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Head-Royce School (Oakland, CA)
We are slowly beginning to explore our options for K-5 private schools in the area for our child. I've consistently been hearing that Head Royce is the ''best'' school in the area, as well as the ''academically most rigorous'' school, and I get the impression that a lot of people are pretty eager to get in. But I don't really understand and nobody has successfully been able to explain to me what makes the school the ''best''? When people say that, are they really talking about the high school? Because from what I can tell the physical lower campus, the curriculum utilized, the programs offered, and just about everything else is not really that much better than at the other private elementary schools that we're considering. So what am I missing? Why?
Every school has something to offer and every school will be great for some and bad for others. Public elementary was great for my daughter and terrible for my son. Park Day School (for middle) was a great experience in many ways, and in some others it was not. HNHS and St. Mary's have both been exactly right for my children for high school, even if not everything is always perfect or ''the best'' of...
Best is not something you are going to know until it is over, and since with schools you can only have one experience at a time all you can really say is, ''it is great for us for right now.'' Certainly not every child would thrive at Head Royce, just like not every child would thrive at Park, or Redwood or Beacon or... your best is going to be about your child, your family, the community at the school, and a million little factors that make up each day. Find the place that feels like it will be the ''best'' for who your child is, and that will allow your child to grow and be who they are!
Background first - my daughter attended a "hills elementary school" in Oakland. She tested into the GATE program in third grade after testing a 99th percentile on the Ravens Progressive Matrices Test. She languished in that school. I would be exaggerating if I said my daughter learned three months material per year. She did learn some things, sometimes. However, she learned far more in her summer science camp of three weeks than she learned in the entire year. She was looking forward to learning Greek and Latin roots in fourth grade - as is the minimum state standard. It never happened. I am ashamed to say that I worked with district, the area administrator, the principal and the teachers and did not remove my daughter from a very toxic environment soon enough.
My daughter asked me to find a school where she could learn Latin, not Latin roots, but Latin. Schools that teach Latin daily are few and far between. When I first toured Head Royce I was impressed with their buildings, but not their curriculum. The teachers and administrators simply could not identify state standards and how Head Royce compared. They showed me math and science and my daughter had already achieved their highest levels for the grade. However, I was impressed by the writing of the students, the school's choice of literature, and the easy-going, well-spoken students that lead our tour.
The application was sent, my daughter had an "activity day" designed to see how she and other applicants worked with each other, solved problems and behaved in the classroom setting. We waited. Then the package came. My daughter was accepted to every school for which she applied. Then came the decision. Having middle school and high school on the same campus was great. She could take Latin A, B, and C in middle school and continue through AP Latin in high school. She could begin French as she was taking Latin in her freshman year of high school. We were in.
Sixth grade was simple. She knew the math and science and breezed through the curriculum. (Head Royce has since upgraded their math curriculum to meet the needs of and challenge all students.) However, it was English, history and Latin in which I noticed the biggest difference. To begin, sixth grade students were taught to annotate their books. This required my daughter to make connections to literature on several different levels and be able to explain those connections. Every subject, every day at Head Royce becomes a thread of knowledge and education that is tightly woven so that the student easily makes connections that are lost on the vast majority of people - not just students but people in general. Two examples come to mind; one was when my daughter heard the name of a band "Slings and Arrows" and said, "Today we were talking in class about whether the band named itself after the phrase in Shakespeare's Hamlet or if there was another reason for the name." Another reference was to the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, " Do you think that Calvin was named after the French theologian and Hobbes was named after the English philosopher? Isn't it an ironic situation, because, the French and the English are always fighting, yet can't live without one another like the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes." These were discussions held in sixth and seventh grade. And while I'd like to think that my daughter is just brilliant for having these discussions, she's not. She's bright, but she's Head Royce average - in a good way.
When the students have graduated from Head Royce High School (upper school), they have the equivalent knowledge in liberal arts as an undergraduate college degree. Those are not the school's words, those are mine after comparing the education to those graduates of Amherst, Wellesley, Middlebury and Claremont McKenna that I either know or have met. In addition to the high school curriculum, motivated students can work on the Global Online Academy.
Middle School started out slowly and the work ramped up. The honors English class in 10th grade at a local well-know Catholic high school is the standard seventh grade English curriculum at Head Royce.
It is also much more than the education. Students are expected to know and respond to global issues and challenges - not from a perfunctory, let's send clothes and household items to tsunami survivors, but to understand how those survivors are living at the present time and before they were hit. Then students would know that what the people need are tents and water, not pots and pans.
Students are expected to think about their behavior and how it affects the school community, at school, in the local community, nationwide and worldwide. Their behavior affects the reputation of the school and they need to shoulder that burden as they live with the privilege of being part of the Head Royce learning community.
There is a cost both monetarily and socially to being a Head Royce student. While the vast majority of students have college graduates as parents, there are students who do not. While there are families making well in excess of $200,000 per year, there are a great number who do not. There is the feeling of money at the school and sometimes that creates pressure, but I have to say that it happened to my daughter only one year - the monetary pressure - and then when she entered high school, the clothes, status, and the "where did you go for ski week?" fell away. And the students who were left were the serious students who loved philosophy, physics and French.
Head Royce is difficult to explain. I hope that I have done it justice. What I know is that there is always someone to challenge a bright student to continue to grow academically and as a moral person, a support system for those students with learning differences and an expectation that each and every student is responsible for being the best person, citizen and student they can possibly be, every single day. Proud to be the mom of a Head Royce Student
We toured all the usual private schools and then only applied to HR. For us it was Chabot or spend the money on HR. We chose HR over all the other schools for many reasons. I'll start with ones relevant to our lower school experience: amazing experienced teachers starting at K; student to teacher ratio - there is one teacher plus an assistant teacher for at most 20 kids; sweet, nurturing lower school building dedicated to K & 1st graders; the fact that everyone on campus knows my children from the co-heads of lower school to the nurse; the sense of community the school fosters with fourth grade buddies for K class and school families; separate library just for K-5; the fact that Kindergardners do 1 trimester each of Mandarin, Spanish, and French then pick a language for 1-5; parent education and safe campus. We've attended classes for early readers, raising resilient children and teaching girls to speak up for themselves. Not only are our children learning, so are we.
Then there are the practical day school reasons: inspiring Headmaster who even reads to the Kindergardners and rich school traditions. It's K-12, we wanted HR or College Prep. We're done now - check the box no more applications. Plus for two working parents, great after school programs - including piano and swimming on campus - no shuttling around.
Now no school is perfect. The drop off pick up can be daunting. But the school added extra Michael's school buses. Both my kids ride the bus - super easy, convenient, good for environment and economical - just one fee per family no matter how many kids you have.
My two kids are very different: one is an introvert, sensitive the other happy, easy go lucky guy - both are thriving at the school. We're very happy with the education, the community and friends we've made at HR. K
I am applying to Head-Royce School for kindergarten for my son for the 2014-2015 school year. We are also applying to Bentley, The Academy, and Redwood Day. While at a Head-Royce open house or tour, I learned that HRS doesn't give homework until 3rd grade and that there are no grades until 5th grade. Did I misunderstand? I can't seem to find more information about it on the website. If it's true about the no homework no grading, can current parents or teachers please shed some more light on why that is a good thing? I otherise really like the school, the classrooms, the teachers, the diversity, and the caring environment. The science and computer labs for the lower school were also impressive. Wouldn't you want students to also practice studying and focusing on their own at home? Homework is also an exercise in self dicipline, a good quality to have. Aren't grades a barometer of how you're doing and what you need to work on? /s/ confused parent
I hope this helps with the confusion.
Our purpose in giving homework in Lower School is to develop good habits. Some of the most important aspects of homework are the practice and habit of studying, organizing materials, and developing time management awareness and skills. It also functions as a school/ home connection to inform parents of in-class curricular work.
Professor Harris Cooper of Duke University advises that ten minutes per grade level is the optimum amount of homework for elementary students. In that vein, kindergarten students read or are read to by their parents, first grade students read and do family projects related to their studies. Beginning in second grade students are given assignments in a variety of academic subjects that are expected to take approximately 20 minutes. This expectation grows in 10 minute increments per grade. In addition students are expected to read nightly.
Students are assessed regularly and the assessments are shared with parents in fall and end-of-year conferences and report cards in January, March and June. Students are graded in approach to learning skills and subject mastery. Twice a year there is a narrative written by the classroom teachers.
