Julia Morgan School for Girls (Oakland, CA)
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Julia Morgan School for Girls
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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:
would like to find a school where she can learn to love learning and be
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.
happy JMSG dad
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,
and in learning styles? Most importantly, I have heard they are closing, are they?
appreciate your thoughtful comments.
Daughter in 4th grade
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.
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.
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
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.
Julia Morgan School for Girls is a relatively new school, and
not too many recent reviews (positive or negative) have been
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
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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!)
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
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
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.
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