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Montera Middle School (Oakland, CA)
We are in the process of choosing an Oakland middle school for our son. Our top choices are Edna Brewer and Montera, with a slight preference for Edna Brewer. I was hoping to get some current reviews from parents with students at each school (or if someone has recent experience with both schools, even better). We value academic rigor and diversity, but our main goal is to find a school where our slightly introverted son can thrive. Thnx Middle School Parent to Be
He started at Montera a bit over two years ago, and was there for a year and a half. I wanted to like Montera, I really, really did -- but it was not good at all for my son. There are 950 or so students there, and the noise and chaos between classes is something to behold; it intimidated even me when I was there to visit a teacher (they have only a 3 minute passing period; no time at all even to get to a locker; my son never used his).
One of the big problems for my son was the intimidation. He got threatened (to a point that scared him) for such things as walking across a corner of a group's impromptu basketball court at recess, or bumping into a kid he didn't know -- and my son is larger than average by a good bit.
There are also (as in any school) some good teachers, and some bad. I got lots of stories from my son of one teacher not even noticing kids throwing pens and other small sharp objects around behind his back. I also noted firsthand that only about half of the teachers were willing to meet with me, or respond seriously to my concerns, when my son was having trouble.
We left Montera when my son was halfway through 7th grade. It was the right decision for us; he's doing much better at a new school (in a different district). I know some kids do very well at Montera; they tend to be the kids, I think, who would do well most anywhere -- academically focused, not easily intimidated, not drawn to problem kids, and not easily distracted. Our son, unfortunately, was not one of these kids. anonymous
My 5th grade son is in an excellent autism spectrum inclusion program (ASIP) at Chabot and we are trying to figure out which middle school ASIP program would be best for him. I went on a parent led tour at both Edna Brewer and Montera, as well as an information night at Edna Brewer. So far I've been more swayed by the thoughtful and intentional way in which EB has communicated about their school and how they operate. That said, I've heard good things about both schools.
If you have (or have had) a child in either one of these programs, I'd love to know: What you found the strengths and challenges of the school and/or program to be? How effectively and transparently the kids were integrated with their peers? Was there excessive stigma attached to being in ASIP? How the schedule worked for your child? (6 periods? at Montera; block schedule this year at EB, with just 3 classes per day) How easy was it to work with school administration? How easy was it to work with ASIP staff? What was the quality of the intervention specialists (classroom aides)? How good were the gen ed teachers at supporting your childs needs? If your child had academic needs, as well as social, did you receive adequate support for these? Feel free to contact me directly (by email or phone (510-918-3557)or reply to this post. Thanks! Inga
Re: Montclair jr/high school: public, private or move?
I wouldn't move or go private for middle school. Our child is in 6th grade at Montera, after having attended Montclair. It is a California Distinguished School, and the test scores are not so bad at all. I am not so big on paying attention to test scores. Instead, I care about how happy my daughter is and if she is learning. Well, she is thriving. The work is challenging, and interesting. For the core academics, the school is ahead of the curve in working toward the common core standards. In brief, that means more emphasis on thinking instead of rote work and it is something all states (except for Montana and Texas) are moving toward. Her social studies class covers ancient history, and right now it's all about ancienct Greece- they are learning about the Greek gods and creating designs to incorporate what they have learned. My daughter has come out of her shell in math this year, and her teacher is giving her more advanced math to supplement what is standard for 6th grade. English covers a lot of writing, and they are reading some great novels and evaluating them in class. Science is great too. There is about 1+ hour of homework each night, and she works hard at it. I was VERY worried to send her to Montera because of all one heards about OUSD, etc., especially as a graduate of the esteemed (but not deservedly so, IMO) Orinda schools, but am now embarassed to have been so. It's a gem. Yes, it's a public school and all that entails, but there will always be issues whereever you go. One more thing...we have seen a few folks leave private schools for Montera, and it seems they are thriving as well. I do hear that 7th grade hasn't been as strong as 6th, but I also hear that the principal is working on this. I ask my daughter every day if school is ok, and she loves it. Couldn't ask for more. Happy at Montera
Our first child is due to start middle school next year. I realize the school year just started, but time flies and I want to make sure we research our options in time to visit open houses, fill out applications, etc. Our first choice as a family is Montera (our neighborhood school), but we would really like to hear from current and/or recently-graduated Montera families about how they accomodate academically advanced students. I visited the website today, and the information about the GATE program posts an invite for a meeting in November of 2009. I'm hoping there is something more recent happening! We're not fans of private school, but we also don't want to short-change our kids if their needs won't generally be met at their school. Any information is much appreciated, both good and not-so-good. Thanks! --Hopeful for Montera
By all means, do come visit Montera. Talk to the administrators and teachers. Attend one or more of our PTO meetings and use the opportunity to speak with current Montera parents. This coming Tuesday evening we are putting on a program on how parents can help their children succeed in middle school. Pizza will be served starting at 6:30, with the program beginning at 7:00 in the Montera library. Bring your kids.
