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Julia Morgan School for Girls (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Julia Morgan School for Girls



March 2014

Does anyone have experience with JMSG over the last three years? We are considering applying for our daughter entering the 2015 school year, but I understand enrollment will be reduced. Also, what is the social environment and administration tolerance for cliques? Anna


Julia Morgan is a very good school in many respects. My daughter who is academically focused and a strong math and science girl took exception to two things at the school. They used ''academic'' time to make the girls feel comfortable about issues my daughter found to be very private. For example, a walking field trip was to choose and to buy sanitary products. They spent a lot of ''academic'' time talking about their feelings.

Since my daughter wanted strong math and science she thought this was a waste of good learning time. Our daughter was also not able to take geometry, even though she was more than ready.

All of that said, my daughter has learned a great deal. She now speaks up for herself and while there are many girls who have a strong sense of entitlement, Julia Morgan teachers and staff do an excellent job in helping all girls feel that their school is a safe place to be. JMSG Mom


Jan 2010

I am wondering if anyone can post a current recommendation/opinion for the Julia Morgan School for Girls. We are considering for our daughter entering 6th grade. They seem to have an enlightened cirriculum but are they as well perpared as those from some public schools, particularly in math and sciences? Our alternative is Berkeley public school. I am specifically interested in the academic quality but any other comments appreciated as well.


My daughter graduated from JMSG last year and it was by far the best educational choice we've made for her thus far. The academic program is so much more intentional and coordinated than the other private and public school options we studied. The curriculum is exceptional, ESPECIALLY math & science. In fact, it is the only middle school in the bay area with financial literacy added on top of math for all three years. The math club is strong (and girls participate more than they typically do in co-ed environments). The school hosts a middle school math competition each year for a range of independent schools and many JMSG students participate. In 8th grade, girls do architecture as well. Science is incredible - very intentional curriculum, taught in project-based and integrated ways. The 8th graders have a robotics unit that is exceptional. For the past few years, teams have competed in regional robotics competition that most other schools only send boys to. Instead of a science fair, the 8th graders host an 'Invention Convention' that would blow your mind. They use their robots and solar panels and all kinds of create methods with their inventions. I think the girls have more science & math in a week than other schools.

My daughter loved her experience and really thrived there. She was admitted to two of the most competitive high schools in the area but chose our public school. JMSG girls are well regarded in the private high school world, and equally qualified/comfortable going to their neighborhood public high school as well. She feels more than prepared in ninth grade not only in her academics and study skills, but knows herself and uses her voice in ways that I am so proud of and thank JMSG for its contribution. grateful alum parent


When my daughter was in 5th grade, she came home one day and told me she wasn't cut out for math and science. My husband and I are both scientists, and, while being fully aware that girls can get turned off to math, I somehow didn't think that included my daughter! I was appalled to hear her say this. To make a long story short, she then went to JMSG, and in her 8th grade spring, she participated in a Math contest for middle school kids held at U.C. Berkeley. She came in 19th out of 125 kids. To me, the fact that she participated was more important than how well she did, but how well she did definitely reflected on the incredibly thoughtful math and science curriculum at JMSG. She's now at a high school that is academically challenging, and tested out of Algebra 1 when she entered 9th grade. She was very well prepared in all subjects, in fact.

Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors of JMSG. The reason I responded to your post is the same as one reason I have been happy to serve on the Board: I'm so wholeheartedly in awe of the faculty and administration at JMSG. They are so thoughtful, smart, and conscientious. They have incorporated up-to-date research on how middle school girls learn best throughout their teaching practices. Feel free to email me if you'd like to hear some examples or if you have any other questions. Lisa


We had two daughters go through JMSG and I highly recommend the school, for its amazing faculty and curriculum, and its unique and enlightened philosophy. Both our girls went on to a public high school in Oakland, and are doing quite well in all aspects of their education and socialization.

With regards to math and sciences, they are quite strong at JM. Biology is top notch. Yes, they do not get as far in geometry as some of the more advanced, tracked kids in some public middle schools (they try to keep everyone on the same page at JM); our girls had to take geometry as HS freshmen, where a couple of their friends who'd had geometry in a public school tested out of that and went ahead to advanced algebra and trig. On the other hand, the math that our girls learned at JM, they learned well conceptually, and had the benefit of other classes such as financial literacy and architecture.

