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Malcolm X Elementary (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Berkeley Public Schools > Malcolm X Elementary



Art at Malcolm X

Dec 2012

Are art and performance as thoroughly integrated into the Malcolm X curriculum as it seems? I was impressed by their kindergarten night and tried to enroll my kindergartener but did not get in. I'm debating whether to try for next year. My child is happy at his school but the art seems fairly mediocre, the dramatic art nonexistent and music doesn't start until they're older. Please let me know your experience at Malcolm X; also, if anyone has info on the chances of getting in as a first-grader, please let me know. Thank you! wanting more art


We have a 2nd grader at Malcolm X and have been very impressed with the quality and frequency of classes in the arts. The drama, art, dance and music teachers are exceptional, very experienced and dedicated professionals. Our daughter has visual art, dance and music once a week. Music starts in kindergarten at MX and judging from the recitals I've seen, the teacher is providing an excellent foundation. The dance performances have also blown me away. The teacher choreographs different dances for each individual class (a lot of work!) and they have all-school performances. I have really appreciated how much my daughter has learned and improved in her physical coordination because of the dance program. All children take drama for a portion of the year and perform a play. The fifth graders do Shakespeare, and kids do costumes, sets, lighting, etc., so there is something for everyone and they are learning on many levels. Performance (whether in music, dance, drama, reciting poetry or essays) is part of the culture of the school beginning in kindergarten and I have seen my shy, reserved kid blossom and shine on stage. This is a gift that will serve her for a lifetime. Art often integrates things kids are learning in science, language arts, math, etc.

Art education is something I personally value very highly and if we weren't at MX I would feel compelled to pay for these as ''enrichment'' classes after school (something we can't really afford). I feel so lucky that my daughter is getting these as part of her public education. MX parent and fan!


Recent thoughts about Malcolm X elementary school?

March 2011

Does anyone have recent thoughts and/or reviews of Malcolm X elementary school? From what we've heard it sounds like most families love it. The archives don't have any recent reviews, within the past 2 or 3 years. Is there a new principal and how is it working out. Also, what are parent's and children's experience with the afterschool programs. Thanks, incoming kinder family


I am the parent of a current kindergartener at Malcolm X and I wanted to say we are thrilled with the school. The K teachers are nothing short of amazing. The teaching is dynamic and creative. Right now they are doing a unit on community which has involved parents coming in to talk about their jobs, walking field trips to neighborhood locations, etc. The kids are writing, mapping - integrating every discipline into the work. Earlier in the year they had a month-long unit on the bay, which culminated in a boat trip leaving from SF, for the entire kindergarten of 80+ kids. These teachers are dedicated!

Our daughter is thriving academically and we love that she is being exposed to such a wealth of experiences. She loves gardening and cooking classes, is doing drama for the first time, and is rehearsing with her class for the all school chorale, led by her music teacher. These are all part of her regular school days. In addition to these there are PTA-organized classes after school that run the gamut from Circus Arts to Math Games and Architecture for Kindergarteners. I've been amazed that our public school offers such a rich and varied curriculum, and I am a firm believer in the role of arts in education, a primary reason I selected MX.

The principal, Mr. Hunt, is in his first year and I've been quite impressed with him. He comes across as dedicated, intelligent, well-spoken, energetic and positive. The other thing I've appreciated about the school is a great sense of community. We have attended several events that have brought out whole families and there is so much positive energy, a real sense of working together to make the best school possible for the kids. Welcome to Malcolm X!


I have two children at Malcolm X (4th and 1st grade) and we love it! Our children's experiences there have been above and beyond our expectations. The performing arts are fabulous, there is an atmosphere of a strong learning community and a really involved parent and teacher body. Parents know each other there and each others' children. The teachers (especially Kindergarten!) are really good at what they do and work cohesively to make it happen.

