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Re: Seeking feedback on Northwest Zone schools
Yes, I am totally in favor of throwing non-academic factors into the decision process. I'm also in favor of not stressing out too much over it, since ultimately you get what BUSD gives you! But even without the lottery it would be tricky because so much of what you would need to make a theoretically perfect decision (a crystal ball, basically) isn't possible.
One thing to throw into the decision might be the bus possibility. We live far enough away from our assigned school (Rosa Parks) that our daughter gets to ride the bus. It's awesome! The driver (Darryl) is like having another fabulous teacher on our team. We have met the other families on the route, and for playdates we can just tell the school to let her off at the friend's spot (they won't let her off the bus unless there's a parent waiting there to receive her, it's very well-run). And it's like an hour of free childcare every day! I enjoy waiting together at the stop in the morning; like every family, we have to rush around like crazy getting out the door, but then we have a few peaceful minutes together before we go off for our separate days. The downside to attending a more-distant school is that it's less convenient to drop in for brief volunteer things since it's a 10 minute bike ride there and a 20 minute uphill ride back.
Another thing to consider is the schedules; the three schools have different start and finish times, and one of them might work better for you than another.
Unsubstantiated opinion to follow, take it with a grain of salt -- Something extremely subjective and unverifiable that I just recently realized is that the mix of parents at Rosa Parks is one that I personally really enjoy, and I think it may be related to having our kid in the officially-less-desireable school in our zone (Jefferson is currently ''the good school'', BTW). You know the people who say, ''We put in an application for BUSD, but if my kid gets assigned to Rosa Parks/unless my kid gets assigned to Jefferson, we're going private''? They're not here! I've been really heartened by how much engagement and passion and creativity there is in the parent community at our school (as, I believe, there is at all the BUSD elementaries, but at Rosa Parks we get to be the striving underdogs of our zone. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know!) can't go wrong in the NW Zone!
I'd love to hear from families whose kids attend the Rosa Parks non-Spanish Immersion kindergarten. what do you think of the teachers? how is the year going for your kid? thanks!
We are signed up for Rosa Parks aftercare and have heard about some previous issues with poor supervision and lack of organization. With the cost of the bus to the JCC and relatively new staffing, it seems less appealing. World peace is a good choice for kindergarteners? Lisa K
My child got into to the Dual Immersion program at Rosa Parks which I'm happy
about. I have questions for parents in the program about later years of elementary
school and transition to middle school.
* How do native English speaking parents help their kids with homework that is in Spanish? How have you figured that out?
* Where there rough spots at the beginning of the K year for your native English speakers? Recognizing that all kids are different, were there things that were helpful for your child in making the transition?
* How did the transition go from DI into King or Willard? Did they continue with Spanish? Take up another language? I realize that the pool of families in DI is small since there are only about 200 kids k-5 in the district doing DI but I'm hoping to get a better sense of how this unfolds for kids over the elementary school years. Thanks,
I'd love to hear from parents with children currently in their second or third year in the Rosa Parks Elementary school immersion program, specifically non-native speakers of Spanish. Pros and cons of the program; is your child learning to read equally in English and Spanish? Do you feel the need to supplement their learning in English in any way? How do you like the school overall? Interested parent
Our daughter will be entering 4th grade in the Northwest zone in Fall 09. In the past when we applied to BUSD we were always given Rosa Parks so I assume we will get it again. I would love to hear what people have to say about the upper elementary school experience at Rosa Parks, as well as Jefferson and TO. What are the good points? What are the pitfalls? Thanks. RR
It wasn't our first choice, but the great news is that we are so happy at Rosa Parks. I couldn't imagine a better school for our family. Both of my children have great teachers...the 4th-5th grade teachers are very good at Rosa Parks. In fact my daugther's teacher is the first teacher she's had that really gets her. Also, for my daughter, the learning in public school is more structured than what she was experiencing,and that suits her well.