So if you have a single-minded math enthusiast eager to test out of geometry as a high school freshman, JM may not be the right middle school avenue. OTOH, it could be an avenue for much more academically, personally, and socially. thumbs up for JMSG


An explanation for why Julia Morgan graduates might be less prepared than some public middle school students could be due to the fact that public middle schools in Berkeley and Oakland (and other places) offer high level math classes for 8th graders. You could ask a counselor at Julia Morgan if such classes are offered to their 8th graders. Berkeley public schools have an honors math class in 8th grade and some Oakland middle schools offer 8th grade geometry. As a result, kids from these schools can be placed in honors geometry, algebra 2/trig or honors algebra 2/trig as high school freshman, so they will be a year ahead in math. High schools will often place kids in higher level science classes based on their math abilities and test scores. At my daughter's private Oakland high school, the freshman kids in the highest level math and science classes were from Montera Middle School in Oakland and the two Castro Valley middle schools; none of the Julia Morgan freshman were in her classes. However, unless you daughter is planning on taking AP math and/or science classes as a high school sophomore or junior, it may not matter to you. Also, depending on the high schools you are considering for your daughter, you might want to seek out former Julia Morgan students who are currently in high school to find out about the transition from a small, single sex school to a large co-ed school with a traditional grading policy. Best of luck with your decision. mom of HS sophomore
I am a parent of three daughters who have attended Julia Morgan School for Girls. Two are alumnae and one is in the 7th grade. They are quite different from each other, both socially and in terms of academic drive. Of the alumnae, the first attended an independent high school, the second is in public high school. They were both well prepared in both math and science, and really in all subjects. All three have been in math club at the school and found it both challenging and fun. They have done well (both my college freshman and high school sophomore are continuing a course of study heavy in math and science) but from my perspective the most important thing my daughters received at Julia Morgan was a confidence that they could meet the challenges presented to them, the ability to speak with their teachers and ask questions when they needed help and in general a huge sense of personal responsibility and pride in their own academic growth and success. Certainly, a thoughtful and engaging curriculum contributed to the results, but I think that the dedication of the faculty in working with each individual girl to set goals, jointly evaluate her progress and set new goals was really key to making them independent learners and good problem solvers in all subjects.

I'd be happy to talk more about the school or more specifically about our experiences there if you like. Jolie


Dec 2008

Has anyone had a child at JMSG who was not strongly academic? We are considering this school, but want to make sure it is a good fit for our daughter who has some mild learning differences. Does the school accomodate for the child? Any other comments about the school? appreciative parent


My daughter graduated from Julia Morgan several years ago. In her freshman year of high school she was diagnosed with mild ADD (inattentive type). Her years at Julia Morgan were somewhat difficult because no one there seemed to see how a bright girl could somehow never get her work started and/or completed. Although the teachers and curriculum at Julia Morgan are wonderful, the school does not have a learning specialist on staff and my daughter's teachers did not have much background on how to address learning differences. You might want to bring in any documentation, reports, IEP's etc., that you have and talk to the admissions staff to see if the school has the kinds of accomodations and/or modifications that would help your daughter succeed at Julia Morgan. anon
Oct 2008

Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner

I probably won't be the only person to suggest the wonderful Julia Morgan School for Girls (JMSG) as a middle school possibility for your daughter. Your sentence: ''I would like to find a school where she can learn to love learning and be inspired,'' describes JMSG and echoes comments made by many of the girls I know who have graduated from Julia Morgan and gone on to public and private high schools and to colleges all over the country and in Canada. You and your daughter will find out more about the school and the application process by going to the website www.juliamorganschool.org or by calling the school at (510) 632-6000. I hope you and your daughter find a great middle school! Laurie E. Werbner, JMSG cofounder & alumni parent


Your daughter seems to be a great kid. Please tour Julia Morgan School for Girls with your daughter. I am reasonably sure that you'd both be quite impressed and excited by the enthusiasm of the staff and students, the unique curriculum, testimonials, and the overall 'buzz' of the place. We've had two daughters go through, and I know firsthand how they excel at getting girls inspired about learning, strengthening their identity, and taking their individual gifts to the next level. http://juliamorganschool.org/ happy JMSG dad
April 2008

Now that admissions season is over...I have a question. If your family chose Julia Morgan....why J.M. i.e. what do you consider its strengths and weaknesses? How ''academic'' is it? How are the arts? How diverse is the school, economically, racially, and in learning styles? Most importantly, I have heard they are closing, are they? I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Daughter in 4th grade
Thinking ahead


