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BHS Small Schools: Arts & Humanities Academy (AHA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Berkeley Public Schools > Berkeley High School > Arts & Humanities Academy (AHA)


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Feb 2012 Parent Review of AHA

Feb 2012

RE: How is the art program at BHS overall?
The Arts and Humanities Academy at Berkeley High was a wonderful fit for my son who graduated in 2011. He had took a variety of arts classes for the 4 years. The AP Studio Art class, which spans junior and senior years was fabulous. The caliber of the art work was very high and the teacher Ms Stahl is a truly amazing art teacher who is deeply committed to the AHA program. I found overall the AHA teachers really strong. The arts are incorporated in the academic classes as well. My son appreciated the community built in this small school, although at times it felt too small. Past complaints about some of the classes being too easy, I found not to be the case, especially in junior and senior year when students can take a couple of APs. I have two other sons who have taken a few art and photography classes in Academic Choice, and was not as taken by them. To me it seems that many students in the AC art classes signed up so they could take an easy class, while AHA is all about art. Wilma


March 2011 Parent Review of AHA

March 2011

RE: Starting BHS next year - which small school?

Hi--to continue the discussion, our son is a junior in AHA, the Arts and Humanities Academy. We have really valued the experience because of the quality of the teachers (the arts teachers are remarkable--but so are the English, Social Studies, and Science teachers). My older son went to an outstanding progressive private school in Atlanta, and the AHA core teachers are as good or better than the teachers at that school.

The small school size also means that they know the students, plus the program ''loops'' so they have eg the same English teacher freshman and junior year. That was important for our son, who is very introverted and was coming from a small private school.

Negatives? The math situation depends on your child--see other threads on IMP math (our year math options were open, so we didn't do IMP) Also, the curriculum is as demanding as your teen and family make it--there are a lot of writing assignments, but kids can coast... Happy AHA family


Berkeley High- Academic Choice or AHA?

March 2007

Our daughter will be starting ninth grade at Berkeley High next year. Can anyone comment on the ''Academic Choice'' program, compared to AHA (Arts and Humanities Academy)? Our daughter is very academic, but is also artistically inclined. Somehow, it often seems like programs that cater to one of these is quite weak the other.
Looking forward to high school


As a parent with a child in AHA, I would say do not go with AHA. Your child can take art classes in Academic Choice and also continue her academic pursuits. Our child got placed in AHA and is bored and depressed by the classes. Our child has not been challenged by the curriculum. No papers or other sophisticated written work has been assigned since last November. It seems that many of the classes are having behavior problems. We have been dismayed by the busy work assigned to our child. It has been sad to see our formerly enthusiatic child ask to stay home from school almost daily. This is just our experience and I suppose it is possible that it is not a good fit..... anonymous
I read today's postings about the Academic Choice vs AHA debate with some interest. I am the mother of a Junior at Berkeley High who has been in AHA for two years. Having dealt with problems both academic and social at BHS with our other children, we were very anxious about sending this one to the school. We gave her a one year trial, at the beginning of her sophomore year, the AHA program was introduced. She signed up because she was interested in exploring art - specifically poetry and theatre. NOw at the end of her junior year, both she and we are very happy with the program. Here's why:

1. Her history and english teacher's have provided her with an interesting and challenging academic course. She is being asked to think critically and to look at history and literature from different points of veiw. She writes in different genres and with different purposes. Do we wish there was more traditional report/term paper type writing? Absolutely, and we continue to lobby for this at parent meetings, as well as appreciating the different styles and purposes for writing that she is faced with.

2. She is involved, and she - like any other student in a small school - has the opportunity to participate and be a leader. After whining and complaining a lot the first semester, we challenged her to participate and be a part of the solution. Since then she has stepped up and taken leadership roles. NOt always easy, but in the long run more satisfying and useful to her.

3. The teachers are committed and know their students. Our daughter was recently involved in a serious sexual harrassment incident. We contacted the AHA administration by email as soon as we learned of the incident. We had a response from the staff within 12 hours! Before the end of the next day we had met, discussed the incident, and the staff developed an intervention plan. Amazaing!

4. Finally, I have to compare the academic challenges this child faces to the academic challenges presented to our other children during their stay at BHS. In some ways the challenges are no different, in others they are higher. None of our other children ever wrote a term paper at BHS. Plenty of opinion pieces and ethnic autobiographies. Plenty of posters but only 1 teacher who taught vocabulary. Chemistry was a joke.

I guess I should confess that neither of our older children took AP classes - however, one has just graduated from one of the top 10 public schools in the US, the other attends one of the top 10. We chose not to encourage the AP route because we felt that they needed time to play, have jobs, and be involved in things that interested them outside of school. This decision, like the decision to have children in the first place is personal and depends of your view of the world. It's all good.

BHS is a big school which has faced enormous challenges in staffing, academics, finances and leadership in the last decade. Revolving door leadership, fires, fights on campus and loss of revenue to name a few. THings have stabilized in the last few years under Principal Slemp and even begun to improve and grow. The small schools are part of the vision of a large school which has found ways to include and challenge all students.

AHA is new, it is growing both academically and physically. The staff is aware of the need to improve the behavior of some of the students and raise the academic expectations for the students. They, and the parents together are working on this. This year is better than last, no doubt in my mind that next year will be even better.

We'd say take a good look at AHA - and get involved if you aren't satisfied. Challenging our student and ourselves to participate more has proved to be one of the best things we ever did for her. Happy AHA Parent


Editor note: Responses about Academic Choice were also received.

Daughter has the choice of AHA next year

Jan 2006

My daughter has had a very rough first year at BHS. Next year she has the choice of going into AHA (Arts and Humanities Academy). I'm interested in knowing how AHA has worked out for other BHS students and families. Melanie


I'm sorry your daughter is having a rough start. I, too, have a daughter in 9th grade. My daughter had a slightly rough start too. It was a big change for my daughter from the small private school she attended in elementary and middle school. However, I do think being in a small school helped her settle, and adjust to Berkeley High better than she would have in the large school. I would reccomend AHA to your daughter if she enjoys different types of art, and humanities. However, there is some debate about the English and History departments of AHA, some, myself included, think it is not challenging enough for some students. Also, I'm assuming your daughter is taking Freshman Seminar this year. In AHA, the freshmen this year are taking sophmore level World History, and World Literature classes with sophmores, and next year, will be taking an ethnic studies course with freshmen to fulfill the BHS requirement. I'm assuming your daughter will have to take another ethnic studies course-but I'm not sure if it will cover the same material as Freshman Seminar. I hope this helps your daughter make her decision.
Mother of an AHA Student
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this page was last updated: Mar 11, 2012


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