Suzanne Abbey, Head of Lower School
Homework at HRS begins in first grade. In kindergarten, parents are asked to read to or have their child read to them each night. Beginning in January of kindergarten, children bring home a reading book each weekend and parents are asked to have their child read it to them. In first grade, more formal homework begins with ten minutes given per grade (1st gets 10 min., 2nd gets 20, etc.). That being said, it depends on the type of learner and student your child is for how long homework will take. Teachers ask that students stop at the designated amount of time. As a parent, I appreciate that this approach respects the need for children to have balance in their lives, as well as time to pursue other passions or simply to have some downtime each day.
With regard to the grading system, I find the HRS report cards incredibly rich--much richer than the traditional one letter per subject grading system. Children are graded with: E-Excellent, consistently performs at an outstanding level; M-Meets expectations; solid grade level performance; I-Inconsistently performs at grade level; NY-Not yet performs at grade level. The teachers also write a detailed and nuanced description of how they view your child's strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which the teacher is addressing any needs for enrichment or remediation. On this fall's report card, our children were graded on: 5 areas of social/emotional development, 9 areas of learning habits, 10 different components of language arts, 6 components of mathematics, 3 areas of social studies, 2 areas of science, 6 components of music, and 5 components each of art, PE, and world language (Spanish/French/Mandarin). For me, this gives a much better sense of where my children's strengths and weaknesses lie within each area than receiving one grade per subject. In addition, the children's academic work is graded on a daily basis, for number correct out of total number of problems, so parents readily have a gauge of how their child is mastering the material.
Finally, I would say that I have been impressed with the depth of the assessment done with the students each fall and spring, and have consistently felt that our teachers have been very attuned to each of our children as learners as well as individuals.
I hope this helps clarify some of your confusion. Good luck with the process of choosing a school for your child! Head-Royce Parent
Do families choose Head Royce for reasons beyond academics? I am very clear these are excellent but I am more interested in the whole child, the small class sizes, the quality and skill the teachers have with social emotional needs, the fact I hear nothing but good things about the school and the quality after school program. We have a very bright child who will do well in this academic environment but I also want her to have great self esteem and be a kind and thoughtful human being. And if someone can also address the academic competitiveness of the parents. My husband and I have good public educations, went to good Midwestern universities but neither of us have graduate degrees. Will we fit in? Preschool parent
Yes, you have Type A parents, welcome to private schools in the San Francisco suburbs. If you want to avoid that you will have to go to a more hippy private school like a Waldorf school, which also has great benefits for kids. We have found a great group of parents to socialize with in our class and avoid the uptight ones. Class parents include a professional drummer in a local band, a Bosnian refugee, a couple who are both acupuncturists, and a school gym coach. I myself am a social worker from the Midwest and I am a happy parent.
We have been overwhelmingly happy with Head-Royce's commitment to nurturing the whole child. Focus on community, ethics and respect are an integral part of each day and are also interwoven into much of what we see of our children's academic curriculum. For example, the lower school has focused on topics such as building an inclusive community, environmental stewardship, stereotypes, diversity, tolerance, different family compositions, etc.
I cannot say enough great things about the faculty at Head-Royce. In our experience thus far, the teachers have been passionate about teaching, dedicated to the children, and concerned about the children's social-emotional development. We have found the academics at Head-Royce to be appropriately challenging without pushing the children too much. The teaching is interactive, fun, and multidimensional. The focus has been on developing critical thinking skills, true comprehension, and depth of knowledge versus rote memorization of facts. Another way in which we feel Head-Royce really teaches to the whole child is found in the richness of the children's experiences each day. They are not only learning the core academic subjects--they are also engaged in music class, physical education, dance, library, art, drama, computers, foreign languages, and hands-on science in the science lab.
As for the competitiveness of parents, it has been my experience that the parents who choose Head-Royce, do so for the same reasons you are considering applying. Because of the tremendous diversity within the community, there are parents from many kinds of backgrounds, experiences and educational histories. I think the best way to get to know the other parents and to fit-in is to get involved at the school. But generally, I would say the parents are a great group of down to earth people who want their children to have a balanced and fun education.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for a good school match for your family! A Head-Royce Parent
First off, the teachers are outstanding. They are the kind of teachers that we all remember even in adulthood as ''the best teacher I ever had.'' As an example -- my son's fourth grade teacher notices everything. If someone's feelings are hurt in class, she will notice, and will not only address it, but will discreetly turn the incident into a positive learning experience for everyone. If someone is struggling with an assignment, she will notice, and she will take them aside to make sure they get the attention they need. If someone is excelling on a topic, she will notice too, and will make sure they are getting the additional challenge and stimulation that they need. In addition, she teaches the kids to become good classmates and friends. A couple of weeks ago, the class engaged in a discussion on the differences between hurtful and playful teasing and how the line can sometimes be unintentionally crossed. The teacher led the discussion in such a way that no one felt attacked or lectured to. It was designed to be an ''a-ha'' moment for each child to take home, reflect upon, and use to become a more thoughtful friend on the playground. This week, the kids are learning to become allies -- what it means to be kind, welcoming, and a friend to anyone in need. In fact, the lower school has designed a curriculum this year called ''Welcoming Schools'' to help the kids learn how they can contribute to keeping the school a welcoming community -- simple acts from inviting someone to sit down next to them at lunch if they look lost to sharing a kind word if someone is struggling through an assignment. I do feel that my own kids are both lucky enough to have very good friends (the kids in their class are really good kids) and have become more thoughtful as a result of some of these discussions. All around a good thing. A quick word too on the teachers and how they help your child develop. Both of my kids are shy and fairly quiet. But in each case, my kids' teachers have noticed them and worked with them to speak up in class. I am happy to say that for my kids, raising their hands in class and oral presentations are not as daunting as they once were.
I also wanted to mention something about the collaborative learning that goes on at Head-Royce. It is often a difficult balance to strike, but it seems that the Head-Royce teachers have done it. One of my favorite collaborative projects from this year is the 4th grade class play. Together, the kids wrote their play based on the California history they learned (the vignettes ranged from the early American Indian experiences, to the gold rush, to the Japanese concentration camps). The kids were broken into small groups to write vignettes reflecting different periods in California history. The vignettes not only revealed what the kids learned but were done in a way that expressed what they thought about that particular moment in California history (e.g. the disbelief, confusion, and hurt felt by the Japanese Americans during the internment). The play concluded with a scene that truly touched me. Each child had created a poster with an issue they hoped to see improved in California -- poverty rights, gay/lesbian rights, civil rights, women's rights and the list goes on. They all walked out with their posters representing this unique history of California and the continuing struggle we face to become better and kinder people. It was really a poignant sight. And the best part of it? It was student driven -- teacher guided of course, but the passion, thoughtfulness, creativity, and inspiration came from the kids. That image still makes me smile. This is what makes Head-Royce learning so amazing -- that the teachers are constantly trying to present material in interesting and inspiring ways. In a word, I love my kids' teachers -- every single one. And each of the teachers (including the excellent group of specialists that the school has -- ranging from music to art to foreign language to PE) have in some way taught my kids not only to become more creative and rigorous academic thinkers, but better, kinder persons as well -- and for that, I am most grateful.
I also wanted to address two other things you mention in your question: small class size and parent community. First, the teacher-student ratio in lower school is very, very good. Typically, you will have a class of 18-20 kids with one head teacher and one intern. This allows the teacher to occasionally break the class into even smaller groups for focused learning e.g. special reading group assignments, art projects, math quests, or other activities. I find that this is very valuable in allowing the teachers to really understand your child's strengths and weaknesses. Second, on parent community, I love this parent community. Very unpretentious and very willing to help one another. And to give you some background, my kids come by their shyness honestly. My husband and I are fairly quiet, shy people too. But we have made some very good friends at Head-Royce and have felt very welcomed at the school by teachers, administrators, and parents alike. Teachers and division heads are always happy to chat with you about any concerns, and the head of school is very open about hearing parents' issues too. Oh, and on the issue of parents' education backgrounds -- it is really very rarely discussed. I think the times it has come across in discussions for us -- it has been along the lines of ''wow, kids these days are doing so much more in school than we did!''
