Crocker Highlands Elementary School (Oakland, CA)
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Crocker Highlands Elementary School (Oakland, CA)
Re: moving to the Easy bay - which neighborhood?
I can only speak to Oakland's public schools. Crocker Highlands is
highly regarded, has a strong community of supportive parents, and the
superintendent's children attend there (something to be said for that).
If you can afford to rent a house within the school's zone, you'd be
walking distance to school, transportation, grocery, restaurants, etc.
Our house has a 90 walking score... We love the area, the Farmers
Market. I have also heard very good things about Chabot in Rockridge.
Hillcrest, another Oakland public school, might be considered the
''best.'' However, I know people who live within the district and still
weren't accepted (the school is very, very popular). Sounds like your
biggest challenge will be making a move in time to apply for schools.
The private schools don't have any restrictions about where you live.
Hope that helps.
My child is currently enrolled in kindergarten at St.
Paul's. He has a terrific teacher, is adapting well, and is
stimulated and happy. I would appreciate any feedback as to
whether we stay the course at a private (and expensive)
school or switch him to Crocker. We are not wealthy and know
that in the sixth grade, most kids are going the private
route. He's very bright, and he's abundantly boy. I have
heard that Crocker's class sizes increase as the kids get
older and that there can be a lot of disruptions. I know
Crocker is a great school with a lot of parental
involvement. However, I have some reservations about
switching him into a slightly more chaotic environment where
he might get lost. I appreciate all feedback. And, yes, I
attended public schools and know that they can work. I'm
not married to either one philosophically. Save our money
now or keep going?
I'm a little late in responding to your query about St.
Paul's vs. Crocker. We have a 4th grader at Crocker who
was previously at Bentley and a 6th grader at another
private school (also previously at Bentley). We also have
two grown children who have graduated from Oakland schools
(one from CPS). We have lived in Crocker for 10 years.
Here is what I have learned: I was under the false
impression that my children could not get a solid
education in the public school system. I will admit that
I was jaded because I grew up in private schools. Boy,
was I wrong. Bentley is a great school. Period. If your
focus for your child is academic advancement, send them to
Bentley or Head Royce or The Academy in Berkley. All
three teach a curriculum that is advanced and typically a
year ahead of the curriculum at most public and private
schools in the East Bay. We chose Bentley over St. Paul's
(our kids were accepted to both schools) mostly because
St. Paul's was in the middle of expanding and I felt it
wasn't very well organized, since they couldn't answer
alot of my questions about what to expect (the plan wasn't
finalized). It seems that St. Paul's is an excellent school
with a fantastic focus on the community. I doubt you'd be
sorry if you sent your child there.
However, if I had it to do all over again, I would have
sent my kids to Crocker from the beginning. We didn't
even look at Crocker for Kindergarten because I was so
absorbed in sending our kids to private school. My son
has now been at Crocker for 2 years and it is hands down,
the strongest community I have ever seen. The academics
are very good. My son has made huge improvements in his
reading and writing (Bentley was too advanced for him and
he felt overwhelmed that he was not at the level of his
peers). The teachers AND the principal at Crocker are very
in-tune with his capabilities. He's so much happier at
Crocker that he asks to leave early every morning so he
can get to school. The Crocker PTA is a tremendous
community. They raise over $250,000 a year to pay for all
the programs that OUSD doesn't - art, music, computers,
librarian and PE, plus special programs that help kids
below the proficientcy level. Crocker was just named #1
elementary school in Oakland by Oakland Magazine. The
schools' test scores are among the highest in the
district. Many kids at Crocker go on to public middle
school and many go on to private middle schools (the boy
and girl across the street went on to Head Royce and St.
Something to note about finding the right school for your
family - it's not just about picking the best fit for your
child - it has to be a good fit for you as well or you
won't want to be involved with the school and that leads
to all kinds of feelings about not being part of the
community, which is very important for parents AND
children. Whatever you choose for your child - be sure
that you feel it is the kind of community where
you 'fit'. Bentley never felt that way for us, even
though we were very involved. I find that Crocker's
neighborhood atmosphere really lends to knowing and
interacting with those around you much more socially than
the private schools we've experienced.