We will be starting Julia Morgan next year, and would like to correct the 'closure' rumor. Not sure where you got that idea, but as a new family, my impression is that JMSC will be going strong for years to come. We were drawn to it for it's commitment to the an engaging, academically challenging curriculum integrated with the arts, and the social-emotional needs of 11-14 year old girls. The have a strong commitment to diversity, and strive to bring families to the school to ensure diversity along a number of parameters. All the families I know that have had girls there reinforce what I experienced on the tour and information nights - there's just nothing quite like it. I'll leave it to someone more experienced to comment on it's weaknesses. I don't think it's for every girl, or every family, but it knocked our daughter's (and our) socks off. Happy New JMSC Family
JMSG is a wonderful school. Next year will be its tenth year and it is stronger than ever. We chose it last year for our daughter and as an education professional, i was quite picky and observant throughout the process. The academics are rigorous, engaging, contextual (meaningful too), and incredibly integrated. This last part is especially poignant in that it takes enormous effort and skill to integrate subjects and the fact that the projects and themes are so intertwined says a good deal about the faculty and staff of Julia Morgan. The social scene is also dynamic and positive with great attention on the social developmental realities of middle school girls. From the advising groups' curriculum to the staff attention to relationships, i am confident my daughter is growing and learning how to be her best self and to value integrity in others. The student and staff population is quite diverse - about half of the students are girls of color, and the groupings in class and lunch reflect the mix authentically. One last note, being all girls has other advantages beyond the inclass issues of not competing with perhaps more assertive male learners (as was our situation in elementary school)- just last week I watched a group of girls playing red rover at lunch, and others sitting under a tree talking and others on the volleyball court. They get to be themselves and play and hold onto youth for just a short while longer at JMSG. JV
I'm taking the liberty to respond to the part of your question about the future of the Julia Morgan School for Girls. As an administrator at the school, I can assure you that we are going strong. The School is in excellent standing, financial and otherwise. We will continue to educate and inspire girls here on the Mills College campus for many years to come.

Someone may be confusing us with a wonderful school, the East Bay School for Girls (grades K-5), which sadly closed its doors last year. M B


First, the school is NOT closing, and is doing quite well. Our older girl chose JMSG after we toured the school, and we were so happy with her 3-year experience there that our younger one goes there now too. JMSG is quite diverse (about 1/2 are girls of color, and about 1/3 receive financial aid). If you tour the school, you will clearly notice a very supportive, creative, energetic, and 'happy' feeling there (yes, with lots of girl power). No school can be everything to everybody, of course; JMSG is academic, but not in an oppressive way, the teaching methods geared towards individual learning styles, and with lots of group projects. The arts are quite good too, though IMO music can be a touch more outstanding. PE has come a long way as well, and seems to be on track for more improvement. happy JMSG dad
April 2007

Re: Private Middle School for Nature Loving 6th Grader???
My daughter is at the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland, which is a wonderful school. The academics are strong and creative. As far as your question about "social responsibility," there is a strong "service learning program" where every teacher tries to integrate some form of community service with the course material for his or her class (so a Spanish class, for instance, might do a puppet show for a Spanish-speaking kindergarten class somewhere; the financial literacy class goes to the Alameda county food bank etc.). The school is very diverse, both socio-economically and racially. There isn't a particular focus on "nature and animals" but there is a general environmental ethos, including some curriculum that deals with energy conservation, and any time you put 180 middle school girls in one place, you will get a culture that tends to love animals. :-) It sounds like you would be a really good fit culturally at JMSG. We have a number of families from Orinda so there are usually carpool possibilities. I'm not sure there are any openings left for the coming fall, but it couldn't hurt to call and ask -- sometimes things open up at the last minute. The admissions director is Marcia Bedford at 510-632-6000. Ilana


October 2005

Hello; Julia Morgan School for Girls is a relatively new school, and not too many recent reviews (positive or negative) have been posted.

How is the school now, 5-6 years after its initial opening? Are the teachers and staff stable? How are the academics? The after school program (if there is one)? What about finanical aid; it seems fairly pricey, even for a private school. Are there a fair number of families accepted on financial aid, and how much aid is available?

Any way of assessing whether the girls graduating are in fact more confident than girls from co-ed schools? Or, other notable differences?

What do parents like and dislike about the school? Girls?

