Afterschool program at Arts Magnet?
BAM vs Washington- which would you pick?
We've gotten into both Berkeley Arts Magnet and Washington school. Which would you
pick and why? We're in the Northwest Zone.
Our daughter is in 5th grade at BAM and has been there since kindergarten. Overall, we've
been extremely happy with her experience there. I'd say BAM's biggest minus is a lack of
grass and trees on the main playground. Its proximity to the North Shattuck area has been a
plus--the classes sometimes interact with the various businesses nearby. One thing that has
been unique about BAM is how the district seems to assign new families to BAM rather than
other schools. This has two sides to it. On the plus side, you get a lot of students,
often foreign, whose parents are visiting the University. That has been a good experience
for our daughter. On the minus side, these families don't stay more than a year and this
influx of new students has put pressure on BAM's classroom availability. My daughter spent
3 of her 6 years in portable classrooms. There are also students who have been at BAM since
kindergarten who have never been in my daughter's class as well as many who were in one
grade with her. However, she does seem to know all the 5th graders.
We're in the central zone for BUSD and we've just completed all of
the tours and information nights for incoming Kindergarten families.
We heard alot about Washington and Oxford during the process but
haven't really heard much about BAM or Cragmont (good or bad). If
you're a current BAM/Cragmont family, we'd love to hear about your
experience there, pros/cons, what you like/don't like about the
My daughter is in 4th grade at BAM. In her 4+ years there she's
had 4 great and 1 OK teacher. The school has an active PTA and
a real feeling of community. It's nice being at the edge of the
Gourmet Ghetto. From our point of view, there are two
downsides. One is its size. They have 5 different lunch times.
My daughter doesn't get lunch until 12:45! The other downside
is the 1-5th grade play area. It's mostly blacktop. No grass.
Very little shade. (In contrast, the K yard is great.) But it
seems to be well supervised. Parking isn't too bad if you're
not there for more than an hour or so. If I go on field trips,
I try to take my bike. We live in the hills so my daughter
takes the bus, which has been a pretty good experience. The bus
actually gets her home as fast as I could were I to pick her up.
My son went to Cragmont. I admit, it has nicer exterior spaces.
(And I get jealous when BUSD talks of putting more portables on
the BAM playground whereas it would be very difficult to do that
at Cragmont.) But I don't think there's much difference between
the curriculum (including non-academic subjects) and teachers at
the two schools.
By the way, even though BAM stands for ''Arts Magnet'', I don't
think it has more arts than the other schools (certainly not
more than Cragmont). However, the principal tries to integrate
the arts into the regular curriculum and there is an emphasis on
choosing teachers for their interest in the arts. For example,
my daughter's K teacher was an art major, and her current
teacher is a musician. But two of her teachers were interested
in science. My daughter is interested in all of these.
Happy BAM family
Hello, potential BAM family!
I have one kid at BAM and the other just moved up to middle
school, where her teacher told me, ''we can tell who the BAM
kids are b/c they are so well-prepared.'' That speaks pretty
highly of the great job that the vast majority of BAM teachers
do. That said, there are a few meh teachers there too which I'm
sure is the case in every school; with my older kid we really
hit the luck of the draw and had stupendous teachers every
single year; with my younger kid, last year was awful with
completely unresponsive teachers. This year, however, is much
better. I've always really appreciated the principal who is very
involved and engaged; the PTA which does an amazing job of
fundraising; and the afterschool program, which is staffed with
some of the nicest and most caring people on the planet.
It's good at BAM
Hi, Wondering if anyone would be willing to share their recent
experiences of having young children attend Berkeley Arts Magnet. I feel
like I have sufficient info on all of our zoned schools but this one.
