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Re: Two Way Immersion in BUSD
I have two children at LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley and have had nothing but excellent teachers for my children so far. The community at LeConte is so close knit and supportive and it is made up of both TWI and English Only students and parents. I highly recomend you visit LeConte and spend some time in both the TWI and English classrooms. Having the TWI program at our school has helped create an environment of global education, all children are exposed to bilingualism regardless of the program they are in. At a school like LeConte you can compare both programs easily and get a sense of what will work best for your family and your child. We have Celebrate LeConte Assemblies the last Friday of every month, also, we have a wonderful Latino Heritage Celebration in December. LeConte Mom
Piggybacking on the really helpful advice already posted on John Muir versus Emerson by parents in the southeastern zone....what about Malcolm X and LeConte? I know there was an issue with many southeastern zone families not getting into Malcolm X and that many families have wanted to be there. And I've read some not so great stuff on BPN about LeConte (non immersion). Can those parents who have gone through thinking about these four options and then had the experience of their children attending these schools share more? We will of course go to the parent nights and tours etc but would love more info from parents who have been there. What has been the approach of parents assigned LeConte nonimmersion? Has anyone resorted to private school? Has anyone been happily surprised by LeConte nonimmersion? Thanks so much. southeastern zone mom
Man were we in for a surprise. I absolutely cannot tell you how thrilled we are with our son's situation at LeConte. His K teacher (yes, non-immersion) is absolutely incredible. Honestly, I could not imagine a better teacher for our son--someone patient and kind, who tailors her approach to each child's individual needs. I feared a chaotic environment that I so often read about in reviews, but honestly, I've never seen such a calm environment where the kids arrive to school excited and ready to learn. The school also has such wonderful offerings as Farm & Garden and Cooking as well as many PTA sponsored after-school classes. Also, I should note, my son's best friend in school is in the immersion program (they play together at recess) so the distinct separation (hierarchy?) between immersion vs. non-immersion that we were concerned about, seems to be a non-factor after-all.
Maybe our experience is different this year because of the new K teachers. Or, maybe it's the efforts of a wonderful prinicipal and an engaged group of parents, who are turning the school around. Either way, we have been pleasantly surprised (shocked actually) at how wonderful LeConte non-immersion turned out to be. -Happy LeConte Non-Immersion Parent
a) We know families who have gone through the school, have great teenagers, and love LeConte b) We were impressed by the principal, Cheryl Wilson, and just had a good feeling on our tours c) It's close to home
Eight weeks into the school year, we are really happy that we were assigned to LeConte! Our son's teacher is fantastic - she really seems to have a gift for teaching kindergartners and engaging kids at all levels. (She joined the faculty in August to fill an unexpected vacancy - kudos again to Principal Wilson for a great last-minute hire). We are getting to know several of the other parents, both in and out of the Spanish Immersion program, whether at dropoff or pickup, at PTA meetings, or other activities. Our son has friends in all three kindergarten classes, English and Spanish. And finally, the afterschool program is well-run and our son finds it really engaging.
When our son is at home with us in the evenings, he regales us with details of his after school anatomy lessons, recreates dishes that he learned in his cooking class, and eagerly works on his homework packet. LeConte is clearly a community that has parents and faculty working for our kids. Happy LeConte Dad
My child is entering 1st grade at LeConte after completing kindergarten last year. I can share my general impressions. While the school principal is energetic and dedicated completely to her students, my overall sense is that things are not that well managed. We attended several afterschool special programs that were disorganized and disjointed; it was not clear what my child was expected to do. I was surprised by the lack of professionalism. The PTA fundraisers were not that inspiring and there was no follow up. Little thing: they asked parents to line up donations for the spring fundraiser just before the event instead of well in advance like most other schools/PTAs. So it is no surprise that LeConte raises less funds. Nevertheless, LeConte has a very nice community of kids, parents and teachers. Parent involvement does vary among classes and between the TWI and english only tracks. Despite some of these negatives, we are staying! Anon LeConte Parent
I am in the south east zone and considering all of the schools there. I am having a hard time getting information about LeConte from non -immersion parents - all the parents I have encountered (at the school fare, doing the tour, at the kindergarten night) are TWI parents. So my questions are 1) if you are the parent of an non TWI child at the school what is your impression of it? 2) are the non TWI parents involved very much in the school? thanks.
That said, if you visit the playground after school you will meet some of the parents of the English only program.
Many of us struggle with staying at the school with the structural problem, and the teachers are very dedicated and highly qualified. But any teacher will tell you, you need options for class composition and, in the English track (there is not other way say it) that is just not possible.