If you want to ask any questions, feel free to contact
I think both schools are excellent, but why spend over
$125,000 when you can get an equally great education for
your child in your own neighborhood (if you saved that
much money, you'd have their college fund pretty much
taken care of!). Good luck with your choice!
editor note: responses were also received about St. Paul's
We're trying to make the decision about buying a home in the
Crocker Highlands area or buying something much lesser in
Piedmont, for the schools.
I hear a lot of good anecdotal things about Crocker
Highlands Elementary, but if I'm reading the API scores
right, it's not good.
If I'm interpreting the scores correctly, it has a good api
score and state rank, but when compared to similar schools,
it's really poor. Can anyone shed some light on the scores
for me and whether I am interpreting them correctly?
Really, really, really don't stress about Crocker Highlands
being a ''9'' based on excellent API scores, but a ''1''
compared to similar schools. I was curious, so I checked
out some other Oakland hills and foothills schools. I
discovered that the ''9'' schools are really tightly bunched.
Crocker has an API in the 860's, which is amazing, and some
''9'' schools are 20 or 30 points higher, which is fabulously
amazing. An API in the 880s seems to get a school a ''9'' for
the API and about a ''7'' for similar schools.
I think that there are just so many hills (and some
foothills and flatlands) schools that have these high API
scores, that 20 points (which is nothing, it's probably
within the range of scoring error) drops a school to a ''1''
compared to its peers.
Please don't get so wrapped up in the scores -- any school
like Crocker, with its huge population of middle-class,
native-English-speaking, college-educated families, is going
to score extremely well on the API. 20 points means
I know, or know of, several teachers and families at Crocker,
including the family of OUSD's new Superintendent. You would
be in good company at Crocker, and your child would probably
do extremely well. The other really nice thing about Crocker
is that, unlike Piedmont, it still has a lot ethnic and
socioeconomic diversity, so you and your child can get to
know and hang out with all different kinds of people.
I say go for Crocker!
I won't try to speak too much to your question about test
scores because it is really quite complicated on many
levels and you will get many responses that reflect many
different perspectives. What I can speak to is Crocker
Highlands Elementary, our middle and HS options, and the
neighborhood. For our family and many other neighborhood
families, Crocker Elementary is superb. The test scores
are high for lots of kids, less high for certain groups
that tend to score lower, but safe, inclusive, ever
improving, and striving to do even better for every kid.
We have a very highly regarded new principal and a
dynamite PTA. This school is a major hub of the
neighborhood. It is our park and playground, and it
provides a huge social network for kids AND their parents.
My kids play outside, socialize, know tons of kids and
neighbors, and generally have a real COMMUNITY around
them. Kids from Crocker get into privates for middle
school if that is the family preference, or go to our
local middle school. We have gone the public middle school
route with tons of neighborhood kids and feel really
pleased with our decision. This option makes me feel even
more connected to this community. We plan on going public
for HS in Oakland, but not to our closest school. In
general, we feel blessed to be in a beautiful neighborhood
where we can walk, others walk dogs, we can shop
(Lakeshore or Dimond), and people are friendly. The
schools in Piedmont are (per friends from Oak Pub and Oak
privates that moved there) more rigorous, more homogeneous
finacially and racially, and top notch from K-12. I'm sure
that life could be splendid there, too. I have heard
reports of more stress for kids there, and that is one
thing that would be a super duper negative (if it is
true). Also, studies show that people are happier if they
feel they compare well to their immediate peers i.e. 'the
Jones', but not if they feel like they can't quite catch
up, regardless of where they live. Last comment, if you
are the type to always look at the 'better' or 'best'
city, school, fill in the blank, and feel resentful or
envious get a handle on it now and search your heart about
which community would fit your family best. Good luck
whatever you choose. It will be the right path for your
We live in Crocker Highlands and my son has been accepted to a
private K-5 school. We are trying to decide what to do.