Thanks for your input. Looking at JMSG


The best way to answer your questions is to attend an information night. You will probably get a sense right away as to whether it feels like a good fit for your daughter. You can find specific dates for these on the website at www.juliamorganschool.org. I would say that JMSG is not perfect for everyone, but it was perfect for our girl, who graduated two years ago. They have an uncanny ability to hone in on each students' particular strengths and "areas of growth" and to really focus on helping each girl reach her potential, both academically and socially. Not much gets by them. They made an enormous difference in our daughter's life and she is thriving in her high school. Their teachers are incredibly energetic, dedicated role models. I've heard that there has been a little turnover but this came after five years, which is a not uncommon period of time for teachers to stay at one job. Satisfied Parent
My daughter is aspiring to become one of the next attendees of the JMSG and recently we had the chance to attend a 'INformation Night' in which we were able to meet the director, teachers and current students.

I must say that I was a bit impressed at the level of academics and activities for the girls. The girls who attend JMSG not only learn advanced academics skills that will place well above the traditional public schools, they teach the girls practical aspects of life such as balancing a check book.

The girls have the opportunity to take yoga, dance, finance among other things. It appears that the staff and director really believe in the school and the girls, and their ability to grow as individuals.

As far as the tuition goes, my daughter currently attends Ecole Bilingue (The French-American School in Berkeley) and I would say that the tuition is around the same. I think the private/independent school tuitions throughout the east bay are fairly similar. The director did mention that approx. 60-70% of students are on financial aid.

Overall I think the JMSG is nice learning environment for girls who have a high apptitude for advancing academically and artistically. Since the acceptance is quite competitive ( it's a 6 month process and usually 1/2 the candidates are not accepted), I would suggest you and your daughter visit a Information Night and see how the environment feels. It is situated on the Mills College Campus and is quite lovely. Had I had a choice of which private school I attended when I was younger, this would most likely be it. I hope this helps. Good luck! KMM


Our daughter is in 8th grade at JMSG now and our expereince there has been wonderful. The teachers are very inspiring and motivated. They really support the individuality, creativity and self confidence of the girls. I believe about a third of the families receive some kind of financial aid. Academics are very good all around. Only slight weakness for us was P.E. (esp. 6th grade, though that may be improving)--not a big deal for us, since our daughter does sports outside of school. I too suggest attending a parents' info night to meet some of the faculty and students and feel the energy for yourself. extremely pleased
Nov 2003

I recently attended a tour of the Julia Morgan School. It seemed too good to be true. I'd love some updated feedback on this school as a whole, with a comment on how/if the insidious problem of girl bullying and cliques is dealt with.
Interested


I, too, am interested in feedback about the Julia Morgan school--both positive and negative. I am particularly interested in knowing the quality of math and science throughout all 3 grades and how ''welcoming'' the commuinity of girls are, esp. to someone who would be starting in 7th grade. And, I would like to know if there has been an issue around cliqueiness, as well. Thanks so much for your input.
Believe in Single-Sex Education

For the parent who was wondering if JMSG is too good to be true: it's not perfect in every single way, but it's very, very, very good. I can't think of a better place for our daughter. She entered with a fear and dislike of math, and is about to graduate saying that math is her favorite subject. The teachers are absolutely passionate about teaching, about teaching girls, about encouraging girls to be leaders, to relate to the world with a high degree of engagement and enthusiasm. They're rigorous academically, but the girls feel like they're having fun so they don't notice how rigorous it is.

As far as ''girl bullying,'' and cliques, well, these things do exist to some degree, as they do in all middle schools. But I think they are minimal, and they are addressed head-on. The advisory groups are very good, invaluable actually, in this regard. The good thing is that EVERY girl has friends. She might not be friends with everyone, or like eveyrone, and everyone might not like her. But there are no isolated, lonely, ostracized girls. Everyone has a group of friends that they feel comfortable with, and the school does a great job in dealing with and managing the periods of unpleasantness that are part of being an adolescent girl.

Overall, it is an amazing place, and it makes me emotional to think about it. The advisors, the amazing teachers, are so dedicated to the girls and wanting them to be their best selves. They are REALLY available to both the girls and the parents, and I've leaned on my daughter's advisors for advice often. The school has a mission and a vision and I am infinitely grateful that we've had the experience of being part of their community.

And with the move to the gorgeous building at Mills College, I think they'll be even more able to fulfill their visions. I truly think you couldn't go wrong sending your daughter there, and can't imagine a girl who wouldn't benefit enormously from a JMSG education.

