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North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS) Oakland, CA

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Oakland Public Schools > North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS)



NOCCS for late elementary/middle school

April 2012

I've checked the archives and there are no recent reviews of NOCCS. We're considering NOCCS for the last two years of elementary and for middle school -- hoping that since we're high on the waiting list that we'll get in. Can anyone talk about grades 4-8? What is middle school like? What electives are there? What are the positives and the drawbacks? How do the mixed classrooms work? What about the cell tower near the school? Has there been any environmental impact? I'd appreciate any feedback about the curriculum and extra curricula activities/concerns. Thanks Thinking about NOCCS


First off, NOCCS is an amazing school overall in the classroom. The teachers are generally top-notch, and the theme-based progressive education is quite inspiring. The middle-school is relatively new, and when it first started a few years ago there were a few bumps/problems, but I think overall these growing pains have worked themselves out. That said, there are a few caveats.

First, the school is ''experimenting'' with allowing some teachers to go part-time - mostly four days/week. The substitute teacher on the fifth day (or whatever the situation is) is an ''accredited'' teacher, but never is this teacher someone the school would even consider hiring full-time. This has created quite a few problems across the classrooms where this has been implemented, such as continuity challenges for the students, so this is something to investigate.

More importantly, I think, is your question about the cell antennas. To be clear, European standards (i.e. the EU) require that *one* cell antenna be at least 1500 feet from a school, but there are now *nine* antennas 100 feet from our children at NOCCS. Yes, the current setup meets FCC guidelines, but these were written over 15 years ago and do not meet current cutting edge (and yes peer-reviewed) medical research and standards - just telcom lobbied standards. Certainly, there is a debate about the health effects, but NOCCS children are now guinea pigs in studying these effects. noccs parent


At NOCCS Grades 4 and 5 are made up of two 25-28 student classrooms each with a teacher and teacher asst who splits time between the two classrooms. Good teachers, but one is leaving to return to MOSAIC next year full time, so a new one will be found. They break the mixed Cb class 4th/5th graders apart only for math. Grades 6-8, about the same size, are taught by a mix of three teachers, who mostly specialize in math, science, and literature/history so the students rotate among them, plus teacher assistants.

The upsides include small school atmosphere, a blended practical-intellectual approach (called "teaching for understanding"), good teachers, and the volunteer commitments of many parents. Downsides include difficulties in retaining some faculty, the widespread and constant struggle for funds, and the lack of a decent playground - though they now give credit for regular outside sports participation. Middle school elective period options: music, visual art, Community Action Learning (required), P.E. (required), Spanish, biz world, media and technology.

A set of 9 Verizon cell antennas were installed on the building across 42nd Street from the school last Thanksgiving after a long battle on the part of a small group of parents to keep them away had delayed but not stopped them. (It had been easy to get the permit; since then, Oakland has changed its regulations around cell antenna installations in mixed-use neighborhoods.) Recently the Verizon antennas were upgraded (power was increased) to handle the 4G network communications. Hooray for Verizon and its subscribers.

Any effects on students and teachers are as yet unnoticed (or unreported) but if there are any they may not appear in the short term. A small long-term epidemiological health study was started before the antennas were installed but the sample size may not be large enough to document the full effects. ItC",E!s not certain there will be any effects but itC",E!s not well studied yet in the U.S. Cbbbbbcause the FCC and Congress have done the bidding of the cell phone companies, and everyone loves the technology. A few scientific studies that appeared to show bad effects from EMF exposure were quickly disparaged. Who's working for whom? Anyway, so far, in 6 months of exposure, no clear and documented effects are known to have appeared at NOCCS.

I think that answers your questions but if you have more, e-mail me directly:

Dennis R., parent of 7th grader at NOCCS


NOCCS middle school reviews?

March 2011

I would love to hear about your experiences at NOCCS' middle school: teaching staff, curriculum, school climate, administration, school site. I know that the middle school is only a couple of years old and that there have been growing pains and bumps along the road. I'm not looking for perfection, but an honest assessment of how things are going for your middle schooler would be great. Thanks so much.