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet. Our child transferred from a private
school, and we were immediately impressed by the level of academics
and school culture. People were so welcoming. Principal Collins was
very helpful and positive. The teachers work very hard to provide a
rich experience for the students, and the Kindergarteners go on lots
of field trips. Math was more creative and advanced than what we saw
at the private school, and the Kindergarteners published a book and
had a book reading at the end of the year. Most importantly, the kids
were not allowed to bully or be aggressive towards other kids. While I
imagined a more beautiful playground, the layout actually works to the
kids' advantage, because adults can witness everything and their eyes
and ears are alert. Guidance doesn't just come from one teacher, but
the the whole community works to shape behavior in the right
direction. The PTA was more friendly and professional than I knew such
things could be. The thing that never occurred to me, as strange as it
may be, was how great it is to be in the Gourmet Ghetto before and
after drop off/pick-up. I love Guerilla Cafe, and Philz Coffee is a
great place to get some work done, etc., etc., not a central concern,
just a side benefit .
We are a new family at Berkeley Arts Magnet. My son just started
Kindergarten there this year and loves it. He literally went skipping
into the school yard on his first day back after Christmas break. He
has an incredible teacher who has created a safe, nurturing space for
him to explore and learn. He is already reading and writing, has made
new friends, and won't let us pack him a lunch anymore because he
loves the cafeteria food so much. There's a diverse and active parent
community who have made us feel really welcome, as has the principal.
My son feels so safe and well taken care of there already and we are
so grateful to have found a school like BAM. We recommend it highly.
I have 2 kids at BAM; the younger one is in K this year. My family is
VERY happy with the experience that she is having. I have always felt
that the majority of the teachers and the princpal have been
responsive to any concerns i might have. The K cohort of teachers is
very strong this year, so i don't think your child could go wrong with
any of them. The PTA remains very active, and the afterschool LEARNS
program is well-established with really wonderful providers-there's
lots of homework support for the older kids. The PTA also sponsors
some great afterschool enrichment programs which include circus,
ceramics, Spanish, etc. Both my kids love school and look forward to
It's a terrific school and a great community for you and your child.
My child is at BAM right now. I can tell you that Ms. Bresnan has an
excellent reputation and every parent that I've spoken with wishes
their child was in her class. The other two teachers, Ms. Born and Ms.
Jados, are both new to kindergarten this year (I think) and they run a
very, very tight ship. They have the kids very under control, which
you may or may not appreciate. As far as education, I am lukewarm. I
would say that thus far, I have seen no real evidence that our teacher
even attempts to teach at an appropriate level for our child. I know
it's public school and the ratio of student to teacher is high but I
honestly can't say that I even feel the desire. She talks the talk,
but no evidence of follow through. Maybe this is what I should expect
from a public school? I have nothing to compare it to, but am hoping
it will improve with a different teacher. We just focus on teaching at
home, in hopes that this will compensate or supplement what they are
getting at school.
My son will be entering kindergarten this fall at Berkeley Arts Magnet.
I have read past reviews about BAM but I didn't see much that was very
current. In particular, I would like to hear about people's experiences
with the teachers K-3. How were they at addressing different learning
levels for kids at younger ages? Do they challenge kids individually?
I also read some past reviews about strong parental involvement and was
wondering if that is still the case? Are the playgrounds still safe?
Any other thoughts or tips?
Thanks so much.
i have 2 kids wending their way thru BAM. I'm about 85% satisfied with their
experience. There are many strong and involved teachers as well as a couple of
not-so-strong, disengaged ones; unfortunately my littler kid has one of the
latter ones so this year has been kind of a drag. There are also a couple of
truly stellar and inspired teachers and my bigger kid has had a terrific
experience at BAM with their support. Principal is very engaged-she seems to
know every single kid's name which is pretty impressive in a school this size.
There's a very active PTA with LOTS of fundraising which in today's atmosphere
of budget cuts is desperately needed (and even tho i get tired of the constant
requests for cash, i am very appreciative of their efforts and write a check).
There are many enrichment after school classes as well as a solid and
well-established pre-and after care program. overall, I'm.....
Ok with BAM
Re: Thinking of moving to Berkeley - which zone?
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet, which is in both the North and Central zones. The
kids and parents are really kind and friendly, and the teachers are inspirational. I
don't know any parent in BUSD who doesn't like their kid's school though.
