Albany vs. Berkeley Public Schools
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Albany vs. Berkeley Public Schools
My husband and I have been trying to buy a house in Albany, in large part because of
the schools. However, we are finding that we are being priced out of Albany--at least
for any house we'd be happy living in for the next 15-20 years. On the other hand, we
can probably afford to buy a pretty nice house in Berkeley, which will most likely put
us in the Northwest Zone of BUSD. But I'm feeling quite a bit of stress about not
getting our son (who is now 2) into the Albany School District. Private school is out
of the question, and we are not considering renting. Any thoughts or comments would be
We have 3 kids in Berkeley public schools, and all are thriving, at Oxford Elementary & Longfellow
Middle School. We have found the education to be challenging and of very high quality, offering
music, art, gardening, PE, and all the ''extras'' that schools should still offer, but often don't
these days. The teachers are excellent, for the most part. Some facilities are older, and seem a
bit ugly, but they are lovingly cared for. I've heard Albany is great for ''average'' kids, but if
you have a child who's exceptional (either very bright or needing extra services), they may not get
as many services as kids in Berkeley. If you can get a bigger, better house in Berkeley, go for it.
Happy BUSD mom of 3
Buy in Albany. It's better to buy the smallest house on the block in the community you want to
live, than a larger one in a community you don't want to live. Then, you can always upgrade if
needed. Like you, we were torn between Berkeley and Albany with the schools as the top priority.
Our deciding moment was looking beyond elementary school in Berkeley. We just didn't think King or
Willard would be a good fit for our son. And we definitely knew he'd be invisible at such a large
high school like Berkeley High. There are pros and cons about both communities, depending on your
family's needs. We've been here for 4 years, our house is small, and space is always an issue. But
by far, it's our favorite house, and favorite neighborhood. Good luck, hope that's helpful.
The Berkeley school system is a lottery. You could find a great home in Berkeley and find that
your kids don't get into one of your preferred schools (or they could!) Not sure your price range,
but a friend bought a 3/1 in Albany under $500k, another bought a 2/1 for around $400k. Not sure
what comparable homes would be in Berkeley for those prices. Good luck. If I could do it all over
again, I think I would have taken my chances in Berkeley!
You'll be fine whichever choice you make. We are in Albany, and yes, we truly do love it here and
thrilled w/our school is two blocks away - pleased that there's only one middle and one high,
which are great schools as well. That said, I also know lots of people in Berkeley who truly love
it there, and rave about the diversity, and other things that a larger district - and city - can
I think the one difference is travel/logistics. In Berkeley, you may do more schlepping around
(kids' friends who live farther away/school that may be farther away) than Albany. For me, that
did mean a lot, but for others it's not really a big deal. And the public schools in both
districts really are great.
Congrats - it's a good choice to have!!
Like Albany and Berkeley Schools
Both albany and berkeley school districts have great things going for them and neither is perfect.
If your kid ends up doing sports in north berkeley, then will likely be on teams with some albany
AND berkeley kids. There is lots of neigborhood overlapping with kids and families in the Solano
Avenue area...Kensinton and Southern el cerrito kids, too, for that matter.
There are few families who have kids in both districts, or have experience in both. Given that, my
understanding as a BUSD parent is that the schools are comparable. Albany is a smaller town, and
there are only three elementary schools (11? In berkeley), one middle school (3 in berkeley),.
Berkeley high is bigger, but has about 6 learning communities. If you want more information on the
middle and high schools, check out past posting on the related ''parents of teens'' list serve.
A lot of a student's success in any school depends on, studies say, the parent's education level or
investment in their kid's schooling or their own experience(comfort level) with school as they
grew up. At berkeley schools i have seen that if parents/guardians of students are involved in
their child's education, that the child does well. Most families in berkeley ARE actively
involved.. It seems that you plan to be invested in your student's educational experience. Given
that, i expect your child and your family would be just fine in either berkeley, or albany. Both
are great home towns. So go for that house in berkeley! Stop fretting. Just stay involved.
Berkeley parent who likes albany, and other towns too
Our family has a choice of high schools (lucky us) since we are a split
family (unlucky us) to have our kid at either Albany or Berkeley. I would
really appreciate hearing your opinion of each & how you would choose, if you
could. I know lots of parent's partial to either Albany or Berkeley, but
seems like their sole motivation is that they live in that school district
(and, thus, have no other public school choice) and/or because our kids
are friends and they want their kid to go to HS with my kid.
My child spent one year at Berkeley High, and the other years at Albany High.
There are pluses and minuses to both, and it really depends on what your child
is like. If you child is driven, self-motivated, has good social skills,
advocates for him/herself, then I would vote for Berkeley High. Latin is great
there, the IB program is very challenging, there are some great classes, great
art classes. Most of the kids in IB come from private elementary schools, and
are very driven, and privileged. Berkeley HIgh is segregated and overwhelming,
they are constantly talking about the achievement gap. My child did not thrive
there-the pressure was too great, it was too intense, and the disparity
between the kids was immense. Albany is more protected, friendlier, smaller,
more like a suburban school, though still diverse (though many fewer
African-American kids. Lots of Asians). My child has had some really good
teachers, but fewer than if he had stayed at Berkeley. There are quite a few
mediocre classes, and less choices than at Berkeley. Art is dismal at Albany
High, though music is good. Sports are good at both places. My son is happier
at Albany. So, hope that helps. Really depends on your kid and what they want.
For parents with questions about Berkeley High School programs and academics,
you can access the current Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Accreditation report prepared by the BHS administration at:
The report is quite comprehensive including a range of data on Berkeley High
from academics to truancy. Includes action plans for the next accreditation
Ok - so I know I am asking a difficult (and potentially controversial)
question but here it is - Are Berkeley schools better than Albany schools?
We are considering buying a house and are looking at North Berkeley and
Albany. We have a child who will be in elementary school so that obviously
factors into the decision making process. I am aware of ''being able to walk
to school'' in Albany vs. the zone system in BUSD. I am more interested in
hearing about the actual curriculum, overall growth and development of kids in
either school system.
I know it may be hard to truly compare the two school systems (unless you had
kids who attended both!) but any feedback is appreciated.
You are correct that probably few have experience in both systems for the
same grade levels. ...or in various individual schools within a given
district. So why not ask about what people find are the strengths and
challenges in their students' particular schools? I imagine that your head
IS spinning, so i encourage you to take a breath and visit individual
schools. Call the schools and make appointments. Perhaps it will help to
take comfort in the fact that both districts are very good, and neither is
perfect, nor is any school within either district. And even if they were,
the staff will change to some degree, and so will the students and families,
before you get there as no school community is static.
One easier comparison to make may be at the upper grades. Berkeley has 3
middle schools and albany has one. Berkeley high is bigger than albany
high. Kids can remix their peer group more easily in a bigger system,
perhaps. You can compare high school course catalogues,If that may be
important to you, although of course this will change in time, too. Here is
the bhs catalogue with explanation of the schools within berkeley high.
BUSD does offer some dual spanish-english programs from k to 5th and then
some continue this at Longfellow. The families and students i know in both
districts are, for the most part, very happy with their district. Also,
some kids do transfer from one to the other. Check the archives for more
comments on experiences in the two different districts. Check information
on district web sites for both districts. And remain calm. Both are good.
this page was last updated: Aug 2, 2012
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