In 4th-5th grade this year, all the teachers are doing team teaching, so my daughter has a different teacher for English, and there are teachers for Music, Science, PE, and cooking. Also because of Spanish Immersion, a few kids in her class go to the spanish immersion teacher in the pm,and a few kids from spanish immersion come in. We were very lucky that - in public school - our daughter only has 21 kids in her 4th grade class/26 in the afternoon. At Marin School in Albany, where my daughter's friend goes, she has 31 kids in her class.
Also, my daughter is very shy so I really worried about her transition to a larger school. Within 2 days, she loved the structure of the school (the bells, the library,etc.) Within 2 weeks she had a solid group of friends to hang with at lunch.
The parents and community at Rosa Parks are very involved, and welcoming. Kids in 4th grade are still really sweet (although my daughter has already observed rougher behavior on the playground - but it was acted on right away). The mix of kids/families are very diverse, and our whole family is enriched by the community.
I highly encourage a different look at Rosa Parks - I didn't initially chose the school, but I'm really glad it chose us. Mom to a 4th grader and Kindergartner at RP
I'm moving my son from private to public school, he's going into 4th grade, and he was assigned to Rosa Parks. I've read the archived comments but there's nothing there about the level of academics at Rosa Parks. Is the school academically challenging or will my son, who is reasonably bright, be bored? I'm sure it's a nice community, I can see that there are parents who care and an administration that works hard. But I'm concerned about the level of learning. Thanks for your comments! Potential Rosa Parks Parent
My son is entering fourth grade and we are transferring him to Berkeley public school from private school for financial reasons. We are in the northwest district. He was assigned to Rosa Parks, which was our third choice after Thousand Oaks and Jefferson. I am really unhappy about this, he was at TO for kindergarten and I really wanted him to go back there.
I hear that the principal is working hard to improve the school, that the teachers are good. I've read the BPN reviews, it seems like the only people who write in about Rosa Parks love it! Is it really that remarkable a school?
What is Rosa Parks really like? Are the academics challenging, or even good? Do the teachers have to spend most of their time disciplining the kids with behavior problems? What are the 4th and 5th grade teachers like? I'm so worried about this assignment - should I view it as a gift and not a sentence?
I'm going to sign up on the waiting list for the other two schools. What are our chances of getting our first or second choices? I know this sounds like a post from a couple years ago, but I have the same questions. Rebecca
Re: Berkeley northwest zone elementary schools
I am the PTA President at Rosa Parks Elementary. I cannot speak highly enough of this school and it's community. Our Principal, Pat Saddler, is extremely dedicated to both our children and our staff. My son is in second grade and his experience has only been positive. Yes, he is in the immersion program. However, your child need not be in this program to thrive. ALL of our staff is EXCELLENT, and this includes our English-only teachers. Our curriculum includes: gardening,cooking, art, and music . I suggest you come on our guided tour on either Tuesday or Thursday morning beginning at 9:30. Please contact Sarah in the office to make an appointment. PH# 644-8812 I assure you, you will not be disappointed! Tracy
My child drew the Rosa Parks straw for Kindergarten. As did most of the kids at his preschool. I've been to the open houses, toured the schools. I know RP has a new principal, gotten some new teachers. Many people say things are looking up. All to the good. My concern, and it comes from talking with parents of kids from 4+ years back, is that (brace yourself, this is not PC in the slightest so I'm not signing my name), many of the RP families don't push education as a big value at home, so these kids don't have the learning bug. Kids that aren't interested in learning are big influencers of their peers. I fell into ''cool kid ennui'' early on, despite huge support from family, friends, community. If Rosa Parks is improving, and it sounds like it is, are our families improving as well? Because it takes all manner of people to make a school, not just teachers and programs. We are our schools. Troubled Mom
Are our families improving? Well, mine's holding steady :) We probably look like a solid poster family for valuing education because, well, we do. And we read a lot and there's books at home and one mom is a teacher and..... But, I'm probably the worst parent in the class as far as making sure homework is complete, I don't have a dime saved for college, etc. . . I think that different families have different things to offer. And, at Rosa Parks, the families help create a culture that values education.