Initially we thought BAM was a great school for our son and
it was our first choice. However, we've had the unfortunate
experience dealing with the after-school administrator
hitting our son. This occurred a few months ago and we are
still fighting to get a response from the school and
district on their disciplinary action for the administrator.
My 6 year old boy is in first grade at BAM and we have had a
great experience so far. He had a wonderful kindergarten year
as well. He is learning to read with confidence. He loves the
math and science activities.
Like any elementary school the playground can be a problem
spot. I feel like BAM really works hard to address these
problems. He had an incident with a classmate pinching him in
Kindergarten and it was dealt with immediately.
I think the PTA is one of the things that makes BAM great. The
community at BAM raises at ton of $ that helps pay for Art,
Percussion, and P.E. The teaching staff is very involved in the
PTA as well.
BAM is a very diverse school and tries very hard to celebrate
different cultures, we have a great multicultural potluck every
year. Families bring so many beautiful dishes to share and the
kids dress paper dolls representing their ancestry. We have
students from all over the globe. If you are an ''ex-pat'' you
will find a great community here. We have families from Japan,
Algeria, Tibet, England, Germany, China, Mexico,
Pakistan. . .the list goes on and on. At the recent MLK
assembly another parent and I had tears in our eyes when
watching a performance that was truly Martin Luther Kings dream
I know not everyone has had such a positive experience, but for
our family BAM really is working out.
Re: looking at schools in the Central Zone
My daughter is in Kindergarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet. She is having the
her life and loves school. Some things we like about BAM are great K
personal & friendly feel, almost daily time with arts specialists & many
opportunities, and interesting and warm families. The fall family events
turnouts - the Multicultural Potluck & Hip Hop Hurray (about the origins
hop). All of our 3 kindergarten classes already have a family camping trip
the end of the year. My daughter learned to read since she got here but
there is no
pressure; there is no homework for them this first year (although they get
workbooks sent home in case they want to do them).
The main problem for us has been figuring out how things work; the
written/electronic communication is spotty and it has been frustrating.
It's not easy
to find things out unless you spend lots of time at the school
volunteering or just
hanging around, which is what many parents end up doing.
My husband and I would love to get current feedback on BAM. We
have a handful of questions and would love any insight from
current families, teachers, or anyone affiliated with the
1. Afterschool programs. What are they like?
How well does the school serve children who are advanced in a
particular subject? Are there enrichment classes in addition to
basic after-school childcare/homework help?
2. How are the arts (visual, music and performing)integrated
into the curriculum and/or offered as enrichment?
3. Discipline -- are the classes, especially the upper grades,
well managed and orderly? Does BAM have a specific system in
place to deal with conflict?
4. How are resources at the school distributed? Are students
who are not ''achieving'' given priority over those who are? Are
they typically served at the expense of enrichment activities
or advanced academics for other students?
5. How is the academic level and student focus in the upper
grades when the class size jumps? How are the 3/4/5 teachers?
6. PTA? How much are parents involved in the school and in what
7. The yard. I read in the archives that BAM was going to have
$200k in improvements. Were these implemented? Any plans to
remove the ''bungalows''? How are the playgrounds managed?
8. Teacher/Principal/Parent relationship. How is this?
Any thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Afterschool programs are great and getting better. Many other
close by options beyond the PTA-directed program exist.
For children who are advanced in a particular subject there are
well attended PTA After School classes. BAM Allstars is an on-
premises after school program that offers homework help.
The arts have not yet been fully integrated and there will be
changes next year. Percussion, dance, drama, and visual arts
are offered in the core curriculum. The PTA, principal and
teachers are passionate about including the arts in the
curriculum. PTA directed after school activities include the
BAM has an academic achievement level challenge so educators
and administration are focused on improvement of under-
performers. Teachers do teach to the grade standards. Funds
barely cover the core program let alone interventions for under
performers. There are a few interventions in practice, and the
school expects to see further intervention improvements next
year. After School enrichment activities are available for all
performance levels. Unfortunately, advanced academics are
not ''in scope'' for the school's core curriculum. Is it
different at other BUSD elementary schools?
