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Re: Schools that foster creativity?
Check out Aurora School which fosters creativity not just in it's art and music classes, but throughout it's curriculum. Both our kids have thrived there (this is our 9th year there). www.auroraschool.org
Aurora has been a perfect fit for our son and our family. Their progressive education model, academic rigor, emphasis on social/emotional curriculum, and community development has been a, dare I say, utopian experience. The school also embraces LGBTQ families on a multitude of levels. Happy Aurora Mom
Re: Transitional Kindergarten in Berkeley
If you are willing to consider a small commute to Oakland, you might consider Aurora school in Oakland. While they don't have a ''transitional kindergarten'', their Kindergarten cutoff is age 5 by December 1. Our son is a November birthday, but was ready for a Kindergarten experience. We also checked out both independent and public transitional kindergarten options, but found Aurora's progressive education model and emphasis on social/emotional curriculum a perfect fit for our son, who is a young kindergartner. Happy school Mom
Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
You mentioned that you weren't sure about the educational philosophy that most appeals to you. Given your interest in emergent curriculum and project-based schooling, you might want to explore progressive education. Reading Alfie Kohn's books / articles are a great place to start. Here is a wonderful list of his writings from his website:http://www.alfiekohn.org/books.htm.
There are a number of schools in the East Bay with a progressive education philosophy. We were similarly interested in a creative, engaged learning environment and ended up choosing Aurora School in Oakland off Broadway Terrace. Aurora is dedicated to progressive education, has multi-graded classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 -- students loop with the same teacher for two years), fabulous specialist teachers (music, art, Spanish, movement, PE, woodshop, computers, library), an INCREDIBLE library (10,000 volumes -- the same size as or bigger than many large public elementary schools with five times the number of students and an amazing librarian who sat on the Newberry Medal committee two years ago), and a lovely community of families.
A few of the reasons Aurora appealed to us (and why we've been so happy with the school) include:
*Aurora's very strong emphasis on social and emotional development which is an integral part of the curriculum and culture of the school. Children learn who they are as individuals and as part of a community. They are supported in discovering what kind of learners they are and where their interests lie. There is also a conflict resolution process, and all the kids learn how to express their feelings and resolve conflicts. My son has felt so safe there and has such a beautiful sense of belonging.
*There is no rote learning, no teaching to the test, and no worksheets at Aurora. The curriculum is very creative, and children are actively engaged in student-centered, hands-on learning.
*No homework in kindergarten and first grade. Starting in second grade there is a weekly homework packet that takes a total of 30-90 minutes per week (depending on the week and the child). There is more homework in 4th and 5th grade, but it is fairly minimal, relevant, and the intention is to prepare students for middle school homework. I am not a fan of homework in general, and we haven't found it to be particularly burdensome at all (my son is now in 4th grade).
*12:1 max student:teacher ratio. Every classroom has two full-time teachers. This is a huge advantage in my opinion. So much of the time in younger grades is spent managing behavior (even if the kids aren't particularly unruly, they have to transition from one activity to the next, listen, focus, etc.). When you have two teachers, one can TEACH and the other can help children settle and/or manage any difficult behaviors without constantly interrupting the flow of the lesson.
*Multi-grade classrooms: this means your child stays with the same teachers for two years. This is wonderful for the child who becomes really well known by his teachers. They are able to cater to his learning style and give him support where he needs it and challenge him where he needs it.
*Aurora is a small school with a cozy, nurturing environment, but it also has a large enough social pool to allow for lots of connections and friendships among the kids. There are many opportunities for older children to mentor younger children, and many kids develop friendships across grade levels (the multiage classrooms help with this too!).
*Aurora's art, movement, music and Spanish programs are wonderful and fully integrated into the curriculum. For example, when the kindergartners are studying tress, they might sketch trees in their art class or use bark and leaves in creative ways, learn about different kinds of wood in woodshop, and learn songs and dances about trees in music and movement (Aurora has woodshop which is a much loved, wonderfully creative part of the curriculum and a huge favorite among the kids).
*There is a genuine culture of kindness among the children at Aurora. The older kids are so gentle and sweet with the little ones, and many younger children count older children among their friends. We love that aspect of the school.
The best way to know whether a school would be a good fit for your child and family is to visit. Aurora is having an open house on Thursday, November 8 from 7 pm to 9 pm, and tours are scheduled from November through January on Wednesday and Friday mornings. You can just come to the open house, or feel free to contact the admissions director Lisa Piccione at (510) 428-2606.
If you are looking for an elementary school in the Oakland/Berkeley area, please
come visit Aurora School. I have one child who has graduated from Aurora and my
other child is in the 3rd grade. Aurora is multi-graded, (K-1, 2-3 and 4-5)
meaning that Kindergarten and first graders, 2nd and third graders, and fourth and
fifth graders share a classroom and a teacher for two years. This allows each
child to learn at their own pace, for the older children to become leaders, and
for the younger children to learn from the older ones. Class size is small
(usually 22 students) with one lead teacher and one assistant. The teachers are
trained to teach to a variety of learners and are caring and nurturing. The
curriculum is challenging academically in a progressive way, i.e. less focus on
worksheets and memorizing and more focus on thinking and citizenship. The
homework is reasonable and useful. There is wonderful before school care and after
school care, enrichment classes, community service projects and so much more! The
community is amazing and we've made life-long friends at Aurora!