Yes, there is a new principal, Alex Hunt. The previous principal had been there maybe twenty years and recently retired. She was renown district-wide for having shaped and developed the school over that time, as a strong leader who invested a lot of say and support in her amazing teachers. She really made that school into something special. The new principal has the additional benefit of being warm, communicative and effective. It has worked out very well.

Other highlights: gardening/cooking/lunch room intertwined curriculum! What the kids are harvesting, is what they are cooking, is even sometimes what the cafeteria is serving! Performances, loads of the kind of performances where everyone is singing or dancing along. I will probably cry the day my kids leave this family. I hope you love it too. Happy As A Clam At MX


Jan 2011

Hi, I'm wondering if anyone has any more recent information than what currently appears on BPN about allowing families in the southwest to get into Malcolm X. I read two disturbing reviews on BPN from about a year ago that indicated that most of the incoming K class was from the central zone last year. Does anyone know if this is expected to continue? I am interested in information about next school year (2012/2013). Thank you!


I believe there was a mix-up last year, because no one I know in the SE zone got into Malcolm X in the first round. However, we did get in off the waiting list in July (rumor was that they added a class so SE zone students could be added). Hopefully this year the process will run a bit smoother so there won't be a wait. -anon
March 2010

I am troubled by what I hear from fellow parents who also listed Malcolm X as their 1st choice for incoming kindergartners. It seems that with expanding access this year to Central Zone for this deservedly popular school, BUSD has somehow assigned many, many more Central Zone families to MX than Southeast zone families. We did not, nor did any other SE families I know who listed MX first choice, get our children assigned there. I understand about BUSD's challenges, but I sense there is more than bad luck but that the system was somehow set up quite unfairly this year. Would love responses from others. troubled on MX wait list


I had a similar experience and ended up having the pleasure of speaking directly with Melisandra Leonardos, the Director of Admissions. What a tough job she has! It turns out that the School Board's decision to make Malcolm X a "dual zone". school resulted in almost no Southeast Zone families being assigned there. This could have been anticipated, since the change was made to deal with overcrowding in the north, not in the south.

Similarly, opening up BAM to the Northwest Zone resulted in an incoming class of almost entirely Northwest Zone families, rather than Central Zone families, where the school is located. Maybe this hasn't been as much of a concern because the school is more centrally located?

Regardless, it was clear that Melisandra is in a tough position being tasked with implementing the School Board's decision. I think it's worth it for parents to ask the School Board to take a look at how their decision played out and see if there's something that can be done to both deal with the overcrowding in the North, but also make sure that Southeast Zone families aren't shut out of one of it's outstanding schools. Malcolm X wannabe


Nov 2007

Re: Choosing between public schools in southeast zone
Most of us who read BPN and bother to respond probably love and are very loyal to our own schools, so you'll probably hear great things about all the schools. That is the good news, because it means it's hard to go wrong, even if you don't end up getting your first choice. My son is in third grade at Malcolm X. I basically moved to South Berkeley so he could go to this school, and I have not been disappointed. The community of families at Malcolm X is very diverse and lovely. My son has had one great teacher after another. All of the teachers strive to be thoughtful about how to teach in rounded, innovative ways while still meeting state guidelines and sadly, due to No Child Left Behind, focusing on test preparation to some degree. There are great ''arts'' classes - fine art, drama (sometimes), dance, music, gardening, cooking. There's a strong PTA and wonderful PTA afterschool classes. Will you be able to go to the open houses at the individual schools? Four long years ago, I found these to be very helpful! Nanu


Nov 2007

We have been members of the MX community for 10 years. We love it and are sad to be leaving the school after our second child graduates next year. There is so much that is positive to say about MX (it was given a California Distinguished School award last year), but the best thing about the school is its hardworking staff, led by the incredibly strong principal, Cheryl Chinn. Cheryl has put together an amazing group of teachers and support staff over the years. They work together and support each other and have dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of all of the students. There are many other positives too numerous to list (the garden, the arts, the outreach/support programs, a very active PTA) MX is a wonderful and diverse learning community. I'm more than happy to talk to anyone considering this outstanding school. kyras