This is the first year that NOCCS has had a full upper school 6/7/8. The core teaching staff is very strong and the Dean of Students is wonderful. The teaching methodology and curriculum content is also solid. The elective program is really weak and needs a major overhaul, though, to measure up with the electives offered at other schools. It's worth checking out if you have a child who would do better in a smaller K-8 setting. NOCCS parent

Cell phone towers near NOCCS?

March 2011

Hi, Does anyone know what is going on with plans for a cell phone tower near NOCCS, the North Oakland Community Charter School? I'm interested in the school but wondered if a cell phone tower is indeed going to be built close by. There was an article in the SF Chroncile about parents organizing against it, but I've lost track of what is happening with this. Much thanks, D.


Verzion is in contract to place a cell tower on the building across the street from NOCCS which is less than 150 feet away. Also worth noting, it is also within 400 feet of Anna Yates Elementary. Because this area is zoned for mixed used, the plans were passed despite the efforts of many to prevent this from happening. Many areas, including Europe, take a precautionary approach to the placement of cell towers, particularly when it comes to schools, day care centers and playgrounds. A distance of at least 1500 feet between cell towers and schools has been suggested. It is an issue that all schools should look at. If it doesn't affect your child's school now, it could in the near future. A new website which will rank schools according to their proximity to cell towers is launching in April: http://www.magdahavas.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Media_Advisory_DRAFT-5.pdf Since parents have to apply to get into NOCCS, people should know that this cell tower issue has not been resolved. Anon
Nov 2010

Re: Kids of LGBT families experience: Oakland schools
It would be worth it to put your child's name into the lottery for NOCCS (North Oakland Community Charter School). We are also a two-mom family, and I cannot imagine a more welcoming, inclusive and affirming environment for our daughter. Respect for all kinds of diversity, including family diversity, is an integral part of the curriculum and the school community, and each child's experience/background is validated. Definitely check it out. happy NOCCS parent


Jan 2009

Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
North Oakland Community Charter School -- one of the Bay Area's most successful public progressive schools -- has expanded to a K-8 model. NOCCS is currently accepting application for students who will be entering grades K-7 in the Fall of 2009. We have one Open House left this year scheduled for Saturday, February 7th at 1:30 PM. The Open House is open to both students and their families. TO download an application, go to our website at www.noccs.org or give us a call at 510.655.0540. Carolyn


May 2008

Hi All, We live in Oakland and have a child who will start kindergarden in 2010. We love Oakland and do not want to move, but are feeling grim about our public school options. I know that admission to NOCCS is through a lottery. However, I am wondering if there is any chance that I could increase our chances of admission by volunteering at the school for a year or so before we apply. Has anyone out there had experience doing this at NOCCS? Does anyone have any other suggestions? I have heard it recommended to do this at other public schools, but don't know if it would make any difference at NOCCS. Worried Wilma


The only way to get into NOCCS is to fill out an application just like everyone else does. Then they literally pick numbers out of a hat, so to speak. You can't ''up your chances'' any other way, so they keep the process as fair as possible. I have donated to their Walk-a-thons and so forth for 6 years and have dear friends who helped found the school, and we did not get in. It is the luck of the draw and is NOT a school you can in any way COUNT ON getting into. The Scoop
Volunteering at a school will not increase your chances of getting in through a lottery. To be fair, a lottery means that everyone has the same chance of getting in. However, volunteers are incredibly valuable to all schools, and you will give yourself and your child a great feel for what the school is like through volunteering. We live in north Oakland and our daughter goes to Civicorps Elementary, a charter school in our neighborhood (also lottery to get in), established around 2002. We have been really happy with the school, our whole family has been very involved with the school and its mission, and I urge you to check it out at http://cvcorps.org/programs/school.html. -Civicorps Elementary Parent
I am a parent of 2 kids who have gone through NOCCS from K-5th. Unfortunately there is no way to improve your chances of getting into the school. The Lottery is the most fair and unbiased way to getting accepted. I wish you luck. This school is a shining example of a well run, academically excellent institution. anonymous
Volunteering is always welcome, but unfortunately it doesn't affect your chances of admission. We are obliged by law to use a lottery. I encourage you to get on the waiting list. Even though you may be far down the list, there can be last-minute openings after the school year starts. For example, someone has to move for their job all of a sudden in mid-September. People ahead of you on the list may be set and so you have a better chance of getting in if you can be flexible at this time. Richard
March 2008

I would like to hear some recent parent opinions of NOCCS. It seems like it's THE place to be, but I'm not totally sure why. I have friends who have their kids there & they are happy, though not blown away. Is it really that much better than, say Civicorp? I've visited both & spoke to the administrators and I liked them both about the same, but Civicorp was so easy to get into & NOCCS has such a long wait list. It seems like a fine school, but does it really live up to it's hype? -Can't decide!