Here is a snapshot from the website. For more information, check out
Re: so many good schools to choose from - which one?
After a search similar to yours, we decided to send our son to Aurora. Similar to BH and PD, Aurora is a school with a progressive educational philosophy and constructivist approach. The multi-age classrooms were a huge draw for us, and they have been wonderful. The advantages of staying with the same teacher for two years are immense, and children learn so much from kids older than them and from nurturing kids who are younger. That same structure is what creates such a lovely culture of kindness at the school. Everyone knows everyone, and kids are in class with kids who are both older and younger than them. So, the opportunities for friendships multiply, and as kids mix and match there seems to be a really healthy social and emotional environment at the school. The math curriculum is probably very similar to PD and BH. Aurora uses ''Bridges in Mathematics'' which you can Google to check out. As for humanities, Aurora has a tradition of each grade putting on a performance every year. The performances are a culmination of the children's work around a theme and a great learning experience. This also brings me to my earlier point which is that the art, music, Spanish, woodshop, library, movement, and computer specialists classes are integrated with what is going on in the classroom. So rather than going to art and doing something unrelated to what you are studying, the themes and areas of inquiry are all coordinated so that your child is examining things at a deep level. For example, if the kindergartners are studying trees, they might learn about different kinds of wood in woodshopt, go outside to sketch trees in art, learn songs about trees and forests in music, create movements and dances about trees in movement, and read about trees in library or talk about how trees are used to make books. Then they go on a field trip to plant trees, visit Muir Woods, and perform a play about the rainforest.
I'm sure that I'm am biased toward Aurora since that is where we landed, but I honestly don't think you can go wrong with the four schools you are considering. And I'm sure you have many more specific quesions. If you would like to talk more in person, please feel free to ask the administrator for my email. I'd be happy to share more of what I know about each school and help you find the right place for you!
Re: Looking for small school, flexibly paced program
Check out Aurora School in Oakland. www.auroraschool.org It accepts that students are at different places in different subjects, there is a small teacher/student ratio. Our children have thrived there over the past 8 years. The teachers are exceptional. Tours are happening now for next year.
Re: Schools - children with different learning styles
Aurora School, a K-5 independent school in the Oakland hills, fits your criteria. Aurora has been very good for my active 5th grade boy and for schoolmates with a wide variety of learning styles. I am happy to talk more one-to-one. Deborah
Re: Seeking advice on elementary schools in Elmwood
We live in the Elmwood and send our kids to Aurora School in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. It's about a 10 minute drive. It's been a wonderful experience for both of them. Much more info is available in the BPN archives and at www.auroraschool.org.
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
We ultimately decided to send our son to Aurora School. This is his third year there, and we are incredibly happy with our choice. Aurora is dedicated to progressive education, has multi-graded classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 -- students loop with the same teacher for two years), fabulous specialist teachers (music, art, Spanish, movement, PE, woodshop, computers, library), an INCREDIBLE library (10,000 volumes -- the same size as or bigger than many large public elementary schools with five times the number of students and an amazing librarian who sits on the Newberry Medal committee), and a lovely community of families. There is a culture of kindness that permeates the entire school and especially characterizes relationships between the children and among the teachers and parents. My son has felt so safe there and has such a beautiful sense of belonging. He LOVES school and came home every day the first few weeks of second grade saying how he was ''overjoyed'' to be back at school.
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
Aurora School is a progressive elementary school in Oakland. It has been an amazing place for both our children. Lots of information is available on the website www.auroraschool.org as well as in the BPN archives.
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I have a 5th grade son and am still loving Aurora School in the Oakland Hills, off Broadway Terrace. My son entered in 3rd grade and was welcomed whole-heartedly. Since then he has had individualized attention to his particular needs and a warm and loving community of kids, families, teachers and staff. Please look at Aurora if you are searching for a progressive K-5 school with a kind and respectful approach to kids. Deborah
Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
After reading your post, I can say that you would be incredibly happy at Aurora School! We live in Berkeley and we chose to send our 2 children there as it was the most inspiring place we visited!! The teachers are resourceful, creative, and supportive...they treat each child individually, work with them on social/developmental issues, and use outside-of-the-box methods of teaching. The community is caring, joyful and warm, and the staff are receptive and helpful. My children are challenged, engaged and inspired....and HAPPY!! They are learning and growing beautifully. We couldn't be happier! I think if you visit on Info Night (Th, Nov 4) and take a tour, you will be convinced! Happy kids! Happy mom!!
Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
Aurora School in the Oakland hills is a small, progressive K-5 school that focuses on each child's learning style and needs, with great attention and kindness. My now-fourth grader began there in third grade. I am very happy with the welcome he received and the continuing support he gets from the Aurora community. Deborah
Re: Race to Nowhere - Questioning Public Schools
We and our children (grades 5 & 2) have loved Aurora School in Oakland. It is definitely not in the Race to Nowhere! The kids learn lots and lots, but they don't do standardized tests, leaning is fun, deep and meaningful. There is homework beginning in 2nd grade, but it is not very much. One of the things I've loved about Aurora is it respects both children and childhood. Kids are not expected to be little adults. I don't know if there are still K openings. Contact Lisa Piccione the Admissions Director, 428-2606. Much more info is at the website: www.auroraschool.org
Re: Park Day, Aurora or The Berkeley School
My son was accepted into Park Day and Aurora and we had to choose between them also. We ended up choosing Aurora and are very happy that we did (so that is my bias), but I don't think you can go wrong with either one. Some of the differences between Aurora and Park Day and the things we considered:
*top notch teachers
*leaders in progressive education and service learning
*single grade classrooms
*we didn't feel the art, music, and Spanish were as well integrated into the classroom and rest of the academic program as they are at Aurora
*Spanish is more emphasis on familiarity than acqusition.
*wonderful outdoor space (although more difficult to supervise than Aurora's more spare playground)
*11:1 max student:teacher ratio. Every classroom has two full-time teachers. This is a huge advantange in my opinion. So much of the time in younger grades is spent managing behavior (even if the kids aren't particularly unruly, they have to transition from one activity to the next, listen, focus, etc.). When you have two teachers, one can TEACH and the other can help children settle and/or manage any difficult behaviors without constantly interrupting the flow of the lesson.
*multi-grade classrooms: this means your child stays with the same teachers for two years. This is wonderful for the child who is really known by his teachers. They are able to cater to his learning style and give him support where he needs it and challenge him where he needs it.
*Aurora is a smaller (1/2 the size of Park Day), cozier school and community. Overall, it felt to us like a warmer and more nurturing environment than Park Day when we visited or spoke with families from both.
*Aurora's art, movement, music and Spanish programs are wonderful and fully integrated into the curriculum. Aurora also has woodshop which is a much loved, wonderfully creative part of the curriculum and a huge favorite among the kids.
*School plays -- your child will be in a play every year except for one (that year they will participate in a special author's/poetry night). The plays are really special and integrate many aspects of the curriculum, culminating in a fun performance.
*This may be true at Park Day as well, but there is such a genuine culture of kindness among the children at Aurora. The older kids are so gentle and sweet with the little ones, and many younger children count older children among their friends. We love that aspect of the school.
We requested and were able to go back and observe in the classrooms again, and that really helped with our decision. You might ask if you can do that? It could give you more information. Good luck with your decision.
Her interest in reading is such that we are now reading starter books together at night- The other things we really like about Aurora School are:
1. Spanish- my daughter is both using words she has learned daily and also singing songs in Spanish on a regular basis. She loves it and its fun to be out spoken in a foreign language by your 5 year old.
2. Music is a big part of Aurora and really an exceptional program. Every Tuesday morning Aurora has a school wide assembly (parents welcome) with singing as a big part of it. They also have a wonderful music class on a regular basis.
3. The Extended Care Program is just exceptional! It is well run with great staff, structured activities, art, and a good staff to student ratio. It is hard to get her to leave when I pick her up. OOPS almost left out wood shop! My daughter came home with a wooden puzzle she made in wood shop yesterday with working pieces and all. I was stunned a 5 year old could do this.
4. Parent Involvement is really a big part of the Aurora community. I have a great gig where I take the 10 kindergartners in my daughter's class to the library for their weekly session, assisting the librarian, Kathy Shepler, who is fantastic! She peaks their interest in books at a surprising high level for kindergarteners.
5. The most significant asset at Aurora School is the quality of the teachers. My daughterĽs Lead Teacher is one of the most remarkable teachers I have ever seen. There are always two teachers in the classroom, which from first hand experience, I have seen the benefits. The Lead teacher is not distracted if one kid needs to be spoken to individually.
6. Class Size- 21 kindergarten students, split between 1st graders and kindergartners. The multi grades in one class thing is something that surprised me when I first heard about it-but it has become clear to me, that the older kids help the littler ones which is awesome and then the younger ones will have their turn.
7. School Size- there are 6 classrooms, all with 2 grades each- K/1st, 2/3, and 4/5- the total school is less than 120 students.
8. Emotional Support- the transition has not been without issues, which is not surprising. What is surprising is how on top of it Aurora is. They have counselors, and many resources. This coupled with good communication from her teachers has given us tools to manage ups and downs at home. A lot of the above is really not just my observations, but also a comparative base from parents I talk to that have their kids at other schools, both public and private.
I have heard things like a very large school can be overwhelming. Also, aftercare programs that don't have enough staff and are so large that parents have taken their kids out. I am a product of Oakland public schools and a big supporter of the community however my daughter's experiences have reaffirmed our decision.
These are big choices and I remember feeling a bit lost, unsure what was the right move. I encourage you to sign up for a tour of Aurora School at www.auroraschool.org charlie
We're looking at Aurora School in Oakland for our K next year. Our child really loves the time spend outside at his current school and Aurora's lack of on campus green space and sparce playard concerns me. Has it been a negative for any of your children attending. I know they walk to Temescal Park, but that doesn't make up for a green space on site. Maybe green space matters less as the children spend more time on academics anyway or don't miss it? Any comments?