I don't think that there has been a significant shift in the socio-econmic status or cultural mix at Rosa Parks in the last few years.
I agree that, ''we are our schools.'' While for most issues of education, I have to acknowledge that one's home life has a greater impact than anything that can happen at the school, I think that, on the specific issue of valuing education v. Cool Kid Ennui, the school has a greater impact. Rosa Parks has lots of energetic teachers with creative curriculums which is crucial for creating students who love to learn (even better than students who just think learning is important). But for overcoming Cool Kid Ennui (shall we call it CKE?), I think that promoting kindness counts the most. Cool, smart and nice are not mutually exclusive terms at Rosa Parks and I think that is the most important. Katie
The principal is well respected and is working very hard to continue to improve the school. Parents are very friendly and there is a great feeling of community. rebekah
In this public school setting you find families who feel that their kids’ educations are paramount, and you find families who are too stressed and busy to be able to place as much emphasis on it as others do. They might value education as much as you do, but circumstances and environment make it harder for that to be a focus. Don’t assume that just because a child struggles with learning and has a hard time sitting still and being quiet in a classroom that his or her family doesn’t value education.
I don’t really understand your question, “are our families improving as well,” because it seems like you already know the answer. Do you like the families you know who are going to Rosa Parks next year? Do they share your values? Are you and they the kinds of people who are willing to volunteer in the classroom when you can and help with the PTA and school governance committees? Will you and they encourage your kids to read and help them with their homework? If the answers to these questions are yes, then absolutely, our families are improving. Each family like that makes our school a better place.
If what you really want to know is if the learning environment at Rosa Parks is improving, then I can give you an unqualified yes. My kids have been at the school for 6 years and we’ve been through a lot there, both bad and good. But, given the way the school is now and the principal and the amazing group of teachers, I can’t imagine a better place for my kids to go to school. You can’t control the families of the kids who come to your public school. The teachers have to manage the incredible diversity of kids that walk into their classrooms every day in order to create a fun, safe place to learn. And at Rosa Parks they do. Betsy
My son is starting kindergarten this fall and has been assigned to Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley. That was our third choice after Thousand Oaks and Jefferson. I am pretty upset about this for several reasons...especially Rosa Parks' academic reputation.
I would love to hear from parents whose kids are currently enrolled in Rosa Parks...the good and the bad. I have heard that there was a house cleaning there recently and most of the teachers are brand new. Is that right? Also...what about the principal? It also looks like about a third of the students are non-native english speakers...how does that impact things?
I'm on the waiting lists for the other two schools...both of which are MUCH closer to our house...but I'm wondering about our chances??? It breaks my heart that my son could be walking a few blocks to school, but may instead have to be driven all the way across town.
I'm more than a little frustrated...help! Angela
We were originally assigned to Rosa Parks because we moved to Berkeley shortly before the school year began, but our daughter had such a great teacher, we stayed. When my son was going to start kindergaten, we initially requested a transfer; we too liked the idea of walking to school. But after thinking more about it and talking to other Rosa Parks parents, we decided to stay put. A ten minute drive or bus ride is a very small price to pay for the diversity that the zone system is intended to nurture.
I was delighted when recently hosting an event for incoming parents to find that most of them were happy to be coming to Rosa Parks - and that included non-immersion as well as immersion program parents. This positive attitude is part of what is turning Rosa Parks around. Chris S., Rosa Parks parent
Overall, the school doesn't have that permeating feeling of test-panic-desperation that schools of all APIs can get. Also the test scores and non-native speaker ratio that you referenced are seriously impacted by the fact that there is an immersion program at the school in a third to one half of the classrooms. Half of the kids in those classrooms speak Spanish at home. And the English (ahem, bilingual) speakers in the immersion program can have pretty low scores in the early years as they learn to read and write in Spanish first. So their test scores don't really reflect their knowledge.