We hear the teachers at Crocker are wonderful and that it's great
to be going to school with kids in the neighborhood. We also
hear that the teachers do not have a full time teaching assistant
throughout the year and that Open Court is an issue.
I hear the Art program is wonderful, but that it is only 30
minutes per week and that Music is great, but that it is only 15
minutes per week.
I would like to hear from parents who have gone through this
decision process and either selected Crocker or private school.
Whatever school we choose, we will be happy to volunteer and
participate in the PTA as I understand many parents do.
Thank you in advance for your support and advice.
We have a child in Kindergarten at Crocker and love the school
and her teacher. There is a very strong PTA and a lot of parent
involvement. We were happy to have an art program and a music
program at the school; some other schools have had to cut these.
There is also a computer teacher. A lot of things are funded by
PTA activities. Most of all we feel very good about having our
child in a class that is very diverse, both in terms of race and
in term of the economic background of the families. The first
field trip I helped on ended with a trip to a nearby
playground. Our child came down a slide on a ''train'' of kids,
one white, one African American, one Asian, and one of mixed
heritage. When I saw that I thought that it looked so much like
what I love about Oakland and I was so glad to have my child
experience a school that included kids from a lot of different
backgrounds. I would highly recommend Crocker.
We also live in Crocker Highlands and could not be happier with
the school. We have a son in second grade and a daughter who
will be entering kindergarten in the fall. The teachers are
fantastic and it is a great community.
When we were considering Crocker we heard concerns about schools
that rigorously taught Open Court, but it turned out to be a non-
issue. While it is a drill-based phonics system, the teachers
are great about supplementing it with additional reading
materials. And the phonics drills do seem to work -- my son's
second grade class is filled with kids reading long and short
chapter books. I help out in the classroom occasionally and
have seen how the kids sound out words they don't recognize. So
don't be overly concerned about Open Court.
As for art, it is an hour a week and you could not find a better
teacher than Ms. Neeley. The kids love her and her enthusiasm
for art is infectious. My son was able to identify paintings by
Picasso and Matisse in first grade, and actually enjoys going to
museums to see what he recognizes from his art classes. If you
visit the school right now, you will see a great project that
the third graders did based upon Grant Wood's American Gothic.
Ms. Rose is an equally excellent music teacher. I believe that
the kids have music for 30 minutes a week, not 15 minutes.
You are correct that there are no teaching assistants at
Crocker. The teachers rely on parents to volunteer and the
parents do volunteer, in large numbers. I know that many
parents are worried about student-teacher ratios, but 20 to 1
looks pretty good to me when you consider that there were 28 to
32 kids in each of my elementary school classes.
We briefly questioned whether we made the right decision to
embrace our neighborhood school when Dr. Ward was appointed just
after our son was accepted in kindergarten. But the state
takeover has not been a significant issue at Crocker. Dr.
Ward's style is to leave the well functioning schools alone, and
Crocker is a well functioning school.
Finally, one of the benefits of a local school that you should
not overlook is that it is great for neighborhood kids to go to
school together. When we go for walks through the neighborhood,
my son points out his classmates and schoolmates whenever he
sees him. It is wonderful that he can go over to his friends'
houses after school, and then it is a short walk home. Of
course, it has been nice for my husband and me to meet other
neighborhood parents through Crocker events. That is a benefit
I had not anticipated when we chose Crocker.
Happy Crocker Parent
My son is currently in kindergarten at Crocker. While I too
was concerned about not getting enough enrichment and art in a
public school, I have been very pleased with the art at
Crocker. Yes, they have a formal art class only once a week,
but I can tell the teacher is very good. Plus, now that they
have a full day, the teachers have a lot more time to weave in
art and other fun projects during the day. They seem to do
some kind of art at least once a day in class. But the biggest
thing is that my son's art abilities has sky rocketed since
school started. He was not a very good drawer and not very
interested, and seriously within a month after school started,
he became a fantastic drawer. I was ashonished at his quick
improvement and he now loves to draw and I am very impressed
with his work.