April 2007

I am the parent of an incoming kindergartener - accepted at Oxford and on the waitlist at Malcolm X. To parents at both schools: Do you like it? Does your child like it? I have heard about bullying in the Malcolm X schoolyard - any word on that? IS there a lot of homework for kindergarteners at Malcolm X? IS Oxford as nice and cozy as I've heard? Thank you for your opinions, positive or otherwise.
just trying to make the right decision


Just last night, my middle school daughter was in tears because she misses Malcolm X and her teachers there so much. While some of her drama was due to middle school's high pressure combined with adolescent hormones, her feelings are a testament to what a wonderful experience she had at the school. My son is there now, and has an equally fantastic experience. The school has two major strengths. One is the arts component, which the school has genuinely and whole-heartedly integrated into its curriculum. Much of the learning, including the academic learning, happens through projects that center on or incorporate art elements. My kids have found this approach both fun, and purposeful--tasks don't seem rote to them, in the context of building a model Spanish mission, or writing and producing the 1st/4th grade opera. And yet, they learned the academic stuff very well.

The other strength of the school is a committed and largely fantastic teaching staff, which is at least in part attributable to a principal that is a staunch supporter of her staff. Each of my kids has had several amazing teachers, and even the less-than-amazing ones were decent, and warm.

Finally, I think Malcolm X does an excellent job of embracing its diversity as a strength, in a way that is inclusive. (My kids are white, with straight, divorced, middle class parents.) During our time, the school has been explicit in its teaching about acceptance, including dealing with some teasing that was happening when one student's father came out. The school's arts programing and its curriculum include art, culture, history, and so forth from many cultures, and this tends to be in a very celebratory way, without glossing over the bad things that have happened. And the school staff-- teachers, principle, etc.--seem committed to the success of all the kids. My kids are getting to learn things that I never did as a child, and to have the rich experience of many cultures, ethnicities, people, an life experiences among their classmates.

The school isn't perfect, and while it suited my kids' temperaments very well, there is a little less supervision on the playground than there should be. But I quite frequently find myself feeling incredibly lucky that my kids have gotten to have such a fabulous start. Malcolm X is great. Jeni


I'd like to second the opinions expressed earlier about Malcolm X. My Kindergartener loves it and so do I! To the issue of homework: I do think MX Kindergarteners get more than some other local Ks but my son loves it (some of it is mazes and dot-to-dots, some of it is writing practice, and a weekly book review that has really encouraged my son to try new books!). Their curriculum still has all the ''fun'' experiential learning like drama, dance, gardening, cooking etc so I don't feel like it's too heavy on academics. I also would have to say that I think all of the K teachers there are excellent, not just my son's teacher. To the concern a/b bullying: I have actually seen evidence to the contrary. I have seen a Kindergartener take a stumble on the playground and a 4th grader come over to make sure she was ok and help her up. There is plenty of 5th grade judgementalness but that may just come w/the territory of being ready for Jr. High. I think the K and 1st graders are kept in their own little world, for that exact reason. Overall, I think it's a great school but each family has different needs so the best way to tell what will work for you and your child is to trust your instincts, not the opinions of other people or the word on the parent gossip mill about what the ''best'' school in Berkeley (which seems to be rampant around here, not to mention incredibly classist). MX mama
March 2007