Our family has been very happy with NOCCS. The staff are passionate and dedicated. My kids are getting a great education. If you are looking for a small school with a caring, supportive community, then look at NOCCS. All families are asked to volunteer time every month to support the school. There are lots of different ways to do this, but if participation and community are important factors for you, then you will be hard pushed to find a better place to be. Richard
My daughter entered NOCCS this school year (2007-2008) as a Kindergartner and we have been thrilled. We have experience with other public and highly selective private schools in the Bay Area and feel that NOCCS competes and wins on most dimensions. Our daughter absolutely loves school and is thriving. The teachers and staff are caring, progressive and committed to developing all children. The ''Teach for Understanding'' model, developed at Harvard School of Ed is innovative and brings learning to life. Most of all, we believe that NOCCS is grass-roots, progressive public education at its finest. Diversity of all types (social economic, ethnic, cultural, etc.) is the norm. Parents pitch in (they must under the schools volunteer requirement) and as a result, there is a feel of happy chaos to the place which underscores the message to the children that their education and development is a community commitment and effort. It really is a special place and we feel very fortunate to be part of it. As the school cheer (boomed out every Wednesday morning at the all school meeting!) goes: ''NOCCS Rocks!!'' Parent of 2007-2008 Kindergartner
We are new to NOCCS with a son in the K1 class. Our local school would have been Peralta. I have to say that NOCCS has been a GREAT experience so far. His teacher Ms. Landers supports and challenges our son in creative and innovative ways. He always comes home with a new song or story connected to some learning concept of the week. He has learned good social skills and made friends easily. Both of us work and are happy for the enrichment programs available in the Afterschool Program. The school is now serving organic hot lunches. The classroom, communinity and school reflect the rich diversity of its students and families in a respectful inclusive manner. Come check out the school for yourself. jb
NOCCS is a vibrant, fun, supportive community with a very high level of parent involvement. This can make things a little loosely organized, and I would suggest that you consider whether you would find the high level of parent involvement exasperating or rewarding.

My son came to NOCCS because he was suffering from teasing and bullying at a private school with a very similar ''progressive'' philosophy. At NOCCS he has become a very confident learner and a much happier kid. NOCCS really does walk the talk in terms of promoting respect among the students, and grappling with the challenges of meeting the needs of a community that is truly racially and socio- economically diverse. If this is important to you, and you/your child don't need lots of structure, I say go with NOCCS. Good Luck! bt


We are a new family of a Kindergartener at NOCCS this year and feel so lucky to be here. I just attended the Alfie Kohn lecture in Berkeley last night and found myself counting my blessings many times over in regards to the curriculum and teaching methods at NOCCS, which are creative and focus on teaching for understanding. One of the best pieces of advice I got in searching for kindergarten was to look at the art in the classroom. Is it all cookie-cutter or does it honor the individual? The curriculum usually follows suit. The sense of community at NOCCS, especially among the kids, is strong and nurturing, with older kids showing compassion and understanding for younger ones. Carolyn is a passionate, creative, witty, and focused director.

It's not perfect -- there are conflicts among parents, but that's to be expected in a place where parents are highly involved in their child's education. The volunteer requirements are vast and can feel overwhelming to some, but there are many ways to participate. I visited EBCC several times and was also impressed with their curriculum, so they seem like a great school, too. They have nice outdoor areas and gardens and seem geared toward conservation. I love that a major part of their curriculum is community service-based. If you have visited both places, you must have a gut feeling about them. Where do you see your child thriving? That's really what it's all about. Everything else will fall into place. Good luck. NOCCS Rocks