In short, I would highly recommend Head-Royce as a place for your child. The teachers, administrators and head of school are great, the school is forward looking in its education programs, and developing student character is an integral piece of a Head-Royce education. Happy Head Royce Parent
Re: Bentley and Head Royce 2nd and 3rd grade teachers
Our daughter is currently in 2nd grade at Head Royce. Both 2nd grade teachers at Head Royce are amazing. They are everything you listed and more - dynamic, kind, skilled, imaginative, funny, organized, etc. You name it, they are on top of it. Our daughter said, ''I know I'm only in 2nd grade but I think my second grade teacher might be the best teacher ever.'' I don't know the 3rd grade teachers as much but other parents have told me they are excellent as well. Good luck and I hope you find the right school for your child. Head Royce Parent
We decided to send our son to Head Royce because of their 'whole child' approach and I honestly can't begin to describe how true the application of this philosophy is - and that really begins with the amazing faculty. HRS Mom
Re: Schools that foster creativity?
You described my kid and she's thriving at Head Royce. They have an amazing lower school art room and program headed by Miss Nathan. And of course art, theater, music and public speaking are infused through the core curriculum as well as with Miss Nathan's program. And, my kid participates in an afterschool musical theater class each Wednesday for a little extra fun. Head Royce's art, music and theater programs go from grades k-12. I strongly encourage you to check out the school's website to see what Head Royce does at lower (k-5), middle (6-8), and upper (9-12) grades. Www.headroyce.org Parent of another creative kid
Hi all, We are trying to decide on a school for my daughter and have narrowed our choices down to Prospect-Sierra and Head-Royce. We like the open spaces and hands-on labs at Prospect however worry that our daughter will need to apply for a High School as opposed to Head-Royce where she is all done until college applications. Head-Royce is a bit of a commute from our home near El Cerrito but we do not mind it if the education quality is that much better. I am truly confused between these two amazing schools and wanted to see if any of you have made a similar decision and can share some pros/cons. Aside from the commute which is do-able, my only concern is whether Head-Royce offers enough hands-on art, science and music experience in the Lower School. Thank you in advance for you help! K
Re: St Paul's or Head-Royce for kindergarten?
We are an African American family with a daughter and son attending Head Royce in the Lower School. Like you, I have a creative, energetic daughter. She is in first grade and is thriving at Head Royce. Diversity is a primary component of the School's mission statement and the School Administration proactively seeks out a diverse student body. In terms of African American students in the Lower School, there is a significant number which varies by grade. The current Kindergarten class has a large number of AA students. In first grade, the numbers are lower and the school has actively sought to increase the number of AA students. In particular, this academic year, new AA female students were admitted in both first and third grades demonstrating the school's committment to Increasing AA diversity at each grade level even beyond kindergarten enrollment. Overall, the Lower School has a strong African American community and I would encourage you to reach out to current families. My experience has been positive and both of my children are extremely happy at HR. In addition, there is an extremely talented African-American female kindergarten teacher who is a positive reflection for all students, and especially AA girls. C
Re: Bentley vs. Head Royce for K
My son was accepted to both schools, and I chose Head-Royce and am very happy with my choice. I have found Head-Royce to be very responsive to my child's needs and my requests. I also believe the commute is easier...I've found 24 can get very clogged up merging onto 580 as you approach the Bay Bridge.
Re: choosing a private high school
Choosing the right h.s. is really hard. I have kids at Head-Royce in 10th and 12th and every day I am reconvinced that we chose the right school (one entered at 6th grade and the other at 9th). My kids LOVE their school, their friends and their AMAZING teachers. They thrive on the atmosphere of a high bar of academic expectation/choices but also of ''just normal kids'' with many different interests and study habits. They do not feel that H-R is a school ''full of nerds'' (their words, not mine)but that the kids are more diverse and well-rounded.
We decided to stay in the east bay rather than consider commuting to a school farther away and that has been a really good choice. I can volunteer at the school and go for night time events without feeling like it's too much of a hassle; my kids are close to most of their friends' homes which is great as they get older and start driving and wanting to attend parties, etc. AND they don't have long commutes on top of homework and extracurricular interests.
We chose H-R over the other 3 east bay schools because after many visits we all felt like it was the most welcoming, comfortable and exciting place to be, and the right size. The 2 full-time college counselors have done an outstanding job of shepherding the 82 seniors through their process this fall. Many kids have already received early acceptances into the colleges of their choice. I did not believe that my son would do this on his own, on time, but his counselor really got to know him and guided him with weekly meetings and e-mails. They help the kids find colleges that are a good personal fit rather than trying to channel everyone into an ivy league school.
If you haven't already: go to some plays or concerts or sports events at the schools.Talk to other parents. Visit as often as you can. Have your kid do a shadow visit. Find out if you know folks with teenagers at those schools and grill them. Talk to parents of alums.
Parenting teenagers has been a (surprisingly) fun and rewarding experience so far and I truly believe that their school community is responsible for a huge part of their happiness and self-respect (and entertaining wit!) Good luck to you! A Very Happy Mom
This question was last posted in 2007. Could we please get your advices on this subject one more time? We're comparing CPS and Head-Royce and having a hard time judging how these two schools will fit our daughter who is academic-focused, motivated, doing well in school, but also wants to have a social life (doing music/sport, chatting with friends, shopping, having fun, etc.) Our questions:
1. Can such kid be happy at CPS? Because of our daughter's academic success to date, everyone we know assumes that we'll want her to go to CPS. We do have CPS at the top of our list and we care very much about the academics. However, we do want her to be happy in school as well.
2. Are CPS teachers caring and friendly? Do they create joyful, fun learning experiences that motivate students to want to learn and explore more? We were surprised at some teachers (9th grade teachers) during the open house -- they appeared disengaged and not particularly friendly. Our daughter had this same experience with two teachers during her visit. Did our family just hit two bad days?
3. How welcoming are Head-Royce kids and families? Will cliques be an issue for a new kid? Will a nice, middle-income family (with an old Honda and no BMW or Volvo) fit in?
4. From the BPN comments we read, many families suggested that CPS is the stronger academic high school than Head-Royce. We, as an outsider, cannot identify the major factors that would make it so. Is it the teachers? The teaching style? The classes offered? The kids? If a motivated-to-learn kid can magically be in these 2 schools at the same time, what about CPS could make her learn better, happier at CPS, and what about Head-Royce could make her learn better, happier at Head-Royce?
We thank you for any insights you can share with us. Anonymous
He got a great education at HR, but it was hell for him socially. He was bullied by a group of boys almost daily his first year. There were several(!) incidences of hazing in various sports teams over the course of several years, and non of these events met with any negative consequences for the perpetrators.
Kids ridicule each other, and are cruel to each other, everyone cares about clothes, money, and most importantly, status. Status is everything at HR. Most of the kids have been with each other since K. CPS and HR will challenge your child academically equally. In hind sight, I wish that my son had chosen CPS, as the entire freshman class comes in as a new kid and the kids as a group won't have ingrained negative behavior patterns.
HR campus is more beautiful, newer, and sunnier. Oakland Mom
We were very, very happy with the academics at Head-Royce. The faculty was by and large outstanding, setting high but realistic expectations. English, math, foreign language really stand out as strong departments. The dedication of the faculty at the school is simply wonderful. We were very impressed with the quality of the arts program as well (chorus and drama especially).
There are all kinds of families at the school, including a few wealthy ones. I don't know how economically diverse the student body is at CPS. Coming in at the high-school level does make a difference for the parent. Volunteering was a bit more intimidating simply because I hadn't known those parents over the elementary school years when a parent is more involved in school-life. But at the high-school level, you will be much more removed from your child's school life than ever before (except as chauffeur).
Editor note: see also reviews of CPS in response to this question.
Re: Considering Head Royce and Bentley for kindergarten
My children have attended both Head Royce and Bentley lower schools and I have only good things to say about each. Both schools have extremely nurturing environment with involved parents and teachers, and there is no dearth of art, music, science, math, all incorporated in a variety of ways into the curriculum. Additionally, the kids are wonderful, bright and exuberant, and the teachers by and large committed to their classrooms!! I believe the HRS lower school may have a few more students than Bentley, although the class sizes were the similar when my kids were in elementary school. The parents at both schools are devoted to their kids and come in many stripes and colors so it is not difficult to make lasting friends.