Aurora School is housed in a charming building that is leased from Holy Names High School for the last 18 years. We just signed a new 10 year lease and are delighted to stay in our C,homeC.. It is the perfect size for our current 110 students, grades K-5.
For outdoor space Aurora School has a large yard with a large play structure, tire swing and sandbox. There is a path where kids can ride tricycles and scooters. Areas are also set aside for four square, wall ball, and games such as soccer, football, and basketball. Students are staggered by grade level out on to the yard for recess, lunch and P.E. throughout the day. There is plenty of room for the kids to play. The teachers love the size of the play yard because it is easy to see what children are up to in every corner and to supervise. You are welcome to come visit during the day and see the playground in action. Contact me at email@example.com to set up a visit.
For green space, teachers at Aurora cross the Holy Names High School driveway and enter the HNHS gardens. Whether it during Art class to paint, writerC-s workshop to write a poem, science to garden in the many garden beds in front of and on the side of the school, or even to math outside on beautiful day, Aurora teachers use this beautiful space as desired.
For field day, science excursions and even to have a picnic Aurora is located only one mile from Lake Temescal with itC-s beautiful grassy fields. For a special outing, teachers, students and parents enjoy walking over to Lake Temescal, having lunch, playing games and walking back.
The Aurora classroom is an exciting, hands-on place to learn and share strategies with other learners. When we leave the classroom we enhance our learning and then come back to our home base to draw it, write about it and share what we love most about it with each other. Lisa Piccione, Admissions Director
The plusses to the play yard, for me, are:
- Teachers can see all the children. If someone needs comforting or guidance, the teachers respond immediately. It was very important to me to have a supervised yard.
- The yard is really wonderful for playing group games, ball games, and riding scooters and bikes.
- The yard is a comfortable size for the children and they interact with each other.
At my son's previous school, he tended to remain on the outskirts and almost hide while outside. On the Aurora yard he is included and actively participating. happy at aurora
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
We went through a similar thought process and are happily at Aurora School in the Oakland Hills. The most impressive aspect is the coherence of the program throughout the grades(without relying on simple textbooks) with specialists well integrated into the daily experiences. Highly skilled teachers and specialists. Yes, wonderful attention to the individual social-emotional development which is tied into the self-reflection part of a strong academic program. Creativity is valued and supported as part of the learning process but not at the expense of developing sound study habits. Individual strengths and needs are clearly recognized and addressed. It's a small school with a great family community, well worth a visit. -Parent of a second grader
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
Six years ago, we were in the same situation you are in. Our daughter was way ahead academically and our public schools (several Berkeley elementary schools I visited) told me that their approach would be for her to be a teacher's helper. She is now a 5th grader at Aurora School, where she's been since Kindergarden, and I don't think we could have made a better choice. We chose Aurora because its philosophy was that children learn in different ways and at different paces and it had the structure (teacher and aide in the class plus volunteers) to realistically implement that philosophy. We also chose it because there was a palpable sense of joy there, an emphasis on learning being fun (which does not mean unrigorous!), and a commitment to children's social and emotional development. As for rigor, all the kids are learning things years ahead of when I did them (e.g. expository paragraphs and essays, learning ''base'' number systems). Aurora puts a great emphasis on in-depth knowledge and understanding; this is particularly great in math, where kids understand why things work not just how to do them. I think for kids like ours, this is particularly good because there is so much they can get out of it. It being her last year, I also appreciate that the teachers have seen her as a whole person, not just an academic star. The greatest proof that this was the right place is she is upset if she's sick and can't go to school. She still has a great enthusiasm for school and for learning. You can learn about Aurora at www.auroraschool.org.
Re: Summer Art Camp for 5 year old
Aurora School, in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, has a variety of wonderful half day camps for 5-12 year olds-- art and other subjects in the summer. You can take one half day camp or 2 for full day and extended care is available as well. My kids have taken many of these over the years. They have always been taught by wonderful teachers and have been very creative. Many of the kids attending do not go to Aurora, so all are very welcome. The homey environment makes it especially great for younger kids. Info will probably come out in the next few weeks. During July, they also run a fabulous theater arts camp where the kids put on a musical at the end. www.auroraschool.org Lori
We are looking for a school in Oakland/Berkeley that would serve our curious, active, spirited, sensitive, smart son. We are looking for smaller class size; creative, effective ways to channel his energy; contact with nature; gentle, firm discipline strategies; and an inspiring curriculum. Any suggestions? Would love to hear your personal experiences.
Re: St. Paul's, Redwood Day, Prospect, Black Pine?
