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Edna Brewer Middle School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Oakland Public Schools > Edna Brewer Middle School (Oakland, CA)


April 2014

Edna Brewer is our neighborhood middle school and we've heard people rave about it. But still, we hesitate after visiting and touring, as it very much seems an urban, inner city school - at least on the surface in terms of student demographics and campus. For students and families at Edna who would easily fit the profile of those who opt for private schools in the East Bay, what has been your child's experience? Is the student culture ''live and let live'' or is it cliquish? Are there a lot of troublemakers that make it difficult for others in class? Is it academics emphasized or does it depend on the teacher? Does Edna Brewer have aftercare programs and if they do, is it hard to get a space due to demand? Currently our child is at Glenview and all in all, we're happy with our experience there. But wonder if we need to step it up for the middle school years even if we don't want to pay private school tuition. Thank you for your thoughts and input. --Torn about staying in OUSD


Our experience at Brewer was mixed.

Our older child really wanted to attend Brewer to be with friends from elementary school. The music program was fabulous and was a comfortable place for students who participated, a small portion of the parent community strongly supports the school (but many do not have the resources to do so), and it was within walking distance -- which is great to give students some feeling of independence.

The teachers were mixed. The vast majority were smart and enthusiastic, but overworked. With 120 students each, it must be hard for them to grade substantive written assignments, which meant that there were not a lot of substantive written assignments for our child. (Perhaps one novel and one five-paragraph essay a year.) And with a few challenging students in each class, it seemed that precious class-time was used up disciplining some of the students -- sit down, stop talking, put away the phone, take off your hat, etc. The school is making a real effort to send fewer students to the office when they act up, which means that they remain in the classrooms and continue to disrupt the learning of others. Our child pretty much ignored them and got out of the classes everything that was available. However, discipline time does cut into learning time.

Our child had two truly bad teachers and the administration could do little about it right away. The first was brought in in the Fall when the prior teacher left. The class was pretty out of control when the teacher started and the students could not be calmed down, plus the teacher simply did not know how to teach that subject, and had never had a solo classroom before. The administration didn't start working with the teacher until January and then focused only on the discipline issues. It was not until April that they started to focus on the teaching and had them start to work with another teacher as a mentor. In the end, the last six weeks of the school year consisted of the kids watching the textbook videos -- which were actually very good, but those kids still missed almost a full year of that subject. The good news is that the teacher was not brought back for another year.

The other bad teacher was reassigned from a high school, and was unfamiliar with handling middle schoolers, so the classroom seemed chaotic to us. According to our child, the classes consisted primarily of reading the textbook in the classroom and writing out short answers. One day in the fall, my child came home having been pelted with paper clips in class, in front of the teacher. The teacher did not discipline anyone, but moved my child to the other side of the room. When I called after school that day to complain that it had punished my child and communicated that paper clip throwing was acceptable, the teacher seemed nearly in tears due to frustrations with the students. This teacher explained that they moved my child because they knew my child would listen and knew that the other students would just ignore any discipline. The teacher promised it would get better. I never complained to the administration, but this particular teacher disappeared at the end of March, with no explanation, and was replaced with an excellent teacher.

Other than these two very bad teachers, the others were good to truly excellent and did the absolute best that they could with limited resources. Of course, there can be bad or ill-prepared teachers at private schools as well. On the other hand, private schools appear to have more options for dealing with these issues. Our younger child is attending a private middle school and we had concerns about one of the teachers who was new to the school this year, and within weeks the administration stepped in to help the teacher revamp the curriculum. The teacher is now being mentored by a more senior teacher and the classes seem to be going better. Of course, private schools have more resources, which gives them more options, and the teachers do not have 120 students each.

I don't know if there are true ''cliques'' at Brewer, but our child was definitely teased because of height, braininess and a facial feature. We heard nothing about this during middle school as it was kept hidden deep inside. But after starting private high school, our child told us how much better it was because there was no more teasing.

As for high preparation, it was not stellar for our child; the focus seemed to be on getting the students to finish 8th grade, with numerous programs to help make that happen. There were few opportunities for differentiated instruction for students who were not struggling in class, and the curriculum was not particularly challenging. Our child somehow had perfect grades at Edna Brewer, doing only the minimal required homework and never studying for a test. It was a massive jump to attend a challenging private high school; having never studied for a test at Edna Brewer, our child had to learn basic study skills in 9th grade. That has been hard.