The PTA is very active. There is excellent leadership and
contribution from a good number of families. Albeit, more
active representation from more African American families is
Come see them: the yard improvements are marvelous. Why
should the bungalows be removed? Recess time in the playground
and the lunchroom are supervised by PTA volunteers and some
Teacher/Principal/Parent relationship is generally respectful
and cooperative. There are flare ups. I personally would like
to hear the voice of the teachers more frequently.
Check out the web site: www.bampta.org
mother of BAM 2nd grader
To answer the questions about Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) I
will use Anon as a guideline. My history is that I am on the PTA
executive committee and am a parent of a second grade boy. 1) The
after school programs are excellent at BAM. My son has been in
the BAM All stars and had a great time, even doing his
homework.For a two year old program it is amazing, and Catherine,
the director is always looking for dynamic ways of improving it.
I don't have any direct input about the EDC, but I have heard
great things about it as well. There are also wonderful arts
enrichment programs after school that range from cooking to
guitar to dancing as well as many others interesting classes,
which is sponsored by the PTA. 2. The arts continue to be a huge
focus in the administration and the community, though there is
presently a debate about how the arts are going to be carried out
in the school. I have been constantly impressed by the writing
and the visual arts that you see in the hallways. I never
imagined that a bragging point for a second grade boy would be
how good a poet he is, but that is what my son held great pride
in this last year, prompting him to try his hand at song writing.
All of this was fostered at school through he integration of art
into the curriculum. I have heard that in later grades this is
combination is more intense, though I don't have first hand
experience. The enrichment part is and has always been a strong
part of the school, thought there are debates about how this is
going to take place in the future (there is no debate about
whether or not it will continue). 3. I only have direct
experience with the lower grades so I can't speak directly to the
discipline issue in the upper grades. I do know that in the
discussion with the other parents it has been a rare complaint
(less than most of the schools that I have been involved in with
my two older kids). 4. There has been a lot of focus on this,
both by the principle and the community (though much of it
through the achievement gap discussions). I have found in my
children's experiences that most of this is handled in the
classroom by the teacher with the support of the teaching group.
Though there was a large potential for this to be an issue in my
sons class from Kindergarten, it was addressed appropriately and
has not been an issue in the slightest bit since (though by all
reports my son has a great well behaved class). As a whole the
focus at BAM is not on the negative aspects of disruptiveness in
kids (as I have seen in other schools, but on the positive
classroom experience and learning. I don't know if this is a
result of high ideals set by the community, or the work of the
teachers and administration though I suspect it is a combination
of both. 5) I don't know personally how good the focus is first
hand but in general I have heard few complaints, and most of the
graduates I know from BAM have done extremely well. I did look
into the sixth grade academics and know that this has been at an
extremely high level. 6) We, at BAM, are extremely proud of our
parent community, as is represented by the vast number of
committee s that work on different aspects for example we have an
arts committee, lunch room committee, fund raising committee and
more (12 different committees were recognized at one executive
meeting), each of which has a different set of committed parents.
We have a very vocal community that plays a n integral part of
the children's education, including sponsoring many of the arts
enrichment at the school through PTA funding. 7) Though the yard
has too much concrete for my blood the kids really seam to enjoy
it. Much of the improvements were to provide sitting places for
the kids (benches and tables) shade for part of the yard (a small
section of trees planted in the concrete that will do a great job
at providing shade in a couple of years). The Bungalos don't seem
to be going anywhere. My child is presently in one, which hes
seems to enjoy (its like a school in a school). The play grounds
have been well managed though there are a lot of kids and there
could always be more help there. Some serious issues have arisen
but were quickly identified and brought to the administrations
attention. 8) The Parent teacher relationship in my experience is
great. All the teachers have been forth coming with what is going
on in class and happy to listen to the parents needs and
questions.Our new Principle has been putting out a weekly news
letter explaining what has been going on from her perspective.