Check out Aurora School. This school is in a classic feeling school building off of Hwy 13. They are dedicated to developmental learning, cultural diversity, and the kids social, emotional, and academic development. The kids have Spanish daily and the school is ''greener'' than I could have imagined. My son is in kindergarten and I could not be happier with his class. Please check out the website Auroraschool.org or e-mail me if you have any questions. Monica
Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
Check out Aurora School. It's an independent (private) school. My son started kindergarten this year and we are 100% satisfied with it so far. They are concerned with the kids' educational and emotional development and it is moving towards becoming a Spanish bilingual school. I think the website is auroraschool.org. The staff is fantastic and the afterschool program is exceptional. My son wants me to pick him up from school after 6 every day (the school day ends at 2:20 and the afterschool program ends at 6!) Monica
Re: Good school for jumpy boy bored at public school
Check out Aurora School in Oakland. www.auroraschool.org It has active, hands-on classrooms, where kids can move about and not be teathered to their seat filling out worksheets. There is a teacher and full-time aid in each class, plus often a parent volunteer, so there is lots of individual attention, and the classroom can be active but not crazy. It appreciates that kids are kids and not little adults, so there is still plenty of time for recess, unlike what I hear about at many other schools. Our 2 daughters (K & 3) though not jumpy boys, have absolutely thrived at this school. It has always struck me as a good school for all kinds of kids including active kids. Aurora Parent
Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Consider Aurora School! We strive for diversity and I think it shows, not only in the colors of the children's faces, but also in the way we teach the kids and parents to approach the multi-faceted world around us. I think that you and your daughter would feel welcome in our community. Long-time parent
Re: Individualized instruction for advanced student?
Our academically gifted child has thrived at Aurora School. Aurora designs the curriculum to challenge kids of different abilities. Check it out. www.auroraschool.org Aurora parent
I would like to get updated information on how parents with children at Aurora or Black Pine Circle are finding things with the (relatively) new Heads of School in place. Thanks
Our 8 year old son is in sec ond grade at Aurora - he loves it and so do we. What we love most about the school is the emphasis on encouraging children’s natural love of learning. Having an enthusiastic boy who is curious about everything, we looked hard to find a school that would embrace this, and we have found it with Aurora.
Although Aurora is not into testing and rote learning, you don’t have
to worry about
your kid getting plenty of learning – math, reading, writing – it is
just done in
innovative and fun ways. Aurora is very strong academically. They also
terrific integrated arts program. Aurora puts a high premium on
social development and you see it in the friendly, inclusive and
students. I remember one field trip to a science center where the
guide made the
comment, “we have hundreds of classes come through here and I can’t
ever leading such an enj oyable and well-behaved group of kids!” It is
not too late
for a tour. Go to www.auroraschool.org or call Lisa Piccone, Admissions
428-2606 x204 if you are interested.
Re: Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School?
Well, my son's school -- indeed, his classroom -- has a lot of same-sex parents. In his class of 24 kids, there are 4 who are the children of people in same-sex relationships. I think this is more, on average, than other classrooms at the school, but certainly there are plenty of similar families to feel at home among. He's at Aurora, a place we find very welcoming to all kinds of families. Aurora parent
Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
Our child is a kindergardener at Aurora. Aurora has struck me as a very gay-friendly school. Though I am in a straight family, so there's only so much that I can speak to. Four of the 23 kids in her class are in gay families. It is not a closeted place at all. Families are very involved in school and classroom. In kindergarden the kids did a unit on families, and learned that there are all different kinds of families (including two-mom and two-dad families). There are pictures of the kids and their families up on the wall. There is an active diversity committee which has sponsored occassional gay/lesbian family get-togethers. Aurora, in all it does, promotes an ethic of being who you are, of kindness and respect for others, and an appreciation of diversity. The gay-friendly atmoshpere has been great for my child, who takes gay parents for granted, and has never asked why certain kids have two moms or two dads. It feels like there really has been social change! Aurora Mom
I'm interested in sending my daughter to Aurora School, but have
heard very mixed feedback about the school. Would appreciate
feedback from families that currently attend or previously
attended the school. In particular, I'm wondering about:
- teacher turnover and how that affects classroom experience,
- leadership and direction at the school
- how rigorous the curriculum is,
- the financial stability of the school, and
- future prospects for buying its own space and developing a
The more info the better
**Her teachers are superb. The right combination of kindness, warmth, enthusiasm, setting limits, respect for all of the kids, communication with parents, attention to the kids abilities, making learning interesting, a really rich and rigorous curriculum.
**The structure of the school: a lead teacher and full time teaching assistant with about 23 kids/class half K's half 1st graders (and in later years 2nd and 3rd grade, and 4th and 5th grade) allows for lots of individual attention, and can accommodate wide diferences in abilities, and is great for the kids socially (my daughter is friends with both K and 1st graders). Because Aurora welcomes parental involvement, in our daughter's class there is almost always one parent in the classroom and often two. This gives an amazing adult-child ratio. Being in the class for 2 years allows the teachers to really know the kid and their family.
**Allows for differences in abilities. Does assignments that kids can reach at different levels.
**It is a warm, joyous, place which works hard at developing an envrionment and community in which kids feel safe to learn, explore, make mistakes.
**They learn SOOOO much--academically, socially, creatively. This isn't kindergarden like when I was a kid.
OK, your questions. Some of these came up at a Town hall meeting this week, so I'll try to answer them as best I can, given that we're new at the school.
Teacher turnover. There was a spate of turnover due to several pregnancies. Less than average for independent schools. Also, I would think that because there are 2 teachers in a classroom, that there is less disruption for the kids when one teacher leaves. (This is a plus for when teachers are absent. Class continues like normal.)
Leadership. I think the director is outstanding. Has a clear vision of what Aurora is and is not. Very supportive of teachers. I find myself nodding my head in agreement when he speaks.