The main difference is that Bentley tends to be a bit more rigorous in lower school, and does not have a pool or tennis courts, which HRS kids enjoy. HRS is K-12 on the same campus, and is bigger overall, which is a plus for some and not for others. Both lower schools are extremely good. Feel free to email me [the moderator will give you my info] if you would like to know more. Grateful for, and happy with, Bentley and HRS
While I do not have any experience with Bentley, which I hear is a great school, I have two kids at Head-Royce, one in Lower School and one in Middle School (the Middle Schooler went through Lower School K-5), and I thought I'd share a few observations about Head-Royce. We have been very happy with our time at Head-Royce for both kids. Foremost, the teachers are excellent. The Lower School teachers have creative and targeted ways of teaching kids language arts and math, and they also care deeply about the social development of the kids. Both of my kids are very shy, but their teachers all took a special interest in them and helped nurture their strengths and challenged them to take risks and speak up. By the end of Lower School, my daughter received enough support to read her poetry in Lower School assembly -- something that I, as an adult, probably would not be able to do!
There is much that is strong about the Head-Royce curriculum, and I will highlight a few things. Kids get a lot of practice writing early on, and their writing skills develop over time from creative pieces about their hobbies to analytic pieces about American social history. The math program is also very intelligently put together -- but what I appreciate is that it is always under evaluation for improvement. The 5th grade class this year has incorporated some elements of Khan Academy to address different skill ranges in the classroom, and more problem solving skills are being taught in earlier grades (so that kids are not being taught math in a rote way, but asked to apply math skills three dimensionally). My kids both took (younger one still taking) Spanish in Lower School, and I think the teacher is fantastic. My son is conjugating simple verbs after his first semester of Spanish. And intermixed with language instruction is a fun dosage of cultural exploration, so that students understand some of the cultural background that forms the backbone of the Spanish language. Right now, Head-Royce offers two foreign languages in Lower School: Spanish and French. But as one other parent noted, next year, Mandarin will be added into the Lower School language curriculum. My older child is currently taking Mandarin in Head-RoyceC",E!s Middle School, and the teacher is absolutely amazing (the kids have already acquired knowledge of, both written and oral, a sizable amount of Chinese characters - no easy feat).
Just as important as a strong academic program is the school's emphasis on helping kids develop into thoughtful and socially aware kids. This year, the school has incorporated the theme of "Welcoming Schools" into the curriculum, which focuses on "creating a positive school community, reducing gender stereotyping, and inclusion of all kinds of families." The program's activities are designed to help kids become strong, unique individuals, but also respect, embrace, and connect with the diverse school community around them. Indeed, while Head-Royce is a very friendly environment (both my kids have very good friends there -- even though, as I mentioned, they are very shy), it is vigilant about maintaining its welcoming environment and handles social conflicts in a thoughtful, compassionate, and constructive manner. All in all, I highly recommend Head-Royce and would certainly encourage you to apply to its kindergarten program.
I realize your original question asked for a comparison of Head-Royce to Bentley. I do not know enough about Bentley to comment on it, but I have heard wonderful things about Bentley and have no doubt that your child would thrive there too. The one comment that I did want to make relates to academic rigor. It seems to be the prevailing belief that Bentley is perhaps one of the most academically rigorous schools in the area. My daughter went through the entire Lower School at Head-Royce, and I wondered how she would fare in Middle School when the class size doubled, and new kids from top public and private schools (including Bentley) were welcomed into the class (and this expansion, as one other parent also commented, is a great thing for the kids). So far, so good. She loves the teachers in Middle School (and here I need to do a little plug on the Middle School -- just an outstanding program and the teachers are amazing!!), is very intellectually engaged, and seems very well prepared by the Head-Royce Lower School to handle the challenges of a very rigorous Middle School. So, by that measure, I would say the Head-Royce Lower School's academic program is rigorous too, as well as creative, fun, and prepares kids well for their next step.
Re: What GPA is needed to apply to CPS or Head Royce?
Your child does not need to have a 4.0 GPA to apply to the Head-Royce School. HRS looks for a well-rounded child and promotes the same in its education. Neither of my 2 sons had perfect grades going in or while at the school. They did, however, get an excellent education and various nonacademic opportunities. No school is perfect, and neither are the kids that go there. Don't let the school's reputation stop you from applying--visit the school and judge for yourself. HRS mom
Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
I have two children who attend Head-Royce and our perception is quite different from yours. I suggest you apply to the schools you're interested in and ask to speak to similar parents once you've been accepted to get more information before you accept. You have no guarantees you'll get into the first school of your choice.
What can I tell you about HRS Middle School? They give the students a strong foundation for high school in both academics and study skills. By the time they start high school, their study skills are pretty much in place. You can see how the school is getting them ready for college.
My oldest has a friend who is very strong in math and is two plus years ahead of his peers. In 6th grade, he took Algebra, 7th grade Geometry, 8th grade Alegebra II honors, etc. By the time he graduates, he will have taken every advanced, AP math class at HRS. In high school, students can take a summer accelerated Geometry course too. My oldest found science in middle school to be very interesting and challenging. There is quite a bit of lab time and it's very hands on. In 8th grade they learned about physical science and the year ended with a sludge project. Each team had to apply what they learned to determine the components of their sludge. Plus, each team had a different ''mix.'' The kids loved it.
In middle school, the fine arts consist of chorus, drama and art. The middle school orchestra is great, plus there's a jazz band. The school highly values a balanced, well rounded student. HRS also understands the importance of public speaking and it is nurtured from day one in kindergarten.
Every school has parent ambassadors. Ask them to put you in touch with parents of similar children. You can see how they navigated the middle school years.
The students at HRS are very engaged and excited about the process of learning. The faculty and administration are too. Good luck in your search. HRS parent
Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Dear Interested Parent,
I have a school for you -- Head-Royce School! We are in our sixth year of being a Head-Royce family and have found ourselves liking Head-Royce more and more every year. There are several things that I love about Head-Royce, and I think they coincide with what you are looking for in a school (same things we looked for too!).
First, the incomparably fabulous teachers. You remember that teacher you had in school that you thought was the ''best teacher ever?'' Almost all the teachers we've had at Head-Royce are like that. All the teachers have taken the time to get to know our kids -- their strengths and weaknesses -- and they work hard at bringing out the best in them. My daughter was very shy when she started at Head-Royce, and her teachers gently encouraged her to speak up and write down her thoughts. One day, my daughter's teacher asked her to read her poem out loud -- she did and was roundly supported by her class. Today, she participates actively in class and understands that learning does not mean always being right, but it does mean always giving it your best try.
What I also love about Head-Royce is its desire to keep improving. The teachers are always thinking ''How can I do this even better?'' Since I do have two kids going through the school, I am able to see how my younger son's class is taught differently from my older daughter's. For example, I can see curricular changes that have improved the way math is taught to kids with differing capabilities -- making it fun and challenging for everyone (and to be honest, things were really good the first time around with my daughter's class -- what's nice is that the teachers don't rest on their laurels -- they want to improve). When I asked about the improvements, the teacher answered that she had learned new methods at a seminar she attended. Because Head-Royce teachers are given many opportunities for professional development, they are able and eager to review and revise their programs in a way that best works for our kids.
And I smiled when I read about your desire to have a ''joyful classroom'' because that is one of my favorite aspects of Head-Royce. From the moment you walk into a classroom and are greeted by friendly faces, colorful art, and fun activities neatly arranged in the room, you know you are in for a fun, interactive learning experience. Learning occurs in so many settings at Head-Royce -- in the classrooms with journal writing and math games, in the edible garden as you learn about photosynthesis and composting, in the science lab as you investigate electrical circuits, in the art room as you create a self-portrait, in the soccer fields, in the library, in dance class, in rehearsing for a class play, in visiting a senior citizens' home to try and brighten their day, in computer class, in exploring a nearby creek, in simulating a pioneer trip at a nearby wooded area, in creating music books for a homeless shelter, in putting together a musical extravaganza, in an overnight camping trip where an entire class bonds and learns to appreciate each other and the world around them...the possibilities seem endless, and I cannot tell you the number of times that my kids come home and tell me excitedly, ''Guess what I learned today?'' And I get this excitement from my 2nd grade boy and my 5th grade daughter, two very different kids. For a parent, it does not get much better than that.
Finally, I want to touch upon your question about bullying. Like all schools, Head-Royce has its share of students who may be more assertive than others. But what I have been so impressed by and pleased with, is the absence of any real bullying in my kids' classes. I have not met any ''mean kids'' thus far. Both of my kids are somewhat shy and both have wonderful friends. I do feel Head-Royce proactively addresses this issue by stressing respect for each other inside and outside the classroom. The classes often come up with ''rules for the class,'' and what I have seen in these class rules year after year -- is being kind and respectful to one another. The other helpful aspect is that the classes are very diverse -- my kids have friends of different color, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, and both genders. One of Head-Royce's strong messages is that every one can make a difference, and that every person's uniqueness should be embraced.