Our daughter is a Kindergartener at Malcolm X in Berkeley. We couldn't be happier. We fully understand why the school was chosen as a California Distinguished School in 2005. The teachers are wonderful, super enthusiastic and have very high morale, the curriculum is enriched strongly with special arts activities including a very strong music and drama program, the principal, Cheryl Chinn is deeply committed to the school and attends ALL events, the parents are AMAZING and totally involved in the PTA and other activities, there are wonderful after- school activities offered ranging from Math Games to Spanish to Circus! The garden and our gardener, Rivka Mason are FANTASTIC. Malcolm X is a Federal Arts Magnet school and so is THE PLACE to send your child for a strong arts education in Berkeley. This year the PTA has initiated developing an Arts and Grounds Master Plan for the campus so that we have a blueprint for carrying out AMAZING arts activities for the exterior of the school in the coming years. We have also developed a new Malcolm X Neighborhood Arts Collaborative bringing together nearly twenty local art and other organizations to work together synergistically enriching school and neighborhood arts activities. Most important of all--every day when I pick up my daughter and ask her how her day went she responds back, ''I loved it.'' We love Malcolm X Elementary School too! Slh


January 2007

Re: Moving to Berkeley, need arts program for 2nd grader
My son is in second grade at Malcolm X now. He's been there since kindergarten, and I pretty much moved to South Berkeley (from San Francisco) so that he could go to this school. I have been thrilled with the school. Lots of ''extra curricular'' stuff: art class, drama class, music, dance, gardening, and cooking. Thoughtful teaching. The student body is very, very diverse and there are lots of biracial children. Nanu


Nov 2006

Re: Alternative/arts based public school?
You don't say where you live, but since you mention Berkeley Arts and Magnet, I'll assume that you live in Berkeley, and tell you that I am so far thrilled with my son's experience at Malcolm X ''Arts and Academic Magnet School''. He is now in second grade, and I have loved - and he has loved - his experiences thus far. Granted, they did do more academics and sit down stuff in kindergarten than I might have liked. But they also have visual art class, drama class, gardening, cooking, music, dance - most of these classes weekly. The teachers do their best to make the academic learning thoughtful and meaningful, given the constraints they must work within. I am actually thrilled with the way my son is learning math and reading and spelling this year, in second grade. I have actually also heard very positive things about Berkeley Arts Magnet School, and about many of the other Berkeley Public Schools. Good luck with your decision! Nanu


Re: Alternative/arts based public school? (Nov 2006)
Check out Malcolm X. My son is in Kindergarten there and I'm really excited about the arts and music. As part of his regular class time, there's music, movement, cooking and gardening. He loves it! He also came from a strictly play-based preschool, child-driven, etc. and I think the transition there is excellent in that there is plenty of that same feeling but structured in a way that the kids now get the focus time that a 5 or 6 year old needs and wants. What really struck me in my first visit was the focus of the older class rooms. It seems to me that Malcolm X makes a point to lead kids smoothly and gradually from the play/experiential to strong intellectual work in a way the kids thrive on (and yes, the big kids are playing music, doing art, movement, cooking, gardening and THEATRE in a big way too). My kid loves it! Rebecca
May 2005

Re: Elementary school in S. berkeley/N.Oakland
My son is about to graduate from Malcolm X in South Berkeley, and I am so glad that we made the choice to send him there. The school has amazing teachers, a great support staf! f, and a prncipal that is a remarkable administrator. The school maintains a deep commitment to the performing arts (including the anual opera that is written and directed by the students), and the performances are teh highlight of the year. The community pulls together for events like Family Heritage night, and the Spring Fair. My son has developed friendships with a wide variety of people, and the programs in the school have fostered these interactions.

What are the minuses? Well, in this diverse environment, some of the children can bring their problems to school. I think that discipline problems are handled adequately once they happen, but the occassional incident does occur. It is a large school (though that is not a negative in our case).

I never felt that my son lost out academically. In fact, the deciding factor for us in our selection was the cooperation that the teachers have with each other. The grades stick ! to a shared curriculum, and the teachers at all levels are familiar with the lesson plans so that they can effectively build on the knowledge each year.