Rigor of Curriculum: The best way I can speak to this is to explain that my kid is academically way ahead. She has stayed challenged and engaged. For example, since she can read almost anything, the teachers are now focusing on reading comprehension and story elements with her. She LOVES school. She is growing and thriving. We chose Aurora because we felt that they had the best chance of keeping her challenged and engaged without being isolated. This was after looking at many schools including more ''academic'' and competitive schools. Aurora has not disappointed.
Financial Stability. I think it is financially stable but not rich. I know we'd like to be able to offer more financial aid. Aurora is 15 years old, so there is not a large pool of grown-up alumni to tap into for donations.
Future prospects for buying a site and developing a middle school. these are inter-related issues. According to the new strategic plan for 2005-2010, during this time period we will decide if a middle school is desired and viable. (I don't know if this will be resolved earlier or later in that time period. Hopefully more knowledgable people will write in.) We have a fund that we have been developing for the purchase of a site. Don't know the timeline for that. Thrilled with Aurora
My child loves to be there, and is growing both academically and socially. As far as rigor of the curriculum, I share AuroraÂ’s philosophy that hands-on, applied class lessons that work with the interests and needs of the students end up teaching life-long learning skills. Although they certainly cover a lot of academic ground, and at a depth that sometimes surprises me, I guess it depends on what you mean by a rigorous curriculum. For us it has been more important how teachers teach than exactly what they teach. That said, Aurora is a very particular school with a particular pedagogical approach and school culture. ItÂ’s a school full of great energy and enthusiasm for learning that does sometimes border on chaotic, and I think different teachers handle that differently. We are happier with the school in general than we are with how the teachers we have this year handle that in particular. But all in all, itÂ’s a good fit for our child. Also, as far as your other concerns go, Lisa Piccione, the admissions director was incredibly helpful in many ways when we were trying to decide. She knows the school very well, is straightforward and great to talk to. Good luck with your decision. an Aurora parent
Regarding your specific questions:
1. There has been some teacher turnover during the time we have been there, as there is at every school. There are also many staff members that have been there five or ten years or more. My daughter has had the same teachers for two years each (two years in k/1 and two years in grades 2 /3) and it has been a wonderful experience. When teachers leave it is usually because of something personal (starting a family, moving, etc.) One benefit to having two classes per grade is that the other lead teacher can mentor a new teacher. Also since every classroom has two teachers (a lead teacher and an assistant teacher) even if one teacher leaves the other one is still there. Actually, I think we have less turnover than many of the private schools in the area. Teachers really like teaching at Aurora.
2. Different parents will always have differing views about leadership at a given school, and all administrations have their strengths and weaknesses. My personal feeling is that the school is in very capable hands and is very well led.
3. Regarding curriculum, IÂ’m not sure what you mean by Â“rigorous.Â” Learning is challenging, stimulating and also fun at Aurora. It looks different from what you see in the public schools or at more traditional schools. My daughter is doing really well academically. There is a clear curriculum guide that parents can read. Aurora kids get accepted at most of their first choice middle schools and do really well academically in later years. In fact, middle schools love Aurora kids because they are still excited and interested in school, they arenÂ’t afraid to speak up and ask questions and they see teachers as a natural allies.
4. Aurora is secure financially. It is a goal of the school to own itÂ’s own site (we have a long term lease currently) and fundraising for that is ongoing. The issue of adding a middle school has been talked about for years. It is being looked at as part of the current strategic plan to decide if it will happen or not. While parents looking at schools like the idea of schools that go through middle school I have liked that at Aurora the focus is firmly on elementary school. I think kids benefit from having a school that specializes in and focuses solely on the younger grades. Our students are ready for a bigger pond at 6th grade.
Our experience at Aurora has been fabulous and if you are looking for a school where your child will feel cared about and known, will stay excited about learning and where you as a parent can be very involved, I think youÂ’ll be happy. ItÂ’s a really great community! Nancy
The question of whether to add a middle school will be decided one way or another this year by the board. While I was looking at schools a middle school attached to an elementary school was important to me. Now that I am at Aurora I am just so happy my son is getting such a great start to his academic career I donÂ’t mind at all weÂ’ll need to look again years down the road. From what I have observed the kids like getting a chance to try their wings in a new environment and they all seem to do really well in whatever schools they have chosen.
The school has a stable home and we just renegotiated our lease. At the same time Aurora does want to own itÂ’s own building and we are raising money for that. We just hired a new development director who is amazing and I have complete faith she will help us reach our goal.
The administration at Aurora is amazing. As a parent you will be able to have extraordinary access to teachers and other staff people. When I compare notes with friends I realize how unusual it is to be able to talk with teachers whenever you need to. We can grab teachers in the morning or afternoon, we can call, we can email. That is along with our twice yearly individual meetings with our teachers. The other staff are equally accessible and our directorÂ’s door is always open. I feel very free to bring up whatever is on my mind and I feel really listened to. That is one of the things that makes Aurora special, the respectful way children and parents are listened to and taken seriously. IÂ’ve never seen anything like it.
