guess it all seems glamorous when viewed from the distance of the suburbs - none of that pretentiousness seems to go on in Albany, the student body is truly mixed. The small size of the school also helps - everyone gets to know you. My son was also amazed that at AMS kids felt comfortable coming out as gay or bi-sexual, in his previous school district a common insult would be to call something ''gay'' - as in ''That's so gay!'' In general, kids seemed to feel safe and supported in the school environment, something I attribute to the guidance of the teaching staff. My son's 8th Grade Social Studies class had a whole unit dedicated to the history and causes of prejudice in the US that really seemed to sink in. So, to sum up, I see AMS as a school where kids not only absorb high levels of academic knowledge but also gain exposure to real class diversity (rare these days in ''good scho! ols'' I think) and a positive, tolerant outlook toward others in a safe and respectful environment. Satisfied new Albany parent
My kid will be at Albany Middle School this coming year. I have to be at work at 8 am (no exceptions) and I'm concerned about how to coordinate our schedules since classes do not begin until 8:45. There doesn't seem to be any bus that goes within a reasonable distance to school (I'm especially thinking of the winter rains) and we live too far to walk. How early can kids be dropped off at AMS? Any ideas? concerned mom
I am a parent of Albany Middle School and it is a wonderful school & district. They have somewhat been affected by budget cuts but has a very strong PTA group that works really hard for the school and children. Foreign Language is offered. Albany Middle is a wonderful School. Sherron
Re: Middle Schools with a strong math/science department
My daughter took 99 percentile scores on STAR test (math and language), while she was attending Albany Middle School. I don't know whether it was because of the school program or because of the environment. There are many gifted children in that school, whose parents have PhD in Math, Physics, etc. My daughter is not competitive at all, but she learned good study habit there.
In responce to Rowena who wanted to know about the eighth grade problems at AMS this last year: there have been more problems than at the past few years but the problems involved a small number of students rather than the majority. I am a parent of an eighth grade graduate and will be sending my son to AHS next year. It has been a tough year and he has had trouble but we have really tightened our reins and had some really goods talks. I have to say I'm really proud of him and how he has learned to handle some difficult situations. I've seen alot of the kids who were dabbling in trouble really turn around and make better decisions and I appreciate how hard it is. The administration at AMS is to be commended for their effective handiling of some difficult situations. I hope this helps....there are mainly great kids ...it's the few bad apples that give a bad name to the bunch.
I have lived in the district for close to ten years and have worked with this class of students from the first grade thru the eighth grade. I have found the majority of these students to be a wonderful group of kids. I have a child who just graduated from the 8th grade and will be going on to Albany High School in the fall. She has shared with me some of the ups and downs of her middle school experience and knows a number of the kids who have been getting into trouble and it's a small number.
If I were deciding on whether to send my child to Albany High School next year I wouldn't base my decision on the behavior problems faced by the middle school this year. There were a number of factors involved with the escalating problems, which means that the same problems will not necessarily spill over into the high scchool.
If your child has been attending private schools at the elementary and middle school level he or she is probably use to small class sizes and a more individualized programs and instruction, neither of which is offered at the public high school. If your child has learning issues then the public high school may not meet his or her needs as well as the private. But if it's the social situation you're concerned about then I can assure you that there is a large and diverse population of wonderful kids to choose from and lots of activities and programs to get involved in.
Does anyone have any experience with Albany Middle School - academics, electives, teachers, administration, etc.? We are thinking of seeking an out of district transfer from the Berkeley school system. Anon
The atmosphere is calmer than at all the Berkeley middle schools, and students are generally respectful of teachers. The kids are generally pretty bright and cooperative and interested in learning, which makes being a teacher or fellow student easier. Kids don't get hassled for race or having lesbian parents or being nerdy, as far as my kid reports, and though there is minor harrassment like being bumped on purpose during passing periods or hassled for a lunch table, middle school unkindness seems less than at Berkeley schools. There's ethnic diversity, but less class diversity than Berkeley. I've seen kids sent back to Berkeley for poor performance/behavior.