As for Open Court, I too am not thrilled with what they require
K's to do, but given that-I feel at least better that the
teachers do a good job weaving fun projects and themes into the
day so its not all about that. And my son has learned alot
Above all, it is really fun to walk to school and get involved
in the neighborhood.
a new Crocker parent
Our daughter (adventurous, assertive, easily over-stimulated, adopted from Russia
at 2) received a space through the lottery and is slated for fall. (Our first preference
is East Bay Waldorf, for its community, philosophy and development style, yet we
have financial/logistical concerns.) We need to make decisions right away. Your
input on my questions, or other input, is very much appreciated.
- how does the teaching, classroom and playground environment support
focused, individualized development?
- is there a sensitivity to challenges of over-stimulation?
- how does the class orient towards play-based learning as well as academics?
- what are the teacher's relationships/teaming with the parents for
individualized child dev?
- what is the sense of ''community'' among parents, children and school?
- how is the afterschool program?
I have a 1st grader at Crocker and a preschooler. I will preface
my response by saying I dont' know much about Waldorf schools,
but I suspect that their teaching pardigm is alot different than
that of California public schools, so it may be somewhat hard to
compare the two. Also, I'm not as touchy feely about school
matters as you appear to be, so I'm not going to try to answer
your first couple of questions. But I am comfortable addressing
California public schools have to adhere to some pretty strict
standards these days, and Oakland also has the Open Court reading
system which is a scripted phonics-based program. Fortunately,
the days of Open Court policing are over and so teachers can be
more creative in how they teach it. But not a lot of time is left
for play in Kindergarten. However, the Oakland schools are
supposedly going to a full day w/in the next couple of years to
help solve that problem, but that won't help you. My child's K
teacher at Crocker retired last year, but she was way big on them
getting in a lot of play time in whatever way they could given
the academic requiremetns she had to meet. I believe the current
K teachers are the same.
I think most of the teachers there want to partner with parents
and do a good job of doing that despite their limited prep time.
I have always found the teachers ready, willing and able to talk
with me about my child, how she is doing, give suggestions, etc.
They are very dedicated professionals.
The sense of community is one of the best things about Crocker.
The school is well supported by the parents through the PTA and
through the efforts of volunteers who work in the classroom etc.
I have been very impresseed with that aspect of the school. I
do not find (most of!) the parents overbearing or weirdly
overinvolved in their kids lives; they seem to be pretty level
headed yet focused.
There is before and after care through Adventure Time which I
don't use and don't know much about. Through the PTA, there is
an afterschool program which offers things like music (in
addition to the music the kids get as part of thier regular
curriculum), martial arts, drama to name a few. The classes
change as needed and are fairly well attended from what I can
see. I have not personally utilized them much.
Overall I think it is a great school and my daughter has
benefited from it enormously. Good luck to you in your decision.
This is a great public school. Until we decided to tighten our belts and go to a
private school, we were thrilled that Crocker was our neighborhood option.
Although it has all the challenges an Oakland Public School will have; the parents
seemed very involved with the day-to-day runnings of the school and had managed
to create an environment where funding and staffing slack was picked up by their
organized effort. One question I would look into though, before enrolling for the
long haul: For years, CHE has had the benefit of a tremendous principal. But I think
he's retiring this year? Considering how consistent the admin and achievment the
school's had with him in the big chair, it will be interesting to see if they can
maintain their standards when he's gone.
Folks from theNeighborhood
I am looking for any feedback regarding Crocker Highlands.
Where do parents send their children after 5th grade?
To prospective Crocker parents, Dalya Sachs has organized a
group of parents who are interested in getting more
information about the school (e.g. talking with teachers
and current parents)and figuring out ways to increase
support/resources. We've had two meetings that have been
terrific and increased my confidence in sending my kids
there. If you want to join, please email her at
Dalyasachs at comcast.net. The school recently scored 855 and
the teachers are wonderful.