As the kids get older, the school tries different methods of reaching out to the kids on how to treat each other kindly. For example, one of the lower school counselors started a weekly girls group for the fifth grade girls. In a letter to the parents, she wrote ''the group came to fruition after faculty, teachers and students voiced an interest in having a space where girls could talk with one another about building stronger community, better communication, and managing conflicts more effectively. I have had significant experience with facilitating groups for school age kids that focus on building more collaborative relationships, so I am a very willing and energized group leader! The response to the group has been overwhelmingly positive and the girls are already actively expressing a desire to use the space to voice their needs and hopes.'' My daughter has enjoyed these lunch meetings a lot, and I can tell you, these meetings were not precipitated by any bullying -- rather, it was an insightful way in which Head-Royce recognized community building could prevent bullying.
I hope my somewhat long message has helped answer some of your questions. We truly love Head-Royce, and I can go on and on about it. If you have an opportunity, please visit! It is a wonderfully special experience. Parent of Happy Head-Royce Kids
Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Please come take a look at Head-Royce School, you might be surprised by what you find! Our experience in the Lower School (we have two boys, one in K and one in 2nd) has been amazing. The school really values teaching the whole child, incorporating academic as well as social and emotional skills. The classes and the children are joyful and there is tremendous respect and support for the many different styles of learning children exhibit. There is art, music, dance, computers, an exciting science program, an amazing P.E. program focused on skills not competition, a mindfulness curriculum in every grade that is woven into the daily routines, and more. Most important of all, the teachers are enthusiastic, creative, flexible, well-supported, dedicated to ongoing professional development, and they love the children and what they do.
We are a two-mom family, and we have felt welcomed and supported at Head-Royce. There are over two dozen LGBTQ-headed families at the school, who form an active and tight-knit network which also includes allies, students, and parents of students who identify as LGBTQ or who are non- traditional in their gender expression. The school is truly committed to its diversity mission and recognizes that diversity is never ''done,'' it is an ongoing conversation of learning from and about each other. There are many different ethnicities, faiths, family structures, socio-economic backgrounds, and viewpoints at the school, and the bottom line in all interactions is respect for each other and bonding as a community. Feel free to e-mail if you'd like to talk more about Head-Royce, and I encourage you to come for a tour - it is really worth considering among the many terrific schools out there!
We are applying to Kindergarten at Head Royce this year, and I have heard mixed reviews about the school. I am curious about all aspects of the school, of course, but I am specifically wondering about the financial diversity at the school. We are a family that is somewhere in the middle, and I worry that our kids will feel intimidated by the huge wealth of some of the other students. Is this an issue? Or are there other issues I should consider? I would also love to hear about all the great things going on there :) Thanks!! proactively curious
We would probably be considered quite comfortable in most parts of the US, But to send our kids to H-R (even on financial aid) requires a lot of sacrifice and makes us feel rather poor. But is soooooo worth it! Head-Royce has been an incredibly rich academic experience for my kids (no pun intended). The high school, especially, is amazing: smart and dedicated teaching staff and low student/teacher ratios. For the most part your kid's classmates will be high achieving, interesting, hard- working students who are also well-rounded. It is a friendly place.
My kids tell me H-R kids think the H-R high school is best, followed by the middle school and then the elementary school. So their recommendation is to send your child someplace else for elementary school and then apply to Head-Royce for middle or high school. Some kids who start in K want to try something else by the time they hit high school, so they leave and go to BHS, BOD, etc... missing out on the best H-R has to offer. Of course there are a handful of ''lifers'' graduating every year too.
Head-Royce's elitist snobby reputation is very undeserved, in our experience. Happy being part of Head-Royce's economic diversity
Regarding financial diversity, we had the exact same concerns, and in this regard, Head-Royce was a pleasant surprise. Two things stand out. First, Head-Royce has a good financial aid program that helps to make private school affordable for a wide range of families. Second, and just as important, is that money is far from the center of life at the school. The main reason, I think, is that the school goes out of its way to find families who, even if they are fortunate enough to be financially successful, have a healthy sense of where money belongs in the large scheme of things. In fact, the school environment is such that no one really knows (nor is it important to anyone to find out) each other's financial standings. And at the ground level, my kids have never come home discussing the material wealth of their friends, only how much fun they are having learning and playing with them -- a source of happy relief for me. Indeed, what the school community does share, is a deep love for their kids and a commitment to continually making the school a better place for it's kids to grow and learn -- this can be through donations, but it can also be through spending time helping kids in and out of the classroom. Everyone's contributions, in whatever form, are appreciated.
The second part of your question asked about great things going on at Head-Royce -- and there are so many! Since I don't want to inundate BPN, I will try to be brief. Foremost, I think the teachers at Head-Royce are fantastic. They not only teach academic skills in creative and effective ways, they are also extremely caring and take the time to get to know your kids. Both my kids are on the shy side, and when we started our journey at Head-Royce, I worried about whether they would disappear in a crowd of overachieving, outspoken kids. No such thing. Since kindergarten, my third grade daughter's teachers have been encouraging her to speak up, take risks, and share her talents -- and they do so by making her feel that what she has to say is important. Today, my daughter, who loves to write (and those writing skills were very much nurtured by her teachers at Head-Royce), enjoys reading her poems out loud in class, taking on speaking roles in class plays, and raising her hand -- even for those difficult questions where ''I might be wrong, but at least I'll try.''
My son, who is currently a kindergartener, is also shy (I guess it runs in the family!), and during our first conference, his teacher had many insightful observations about him. I was really surprised that she understood him so well in a few short weeks. And she said, ''Well, I talk to him, and I listen to him -- I mean, really listen to him. He has a lot to say. He's a deep thinker, but you have to ask questions, and listen.'' I was really touched by that -- kindergarten is a busy place, but my son's teacher took the time to listen and to find out what made my son tick. Armed with that knowledge, my son's teacher created a nurturing environment for him, where today, he has many friends, loves school, raises his hand, loves to read, and looks forward to the ''project of the day.''
In addition to it's great teachers, Head-Royce also has a wonderful education philosophy. First, Head-Royce does embody academic excellence -- children start learning how to write early on -- kindergarteners keep a weekly journal, and it is amazing to see how their writing develops from a few words at the beginning of the year to several sentences by the middle of the year. By third grade, children are writing a wide range of compositions -- poems, book reports, research projects. Math is also taught both in traditional ways and through math games, puzzles, and math problems that require ''outside the box'' type thinking. But Head-Royce is more than just excellent academic skills. Throughout their teachings, Head-Royce teachers instill in the kids a sense of curiosity, desire to learn more, willingness to push themselves to do better, and most importantly, the ability to cope with mistakes and failures on initial attempts -- the so-called ''exercising of the disappointment muscle'' as some teachers call it. Indeed, our lower school head insisted that Head-Royce be a place where kids would not be afraid to make mistakes, because making mistakes is how one learns.
Head-Royce's education also embraces what they call the ''whole child.'' Kids are exposed to a rich program of music, dance, art, gardening, and athletics. One of my favorite events is the ''May Dances'' in the spring. Every class puts on a dance show, and our music faculty (which is phenomenal) manages to create new dances from different cultures and societies every year! And of course, there is the cute factor too -- last year's kindergarteners put on a really good swing dance :-). Gardening has also become an integral part of Head-Royce. You may have heard that Head-Royce is committed to being a ''Green School.'' In constructing it's new facilities, the school very carefully chose construction that have lead it to being certified as a green business. In the classroom, kids learn about waste reduction, recycling, pollution prevention, caring for nature, and energy conservation. Having a garden that the kids care for, brings them closer to the nature that they are trying to protect (and as a side benefit, according to my kids, kale can taste good! Especially when it comes from the school garden).
In addition to activities that promote kids to think about being ''green,'' community service is taught and encouraged even at the youngest age. Kindergarteners make trips throughout the year to a senior citizen's home to visit, put on shows, and play games and chat with the residents. All grades collect wish list items during the holidays to gift to needy families. And citizenship is taught at every opportunity to kids, reminding kids of their privileges and the ability they have to improve the lives of others less fortunate. And alongside citizenship, kids are taught compassion toward everyone -- including each other. Starting in kindergarten, there is an emphasis on kindness and learning how to be a ''good friend.'' And our kids have reaped the fruits of these teachings -- they both have made wonderful, good friends at Head-Royce.