Would our child have been happier at a private middle school? That's hard to say because friendships were an important factor in the decision. Would our child have been better prepared for high school after a private middle school? That probably depends on the middle school -- some are far more academically challenging than others. Would we have made a different decision if we knew all of the above? It is not clear. Brewer has a lot of positives and being part of a public middle school community was very important to us at the time we were making our decision. It still is important, but Brewer is not a perfect school. No school is. But it might be right for your child. Former Brewer Parent


Nov 2012

Hello, my son is heading to middle school next year and the teacher who taught both my kids in first grade told me about Edna Brewer and I'm wondering if there are current parents out there who could tell me what it's like now. Thanks, C.


I have 2 children. One a graduate of Brewer, the other still there. The Brewer graduate is participating in very challenging honors type of course work in HS, with many children who attended private school (and tons of smart kids from public). Our slightly more scattered younger child is blooming at Brewer. Specifically, the younger child is taking lots more responsibility for grades/organization now and is doing great. My academic child was prepared at Brewer to work alongside private/public school high achieving peers. My younger is doing great and is not 'falling through the cracks'. Brewer is a great middle school. Great communication, great mix of kids, great music program, great social variety, great teachers, great educational opportunities, great price. For kids in the Brewer district, the neighborhood aspect of the school is heartwarming and incredible. That is one clear thing that sets Brewer apart from attending a private school. This is middle school, your child will have their path and their struggles wherever they go. The same things that help kids in private schools will help kids in public school, involved parents, love, good role models, financial/medical/emotional stability. Lucky to be at Brewer. anon
Jan 2011

Re: Middle School Options in Oakland/Richmond/Berkeley
Before assessing the ''choiceness'' of Oakland -- or other city's -- middle schools, I'd check them out yourself. I hear amazing misinformation from the parent rumor mill. Edna Brewer, for example, is the best middle school in Oakland, with high test scores (if that's what lights your fire), an enthusiastic and vibrant student/parent community, a reknowned instrumental music program and much more. check it out. proud of EB


Sept 2009

I was looking for a more current review of Edna Brewer Middle School. I have heard some good things about the school and it's music program, but would love to get more info. Has anyone decided to go to Edna Brewer from a private school where they could have attended middle school? How was that transition? Public school curious


My 7th-grader is now in her second year at Edna Brewer. We looked at 6 middle schools before choosing this one and we were fortunate to get in on the first transfer application.

Positives: 1. Very structured and consistent, well-communicated behavior expectations, with positive and negative feedback. 2. ''Family'' structure where each grade has two groups of around 100 kids, meaning the core teachers and kids get to know each other. 3. Pleasant and ever-improving physical plant, in an old actual school building (no portables!) which is bright, clean, and well-maintained. 4. Good parent/guardian involvement to support teachers, facilities improvement, etc. 5. Increasing support from the neighborhood group for garden work days, fundraising, etc. 6. Exceptional diversity among students, staff, and faculty. 7. Focus on academics with recognition of the need to enjoy yourself (school motto: We are here to learn adn to feel good.'') 8. Strong special-needs program. 9. Increasing popularity; there were 100+ kids on waitlist this year, and many did get in. 10. Strong music program, really great! 11. Strong collaboration between school admin and parent group.

Could-be-improved: 1. Turnover in principal and faculty. The strong principal who turned this school around was promoted and now we have a newly hired young and energetic fellow after a year of competent interim leadership. Hopefully this will stabilize. 2. Perhaps too much emphasis on test scores? Not their fault since this is everywhere. 3. On-campus suspension as a negative consequence seems ineffective to me. Need to beef up peer advising, social justice programs, etc. 4. PTSA doesn't reflect school's diversity; again, this is true among many schools. (As president of the PTSA, I'm committed to work on this myself!)

I'd be happy to communicate more and you are welcome to visit PTSA meeting come for a tour, or invite us to your elementary school for an info panel. Nicole


My child has been at Edna Brewer for two years and our experience has been really consistently solid to splendid depending on the mood I'm in when you ask! Yes, the music department is everything you've heard and more, but academics are equally strong. My child has plenty of homework and that includes math every night, of course. A few privates (well known specifically for their academic rigor) will have a more sheerly demanding curriculum, but that really is just a few privates. And actually, between extracurricular sports, homework and music, our bright and capable child (and our family) is challenged enough! We have good knowledge of some progressive independents that are less rigorous. Other positives about EB are the highly motivated staff and the new school principal who inspires confidence. This year due to many factors (economic, goodness of fit at a prior private, and the stellar experience of peers at EB) there are a large number of private transplants to EB in 7th grade. I know several personally and they have been impressed and satisfied so far. Good luck in whatever you decide! Happy Mom
Nov 2008

Re: Change to private for middle school?
I moved my daughter from a highly rated (and beloved) private school to an Oakland Public School last year and cannot rave enough about her year at Crocker Highlands Elementary. The academics were superb, the community involvement was outstanding, and the kids in her class (and their families) are friends I hope she will keep for a lifetime.