Jerry Batchelder Montera Parent Teacher Organization Co-President
I read the info. already posted about Montera, but have a couple of more specific questions. Are there any GLBT parents out there with a kid at the school? What has been your experience there? How does the school handle GLBT issues. Is there any kind of anti-bullying or discrimination awareness teaching at the school? Do you feel like the kids get any kind of social consciousness education? Worried Parent
Hi there. We may move to Montclair, so our child can be in one of the good elementary schools there. But we've heard mixed things about the schools ... If you have children in either of those elementary schools, what do you think of them? How is the homework? the arts? the PE? I am having a tough time getting adequate info from the schools. Also, what do parents do for middle and high school? I know several families that went private after elementary school, due to poor middle/high options in Montclair area. We both have graduate degrees and were lucky enough to attend some exceptional schools, so education is a HUGE priority for us. We're really interested in your thoughts, your stories. Thanks! sw
Go visit Montera before you totally rule out public middle school in Oakland. You'll be pleasantly surprised. We've been nothing but happy there. Both my kids are engaged and excited about learning - and doing well. Teachers are communicative, open and responsive. API test scores are up. The PTO is organized and very active. And our family is active and involved in the school.
It's not a good fit for everyone, obviously. But if you live in Montclair, go take a look. It's only getting better each year. Lauren
My son is a sixth grader attending Montera Middle School. I want to know if anyone has any information about the school. Are there problems with drugs, ''sex clubs'', or a lot of fighting? I have spent time on the campus, have asked my son in as vague a manner as possible and have even tried calling the police station to get informtaion. I have also called the school and left messages for my sons teachers and principal - none to have been returned. Does anyone have any feed back on Montera Middle school? Concerned parent
Hello, I heard there is a new principal in Montera and the discipline is under control. But how about the quality of teaching? Are the students challenged academically? I hear there is a lot that is done to tutor the under performing children. But what about those who excel? Are they treated with advanced material? Thank you very much. worried 5th grade parent
Montera has many great teachers, and my daughter got lucky to get a full set of excellent teachers in 6th grade. Her math & science teacher has Ivy League education, is a PhD and has 30 years experience of teaching his beloved subjects. The English & history teacher is young, in her 2nd year, full of enthusiasm, energy, knowledge and has excellent rapport with students. Music - my daughter was admitted to the string orchestra by audition (violin) and plays in the after-school jazz band (clarinet). Even the PE teacher is absolutely great.
I think we hit a jackpot here. My daughter is learning a lot, loves her school and is surrounded by students like her, together with the full diversity of students that Montera offers.
After school, there are academic and non-academic programs. For example, my daughter is in Mathletes, an advanced math training programs, where they are taught and then compete with other local schools at Mathletes competitions, American Mathematics Competition, Math Counts competition. The only school Montera lost in Mathletes to is Black Pine Circle, a small private school, but not to other private or public schools in the area.
There are after-school science programs organized by Berkeley Lab scientists for GATE students, a 7-week poetry program we bring to more than half classrooms, Cal Shakes workshops we're starting in a few classrooms this year, Junior Achievement will come to teach economics and global business over 7 weeks. Lots of exciting things are happening at the GATE committee - which is no surprise with 390 GATE-identified students out of the total of 867 students in this school.
Come join Montera and work with us on the GATE committee!
I wanted to update the review of Montera Middle School. As a new parent of a sixth grader this year, I am thrilled with the positive energy, hard work and dedication of the new principal, Mr. Mesfun. My concerns were safety and academic challenge for my shy, gifted girl. The campus has 3 active security guards, and a principal who can be found roaming the halls interacting with students and reminding them of the dress code and of their importance. He validates the children's academic and social behavior with student of the week awards. He has set up new enrichment Mandarin classes and is hiring a librarian for the computerized updated library and added tutoring for those scoring below grade level. Needless to say, my daughter's social life can thrive because she feels safe, and her academics are soaring because the classes are under control. I highly recommend this as a safe and academically challenging middle school option in Oakland.