Finally, I want to say that the Head-Royce community is one of the warmest, kindest, friendliest communities I've been lucky enough to be a part of. We have met so many families that have become good friends, and have simply fallen in love with the kids in both of our kids' classes. Corny as it may sound, there are so many nice people at Head-Royce -- in the parent community, in the kids' classroom, in the administration -- it is a very welcoming community. And a quick note on diversity -- Head-Royce strives and I believe has succeeded in creating a student body that is diverse racially, culturally, financially, and personality-wise. A quick glance at the classroom reveals the diverse yet complementary nature of the students, which I am confident is the reason why you hear so many parents and kids say ''wow, I love the kids in my class.'' Happy Head-Royce parent
My daughter is a student in the lower school at Head-Royce and we love it. I think the school gets a bad rap because of its location, tuition and the reputation of being a school for the lwealthyn. I'm sure that Head-Royce is well aware of its reputation and they admit a variety of students. Yes, some of them are from wealthy families and some aren't. The people that start these types of rumors usually do not have children who are students at the school. It's a very warm and nurturing community where everyone works together to achieve a common goal and that is to educate young minds. Everyone that I have come in contact with has been very nice. Remember, there are rich families whose children attend public schools too, so therems no getting around the rich thing. The only way you can see if a student has a wealthy family would be if a classmate has a birthday party or a play date. Otherwise the so-called rumored wealth isn't flaunted, at least not in the lower school. Maybe another Head-Royce parent has a different opinion than mine. Imm telling you what Imve experienced since my daughter has been a student there.
The only way you can feel at ease will be to tour the school. and ask any and every question imaginable. You can even ask about the lwealthn issue that you think could be a problem. After all, you are spending your money and you have to be comfortable with your decision.
I hope I answered your questions. Please check out some of the BPN posts about Head-Royce. Most of them provide accurate information about the school. Good luck with your search. Head-Royce Parent
Re: Which Private High School?
I have had two children in HRS for high school, one graduating last June; a few yrs earlier I had another at CPS. CPS is indeed a fine school: strong academics and great teachers. HRS also offers plenty of academic challenges, especially in science, and every year graduates very competitive students. The student body is more diverse academicaly at HRS, which results in more choice within the subjects and greater sensitivity to individuals but all the courses are intense and the students work hard. I thought both the faculty and staff were quite dedicated. Both of my HRS students (as well as my CPS student) have proven themselves well prepared for college courses. Socially,both of my HRS students arrived in upper school grades and had no difficulty finding a comfortable place on campus; at CPS everyone is ''new'' but at HRS students come in not only at 9th grade but also all through middle school, so the flux is continual. New kids seem pretty popular as they stir the student mix around. There are surely cliques in both places, with slightly different compositions (nerds, jocks, artsy students, socialites, academic overachievers etc) but everyone finds a good place. It sort of seems that as HRS continues to grow more diverse, the older aura of ''rich kids on the hill'' is antiquated. At CPS, it was my experience that there is great reliance on the students to make decisions, to take responsibility and to mature quickly, all good goals, but applied across the board. At HRS, i felt there was more choice for students, and more support for students with different strengths on both ends of the scale. HRS was for us a kinder, gentler place and a great fit for my kids. In my mind, the two schools are competitive in mission but with different approaches to education. E.S.
Re: Looking for a good K-8 school
If you are looking for a K-8 program, I highly recommend and hope you will take a look at Head-Royce School (although FYI, Head-Royce is technically a K-12 school -- Lower School comprises of K-5, Middle School comprises of 6-8, and High School comprises of 9-12). I have two children there -- one, a daughter in third grade, the other, a son in kindergarten. My kids have different personalities, but both love school and are thriving. They come home every day rattling off their latest adventures in the science lab, in music class, doing messy art, growing tomatoes, figuring out math games, and writing poems. Head-Royce is truly a special school.
There are several reasons why we like Head-Royce so much. First, the teachers are phenomenal. At every parent-teacher conference, I've always been impressed by how deeply the teachers understand our kids and help them overcome whatever challenges they face. An example is my daughter. She entered Head-Royce as a shy child who was very nervous about raising her hand in class. Her teachers gently encouraged her to speak up. And when they realized my daughter had a passion for writing, they encouraged her to share her work with the class. One day, my daughter did share her work -- telling me that stories are written to be heard. Her story was greeted with such enthusiasm from her fellow classmates and teachers, it made her realize that she could speak up without being afraid. Afterward, her teacher even wrote her a kind and touching card congratulating her on a job well done. It was a moving experience for me to see my shy child take such an intellectual and emotional risk, and even more moving knowing the support she received from her teachers and friends.
This leads me to my next point. Head-Royce is a place that encourages intellectual risk-taking. Our Lower School Head once said that Lower School is a place where kids should be free to ask questions, to be curious, and not to be stopped from learning for fear of making a mistake. And I have really seen this in action. My daughter is happy about raising her hand every day -- and when I asked her if she only answered questions she knew for sure was right, she said no. She tried answering the hard questions too, ones she was not sure about. Testing her theories was part of learning, and if she got the answer wrong -- well, she was taught, that was one step closer to being right. Indeed, kids are encouraged early on to express their ideas. In first grade, for example, kids keep an ''opinion journal'' where they can express their opinion on a variety of issues, ranging from recycling to the latest field trip to eating green vegetables for dinner. By the time these kids graduate from Lower School, they have received lots of writing experience and have developed a good sense for oral and written communication.
Another quick word on the academics. Head-Royce has an excellent academic program. In all facets of their teaching, Head-Royce teachers, while teaching all the fundamentals the kids need to learn, go beyond to encourage ''outside the box'' critical thinking. Math is learned not merely through computation worksheets, but through math games, logic puzzles, and being ''banker'' for the class simulation of a town.
Another point I truly admire about Head-Royce is its insistence that compassion and respect be nurtured early on in the classroom. Starting in kindergarten, teachers discuss what it means to be a good friend, how to be a good listener to other people's ideas, how to respectfully disagree, and ways to express appreciation towards one another. I have actually noticed my little boy saying, with much greater frequency, things like -- ''thank you for making me snack, Mommy -- you are always so nice to me'' -- since he began kindergarten. The kids are also taught to be socially aware. Service learning is a part of every grade, and social issues are taught in class. One of the issues being emphasized this year is what it means to ''go green.'' Recycling, creating edible gardens (and the school has a wonderful garden!), and minimizing waste -- all these have become such an integral part of our kids' thinking. My son is the enthusiastic recycling guru in our household, and my daughter reminds us to save water. And on an administrative note, the school does take environmental issues seriously. For example, when expanding its campus, Head-Royce committed to building ''green'' structures.
I wanted to share one final observation about the Head-Royce community. It is a wonderfully warm and receptive community on all fronts -- from the teachers, to the administrators, to the children, to the parents. Indeed, the families that we have had the fortune of becoming friends with have all been some of the most supportive, generous, and thoughtful people we have ever met. And the kids -- well, I fell in love with my daughter's class because all the kids were just... well... so nice. They encourage each other, appreciate each other, and are so earnest and thoughtful about learning. I thought I would never find a comparable class. Then I met my son's kindergarten class and fell in love again.
Well, as you can tell, I am a big fan of Head-Royce and could probably go on more about why I feel it's a special school -- but I have gone on for so long already! So, to sum up, I do believe that the combination of intellectual stimulation, citizenship, compassion, and community make Head-Royce a uniquely wonderful school. I encourage you to take a look at their website: http://www.headroyce.org/. I hope this helps! Happy Head-Royce parent
Re: CPS vs. Head Royce
We were in your same place a year ago. Fortunately, our son was accepted at both CPS and HRS and he chose HRS. He just finished 9th grade and it's been a great experience for him academically and socially. We were concerned that at HRS he'd be a new kid in a sea of ''lifers'' but he fit in easily and had friends there already and has made new ones. We also heard rumors of HRS parents being snobs but we haven't experienced it at all (and i do occasional volunteer work so i interact with other parents). In fact, the HRS parents i've encountered have been polite, kind, and helpful. One even turned me on to the preschool my youngest child will be attending in September. My kid said he did not choose CPS because it seemed rigid, overly structured and not as focused on his ''whole person'' as he believed HRS would be. He's happy at HRS and we're pleased he chose it. Hope that helps. Good luck. What a great choice u get to make!