Crocker Highlands students attend private and public schools upon promotion
to middle school. A group of 20 or
so students are attending Edna Brewer Middle School this year -- it has
been many years since so many students
have attended our neighborhood middle school. These parents (recently
profiled on NPR All Things Considered)
are having an immediate impact at the middle school since they are
well-skilled at asking downtown to remedy
problems with the playground, etc. They are also re-energizing the PTSA
and are setting up after-school
enrichment programs. More Crocker parents are looking at Edna Brewer as an
option -- either the small-school-
within-a-school academy or the 6th-grade house.
As far as private school is concerned, 8 students went to St Paul this
year. We have Crocker students at many
other private schools. They are well-prepared for the challenge of middle
school in either setting.
I can put you in touch with parents of recent graduates of Crocker if you
send me an email.
Crocker Highlands PTA.
I'm responding to the parent who asked about where
Crocker Highlands kids go after 5th grade. My son was
in last year's Crocker Highlands 5th grade class. He
and one-third of his classmates have moved on to
Edna Brewer Middle School, the local public middle
school. Most of the other kids in his class went to
private school (St. Paul's and Redwood Day seem to be
2 of the most popular private schools), with a few kids
going to Montera Middle School and some other kids
moving out of the Oakland area.
I strongly recommend that parents consider Edna
Brewer as an option. (see Edna Brewer Middle School
for the rest of this review.)
Re: Gifted Children in Oakland Schools
I have a daughter in K at Crocker Highlands Elementary
School. She too is a bright child who was reading at the
age of four before school started, albeit very simple books.
I too had some similar concerns about her abilties and would
she be bored etc. Being that she was one of the younger
ones in the class probably helped, but she definitely is not
bored, even though the things they are doing are easy for
her and she has been able to do (some of them) since she was
three. She takes pride in her accomplishments and has a
teacher that also is seasoned in working with kids of
multiple skill levels. They say that by the end of
kindergarten (and studies have shown this) that most kids
are just about at the same level regardless of where they
started. Now that may not be entirely true, as some may end
up being very gifted, but in general I think it will turn
out to be true for my child.
I think ANY school will have a myriad of abilities and
teachers are trained to deal with it. The gap may be bigger
at some schools than others, and you will need to figure
that out for your particular school, but you cannot paint
all Oakland schools the same. Crocker for example is an
excellent school whose recent API test scores were better
than some Piedmont elementary schools. But remember, school
isn't just about academic excellence, but lots of other
things too. I think we tend to get caught up in the former
when the latter may also teach our children essential life
skills that will serve them well.
There is a GATE program but it doesn't start until the third
The State takeover doesn't seem to have affected Crocker
much, at least negatively. There is so much parental
involvement that I think no matter what happens, the school
will be fine. I also understand that Dr. Ward wants to give
schools that achieve a certain level of performance more
autonomy, which will be great. So that's a good thing. And
morale overall seems just fine to me.
My advice is to check out your local public school (don't
make assumptions based on what you see; go visit, talk to
the principal and PTA), maybe a few others that you might
want to transfer too (remembering that students from low
performing schools get first dibs) and give it a try.
Kindergarten will not make or break a kid. And prepare to be
surprized by how great Oakland schools can be!
We are sending my daughter to Crocker Highlands Elementary
to start kindergarten this fall. She will be just about
five. I'm fairly confident she will be ready. And we live
in the area and feel strongly about going to our local
school. That said, I'm just looking for some general
advice/comments/thoughts from people on the school. Are they
good at dealing with gifted students or students with
learning disabilties? What are the teachers like? Do they
have a strong PTA? I'm really excited actually, even given
the recent news about the $80M deficit that the school
district is facing. Any thoughts appreciated.
Crocker Highlands Elementary Feedback - Very happy
convert. We have a 5th and 1st grader there and can't say
enough good things about the school. Frankly, it wasn't
our intent to go there. However, as our family was
separating just as our eldest was entering K, it was the
default choice. The teaching staff is consistently good
and very dedicated. Many of the teachers have been there
for over 20 years, many have had their own children come
through as students and they are still highly motivated.
Over the 6 years we've been involved, we have been amazed
at the high level of parental involvement. All things
considered, we have been delightfully surprised by the
quality of the education our children have received.