Academically, AuroraÂ’s curriculum is creative, innovative and I think quite Â“rigorousÂ” but not in a traditional way. Aurora does not administer standardized tests and you wonÂ’t find rote memorization. It is arts rich (music, art and drama being well integrated into classrooms) and very hands on. For example, children in kindergarten do a lot with patterns to introduce them to math. Rather than just memorize equations they learn the underlying concepts of math and how it works. And key to this is that it is fun and interesting. I love how they teach science too. Our teachers are fabulous - warm and wonderful and engaging. My son cries if he misses a day of school.
It is a great place to go to school. Hope that answers your questions. Call our admissions director Lisa Piccione at 428-2606 if you need more info. You can also email me if you want. Susan
Staff turnover- There has been what seems like a somewhat more than usual amount of staff turnover, but some of it has been circumstances beyond their control (major illness; spouse relocating out of the area, etc). There was 1 teacher last year who came from a pub sch and left at the end of the yr, realizing this wasn't a good fit, but she was right -- it wasn't a good fit and the replacement has been very good from all reports I'm aware of. Since the kids are with the same 2 teachers for 2 years, turnover will have some impact on the class, but overall I don't think it's been a huge issue. In the eg I just mentioned, the ''bad'' part was the struggles that year with a teacher who couldn't adjust to a nonpublic school way of doing things. Parents, and I believe kids, are much happier now that there is a better fit.
Leadership- In my opinion (of course) the director of the school is a great educator and has wonderful ideas about the ''right ways'' to help kids learn. He is well-liked by the kids and (I think) the staff. He is a competent administrator, but, I do believe he also has a hard time sometimes being tough when he ought to be. I have stayed out of Board politics for the most part thus far, but am also aware the the Bd composition now is better than just a year ago.
Curriculum- Generally, I have found the staff to be very good teachers who also care tremendously about the kids and their work. They work very hard and come up with what seems like an interesting (for the kids), well-integrated curriculum. When I first came to the schoool a few yrs ago, I'd heard about some previous complaints that the 4-5 classes weren't rigorous enough, but they seem to have done a lot of work on that and I haven't heard much (negative) since. Their 5th graders certainly get into a wide range of middle schools -- Julia Morgan, Redwood Day, St Paul's, Black Pine Circle. So they can't be doing it too badly. I firmly believe that what they teach is not nearly so important as that they teach how to learn, and that they instill a love of learning in these kids, and it seems they do that well.
Financial stability and future prospects- I can't profess to be completely in the know here. Many private schools have seen a bit of declining enrollment, including Aurora. I personally think some of that has to do with their marketing techniques. I think they're fairly stable right now, but esp if they continue with plans for a middle school, it will get tougher. Related to that, I am not sure how far along they are in the search and I don't know all the details of what a middle school would ''look'' like in terms of curriculum (and Bob would hate me for saying this), but I am not sure I'd send my son (or esp) daughter there for middle school anyway. My first choice for middle school for a girl would be Julia Morgan (I have my daughter there now and we both love it), and if there were a male counterpart, that's where I'd put my son. I think Aurora's philosophy and curriculum is great for elementary school and I am not at all sure it's the best thing for middle school. By then, you do want less touchie feelie, more rigor, more clarity about what the world is really like...if that's the kind of middle school they would develop, then that'd be great, but it would be at least a partial divergence from their current curriculum/philosophy. Tough to say, but the other thing to consider is that 8 years in one spot for you might be easier, but it might not be the best thing for your child anyway. Sometimes, esp at that juncture, a change is good.
Good luck in your decision. Overall, I think it's a great place for a young child. nas
Can anyone tell me about diversity at Aurora? I went to their open house and really liked the creative atmosphere there. It seemed a great match for our family, except for one thing: aside from the parent giving the diversity presentation and two classroom aides, everyone in the room - - prospective parents and faculty -- was white. While I believe that ''diversity'' is integrated into the curriculum, you need a diversity of people to be truly diverse. We are a white family, but we live in multicultural Oakland and I want true diversity that to be part of my child's educational experience. Can anyone tell me about the school's recruitment efforts or give me any statistics about racial diversity at the school? nelly
When we looked at schools, what drew us to Aurora was the educational philosophy, sense of community, lack of pretense, and the organic approach to issues of diversity that we felt Aurora embodied. We have been at the school for 5 years and are very pleased on all these counts and more.
Looking at diversity is a complex issue. Aurora strives to not only maintain, but increase the diversity of both staff and students. The current population is quite diverse. There is an awareness at Aurora that people come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, family structures, etc., and that is acknowledged and honored. With that established, there is a welcoming of diversity not just of color, but of outlook as well.
Each year staff development focuses on one or two topics. This year the Lead Teachers' focus is on mathematics and Race is the focus for the whole staff's professional development topic.
The entire staff read three books over the summer, ''White Teacher,'' by Vivian Gussin Paley and ''Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?'' And ''Other Conversations About Race,'' by Beverly Daniel Tatum. The staff is using Tatum?s book as the backbone of their study and staff discussions. It will also be used as a catalyst for a community parent ed. discussion sponsored by the Diversity Committee this January.
Every year Aurora sponsors a number of staff members, parents, and Board members to attend a fabulous workshop titled ''Beyond Diversity,'' which is presented by Glen Singleton. I was able to attend the workshop last year and highly recommend it. It is inspiring, eye opening, personally challenging, and very practical.