That said, it's not particularly responsive or supportive as an institution (or district) to the needs of learning disabled, gifted, or weird kids. (King might be better for those; that's a compliment.) Teachers seem - generally - overwhelmed, not available for enrichment or outside help, unable to differentiate curriculum, especially after Grade 6, when students change classes. They are a fairly reactionary lot from what I've heard, resistant to new ideas about and styles of teaching (despite involvment in things like BAWG), mainly because most of what they do works for most students. I get the impression that there are more flashes of creativity and brilliance in teaching and learning at King, for example. However, though we've had some big diappointments at AMS, I think my kid was still happier here than might have been possible in Berkeley. My kid seems happy with the learning this year (Grade 8) and very happy with the friends made and kept throughout middle school. (My kid would have been miserable at Longfellow or Williard, perhaps not self-confident enough for King.)
My help as a parent was welcomed and appreciated in Grade 6 and not after. Parents are asked and encouraged to volunteer with scoliosis screening and ESL luncheons, but I don't know how much input or involvement is valued regarding matters of curriculum or budget. I volunteered for something in Grade 7 and felt my participation was regarded as token. It's pretty easy to make appointments to see principal, vice-principal and counselors, I think, and even by drop-in. Most teachers return phone calls within a few days, few the same day, and all but one have been phobic about e-mail, in my experience. It took the principal two weeks and a follow-up to reply to a concern by email, and she's the technology person for the district. There is no homework line or homework web page, and the school and district web pages are abysmal. There is only one tech support person for the district. Computers are not incorporated in the classroom in innovative ways, and often aren't properly networked to printers. I'll look forward to seeing how others' experiences compare.
On the upside, the school is relatively safe. The school facilities (gym, labs, library, etc.) are OK. The school community is fairly diverse, with a goodly number of international students from the U.C. Village. The 6th graders take a wonderful trip to the Marin Headlands. This is a terrific experience and we applaud all the teachers (and parents) that have made this happen. The school garden has been a good experience. There is "Kids College" each semester which offers some fun classes for kids to pursue after school. And, finally, there is a the AMS band (but not orchestra) program and the marvelous band leader who nurtures young musicians and fosters a real enjoyment of music and the teamwork of a band. The biggest asset at AMS are those truly gifted teachers who commit themselves to their work and the students. Like any other school, however, there are some teachers who should have been released long ago.
We have not found the amount of homework assigned to be excessive. Be aware, however, that there is a responsibility ramp up that really kicks into gear in the 8th grade. At that point, kids are expected to be on top of homework timeliness, test make-ups, project completion deadlines, following instructions to the letter, and so forth. If there is any communication gap between you and your child about what is or is not getting done, you may be surprised when a "progress report" comes home informing you for the first time that your child has been less than diligent about doing homework--and that a very low grade may follow on the subsequent report card. We worked very hard to open up lines of communication with the school. There are some mechanisms in place to help with this (weekly progress reports signed off by teachers, for example), but a lot the communication will have to be initiated and carried through by the parents and the student.
Also, in 8th grade the stringency of grading seems almost punitive rather than helpful. I have been surprised at a seeming "no mercy" policy with respect to a child's effort and the grade that followed. In math, the grade is purely a product of total points for exams, quizzes, homework, etc. There appears to be no teacher "fudge factor" for kids who are trying hard but are still not getting great grades on the exams. I think factoring something into the grade for effort can be a real motivator for kids who need a bit of a boost to their self-confidence in order to kick start their performance.
The apparent "get with the program" philosophy is another element of AMS that we have found problematic: Our son is a brilliant writer but he got a number of poor grades in English at AMS merely for style and some creative deviation on the assignment. Creativity and giftedness are not necessarily fostered, towing the line is. The issue of conformity can be a problem in the social arena as well. Through the imposition of various school rules and policies, kids are expected to act in proscribed ways that don't take into account well the normal deviations in kids' behaviour due to cultural, gender, or developmental differences. There have been various attempts at dress codes, but guidelines seem to be enforced on whim: E.g. when an administrator just happens to see the too short skirt -- but ignores all the prohibited spaghetti straps and midriff tops running around the playground. Go figure. Some of the dress code policies have been downright silly. For example, the prohibition of bandanas of any sort (even pink ones worn by girls) because they signify gang involvement or wannabe gangster attitudes...