Regarding the housecleaning. As a new parent this is a strange sort of plus to me. That is, under No Child Left Behind these massive staff turnovers are the ultimate punishment for low test scores. Thus RP has already faced the punishment and should now, hopefully, have some real stability ahead of it. The current teachers seem strong and the current principal (new this year) is considered the district's best. Rosa Parks is getting a lot of district attention and thats not a bad thing. The school is one of the coziest, most thoughtful, school designs I've seen (inside the schoolyard--not so much from Allston). I was overwhelmed by Jefferson and Thousand Oaks though 1000 has very nice buildings. The physical environment matters.
It is funny how Berkeley folks often don't get placed in the school around the corner but, strangely, I sometimes envy the folks that are bus distance from school because a couple of blocks can feel like a real schlep--especially if you have other kids. OK, that might be little more silver lining than you can stomach. :)
Good Luck. Katie
Although our school is on a definite upward climb, our staff is not mostly brand new. Most of our amazing staff has been at Rosa Parks for many years. There were some teachers that left a few years ago during a restructuring that took place. They were replaced with experienced teachers from within the district and from other districts. Our teachers are amazing. You can walk into any classroom on any given day and see evidence of their expertise in action.
As far as our principal goes, she is new to us this year but has been in the district for many years. She has a stellar reputation in the district and was welcomed with open arms to Rosa Parks. We have had a wonderful year under her leadership and I have yet to hear a negative comment directed her way. She is a strong leader with a lot of vision for our school, very down to earth, and always keeping student achievement and well-being as her top priority.
I live on the top of Marin by Tilden Park. We moved out of zone a year ago but we make to trek everyday to our awesome elementary school. The school is full of wonderful, close-knit families that devote amazing amounts of energy to building community at Rosa Parks. I hope you give your placement a chance so that you are able to become as big of a fan of our school as I am. Come and visit. We have our share of challenges like any other school but the good far outweighs the bad. Good luck! Rosa Parks parent
We're in the Thousand Oaks / Rosa Parks / Jefferson zone in
Berkeley, and have been visiting the schools and attending the
kindergarten open houses. Rosa Parks has been extremely
unstable in past history, and has gotten lots of negative press
(as well as low scores for the lovely No Child Left Behind
program.) The present principal, staff and parents presented a
very enthusiastic and positive picture of how R.P. is now,
including various impressive statistics comparing 2003 to
2005. It seems to clearly be getting lots of much-needed
attention and resources to stabilize and improve past
situations. The staff that was at the open house all seem to
be happy and dedicated. We did notice, though that many
teachers stated that this is only their first or second year
there. We are interested in people's experiences now, as this
school is being brought into more balance. We'd like reviews
from parents with kids in both the dual immersion and the
regular classes. We'd also like to hear how involved the
parents are in this school community. Is it a few very
involved parents? Or is the majority of the school's parent
communtity involved? Thanks.
~~No idea where we'll land, but it will be public!
Of course things at the school aren’t perfect. Any time you have a population of kids with such diverse backgrounds it’s going to be hard to teach to them all. But I believe that the teachers at Rosa Parks are doing a great job with these challenges, and my kids are benefiting from the experience. Betsy
It's been a tough transistion for my kid, but I think that would be the same at any school. She's in a dual immersion class whcih has been extra hard on her, but she's getting over the hump.