She has now moved on to Edna Brewer Middle School with a large group of these same friends and I cannot speak highly enough about this middle school! We have many friends in private middle school who are having an equally good experience,but I can say hands down that I would choose Edna Brewer Middle School again without reservation. Here is what I love. They seem to really understand 6th graders on a cognitive-social- emotional level and provide a warm, safe, whole child learning environment. They also really seem to understand the parents of middle schoolers and provide (and require) for us a constant understanding of how our child is performing with weekly reports on our child's progress, areas of concern and areas where praise is merited. We have access to all teachers via progress reports and an online program called TeacherEase. The academics are very challenging for my child and I give high praise to her teachers. There is a superb music department with a talented and dedicated music teacher and my daugter has a full class period of music daily plus practice at home. I have always wanted this for my child but could never quite get the time and money together for lessons! The school offers free afterschool programs (sound great but no personal experience). Finally, I could not be more content with my daughter's social experience. Nope, no bullies, no inappropriate stuff has crossed her path - I keep asking and my daughter keeps replying ''Mom, everyone is really nice!'' This is our neighborhood school and she walks home with a close circle of girls daily just like in the 'good old days' of my youth. Not only have her Crocker friends and their families continued to be a strong presence in her life, but she continues to make great new friends and ties to the Brewer community. We are so pleased and excited to be a part of this new community. Thrilled New Brewer Parent!


November 2005

Can anyone provide any recent information on Edna Brewer? Will a child who has excelled academically get a chance to be challenged there? What kind of afterschool activities are there? Is your child happy there? Any information you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks.


I respond to the parent seeking current info on Edna Brewer Middle School. I have an 8th grader (taking geometry this year) and a 6th grader at Brewer. Both boys are doing very well academically and are very happy at the school. As a whole, their teachers -- a healthy mix of veteran and newer teachers -- have been excellent. (I think that the teachers are particularly strong in the math and science areas.) Ms. Marantz, in her 3rd year as principal, is energetic and smart and really cares about her students, committed to helping students at all levels develop and improve. Test scores at the school have risen significantly during the past 2 years.

The school has some of the best computer resources in the district, with 3 fixed computer labs and 2 mobile computer labs.

The school's music program offers Beginning Band, Beginning Orchestera, Intermediate Band, and Intermediate Orchestra. Students have the opportunity to participate in after-school programs including UC Berkeley Pre-Engineering program, bike club, hip hop dance, world drumming, Oakland Youth Chorus, cooking, Sports for Kids, and Homework Club.

PTSA participation is growing. Some of the PTSA's most visible projects have been the front garden for the school and the renovation of the lovely small Art Deco auditorium, as a venue for performances.

I encourage you to tour Edna Brewer. You can arrange a tour by contacting the counselor Stacey Ho at stacey.ho AT ousd.k12.ca.us.


I have a child in the seventh grade at Edna Brewer, which is our neighborhood school. My husband and I looked at Brewer, Bret Harte, and Montera Middle when my son was in 5th grade. While all three schools seemed to be on the same page in terms of what was going on in the classroom, we liked the physical layout, feel, and size of Brewer much better than the other two schools. Since that time, we have been very happy at Brewer.

The principal is on top of things and very energetic. She has a great rapport with the children. My son, who is doing well academically, likes going to school (walks himself there and back). There are a few after-school programs offered which enhance the academic experience: PEP, the Pre-Engineering Program put on by UC Berkeley, and Future City, where students learn about and design and build their own city of the future. (Brewer competed and went to the nationals last year.) Geometry is offered as an 'A' period for 8th graders, as well. There is a Gate program, which usually gets going in the winter. There is an active PTSA. There are a number of other after-school clubs and classes, as well as electives during the school day. The music program is growing as well.


December 2003

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. My son and his Crocker Highlands classmates (as well as the other Edna Brewer kids I have met) are engaged and enjoying their classes, and the academic work seems to be suitably challenging. My son's teachers are committed and experienced. The principal at Brewer is new this year. She is hard-working, smart and energetic, and has many ideas for strengthening the academic programs at the school. The PTSA at Edna Brewer has become quite active this year. A major initiative has been improvement of the grounds and facilities. The playground recently was renovated, the front yard is about to be landscaped and improved with a marquee board (through combined efforts of the school district, the community, the staff and the parents), and other renovations and improvements are afoot. Another positive is that Edna Brewer has a very diverse student population-- something for which my son was well prepared after his years at Crocker Highlands, which also features a diverse population.

Pat


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