Discipline at AMS is another issue that we've struggled with. Most of the really difficult issues that plague urban schools (weapons, drugs, gangs, bullying) are fairly minor problems at AMS. And, given this, it almost seems as if school administrators look for things to turn into full blown discipline issues. Generally mountains out of molehills.
Worse, discipline is applied unevenly--and in some very glaring cases, unjustly. We have seen numerous cases of this. One horrible thing that we've encountered first hand is children being encouraged to tattle on others, and then when the accused has asked to address the accusers (through the counseling office, and w/ appropriate mediation), administrators will allow the accusers to remain anonymous, and discipline follows from the presumption of guilt. Parents are usually not spoken to before suspension or other less serious disciplinary measures are meted out. In cases where discipline issues have needed to be sorted out, we have found school administration (the current principal and former vice principal) less than prompt in returning calls, and often not helpful, caring, or creative when it came to working out a win-win solution.
Be forewarned if you have a son. We have seen a consistent pattern of gender discrimination against boys with respect to disciplinary issues. It is very serious, and something the administration has been apprised of, but has not been proactive about correcting. We have found the counseling office to be less than helpful, and in some cases downright naive. Overcrowding has become a problem at the school. There are just way too many kids for the size of the school and the resources at hand. Hope this helps.
We are looking for after school activities, supervision, tutoring, etc. for my 12 year old granddaughter who attends Albany MS. Because she is disorganized, can't be counted on to remember her books or assignments or much of anything else, she is being tested for ADD. She is also frequently very sad because of 3 deaths of close relatives a year ago.
We are trying to find something positive for her to do after school that would hopefully include homework supervision, art and P.E. activities instead of coming home alone and doing nothing until her parents get home at 6:00.
I've looked into the Albany Teen Club (but heard it may lose funding and that kids mostly watch tv or play video games with little supervision), the Y (haven't heard back), Girls Inc (nothing available now, maybe in October), the JCC (unaffordable and no scholarship funds available).
I wish there was someone who provided an after school ''day care'' program for middle school girls, maybe in the provider's home. Like having a mom there. And that is affordable. Dream on, I know!
Any suggestions? Since I'm giving a lot of personal information about my granddaughter, to preserve her anonymity, I'm signing the message without my real name. Grannie J
I don't know much more about it, but just saw an announcement about this. If your granddaughter gets a good start on her homework after school, she'll have more time for leisure activities with family in the evening. anonymous
Unfortunately, all they do is homework--no other activities--so if she had no homework, there wasn't much else for her to do but read. But still, you might to see if it's being offered as an option. Best of luck. Karen
I signed up my sixth grader for the Albany Teen Center but have recently heard horror stories from every single person I have mentioned this to. Now, I am terrified and do not know what my other options are. I work full time and can't wait until mid September to find out what other after school options are available. Two questions: Is the teen center really that bad? Please reply only if you have personal experience. 2) Other options for my kid until 6pm? A panicked mom
We have a 5th grader who will be going to Albany Middle School next year. Does AMS offer any kind of on-site afterschool programs for students? Do any of the various off-site afterschool centers coordinate with AMS? (The ones we're familiar with stop at 5th grade.) Any suggestions you can provide would be appreciated.
If your child needs tutoring, there is also (sometimes) an on-site tutoring program, but it is by teacher referral only, I believe. R.K.
Often, AMS PTA September meeting invites after-school program reps to discuss their offerings.
AMS offers an after-school tutoring program in the library, run by Dara Birnbaum (who runs Albany Village after-school programs). Kids can try out for AMS Girls Volleyball, Boys/Girls Basketball, Boys/Girls Wrestling, or join Boys/Girls track. AMS Kids College offers programs from cooking to Spanish to art (sign up early).
Albany Library has after-school homework help, and the city Teen Center has counselors, games, and activities. Albany YMCA also offers basketball and other after-school programs. Some kids join Little League, Soccer or other organized sports programs with after-school practices several days a week.
If you arrange a homework group, friends can study together after school. Merry
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