There seems to be a healthy bit of parent involvement, but I must admit I have been a slacker thus far. There have been a lot fun-sounding family events in the evenings, but we've been on a pretty rigid evening schedule and haven't gone. If there's any ''rainbow families'' (GLBT) out there considering Rosa Parks, we could use some more of you! Katie
My child will be entering kindergarden in the fall of 05. We live around the corner from Rosa Parks and never doubted that he would go there. But recently I've heard terrible things about the school from a fairly reliable source such as, that a group of teachers got together to write a letter of complaint about the principal last year and were then forcibly transferred to other schools this year. I've also heard that this is the worst school in Berkeley. It has the lowest scores. Bad teachers? Bad principal? I don't have the information to judge, but I am dissapointed and concerned because something did happen and there is not enough time to judge the results to see if the problems were addressed (whatever they were) and the school will now get better, or if the problems were made worse.
Does anyone have any direct very recent experience with this school (positive or negative) that would be relevant to our making a choice for the fall? What is the school community like? Is there a lot of parent involvment? Were the problems addressed or covered up?
What are the chances of a hispanic child whose first language was spanish (but now speaks english) getting a good education there, or of getting into another school in the zone. We are adamant that he not be put in ESL and we don't want him in an immersion program. Hoping to make the right choice
Now for the specific challenges at Rosa Parks. It has had something like four principals in four years, which contribute to some of its problems. And it is in the third or fourth year of probation on the No Child Left Behind program. I don't know what the implications of that are, but I'm sure you can get more info about it.
If your kid is bi-lingual in Kindergarten, he/she will be in a regular English class (you have to apply for the immersion program, and I don't think Berkeley has ESL classes).
Get more info about the school zone application process from the school district and/or Berkeley Neighborhood Moms kindergarten information night. Almost a BUSD veteran
I believe my children are getting a fantastic education at Rosa Parks. I live all the way across town--three blocks from Thousand Oaks School--and it is worth every trip. Last year when things were so rough at the school I considered sending my Kindergartener to another school. I looked at other schools in the zone and at private schools. When I compared the work my older daughter was doing at Rosa Parks to what I saw at the other schools, I came away convinced that my younger daughter would be best off at Rosa Parks. And now that she's there she is so happy and I am so impressed with her teacher and with the quality of work they are doing.
Of course the school is not perfect, but my family feels it is a great place to be.
Don't judge a school by its test scores. Go before school and see how the kids play on the yard and what happens when the bell rings. Go at recess and lunch and see how that feels. Go to a PTA meeting and talk to parents. Visit the classrooms, but go more than once. At Rosa Parks, one of our much-loved K teachers will be on maternity leave starting this week so you won't meet her when you go, so try to talk to parents about how they feel about her teaching style. Betsy
My daughter will be entering Kindergarten in fall 2005 - private school is really not an option for us financially and we're actually pretty excited about trying to make public schools work - However, we're in the Thousand Oaks/Jefferson/Rosa parks zone and while we will try to attend TO or Jeff. t I'm wondering: what is it like at Rosa Parks now? If she gets placed there can we petition to go somewhere else? how does applying for the Spanish immersion program there work? What about using a relative's address to get into another zone and avoid theproblem entirely?? Any other thoughts about elementary school in the BUSD? concerned mama
We are having a tough time in second grade at Rosa Parks. We were placed on the waiting list for Jefferson, but didn't get in. Our daughter is not challenged by the work, and the teacher is not in control of her classroom. We have not had any success with requests for transfers, or for more challenging work, any advice? It's too late for her to enter the bilingual program (which seems far better than the regular track). Any one else have a child in Rosa Parks, not in the bilingual program? We cannot afford private school! We are saddened by the focus on test scores and the lack of interest in real learning and in real challenges. The children are bored and unmotivated, and my daughter is tired of watching the teacher act like a police woman. Second Grade Mother
If you read the Daily Planet, you know there has been a lot of negative press about Rosa Parks lately due to standardized test scores and the API (academic performance index). You can look up all kinds of details at the CA Dept of Ed website, http://www.cde.ca.gov/.
Many educators, parents and students have strong feelings about testing. I am no exception. However, whatever you think about the worth and value of test scores, they are only one piece of information. I hope you will look beyond the media and numbers to see the teachers, staff and families that make up a school community where there are also positive things happening.