The parents at Malcolm X are also amazing. I felt welcomed from the beginning, and I have wonderful memories of working together at events. Bennett


Nov 2003

We are the very happy parents of a Malcolm X first grader. This school, and the Berkelely public elementary schools, offer a rich academic and social environment for children. Regarding the STAR scores. They in no way indicate how good the school is. Because the test is so closely correlated with income, a lower score shows that a school has children of mixed income. When a family chooses the Berkeley public schools, it is choosing a system that reflects the diversity of the community. For us, an upper middle class family, this has been a positive thing. Charlotte


Jan 2003

I'm interested in Malcolm X for kindergarten for my son, and would like some input from parents about the after school programs -- diversity of kids in each, program content, parents' opinions of their kids' experience, etc. Thanks! Julie


What works - dedicated teachers and parents, an arts program that is considered a priority to the entire school community, a principal that is an amazing administrator, a coordinated curriculum that allows the child to build on their experiences as they progress, an active PTA,BSEP and Site Council, conflict management program, and a diverse student body.The PTA offers great after school enrichment.

What could be better - Not all students able to leave hardships at the door. Large student body can make school feel overwhelming at times. No focus on GATE programs. It is difficult, if not impossible to request specific teachers or move student to a different classroom. B


July 2002

I would like to hear from parents whose child or children are or have attended Malcolm X in the recent past. I am now living in Berkeley and am trying to decide whether or not to move my daughter from Chabot Elementary in Rockridge to Malcolm X next year. She'll be in the first grade. She loves art and dance and since Malcolm X is an arts and academic magnet school, I was thinking it would be really good for her. She has not had a good year in Kindergarten and does not like her present teacher. I realize she will have years that she does not like her teacher, but would like to make her next year a good experience if I can. A Berkeley Mom


Malcolm X is a wonderful school and it is not for everyone. We are moving our daughter from there with mixed feelings.

What didn't work for us:

1. Playground dynamics: bullying not well-addressed. Kids get called on stuff but the bottom-line consequences for bullies don't seem clear or swift. There needs to be more playground supervision in the AM (before school).
2. extreme range in kids' abilities to pay attention and learn: It's a gem of a public school but it still has the issues that all public schools have. Class size makes it very hard for teachers to help all students. The few kids that need a lot of behavior management suck up most of the attention and the rest of the kids don't learn as much. We'd gone into Malcolm X hoping that our kid could stay challenged in school (they have learning centers instead of by rote, kill&drill kind of learning). But unfortunately, this hasn't worked for her. Our kid's bright, and this year has been extremely boring for her. Honestly the teachers have tried their best but with the other demands on their time, they can't give her what she's needed this year. If she were a more average student, then I think the level of learning would be just fine for her. But she's not, so it's with some sadness that we are leaving this school.

What *did* work for us:
1. great specialty teachers: art, music, dance, gardening.
2. a very strong, wonderful PTA - this is key!
3. Cheryl Chinn is a strong administrator
4. good teachers (they're just limited in what they can do in this setting)
5. Hurray for the on-site YMCA Kids Club aftercare program. My kid has loved this program - great counselors, exciting multicultural activities - Kwanza, Santa Lucia, International Women's Day, paper airplane contest in honor of Amelia Earhart to name just a few. Heck. I wish *I *was in this club.
6. great PTA-sponsored afterschool classes: carpentry, chess, Spanish, circus ...

In sum, think about who your child is and what s/he likes. What's the level of learning/need for challenges? How does your kid do in larger schools? Does your kid jump into situations or is s/he shyer? Can s/he swim with the rest or does s/he need more individual attention?

Malcolm X is a great school for some, but not for others. With all our hearts, we wish we could stay at at this school. Unfortunately the level of learning for her is not enough so we have to say ''hasta la vista.'' However, this won't be the same issue for every child.

Since this was a longwinded post, I'm serving up coffee and scones! Anonymous


I am not a parent of a kid at Malcolm X, but I thought I might add a student perspective to the conversation. I am a teacher at BHS and just yesterday during a discussion about public schools, a student declared that Malcolm X was a great (''the best'') school experience she ever had. I have heard other students speak highly of it as well... DMoran
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