There is a real and active effort at Aurora to move beyond what has often been referred to as the ''tourist approach'' to Diversity. Different perspectives are presented through story books, history books, class discusiions and activities. Aurora families are invited to share their family traditions as well.
The Director of the school is a white male who uses a wheelchair. He has two daughters, one biological and one adopted who is part Latina. This gives him a very personal perspective on diversity, which informs the school. Additionally, his position before coming to Aurora was in an equity and education program at the Lawrence Hall of Science.
Here are some specific statistics:
Staff Diversity: 1 African American 1 French African 1 Chinese American 1 Mexican American 1 Chilean 2 Lesbians 5 Bi racial families 2 adoptive parents 14 Caucasian Families of Color in our community: 10% African American 7% Asian 3% Hispanic 3% Middle Eastern 62% Caucasian 6% European 9% Bi racial familiesHope this was helpful in answering your question. Please feel free to email me if you?d like to talk further.
I believe the original question was raised by someone who was at the information night and who saw me give a presentation at Aurora School. The faculty and staff (plus me) made presentations about the school to the parents who came to information night.
Of the people giving presentations (all faculty and staff save myself), there were: two African-American, one French- African, two Latinas, one Asian-American and the director of the school who is in a wheelchair.
Â“HiddenÂ” diversity of the staff and faculty includes 5 bi- racial families, two adoptive families, and two lesbians.
Regarding the students, the Â“diversityÂ” count is as follows:
10% African American 7% Asian American 3% Hispanic American 3% Middle Eastern 62% European American 6% European 9% Multi- or bi-racial families(By European, without a hyphen, I mean born in Europe, same for Middle Eastern. In our family we call Â“whiteÂ” Americans, European-Americans.)
Hope this helps give a good picture of the diversity of Aurora.
On a side note, I believe that the writer called the assistant teachers Â“class room aidesÂ”, which they are not, they are teachers.
There of course are different, less visible varieties of diversity, including learning styles and family structures etc. What Aurora has is a sensitivity to the needs of children who ultimately are all unique and diverse no matter what background. At Aurora diversity is neither a tourist excursion nor an examination of the Â“OtherÂ”. Rather, at Aurora Diversity is integral to the curriculum. Diversity is a vital part of the childrenÂ’s lives and learning, where families are encouraged to share their traditions in the school(and do!). Diversity is lighting Kwanzaa candles and making latka's in the classroom.
Finally as a member of the Board of the school, I can say that the school actively seeks diverse families and employees.
Aurora School, a diverse community honoring the heart, mind and imagination of every learner, is a K-5 elementary school located in Oakland. Please call Lisa Piccione at 428-2606x204 if you would like to schedule a tour of Aurora School. Lisa Piccione lisa at auroraschool.org
Because of how they treat students - as active and motivated learners - the classroom vibrates with the enthusiasm and interest of the students. Teachers are just fabulous. They are so enthusiastic and work so hard to make things interesting. I am amazed at how much they put into the classroom, the dedication they demonstrate is extraordinary. There is a teacher and aide in every classroom and lots of terrific ''specialists''. The school excels at pulling together different topics into an integrated whole. A class project may include math, science, and english all at the same time. The quality of the academics is very good.
Communication is big at Aurora and as a parent you will never feel shut out. Teachers are accessible by phone, email and in person. The Director of the school met with us personally before school even began. Parents volunteer in every aspect of the school. I volunteer in the classroom and love it.
There are a lot of wonderful schools out there...I think what makes Aurora special is it's wonderful atmosphere. Children thrive here and leave the school full of confidence, enthusiasm and a true love of learning.
You can email me or call Aurora's admission director Lisa Piccone at 428-2606. Tours are going on now.
Re: Camp for 1st grader that lasts more than 2 weeks
Aurora, the school where my son goes, offers a wonderful theater arts camp where they put on a great musical at the end of a 4 week session. I think they are doing Annie this year. It's a K-5 school and the camps are for the same ages, so it's great for younger aged kids. Many of the staff at the summer camp come from the school too. Check it out at www.auroraschool.org/summer-camps. Registration isn't open yet, but will be launched next Friday the 15th. They also have before and aftercare. Keri
Re: Camp for 1st grader that lasts more than 2 weeks
My son attended two summer camps at Aurora school last summer, and while they were each one week long, we had the consistency and convenience of having them both at one place. Aurora offers a variety of camps with themes to interest a variety of kids, including a theater arts camp that lasts one month. My son loved both of the camps he attended, and looks forward to returning this summer, including the theater arts camp. Happy Aurora Mom
Re: Summer math camp for struggling 3rd grader
Aurora School in Oakland had a math camp last summer, and will have it again next summer. My own child did not attend, but I've heard great things about it from people whose children did; some even decided to go for an additional session because they enjoyed it so much. anon
I found the Aurora School summer camp online, and wanted a reference. They have half day classes, and I am interested in two of them for my 9 yo daughter. The Environment and Poetry, and Film and Animation. Does anyone have any experience with this summer program in general or these classes specifically you can share? Thank you! Alameda mom
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