Public schools are woefully lacking in support of every type. I hope parents who are 'shopping around' will seriously consider public schools. You can contact me if you are interested in more information on BUSD and Rosa Parks.
I have a 4th grader and a kindergardener at Rosa Parks, both in the spanish immersion program.
we have been delighted with rosa parks, and with this program. academically, my daughters have been challenged (nothing like a foreign language that your parents don't speak to keep things ineresting). they've made great friends. their teachers have been terrific. we really have had a great experience. i like so many of the other parents there, i really enjoy just going to pick up my kid on the playground and talking to the other moms.
we had 3 new principals three years in a row, and despite this, the school has really hung together. i like the new principal and she seems to be here to stay. she's in the classroom a lot, and i hear from a variety of sources including my kids that she is proactive in terms of helping teachers in the classroom and dealing with discipline. there are lots of committees & groups at the school dealing with a range of issues (dental care, counseling, etc) that makes for a very strong community.
unfortunately, there does seem to be the perception that the spanish immersion program is the 'gifted' track. there were quite a few families who bailed on Rosa Parks (non-SI) around 3rd or 4th grade, in part, because socially and academically, their kids didn't fit in. i find in both my daughters classrooms that the families are motivated and involved. i think the classrooms are also somewhat unusual in that there are more cross-boundaries friendships than often occur even in diverse schools.
i think my daughters get an education there that they could not get at a private school. once in a great while we have playground issues, but nothing to worry about. the usual girl stuff around cliques is there, but where isn't it?
in addition, for parents who are considering spanish immersion, it's been great for us. even though we (parents) don't speak spanish, it's been fine to manage with homework, etc. i can really see my daughters' self- confidence boost at learning a different language. my 4th grader is fluent and has a great accent. it's so great when we're out and she speaks spanish ... although she is reluctant to ''show off'', occasionally we need the translation help ... people just love it and you can tell it makes her feel great. feel free to contact me if you have more questions.
I would love to hear current comments about Rosa Parks Elementary School -- the teachers, (who's good, who's a dud?), the programs, (does the dual immersion really work? is the science balanced with creative art?), and also the new principal, Alison Kelly (I hear Alison just started this year). The comments on the website date from 1998.
It would be nice to have the money from private school tuition to spend instead on our own family enrichment of travel and private classes here and there. On the other hand, we have deep and justified misgivings about public school and the ''institutionalization'' of children. Anonymous
I don't have first hand experience in the English track, but I have heard very good reports of those teachers as well. I know the two kindergarden teachers, Ms. Mogrenson & Ms. Love, get excellent reviews from parents.
If your daughter goes to Rosa Parks, esp. in the two way immersion program, why don't you contact me? My second child is probably starting there this fall. With my first, having a friend before starting school made the transition much easier. meghan
As a parent of children who have been in both private and public schools over the years (and with apologies to JFK) I would urge you to consider what you can offer to ANY school your child attends... not just what they have to offer your child. Its not a simple cost/benefit analysis, especially in Kindergarten. Or, if it is, you're probably right that homeschooling is the right solution for your family. Heather
As a parent I understand the desire to find the best place for one's child. And of course it's helpful to hear about other people's experiences. As a teacher though I feel that a ''shopping'' attitude doesn't respect the fact that each classroom experience involves a student-teacher relationship, not a product. A good teacher contributes so much of themselves, their time, and their caring attention to your child. It feels especially offensive if one strives for this ideal to think about being dismissed with a facile ''good'' or ''dud''.
Finally, teachers can tell when a parent is eager to ''get'' as much as possible; it's not the best way to start a relationship with someone who will be so important to your child. The parents who contribute to a good classroom environment support the teacher in a very difficult job, and give of themselves to the classroom community.
PS On another note, one phenomenon that is adversely affecting children in public schools currently is the tremendous amount of student and teacher time and resources devoted to assessment and testing.
former Rosa Parks teacher
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