Re: Private high school for N.Berkeley kids?
If you are looking for quality sports facilities for a high school you might consider Head Royce in Oakland. It is located near the mormon temple off of Hwy 13. My son is going there for middle school. While we have yet to experience the school, I can say the campus boasts beautiful sports facilities and we were very impressed with the classes we observed. They also have a strong drama and art program to go along with academics. Terri
We are now looking for private high schools. I have read
the old postings. I would appreciate any info concerning
amout of homework per night at Head Royce, CPS, Bentley
High, and Lick in the high school. Also, I have heard some
of the schools are extremely stressful to the poiont of
making the kids unhappy or depressed. Any input would be
I should add that there are other factors to consider since this is a somewhat subjective assessment. First, my daughters came from a middle school with an emphasis on academics and a sizeable homework load. Second, they are not involved in team sports that require a heavy practice schedule. Finally, their commute to school is fairly short, so there is less exhaustion during those homework hours. Incidentally, HR appears sensitive to the issue of homework overload and conducted a parent survey on that topic a few years ago. Feel free to contact me directly if you have more questions, and good luck with your search, Laura
I have to make a decision about private vs. public school for my
soon-to-be kindergartener. We live in Berkeley.
In the event we go for private, we are seriously considering Head
Royce. The academic reviews are great. I would like to hear
from parents/students about the social environment of the school.
1. the use and availability of drugs. Previous responses are silent as to this subject.
2. elitism. are there cliques based on socio economic class? is there a lot of pressure to dress a certain way, drive a certain car, have certain gadgets, have a certain type of birthday party, live is particular neighborhoods, etc? I know my daughter is one to succumb to such pressures and I want to know whether this is a huge concern.
3. any issues concerning bullying (not just aggressive stuff, emotional stuff, too)? if so, how does the school handle this? I would also like someone to address the academic load in middle and high school. I appreciate the academic challenge HR offers to its students, however, is it over the top? Are students able to cope with the challenge or is it so overwhelming and stressful so as to take away from the enjoyment of school? Anyone leave HR for this reason?
Are there a lot of hidden costs? field trips, after school care, tennis lessons, other electives, etc. in addition to the tuition? what are some big ones? is there a sibling discount? are siblings guaranteed admission?
Lastly, if someone could address the entrance process. How does one get in? What is the competition like? What are the admissions people looking for? How important is the preschool one attends? What should we expect at the 'interview?' etc. Thank you, kindly. Anon
Hi, as we consider kindergarten choices in the next year I have some questions about Head Royce not covered by postings in the archives. From older kids I know I have seen it to be a warm and lively school, but one that puts very stringent demands on kids even at a young age. (I have heard of 3rd and 4th graders having panic attacks about homework levels.) Our preschooler is very bright, and I'm not really worried about whether he'd be 'up to it', but I'd be eager to hear from other parents of kids in the Lower School (which I know will have a new Head as of next year) about their experiences. Do people feel their children are getting a well-rounded education, valuing the creativity and individuality of the child? Or is it really one long grinding journey toward the Ivy League education parents are hoping for at the end of the line?! We are eager to have our child challenged, and love what we have seen of the music and sports programs at the school, but are interested in allowing our child to thrive as the imaginative and curious person he is. Any comments much appreciated, thanks. anon
I would still appreciate some more views on Head Royce. My son loves the
school. We were a bit concerned
about some things.
1. Do they not make the current HR middle school students pass the entrance test ISEE to the same level for acceptance into the high school?
2 The student newspaper focused quite a bit on religious discrimination felt by some of the kids. Is this that big a problem?
3. More drugs than usual?
I really don't know enough to address questions #2 and #3. In the hypothetical situation of an instance of religious intolerance I have to assume that the administration and faculty would step in fairly aggressively to deal with the problem and educate the students on the issue. As for more drugs than usual, as the parent of a Junior I sure hope that's not the case and haven't heard any fact or rumor to substantiate this notion.
You didn't ask, but I'll volunteer my own opinion that H-R offers a terrific high school program: outstanding faculty,and a very nice balance between academics and elective subjects. Best of luck to you and your 8th grader. laura
My son went to Bentley and then Head Royce. He loved Head Royce which he transferred to in high school (Bentley at that time had no high school). We were very pleased with the school and the teachers and were somewhat let down when my daughter decided to go to CPS instead of Head Royce. However she has been at CPS for 2 years and both she and her parents love the school. I had thought and heard that it was too academically strict, but she copes well with the homework. The teachers take a very personal and active interest in the individual student and the parents are great. Stella
There have been a few rough years - but this is to be expected as out kids grow and change. Many of our concerns have been addressed - such as the middle school head- where the new director is fabulous. Another was their implmentation of their committment to diversity - which is improving significantly - but still needs work. We have had extraordinary experiences with teachers - to the point of awesome, love the small classes and extensive on-site resources. The cost is high - but you get a very big bang for your buck.
The Lower school (K-5) is the best I have seen - great compassion, insightful teaching staff, emphasis on community, and making acedemics a pleasure. We are strong advocates of the school's philospohy to balance academics, the arts and athletics, and appreciate how both have been integrated into the curriculum from Day 1.
If you were to ask our son in 9th grade - he would say he is ready to move on to Berkeley High. He wants to be in larger - more diverse environment with new people. We are glad he fells this way!! - and we are dicussing it. Meanwhile he is taking Physics, Russian and Chinese History, English, Photography, Jazz Band, Honors Geometry, Spanish, is on the Basketball team and still has time for computer games and goofing around. We think the High School at Head Royce is terrific and might give him the structure he needs to focus and excel. Socially, it is hard for him to be in the same school for 12 years. The decision will be a balance of what is right for him- it will not be because we are unhappy with Head Royce, but because it is time for him to make a change.
If you were to ask our son in 4th grade - he would tell you he LOVES everything about it. We see him ''dancing through life - learning amazing personal skills - including social consciousness, self-reliance and self-motivation. Basics are so well in place now, he could go anywhere.
We're considering Head-Royce for high school. I'd love to hear about the experience of other families who've had students there.. particularly feedback about the quality of education, competetive atmosphere between the students, snobbery, encouragement of creativity, etc. Thanks! a curious mom
We couldn't be happier about the educational program: outstanding faculty, great individual attention given to students,detailed report cards that really tell you something about your child,etc. I am not sure what you mean specifically by ''encouragement of creativity''; all I can say is that the program strongly encourages students to pursue not just one but two electives in the arts,and that while challenging, the classroom/homework load doesn't seem overly intense.
By all means don't hesitate to email me directly if you have more questions about the school and my daughter's experience there. Best of luck dealing with the high school admission game, Laura
I have a child at Head-Royce and I think I should correct what is a significant error in this post. HR does have a GUARANTEED sibling preference. Siblings are considered (along with children of faculty and those from traditionally disadvantaged minority groups) before other children who don't fit those categories. As long as a sib is found to be qualified (ie, can do the work) that sib will be admitted. If the child has a late summer birthday and the school feels she would benefit from another year in preK or preschool, admission will be postponed for a year. However, my daughter's class is replete with August, July, June birthdays. My daughter has an October 31 birthday and is definitely one of the older children in the class.
Also, I have found that the reputation the school has for having "well-to-do" families is somewhat inaccurate. While there are certainly plenty of kids from "two-lawyer" families, there are also lots of kids who receive financial aid, children of artists, writers, sports-trainers, therapists, academics, ethno-musicologists, tropical fish store owners, research scientists (and I'm just thinking of the families in my daughter's class).
Furthermore -- as to drawing primarily from Piedmont/Montclair -- I've also not found this to be so. There may be families from Piedmont in Sophie's class, but I've never met them. There are many Oakland families, many Berkeley -- including North Berkeley (there's a bus), even the odd Fremont family. The draw is very broad. I've noticed that all the local schools have these very elaborate "reputations" that, in my experience with Head Royce at least, are not particularly accurate. When we were looking into schools we never imagined we'd send out daughter to Head Royce. It blew us away, however. And we're very happy with our decision. AW
From: a dad in the EECS department
We have all three of our kids at Head-Royce School. We placed our first their because she wasn't being challenged by the public school she attended. They all love the school.
Let me refer you to their web-site. http://www.hrs.pvt.k12.ca.us/
Applications were due on January 20. This may explain the lack of responsiveness from the admissions staff. I seem to remember a sort of closed mouth attitude until our first was admitted. Addmission are very competitive, and require testing and letters of recommendation. The results of this years addmissions will be announced on March 15.