My daughter goes to NOCCS and we love it. The academics are strong and the community is tremendous. Be prepared to volunteer on a regular basis. High parent involvement is one of the things that makes NOCCS so great. Admission is by lottery and some grades have more openings than others so it's worth a shot. Kathy
As a longtime parent at NOCCS I would say that what makes NOCCS different, and creates its "hype", is the combination of a strong community of wonderful people (families and school staff) and an organization that is attempting to be a different model in the world. Just that very effort to be more progressive and engaging is attractive to many families in the Bay Area, given our largely shared values around social justice, diversity, and wanting to live in a more democratic way. There's a balance of academic and social/emotional aspects at NOCCS that has generally been pulled off successfully - our test scores are good. NOCCS works well for families who are interested in investing their own valuable time both in the school and at home with their kids. On the flip side, NOCCS doesn't work for all families. To me, it's like anything -- who you are is going to impact what your experience is. I'd be happy to talk with you more in person if you want. I have a 5th grader and kindergartener at NOCCS. Good luck with your decision! Wendy
Dec 2007

Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
Try North Oakland Community Charter School. There is a lottery and a long waiting list to get in, but it is a great school. I work for OUSD and am there one day a week and have been very impressed with the way that peaceful solutions are found for ''discipline'' issues. I think it would be a good fit for you. noccs.org Laura


Dec 2007

Re: Oakland ''Hidden Gem'' Elementaries
Try NOCCS, North Oakland Community Charter School. We are very happy there, Progressive education and lottery to get in. Tours are going on now. Google, NOCCS for info. Good Luck parent


Try North Oakland Community Charter School. It is by no means a hidden gem...there is a lottery and a long waiting list to get in, but it is a great school. noccs.org Laura
Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
I think if the private schools you are looking at will not let you see and observe the classrooms that your daughter would be in if you chose the school, and let her come and spend some time there so that you and she can get a sense of what it would be like for her there, then I would not consider that school as an option at all.

If you are an Oakland resident, you might consider looking at N. Oakland Community Charter School. It is fairly diverse, though small, progressive, and challenging, and you could see both of the K/1 classrooms and the 2/3 classrooms for yourself. There are probably no openings now, but could be for 2nd grade next year (there always seem to be a couple of spots, but you never know this early in the year). anon


June 2007

We have been waitlisted for first grade at NOCCS (North Oakland Community Charter)and would like to hear from any families of color (African American/Latino) about their experiences there. We very strongly agree with their educational approach/philosophy, but want to know more about how students of color do there? Our daughter is currently at a very diverse school in Oakland and asked me when we went to visit, ''Am I going to be the only brown one there?'' I guess I would like to hear from any parents of color out there who have sent their kids to predominantly white schools and how they have fared? Any advice? Anon


I am an African-American women married to a Caucasian/Creole man, so our children are multi-racial. This is our first year at NOCCS, and we are very happy with the school. Our son enjoys his time at school everyday. There is a small number of multi-racial students and students of color. However, one of NOCCS's core principles is ''valuing diversity'', and wants it's school to reflect the diversity of the city of Oakland. To me, this is a work in progress, but one that is important to our school community. Bottom line is, NOCCS has very strong parent involvement, made up of people who really care about all the children and their educational and emotional well being. If you have any other questions about NOCCS, feel free to email me anytime. crj
May 2005

I'm interested in learning more about the North Oakland Community Charter School. Any current parents or others willing to comment on quality of academics, teachers? North Oakland parent

[no replies received]


March 2005

I found an old posting (2000) about this charter school which was just starting up then. Does anyone have their children there and have any opinions about it? I looked at the web site and it looks like a public school worth investigating, but I'd like to get some personal views about it. Looking ahead to Kindergarten 2006

[no replies received]


July 2000

The North Oakland Community Charter School is opening September 2000 for a combined classroom of 20 kindergartners and first graders on College Avenue in the Rockridge section of Oakland. It is open to any California resident. One or two grades will be added each year through 6th grade. The school seeks to create an intellectually challenging, student-centered environment focussed on early literacy and learning for understanding. The school and has hired an experienced, dynamic, one-of a-kind teacher for its inaugural classroom. There will also be a teacher's aide and an on-site aftercare program. There are currently a couple of openings for first graders and a very short waiting list for kindergartners. The school's number is 655-0540, and a rudimentary website is at www.noccs.org. Allison


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