I felt a strong need to submit this information for new parents looking at the public middle school options in Oakland. A relieved middle school parent
Hi: We are lucky enough to have our two older children attend Joaquin Miller Elementary, but we are wondering about middle school. We would prefer to send our oldest (now in 4th grade) to Montera Middle School, and would love to get input from parents of children who have attended Montera during the last 4 years (since the new principal started). I am especially interested in information about the GATE program and how this works. Thanks so much mom of 3
I have 3 kids who have attended Montera, two with special needs and one gifted. I have generally been happy with the school. I feel that the administration cares about kids and the teachers are qualified. Gifted kids are not served particularly well. There is no specialized instruction or tailering of materials to their level in a given class that I'm aware of. One thing Montera does well is to test kids coming in for Math skills. If a kid is advanced they can skip a grade or two in math. My son is taking geometry in 8th grade and learning a lot. Kids are placed in the appropriate level for band and language classes too. Getting information about individual assignments gets harder at this age with multiple teachers and kids not necessarily telling you. I have found teachers responsive but they don't tell me if my kid is not working to his potential. mary in oakland
My daughter entered Montera Jr. High in Oakland as a 6th grader this year. I understand that the need for space, caused by class size reduction, pushed 6th grade into the Jr. High schools. This is an unfortunate situation, since many children are not mature enough for the larger campuses and chaotic environment of the Jr. Highs.
This first year at Montera has been a great disappointment for us. She attends combined a combined math/science, core subject classes, conducted by an incompetent teacher who cannot control the classroom. When my daughter told me how bad the classes are I hoped that she was exaggerating the situation. At her invitation I attended a day of classes with her. Her first period band class,( in which she plays drums) was quieter than the math/science classes. Debris flew, kids were fighting and the decibel rate was extreme. Many students could not control themselves and another bunch delighted in disrupting any forward progress. This behavior was evident in other classes, but other teachers handled discipline problems more effectively.
I contacted the administration: They promised to do something. They offered this teacher every possible form of support, but nothing has changed. In fact the students claim that the conditions are worse now.
My daughter has always participated in the district's science fair with great enthusiasm - until this year. She did complete her project, with no support from the teacher whatsoever. Needless to say, she is losing interest in school at an alarming rate.
My daughter wrote a letter to the school asking why conditions were so poor. Why, she asked, can't we have classes for kids who WANT to learn? Why won't the schools and parents deal with these problems more directly? Why are the kids who do behave and participate penalized by the behavior of the troublemakers? The Vice Principal at our school knows and understands these issues, but needs more support from the district to confront and resolve the problems.
The new superintendent, Dennis Chacones, wants to eliminate elective courses at middle schools in order to give the teachers their much-deserved raises. Far too many of these undisciplined kids genuinely need the electives; these are often kids who are not motivated by academics. Creative work help kids of all abilities, they NEED these electives. This is where the kids feel an investment in their lives as students; choices such as these are very important to them. Mr. Chacones seems to feel that the district needs to concentrate on improving the reading scores of jr. and sr high school students who are many years below grade level in reading performance. Does it make sense to remove elective courses such as music, creative writing, studio art or foreign language in order to offer remedial reading to a limited portion of the school population?
It is regrettable that there are so many kids whose parents didn't take the time to read with them, who never came for teacher conferences, and who expected the schools to educate their children in subjects that should have been taught at home. These kids have routinely been "socially promoted" for so long they have no idea what school is for. These kids seem to think that school is a great place to "mess around" and delight in being a great source of frustration to as many teachers, administrators and classmates as possible. The adults in their lives seem not to care, and the kids don't either. But why do the other kids have to pay such a high price for the absence of self-control of these troubled people. The notion of mixing classes of capable and disciplined kids with the behavioral problems is ineffective and grossly unfair to those who want to learn.
How do other parents feel about this? What would parents think of establishing programs within the same schools for the kids who can control themselves, come to school prepared to study, and display a desire to participate and learn? Why can't the schools provide some resources for kids who need to be challenged, encouraged, nurtured, and honored? The district is sending a message that there is no special value for their good performances, behavior, or dreams and desires to excel. It seems the district doesn't think it's "cool" to be smart and well behaved either! I'm not suggesting that we build fancy new facilities for this. Let's just consider giving the kids with good citizenship an equal opportunity.
Without question teachers need to be paid fairly. After experiencing a bit of the chaos they endure daily I can't understand why they return. Many teachers I have known expressed a love of teaching and seeing children learn and grow. They also freely noted the frustration they must live with because they know they are neglecting the best and brightest in many cases. This is a situation any teacher would find deplorable.
As parents, what are our alternatives? We can't all afford private school. We already are in the school deemed "the best." Is home schooling the only other possible solution? What are other parents of dedicated kids thinking? I can't be alone in feeling this way!
What a shame this is. I attended public school in California 30 years ago, and I believe that I received a comprehensive and, in some areas, even exemplary education. This is a different world now, I know. I just find it unacceptable that everything has deteriorated so completely for the schools in a state with so many distinct advantages and resources. Are there other parents who would like to work to improve this situation and make it better for ALL the students? I surely hope so!
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