My daughter is still having a good experience at the school but there tends to be too much stress for us at this school. Anon
I currently have a third grader and a first grader, and next year my youngest will be at LeConte in the English/Traditional kindergarten. All the positive things you have heard from the TWI parents apply to the English program as well. We have a great community working together for the best education for all students. Our teachers collaborate (English & TWI together) to develop differentiated lesson plans for our students. The principal devotes herself to the students of the school, looking out for the best interest of each student. We have all of the strong enrichment programs at all the Berkeley schools (farm & garden, music, cooking, art) plus a full suite of afterschool enrichment classes. Additionally, we are placing special emphasis on math and technology to make sure all students have the essential skills for future success.
Parents from the English program ARE involved in our children's education. In fact, I am co-chair of our School Governance Council this year. The kindergarten events just haven't fit well with our busy schedule this year (and we already know where our kindergartner will be attending).
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about LeConte. We have a lot of good things happening at LeConte, I hope you will join us. A.
**Warning-soapbox moment** The bottom line is this. LeConte ''feels'' like a very blue collar school (in a Berkeley sort of way). It's a fairly laid-back place. Our parents undoubtedly care about their children, but they have many other concerns in their lives as well. What you won't find around LeConte (especially in the non-TWI track) is the stereotypical Bay Area helicopter parent who starts planning their child's east coast, ivy league education before they are even toilet trained. What you will find are parents who desire that their children learn in a safe, respectful and caring environment. In our opinion, LeConte delivers in those areas. Happy parents of a non-TWI Leconte child
Reviews of LeConte Elementary are quite old (2008) and overwhelmingly speak to the immersion program. We were assigned LeConte for kindergarten (non-immersion), our 4th choice. I am concerned as I worry there is a sense of the non-immersion classes being lower quality, ''the step-child'' if you will. I do hear the much-admired principal has high energy for school improvement and closing the achievement gap. Can any LeConte family with kids in any grade, dispel my fears about the quality of the non-immersion educational experience at LeConte? Or is my concern well-founded? -- Fretting on wait lists
But we have not had a good experience with the classroom environment. Although we have a very kind and experienced teacher, the classroom is very chaotic. I mean VERY chaotic. We have seen (or our child has told us about) kids constantly disrupting the class, running out of the classroom, spitting, using profanity, throwing things (including chairs). Our child comes home cranky almost every day. There are fewer than 18 kids in the class, and there is always at least one aide present, often more. A number of kids in the class have pretty major developmental issues. A number of kids are new to the school this year. There is very low parent participation in our class. Two kids in the class have left the school this year and a third transferred to another class. Our child is learning, but we almost never see graded homework or classwork or spelling tests coming home.
This school has so much going for it, but the environment has been stressful for our child, and we won't be back next year. Maybe our particular class is an aberration and other non-immersion classes at the school are fine. But our kid is also not happy in the after-school program, so I suspect it is more widespread.
Our friends at other schools in Berkeley are not having this kind of experience. Many BUSD schools are on par with the private schools. So what is going on with Le Conte? My theory: Le Conte is the lowest performing school in our zone, perhaps because of the large number of non-native-English speakers in the immersion program. Because test scores are so low, few families list Le Conte as their first choice unless they are hoping for the popular immersion program. I suspect that many families who are assigned to Le Conte anyway, despite listing it last, either manage to get in to a different school, or opt out of public school altogether. Therefore, the non-immersion classes are more likely than other BUSD schools to be populated by kids whose parents either didn't make a request at all, or who, like us, requested other schools but were assigned to Le Conte. I think that families who don't make a request at all tend to be less involved in their kid's school, which is associated with lower academic performance. At the same time, the families who have other options than Le Conte tend not to come. Which means that the non-immersion classes at Le Conte become more and more concentrated with low-performing and troublesome kids, which makes it much harder for teachers to address their needs, which means continued lower-than- average test scores and higher-than-average numbers of difficult kids, which continues to detract from the desirability of the school. And the cycle repeats.
The disparity among elementary schools in Berkeley is really
pretty shocking and is of course extremely unfair to the
kids who are stuck in the low-performing schools.
Not a happy camper
Re: BUSD Spanish Immersion--How Are The Academics?
I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about a school from their test scores - that has more to do with the demographics of the student body (which does vary at the BUSD elementary schools despite all their best efforts) than with the quality of the teachers or programs. Our kids are at LeConte, where test scores are lower than at many other schools, but all the immersion teachers are excellent, and we're very happy with both the academic and social offerings at the school. My kindergarten daughter is learning to read, write, and count in two languages at once, and she is making weekly gains and so proud. In my opinion, you can't help but boost your childs learning by teaching them another language! Happy Immersion Parent
I can say that learning two languages slightly slowed my boys' reading fluency and spelling in English and thus has affected their scores, but the benefits of the dual language acquisition are clear even to me now - they make word connections/definitions easier than otherwise, get an ''ear'' and a better accent for the language, and we are able to do international travel to Latin America that is much more fulfilling for them at an early age. I am also aware of research that the more standard ''test-driven'' academic benefits of dual language appear later - middle school and life long.
