Gifted Children and Berkeley School District
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Gifted Children and Berkeley School District
I'm wondering about what Berkeley public schools are good or not so great for my highly
gifted (IQ 145) child. Considering moving to Berkeley from Oakland for the public schools,
but would love any insight into whether it's worth paying probably at least twice as much in
In Berkeley, school assignment is by lottery (the city is split into three
zones, and you're assigned by lottery within your zone), so you have no
guarantee that your child will attend a school near your house. Thus, just
because someone identifies a certain school as being good at dealing with
highly gifted students doesn't mean that you'll get to go there. In other
words, when looking for a house in Berkeley, it's not worth buying one near a
school that you really like, because it won't increase your chances of
getting into that school.
Regarding which berkeley school is best for a gifted kid, the several BUSD elementary
schools are similar in level of achievement and each has slightly different programs;
same for the 3 middle schools. Although there are not enough GATE funds to offer
specific GATE programs, the many gifted students seem to be well challenged. Some who
are little academic geniuses are not little social geniuses and have plenty of
opportunity to become more proficient in social skills. Most of the GATE kids i know at
berkeley schools do fine in the district. At middle school there is opportunity to skip
ahead in math. At berkeley high a student gifted in science, humanities, theater, music,
language, visual arts, etc. can get a wonderful and very challenging education. A gifted
athlete can shine. I know one gifted kid who went to a very small private school for
gifted kids. After 2 years of adjusting he made friends. He missed his old buddies a
lot and his parents spent lots of time keeping connections up socially with old peer
group. Not an easy task. Gifted academic geniuses at berkeley high also learn how to
navigate skillfully in a vibrant urban environment with folks from a wide range of
incomes, ethnicities, religions, and academic skills. An important life skill.
Which BUSD schools are best for gifted kids? We hope the answer soon will be ''all of
them,'' thanks to a new parent-led group known as BALSA: Berkeley Advanced Learner
Support and Advocacy.
To learn more about BALSA's mission and/or to join our online community, please visit
www.berkeleyadvancedlearner.weebly.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our upcoming meetings!
-Rachel Hurwitz, Founder and Chair of BALSA
Are the Berkeley Public Schools a good place for highly gifted children? I've heard their
better at differentiation than Oakland, but am curious to hear from other parents of highly
gifted kids. We are considering whether to pay for private school or move from Oakland to
Berkeley after having lots of trouble with OUSD for our gifted kid.
My son is in Kindergarten in BUSD. I know K is really early on in the school process,
but our experience makes us hopeful that BUSD will work out for the long haul. My son
entered K reading at a 5th grade level and well above grade level in math. His teacher
does some differentiation in class: he has his own box of books, is given harder stuff
during math, etc. At the same time, a big effort has been make to keep him part of the
group, which we appreciate. His homework is very differentiated. He keeps a journal
in which he writes down questions from non-fiction books of his choice (he's into
space), we help him research the answer using other books/internet, and he writes down
the answer. In our (admittedly short) experience with BUSD, we've found the teachers
and principle to be extremely proactive, respectful, and knowledgeable about fostering
his academic abilities as well as his social/emotional needs. You may want to consider
touring some of the BUSD schools and ask the principles how, specifically, they would
meet the needs of your child. Good luck!
Your child certainly won't be the only highly gifted child in the class in BUSD. I
think that's one of the best things about being gifted in the Berkeley Schools. My
gifted child has always had intellectual peers. The teachers did a reasonable amount
of differentiation, and usually had open-ended projects in at least some subject
areas, and allowed our child to pursue their own projects after the classwork was
completed. That said, we did our own enrichment through the library, ATDP, Lawrence
Hall of Science, Berkeley Rep, Math Circles, etc. I think whatever school
system/private school your child is enrolled in parents actively need to help the
child follow their interests. For our gifted child school was good socialization and
did teach some skills, while other intellectual interests were pursued independently.
In high school students have more opportunities to follow divergent paths both in
class and outside (AP courses beginning Sophmore year, Philosophy club, math team,
etc.) It has also been invaluable for my child to be with students whose strengths are
not academic so as to learn how to appreciate everyone in the community.
My son was in a BUSD elementary school. He was always a voracious learner and I tried
the best I could to peak his interest at home. By the end of 3rd grade though I could
no longer fool myself that this very good school was going to be able to meet his
needs. AFter I had him tested and did some digging around I found that there is so
much politics around ''giftedness'' - ''well every child is gifted!'' and ''what a
gifted child needs is to fit in with other kids!'' I see it still. And still more
stuff was my own -- I'm not a private school person, I believe in and am invested in
the public school system, and yet when it came down to it I had to get over myself,
be there for my kid and give him what he needed.
We've found that in spaces at GATE Academy (until recently Dunham Academy) up in
northern San Rafael. My kid has been there now for over 3 years and is thriving. As I
meet more and more families struggling with this strangely misunderstood special need,
my initial feeling is confirmed: that when these kids aren't seen, and given the vast,
deep knowledge they crave, they start to feel like something's wrong with them. I've
seen older postings on BPN about Dunham, some negative, but all I can say is that
my son can't wait to go to school, every day. He is lit up by learning and is
surrounded by really good friends who see the world in the same rich way he does. I
wouldn't trade it for the world.
Parent of thriving child
this page was last updated: Jan 9, 2014
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