She has also gone to many of the multiple PTA and parent meetings
to try to answer questions. Over all the strong community in BAM has led
to what I consider to be a great school, even though there are
always important issues which need addressing. What is great
about our school is that no issue will be left un-touched. BAM parent
I don't see much new information on Berkeley Arts Magnet. This
was not our first choice school and it does not look like we will
be getting into our first choice. Any comments/opinions would be
Hello potential BAM parent! My 11-year attended BAM and my 2nd grader
there currently. My daughter will start KG there in the fall.
I'm friends with several people for whom BAM is a second choice.
are very happy at BAM and are not considering moving. That said, I
your first choice. Personally, I was hoping my daughter would get into
Spanish immersion program at Cragmont (no luck). Cragmont's principal
very hands-on and very ''with-it'' about discipline problems. The PTA
But I am just as happy that my daughter will attend BAM in the fall.
teachers at BAM are outstanding and so are most of the teachers.
(Unfortunately, there are a few teachers who don't deserve that
Also, there are some major changes in store: over the summer, the
grounds will get a $200,000 face lift which will greatly improve the
and feel of the yards. Yippee! And we are in the process of selecting a
principal, who will bring new enthusiasm and energy to the job. Our
principal was good and I liked her a lot, but it seems that the
and some of the teachers didn't get along so well....
As to parent involvement: there is a core group of super-involved
many help out in the classrooms, especially KG and firstgrade. Then
the the big, silent majority, who are rarely seen at school other than
performances. The school definitely needs more involved parents and
are plenty of opportunities to get active! I hope you and your
will come to like BAM and become active members of our community!
Curious as to your opinion of Berkeley Arts Magnet? I am needing
some reassurance its methods would be as good or nearly as good
as home schooling for helping 7 yrold girl discover her own
unique individuality. Particular teacher names especially
appreciated. We live on California near University. So if you
know of other alternatives, besides expensive private schools we
cannot afford, I'd love to hear this as well.
We have just had a very good year with Berkeley Arts Magnet.
I'm really impressed with Mindy, who teaches percussion there.
She's amazing. The drama is also great fun. I home schooled my
children until age 7, and then came to feel that the social
environment provided by a school, providing there is a safe and
caring atmosphere, is absolutely necessary for the child's
happiness and development. We're a really academic family, and
(paradoxically) I wasn't looking for a strong academic program
in school - I can do that myself at home, teaching the children
where necessary. Surprisingly, then, the math at Berkeley Arts
Magnet was challenging and interesting for my fifth grade child.
But it was in the realm of friendship, drama, music, that my
children were happy and fulfilled.
We love Berkeley Arts Magnet. Sure, it has problems.
Classes are bigger this year than ever before, and it's
been a real shock to those whose children were in lovely
small 3rd grade classes last school year. The arts
program, for many of us the reason we chose this school,
continues to struggle for adequate funding. The library is
only open 3 short days a week. The food in the cafeteria
is lousy. The PTA can never raise enough money to make up
for district shortfalls. But we still love it - the
teachers do their best, the kids are great, the parents are
involved (those who have the time) and there's a whole lot
of learning going on.
We have a third grader at Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) and our experience has
been very positive in almost every respect. The arts program at BAM is
extraordinary for this day and age - 4 classes per week in performing and
visual arts for every grade with professional artists as instructors,
culminating in wonderful school-wide performances. The upper grades
specialize in an art form and study it four days a week for the entire year,
and the results are truly impressive. The academics have also been strong -
BAM uses CEL and David Berg Math (highly effective, research-based literacy
and math curricula that I have observed first-hand as a classroom
volunteer). The BAM parent community is active and involved - drawn in in
great part, I believe, by the arts program. In response to the query about
test scores, I personally feel they are not good indicators of what the
schools offer and are more indicative of a highly diverse student
population. My experience has been that the level of teaching in BUSD is
generally high and the choice of academic curricula very good (I know of
schools in other districts with higher test scores that use curricula that I
wouldn't want for my child, such as Open Court). The hardest thing about
being in the public schools has been the recent budget cuts, but parents and
staff have pulled together, and while class size in the upper grades has
increased and some programs have been cut back, the overall school
experience for my daughter has remained intact. The best thing for me as a
parent is being part of a community that is truly rich in diversity of every
kind and knowing that my daughter is growing up immersed in that wealth.