Happy Parent


To the person who wondered if Julia Morgan is too good to be true: I am happy to say it's as good as you have heard and maybe even better. My daughter is in 7th grade and she started last year. We are all very happy with the school and grateful that such a place exists. The teachers are incredibly enthusiastic, the administrators are superb: smart, principled, responsive, and straightforward. They give the girls the space and encouragement to be individuals, while modeling great values and consistently teaching the girls to be responsible citizens. They are fiscally prudent (conservative, really - they only print on both sides of a piece of paper), and they dedicate 33% of their budget to financial aid to promote class composition that reflects their community. Really, I can't praise it highly enough. (And no, they're not paying me!)

Lisa


I am responding to posts about the Julia Morgan School for Girls. My daughter is currently an 8th grader at JMSG. I have been very, very happy with the school. It's not perfect, but I believe it can only get better, especially with the move next year to the Mills College campus. The administration and the teaching staff are dedicated to the education of girls, with a clear vision and mission. They are involved, know the students well, and are accessible and generally open to student and parental input. I believe there has been all-around excellence in the areas of language arts, math, science, technology. The school also offers financial literacy for girls (wonderful), brings in great speakers who are generally women leaders in their fields,integrates technology into much of the coursework, emphasizes cooperative learning,has a groovy art teacher, etc etc. The grading system and parent-student-teacher conferences are empowering. There are some weaknesses in music and physical education, but I've seen good efforts to improve in these areas.

One of the very unique aspects of JMSG is the advising groups. Each girl is assigned to a group of ten of her peers, and they stay together throughout the three years, with a new teacher/adviser assigned each year. There is a loose curriculum covering areas like friendship, stress, sex, substances, making responsible choices, etc. It has become my daughter's ''support group,'' a place where she can explore subjects she might not choose to bring up at home. It's also a forum where issues such as girl ''cliques'' are discussed. Yes, there are cliques at JMSG, but the staff are aware and equipped to address the issues before they become problems. In addition, I think that not having the distraction of boys helps the girls focus and concentrate on their own studies and growth.

I highly recommend JMSG. Now that my daughter is headed to high school, I consider the three years at JMSG as a gift to her. She has definitely gotten good academic preparation, and leaves with a better sense of who she is and what she can become.

A satisfied JMSG parent


JMSG is focused on teaching math and science to girls. Studies show that girls at this stage of their life often begin to loose interest in these subjects and JMSG is working to change that trend. The faculty reseach and apply what works best to encourage girls of this age to be interested in these subjects. For instance there is a financial literacy component to the curriculum where the girls learn how to manage money, invest in stocks, and understand supply and demand, ect.! Wow, real world applications of math & science and the girls get excited about it. The primary objective of the Julia Morgan School is to prepare our dughters to be the confident, capable, creative, and compassionate women and leaders of tomorrow.

You also were concerned about clique-i-ness -- somehow without the influence of boys, the girls are less likely to compete with one another at that emotional level-- which is often the basis of cliques. The school places a strong emphasis on group dynamics and does not tolerate exclusion of other girls.

I highly recommend JMSG and wish something like it had been available when I was in middle school. If you would like more info. feel free to contact me.

JMSG Mom, jmd


Jan 2003

My daughter is in the 6th grade at Julia Morgan School for Girls (JMSG) having come from a Berkeley public school (Malcolm X). I have been very impressed with the school so far. She was reluctant to attend JMSG due to its being all- girls but has recently admitted how much she enjoys it. In particular, I am impressed with their curriculum, teachers, and their success at creating a positive and inclusive social environment for the students. The negatives are that its site on the 2nd floor of a building at Holy Names College means that there isn't a convenient gathering place that might result in a natural sense of community for families. However, the parents association exists and is active and the families at the school seem like a diverse and likeable bunch so I highly recommend it and am happy to answer questions. April


June 2001

Re: changing middle schools
I am a parent of a student who will be entering 8th grade at the Julia Morgan School for Girls. Applications for incoming 6th and 7th grades far exceeded spaces for all the girls who applied, and the 8th grade class already has full enrollment for fall. Have you looked into the East bay School of the Arts and Sciences Middle School or the Community School (both in Berkeley)? Transitioning into a new school for the final year of middle school may be difficult for a young person who is already struggling, but it sounds like you are on the right track in trying to find a place for your daughter which will be more attuned to her needs. Good Luck! Laurie


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