I am happy to talk about specifics of our experience in the LeConte program if that is the school you are looking at. margi
We are looking at elementary schools in Berkeley for our daughter who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. We live in the Southeast zone and are particularly interested in LeConte and Malcolm X. I have read the reviews of both from last spring but am wondering whether anyone has any more recent opinions. Sarah
The school just received a renovation grant, so the facilities will soon be spiffed up. Above all, I feel like the environment at Le Conte is so friendly and welcoming--there is always so much activity in the school, parents in and out of the classrooms, happy students learning, etc., that it feels like a family. Our son seems to know everyone's name, K-5! Overjoyed at Le Conte!
Re: Choosing between public schools in southeast zone
First, you can schedule tours at each of the schools from now until January. At LeConte, tours are about 1/2 hour and parents are invited to return to observe at their leisure. Our child is at LeConte, and despite some reservations at first, I am very pleased with the school. Sheryl Wilson has been principal for about three years and is really super. She knows each kid, she truly loves each kid, and the love and caring permeate the school. LeConte has the Farm and Garden and cooking classes, where kids grow foods that are then used in cooking classes that are then served for lunch. As integrated of a curriculum as you'd want. Staff is dedicated and professional. I think the brightest to the neediest children can thrive there. Happy LeConte Parent
Our son has been assigned LeConte elementary for kindergarten. We know that people are generally very happy with the Spanish immersion program. But do any parents have experiences with the regular (non spanish immersion)classes? erica
My child (an English native speaker) was accepted into Kindergarten at LeConte Dual Immersion. I know they're going to be adding a second class in the fall, but I was wondering if someone could post about their experiences with the current k- class. We're very excited that he was accepted but now just looking for some comments on people's experience with the school- -both the immersion program and the school as a whole. Gracias! Anon
It is spring break now and my daughter is drawing pictures of animals and people and labeling them in Spanish. She is learning so much. This is her favorite teacher she has had. I am very happy with our decision.
That said, during the first month of school we had a very hard transition. It took me by suprise since my daugter did pre-school since age two and is a pretty well adjusted kid. Regardless, making the switch to K was hard for us and for some of the other families in our class. I felt like the teacher and school supported this very well. I was amazed at the corner we turned. The begining of emersion is confusing for alot of kids, but it really seems like they know what is going on. LeConte has great PTA sponsored after-school classes, circus, cooking, flute, dance and more. These classes really helped with the transition too.
There are after school programs provided at the school which we have participated in a little. The staff is really caring and great with the kids. The feeling I get about it is very positive and it seems to have lots of great energy being poured into it. If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me. arden
As a parent of two at LeConte Elementary I want to share some of
Environmental Science: the farm/garden/cooking program very
motivating and educational for the kids. Lots of science
workshops and field trips, and interesting uses of
Principal Cheryl Wilson started last year. There is a lot of new
energy and creativity.
The Spanish-English program and full-inclusion program which
serves kids with special needs. The overall culture at the
school is very diverse and inclusive and fun. A nice community,
strong emphasis on students supporting each other, active parents.
A great afterschool program with enrichment classes that is
affordable (and has ample scholarships.)
Low reading scores are a concern (bi-lingual program and
population mix at LeConte may be the reason for this and the
whole District seems to have problems....no easy answers I
guess). Kids at LeConte seem to thrive and love the school.
Come by and visit if you are looking at schools!
P.S. Haunted House Friday Oct 27th 6-8:30 which is a blast!
I would like to know if anyone has any feed back or experience with Kindergarden at La Conte or The East Bay Conservation Corps Charter school. These are the two schools that my 5 year old has been enrolled in. She has been in the cocoon of a wonderful pre- school (Nia House)for the past 3 years. I would appreciate any comments. Jose
The principal of Le Conte is an amazing, empathetic, and
energetic force, and the community is really good. We love the
garden program and the cooking classes. Our kids come home
begging to make their special recipes for dinner!
The after school PTA programs have been great too, and our son
really enjoys flute, circus arts, chess, and singing classes on
site. It's a very diverse school, with all the benefits and
challenges that come with, but it's been a great experience for
our sometimes sensitive son.
