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Crocker Highlands Elementary School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Oakland Public Schools > Crocker Highlands Elementary School (Oakland, CA)



Current student enrollment at Crocker Highlands

July 2013

Hi, My family is new to the Crocker Highlands neighborhood. I am aware that CH elementary had some over enrollment issues in the recent past, and I'd like to get a better sense of where things stay today. My son will have one more year of pre-school before entering Kinder so it isn't an immediate issue. I'm just trying to get educated on how likely it would be for him not to have a spot at CH. How the Oakland school choice program works. Tips from parents. Thanks in advance Alex


Hi- I've been a Crocker parent for 7 years now and urge you to contact the principal, Beth Rhine. She has been great at keeping us updated on the recent school boundary and enrollment changes and will have the most current information.

That being said, are you worried about overcrowding or not getting in? The classes are not overcrowded. There were four kindergarten classes this past year to accommodate the large number of new kindergarteners, but I believe that was a one-time thing because of the new boundary being too large. My understanding is that that has been ameliorated.

As for getting in, it wasn't a problem just a few years ago. As the school's reputation has grown my impression is that more and more people with young children are moving in and choosing public rather than private, which is great. No one can really say how many kids will be entering kindergarten each year, so the question of whether your child will be enrolled is really not answerable. My best advice is that if s/he is not enrolled to keep trying. Families move, change schools etc. Crocker and Brewer parent


Does CH offer a good after school program?

Nov 2011

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. Anon


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 afterschool programs. 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. Sally
Oct 2011

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. ANON


After-school options for kindergartener

Nov 2010

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 younger children. Carrie


Oct 2010

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? Thank you. Anon


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. Paul's).

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 me.

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! Sue

editor note: responses were also received about St. Paul's


Jan 2010

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. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/05/21/2008api.DTL&appSession=306129771903371 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? Thanks Erin


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 absolutely nothing.

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! OUSD Mom


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 family! Anon

March 2006

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.
Pleased Parent
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 this year.

Above all, it is really fun to walk to school and get involved in the neighborhood.
a new Crocker parent


March 2005

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? thanks! Suzanne

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 the others.

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. Hilary


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

January 2004

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. Leslie
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.

Judy Ganley, President
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.)


December 2003

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 grade.

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!

Hilary


January 2003

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. Hilary
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. Carter
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. jessica
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. Marcie

September 2001

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. Naomi
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