Don't believe all the negative hype about the public schools - come and
check them out!
Berkeley parents: Any comments on Whittier/Arts Magnet school in Berkeley?
There's nothing at the UCB Parents site. (Maybe it's just my bias, but with
an arts focus, why is Whittier one of the few Berkeley schools without a
website of its own? Is it a Luddite thing?)
I know that their test scores are quite stunning: they indicate a
remarkably regular increase as the children move up in the grades. If one
were to trust this data, the school might be doing something right, like
bringing up the kids who begin with difficulties to the level of the high
performers? You can check the scores out on the BUSD site, or the STAR site.
By the way, I think that the Internet and technology in general are way too
overrated as assets in schools, and that much is to be said for arts,
especially at the elementary level. Good luck!
Arts Magnet school does have a web site @:
Both my daughter's went to Arts Magnet and it is a fine school. They do
have more of an emphasis on art, beginning in grade 4 they are allowed
to take an art elective, African dance, Drum band, drama, or art. The
principal is OK, not much of a leader, not too connected with the parents
or teachers. Just like all schools, there are some great teachers, some
awful teachers, and lots of mediocre teachers.
Visit the web site, the school, then make your decision.
I've been a parent of two children at Arts Magnet for 5 years, through every
grade (K-6) but 4th. Last time I checked there wasn't a Luddite in the
place -- in fact my third-grader's teacher is married to the BUSD chief of
technology, who volunteers with the kids for their computer lab every week.
A website, however, does not an arts program make.
"Arts" at BAM (Berkeley Arts Magnet) means dance, choral and instrumental
music, drum band, theater, and visual art. In the 80's and early '90's BAM
was truly a "magnet" school of the arts, drawing students from throughout
the district. That changed several years ago when the BUSD went to its
current system of pupil assignment zones, though it is still possible to get
in if you live outside the zone. Nonetheless, the arts focus of the school
was retained, thanks to a very committed body of parents, teachers and the
principal, Lorna Skantze-Neill (if I'm spelling that right).
The arts elements of the curriculum are funded partly through site funds and
partly through BSEP grants, PTA funds and similar private sources. There
are four "dedicated" arts teachers -- one each in visual arts, dance, choral
music and drums (the drum band is a neighborhood institution). The overall
emphasis is on exposing elementary (K-6) students to a variety of forms of
artistic expression. K-3 students have four 45 minute art periods each
week, one with each of the four teachers. Students in the upper grades
(4-6) choose one of these areas in which to concentrate and have the same
number of periods in that art form.
Students also are released from class for instrument lessons if they wish --
I believe that may be a district-wide program but am not sure.
There are several performances by the whole school each year; last night the
upper students performed at Julia Morgan Theater. The African dance troupe
has a statewide reputation.
BAM also does well on regular academics, compared to other schools in the
district. It has won several consecutive California Distinguished School
awards. The teaching staff is, with rare exception, good to excellent; the
upper grades have a wonderful roving math teacher who turned my elder son's
math career around completely.
All in all, BAM is a warm, safe, multicultural urban public school with a
good arts program. In these sorry days when California has fallen from
first to virtuallly last in the country in school funding, its very
existence is a miracle. I recommend it highly.
Re: Looking for after-school care in N. Berkeley
If your child is at BAM, the after school program is
excellent with lots of homework support and devoted staff.
After a bit of shaking out at the beginning of the year it
looks like there are openings.
grades soared after a transfer out of another after-school
program into the BAM program.
My son will be entering kindegarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet this coming fall, and I
wonder what the options are for after/before-school care. The school district sent
an application for the LEARNS program, but are there alternatives we should be
looking at? Any recommendations for and against the various programs if we do
have some options? Thanks, Penny
Recommended: New School nearby preschool
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