I've lived in the Crocker Highlands area for ten years and
love the neighborhood. I have two kids who attended the
school five years ago so my information may be somewhat out
of date. It was my experience that Crocker functioned as a
wonderful neighborhood school in the early grades, with lots
of PTA involvement and lots of neighborhood friends. The
teachers were committed and most were excellent(this was back
in the bad old days of 32 kids per class). Unfortunately we
discovered that over time there was a fairly significant rate
of ''neighborhood'' attrition. Every year a few more friends
would move out to the 'burbs or enroll in a private school.
Every year we would have a few more new kids until -- by the
fifth grade -- over two thirds of the original bunch had
left. I eventually moved my older child out of the school in
fifth grade because I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied
with the quality of the teaching in the upper grades. In
general I think that Crocker will give your child a great
public school experience, with lots of friends that live in
the neighborhood and lots of economic and racial diversity.
However, the educational experience can vary from fantastic
to pretty horrible, and the physical plant needs updating.
Both of my kids had a little catching up to do when they
transferred to Black Pine Circle School (in Berkeley) but not
so much that they felt overwhelmed.
My son graduated from Crocker last June. Our family spent 6
wonderful years as part of the Crocker ''family''. I know he
had an excellent education at Crocker (oftentimes his
homework was the same as his cousin who attends Park Day).
All his teachers were excellent (many had been there for
over twenty years), and very dedicated. There is an
extremely high level of parent involvement at Crocker
(although no pressure, it is strictly volunteer),which is
part of its success, and a strong PTA. The student
population is quite diverse (alot more students from
outside the neighborhood than might be expected). Crocker
is an excellent choice for elementary school in Oakland.
We are looking at houses near Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland and would
be grateful for any and all advice about Crocker Highlands Elementary
School, particularly from anyone who has or recently had kids there.
Thanks very much. - Claudia & Ted
We have a second grader attending there who has been at Crocker since Kindergarten. We have been very happy at Crocker. The school has a very committed body of teachers, parents and administration. It is also very diverse, both ethnically and economically, which has added to it richness. There are lots of Crocker "traditions" that enrich life at the school, such as the Walk-a-thon, the Carnival, the Halloween Parade, and others.
I guess what makes Crocker most special is that it has a very high level of involvement and commitment, a great track record in terms of students' achievement, while being a very homey and comfortable place, where a diverse and varied population all feel at home. Please feel free to e-mail me with any specific questions.
I am considering moving our child from an independent school to Crocker Highlands
(I live in the district). Does CH offer a good after school program? Can anyone
recommend any other after-care programs that offer classes, workshops, or other
stimulating activities, and transportation?
I'd love to hear what other full-time working parents do with their younger
children after school.
Thanks for all feedback and suggestions.
I don't know about Crocker's onsite aftercare, but Lakeshore
Children's Center's aftercare program serves Crocker. They provide
van pick up after school and will also pick up kids if they attend
My daughter goes to LCC (from a different elementary school), and she
really likes it there.
The JCC East Bay picks up kids from Crocker currently. The program is rich with
enrichment classes, has a special group for the kindergarteners. Lots of great
activities and community. For more information call Liz Donley at 510-595-9222.
My son will be starting kindergarten at Crocker Highlands elementary
in Fall 2011. We are both full-time working parents so will
definitely need after school care till 5:30/6:00 pm, preferably in
the Lakeshore/Grand Ave area. He's a fairly social kid, presently
attend a full-time preschool with about 35 kids. Would love to hear
about your experiences, suggestions, advice to base our choice upon.
My daughter goes to aftercare at
Lakeshore Children's Center, which
provides van drop-off and pickup from Crocker, Cleveland, Glenview and
Lakeview. She loves it there and often it is hard to get her to leave.
They run camps on many school during the summer, Thankgiving,
Christmas and spring break, and do early pickups if your school has an
unusual short day, so it is pretty seamless. We don't do mornings, but
regular pick-up is 5:30, late program runs until 6 pm.
They are located at the Baptist church on Lakeshore Ave. They are
associated with a preschool, which can be convenient if you have
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