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Berkeley Arts Magnet School (Berkeley, CA)
PTA's wesite for Berkeley Arts Magnet: http://berkeleyartsmagnet.berkeleypta.org
We're in the first stages of looking at kindergartens for next fall, and right now BAM is the front-runner (we are in the Central zone). Im a little concerned about the fact that the principal is brand-new, though, and am wondering if current families have any opinions. Also would love to hear current experiences with the PTA, how much family involvement/volunteering they see, and whether they feel the arts are really as prominent in the kids daily lives as is advertised. kindershopper
Re: Berkeley elem. in Central zone for gifted 3rd gr?
As the parent of a gifted student, I can recommend Berkeley Arts Magnet in the Central Zone. It was a good fit for our kid, and contrary to what was stated in an earlier post, if you request it, I believe that you have a good chance of getting in, at least eventually. I would try in 3rd grade rather than 4th, because there should be more room in the classrooms (they consolidate in 4th). There are a lot of academic families from all over the world passing through, so spots do open up, especially at the end of semesters.
While no Berkeley Public School can offer you a gifted Program, as I'm sure you know, BAM has lots of gifted/academically advanced kids, maybe in part because of the proximity of the University, or maybe that is true for all the Berkeley Schools, I can't say. Anyway, our kid found friends who enjoyed the same kind of imaginative jokes, games, etc., which was huge, and not found everywhere, in our experience.
Gifted kids are known to be more sensitive (our kid definitely is), and the environment at BAM really worked great for us. Now I know other families have different experiences, but we found that BAM did a great job at keeping negative behavior in check, even with challenging scenarios. This was huge, too. The school works hard at this, with a variety of positive reinforcement strategies, recess supervision, etc.
Before BAM, our kid went to an ''elite'' private school, the type which may seem to offer more for a gifted child, but the competitive scene was not good for our sensitive one. The aggressive kids were not kept in check with the same consistency, there was more of a tendency to sweep things under the rug.
Like most schools, the innovation of the teaching will rest with the teacher. There are some great teachers at BAM. There is an effort to keep some of the Arts going, they have visual Art class for half the year and BAM kids do seem to be up on stage often, performing in class plays or the Talent Show, etc. Music is offered in all Berkeley Schools. There is a Volunteer run gardening program in fourth grade, offered by a superhero named Kate. There is an amazing range of Afterschool classes run by another superhero named Sandra: rock band, theater, robotics, chess, yoga, Spanish, etc.
So, you can't expect a ton of differentiated instruction (although the reading program is set up that way), but the teachers are used to having unusually advanced students every year. If you don't want to commute to Marin, Oakland, move through the tunnel, etc., BAM could be a good option. It was for us. Good luck!
We've gotten into both Berkeley Arts Magnet and Washington school. Which would you pick and why? We're in the Northwest Zone. thanks, Kim
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 school.
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
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. Thank you!
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 going!
It's a terrific school and a great community for you and your child. BAM parent
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. anon
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. bpn fan
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 realized.
I know not everyone has had such a positive experience, but for our family BAM really is working out. Gena
Re: looking at schools in the Central Zone
My daughter is in Kindergarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet. She is having the time of her life and loves school. Some things we like about BAM are great K teachers, personal & friendly feel, almost daily time with arts specialists & many performance opportunities, and interesting and warm families. The fall family events had huge turnouts - the Multicultural Potluck & Hip Hop Hurray (about the origins of hip hop). All of our 3 kindergarten classes already have a family camping trip planned at 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. Karen
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 school. 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 capacities? 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! Anon
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 arts.
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 desired.
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 paid help.
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
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 greatly appreciated! anon
Also, there are some major changes in store: over the summer, the school grounds will get a $200,000 face lift which will greatly improve the look and feel of the yards. Yippee! And we are in the process of selecting a new principal, who will bring new enthusiasm and energy to the job. Our outgoing principal was good and I liked her a lot, but it seems that the principal 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. Gary
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. BAM parent
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?)
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.
"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. My kids 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 penny
Recommended: New School nearby preschool
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