I am going through the task of evaluating public (and some private) elementary schools for kindergarten admission next fall. I would be interested in hearing from parents with kids currently at either Emerson, John Muir, Malcolm X and Leconte. nina
Other highlights of our school include the excellent dual Spanish/English immersion program, our wonderful after-school program, cooking classes and Farm and Garden program. Our daughter is in the dual immersion program which she loves and attends the after-school program which is run by a new Director with a degree in multicultural studies from Mills College. We also love the Farm and Garden program and cooking classes. Kids in the Farm and Garden program learn a little about farm animals (the school has several rabbits, chickens -- even fish). They also learn about composting and how to identify variations of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Often the Farm and Garden curriculum is reflected again in my daughter's cooking class. For example: In September she helped pick tomatoes from the Garden at LeConte then she learned how to cook with them in Cooking class. Important lessons on nutrition are emphasized in both classes again and again.
Thanks to her wonderful cooking instructors our daughter has
begun to whip out cook books at home now and regularly reads
recipes and has adventures in the kitchen all by herself. For
more information about our school, please check us out online
at: www.leconteonline.org or contact the LeConte PTA (you can
find us at LeConte online as well).
Cary Sanders, President LeConte PTA
Our son is a first grader in the dual immersion program at LeConte Elementary School. We are extremely pleased with the school and its neighborhood feel, community participation, multiculturalism, and more specifically the language acquistion aspects and strong teachers of the dual immersion program.
Our son loves learning in Spanish, and the native Spanish speakers are learning English very rapidly. The school has a great farm and garden program, and the PTA afterschool classes are really engaging. (Our son takes chess, kitchen science, flutes, and papier mache, as an example of the range of options.)
Le Conte's campus is not as beautiful as the other, newly renovated schools, but it is perfectly fine inside.
Overall, we think it's a fine school. Check it out! halpatt
All students spend an hour every other week in Farm & Garden, where they receive gardening and nutrition education in small groups and work in 3 school gardens (including butterfly garden, vegetable gardens, aquatic area, rabbits, chickens). Farmer Ben really knows his stuff and he is fabulous with the children.
LeConte also hosts a dual immersion program, in which English and Spanish speakers come together in Spanish immersion classrooms that gradually introduce English instruction as the students progress to fifth grade. The program works hard to be an integral part of the whole school and to share cultural immersion experiences with the other students: e.g., all of the kindergartens learned baile folklorico last year.
The entire LeConte faculty just completed 2 years of intensive training in science instruction and they teach an integrated curriculum, in which literacy, math and science skills are reinforced in all academic areas. This integration contributed to a significant increase in the school's API score last year.
Currently, all students are receiving PE, music, art and cooking classes, in addition to Farm & Garden. We also have a strong schedule of PTA-sponsored after-school enrichment classes with scholarships.
Three after-school childcare programs are available, serving families in all income brackets. The programs are organizing joint activities to bring the children in all 3 programs together.
We have several really fun community events, including a Halloween carnival, Winter Fair, Quilt Raffle/Pancake Breakfast/Student Talent Show, Cinco de Mayo Celebration, and Communty Garage Sale, as well as Literacy Nights and a Science Fair.
Our school is also very well-run. I have never seen students wandering the halls aimlessly or blatantly showing disrespect to the staff or teachers. The school is small enough that the principal seems to know all of the students. My son really feels like he is part of a community.
If you have any questions about LeConte, feel free to call me. I am a mother of a dual immersion first grader and a Co-President of the PTA. If I can't answer your questions, I will put you in touch with other parents or staff who can. Rita
My son is in his 5th year at LeConte and I like the school very much. There is strong parental involvement and community involvement, which results in a very nice school feeling.
The principal, Barbara Penny-James, has been principal for at least 20 years and is to a certain extent coasting, but all in all she's okay. As far as teachers go, some are better than others, but the overall average is fairly high. It's a nice environment to teach in, I believe, and many of the teachers have been there for 5, 10, or more years.
On Berkeley schools: my experience to date has been very positive. My son goes to LeConte, a smallish primary school in south Berkeley. The principal seems to know all, or most of the kids, the teachers range from okay to good to great, there is a farm in the middle of the school and there is very nice community support for the school. Of course, things are a bit up in the air just now because all the schools are scrambling to make the 20 kids/class ratio for the lower grades, but the kids are already benefitting greatly from these smaller classes.
I've been sending my daughter to LeConte Elementary School's PTA sponsored summer camp for several years now. It's terrific...very empowering for kids...enthusiatic, talented, and diverse adults run the program, older kids help,...emphasis is on building kids' self esteem. Performance, science, farm & garden, computers, swimming and ice skateing lessons in the afternoon. Just call LeConte Elementary and ask for the number to call. Since it's PTA run, it appears at first glance not to be totally slick, but that may also mean that they are not full yet (late getting flyers out, etc.). But the actual staff is indeed very good.
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