Families from all over the east bay send their children to Head-Royce. We live in Hayward, I know others in Dublin, Lafyette, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda, San Leandro, even Antioch. Many are putting their children through at great personal cost - driving old cars and living in small homes or appartments. Certainly some come from Piedmont and Montclaire and Orinda and extreme affluence.
I know a couple of other faculty and staff members at UCB who send their children. It is a strong community, I've had nothing but pleasant, helpful interactions with the parents. I'm particularly impressed walking through the school on an average day by the politeness of the students. The faculty have been very friendly and helpful.
The students get a lot of homework-- 30-40 minutes per subject per day (says the policy - we experience quite a bit more at times) in middle and high school. The Elementary students are supposed to be able to dispatch theirs in a couple of hours (our results vary) with no weekend homework for elementary.
The facilities are good, class sizes small-- 18 in elemetary 15 in middle and high. Sports is part of the program with tennis, swimming, volleyball, basketball, soccer, rugby, cross-country, baseball, etc. (no football- no marching band). Many types of after $chool program$ are avaiable. This is a VERY liberal education. They still have an affirmative action program. This is a k-12 school which features two 18 student classes k-5 and 15-18 students per class 6-12, with only 75 students at each grade 6-12.
Admissions are very selective. Tuition is steep. Profile of Head-Royce School
An independent, coeducational, college-preparatory, K-12 school that strives to inspire in its students a lifelong love of learning, a desire for academic excellence, a respect for diversity, and encourages constructive and responsible citizenship.
Founded: In 1887 as the Anna Head School for Girls; incorporated not-for-profit in 1957
Enrollment: 735 students
Faculty: 96 including full and part-time members
Average class size: 15
Student/faculty ratio: 10:1
Facilities: six structures on a fourteen acre campus, including a gym, swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, soccer field and baseball/softball diamond
Tuition: $8,600 to $12,775; additional fees for books, elective arts classes, class trips, and tennis lessons
School year: September 2, 1997 to June 12, 1998
Accredited by: The Western Association of Schools and Colleges; California Association of Independent Schools
Head of School: Paul D. Chapman, B.A. Yale University, M.A. and Ph.D. Stanford University
We are considering Head Royce for Kindergarden. While there seems to be no question about the academics, we are more concerned about the social scene, particularly as she gets older. I have concerns about her being in an environment of predominantly smart privledged kids-- snobbery, materialism, competition--both academic and social. I have heard second hand of people being disatsified with the social enviromnent and even pulling their kids out. I'd appreciate any comments of parents from kids at all ages. Thanks.
don't want my kid to become a snob
It is very hard in Junior High and High School if you can't dress in the right clothes. It's hard when all of your friends live in mansions and vacation in Europe over the winter holiday. I ended up feeling very embarassed of my family, my house, my vacations, my clothes - and consequently desperately wished to be wealthy. I remember at one point begging my mother to get a maid (if you can believe it!) My main goal in life upon graduation was to make a lot money and it took quite a few years before I came to terms with my issues surrounding money and realized that happiness doesn't always go hand in hand with wealth.
I got an AMAZING academic education at Head Royce - better than my college education in fact. But, I think that ideally a school is both academically rigorous and allows students to meet a variety of kids from all sorts of backgrounds. When I was there, that wasn't really the case.
If you child does end up going to Head Royce and is not from the kind of wealth that is prevalent there, then I would try to make sure that this is a topic that is discussed a lot at home and that there are other social opportunities outside of school for you child to meet other kinds of kids. Good luck wiser now...
The reality is that all private schools have a large contingent of more affluent families - they cost alot!! The pressures that come from this (where your friends go on vacation, what gifts they get at the holidays, etc) is not unique to Head Royce - it is going to be an issue for you and your family at any private school. Acknowledging and rejoicing in our differences is part of the mission and curiculum at Head Royce, and we feel they ''walk the talk.'' Very few families have left the school that we know of - and those who did had unique and complex reasons. Lack of racial/ ethnic diversity is a problem for all the private schools and no matter what the others say - they are all very similar. They all need to do better. The tone about social and material things is set by the administrators and teachers - and by what you project to your kids yourself.
I have applied for my son to attend Kindergarten at Redwood Day, St. Paul's and Head Royce. I wondered if parents with experience in these schools' aftercare programs have anything to say about them. Thank you! -prospective mom
Has anyone had any experience with the Head Royce summer program? It looks great for a summer academic theme camp, sort of balancing fun with work. My daughter is in need of some math work and she has a mild learning difference. Does anyone have any experience with the program to be able to tell me how rigorous this is? I don't want her to feel like a fish out of water, or put her in a program too hard to be of help to her. I am having difficulty finding a math camp for a 13 y/o believe it or not. Thanks for the input......
Re: Low-key half day camps for just-turned 6 yr-old?
Last summer I taught a half-day course for middle schoolers at the Head-Royce Summer Program, while my three lower school children (then 5,7, 9) attended the LS program. They LOVED the camp so much that they begged to go all day. They could swim, do science projects, play in the garden, read and craft stories, among other academic and playful activities. Most of all, they enjoyed making new friends from all over the Bay Area. Come check it out! Hilary
Re: Summer Camp with daily swimming
Hey folks summer is upon us and if you are a busy working parent like me looking for a great summer program for your kids I have news for you! My son has been attending Head Royce Summer School going on his third summer. We love the program and while it costs a little more than some it is definately well worth the money. The program offers academics, creative courses, sports, and swimming. The combination keeps the kids interested and excited about attending. For me my greatest pleasure is knowing that my son is in a safe place, where the adults and youth couselors keep the best interest of the children at heart and behave in line with that philosophy. We are going back again this summer and are filled with excited anticipation. Hope to see you there. nk
We have sent our oldest child to Head Royce for 3 summers and our youngest for 1 summer but will not be sending them again. In the past we have liked the program because they have a great swim hour every day, it is convenient, runs for 6 weeks and my son had creative teachers. The aftercare is expensive and only OK, but the sports choices are great. Last year both my kids had a bad experience. The 3rd grade class was not creative and the kids did worksheets all summer, not art or creative projects. When I suggested a more challenging math program because he could already do subtraction, the teacher said she didn't want him to forget it. My son's first grade class was frequently out of control and the kids were always in timeout and the creative activities were taken away as punishment. I talked to the teacher and things were better for a week. I tried to talk to the administrators and left 3 phone calls but didn't get a response. It is a very expensive program and my expectations were higher. My kids begged me not to send them again. AB S
We were just made aware of the Head Royce Summer Enrichment Program. We haven't seen any postings about this program. We would appreciate hearing anything you may know about this program. Thank you. Carlo
I am looking for a camp with an academic component for my going into second grade daughter. She is bright, but a little on the young side, and needs some help with reading/writing skills. I'd prefer something that is not terribly competitive, still has some traditional camp stuff going on (swimming, sports and the like). I've looked on the website, and I see Head-Royce school has a program... Would that be too competitive for a child looking to refine first grade skills rather than get a headstart on second grade skills? Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Worried Mom
She did not find the school work academically challenging; rather, it was a continuation of things she had learned that school year, which was just what we were looking for. Some of the teachers are on the HR staff and some are from other schools. My daughter had a HR teacher the first year and a teacher from the Pleasant Hill school district last year. Both teachers were good. There is plenty of opportunity to take extra activities such as tennis.
I really like the HR program because it is extremely well staffed and well organized. The facilities are very nice. The program is a little pricey: about $850 for the 6-week course from 8:30 to noon, but when you consider that they swim every day, it is reasonable, since we would have had to pay for separate swimming lessons last year. There is an after-care program for an extra cost, that is also well-run. They are very flexible about how much time you spend at the after care.
If you are concerned about how the program would suit your daughter, I would suggest calling the summer program office and leaving a detailed message. When I have had questions in the past, they have been very good about calling me back. Lastly, it would be a good idea to sign up for the program soon, since I understand the early grades fill up quickly. Good luck. Charlotte
We went to Head Royce for the Algebra program. We didn't do it in-Lieu of, but it gave my son a huge amount of confidence when taking algebra in 8th Grade. It's only a 6 week program and the cost was pretty reasonable. Also, there is a bus from (64) from Berkeley Bart that takes them about 3 blocks away from the school. -- Elizabeth
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