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Hi, I have a daughter in 7th grade who is interested in the dance department at OSA. I have concerns about this being a good fit for her because she does not thrive under pressure. She is already a perfectionist and lots of external pressure stresses her out. I have also heard their ballet department described as ''crazy '' by the director at her current ballet school. She also said kids are getting injured and even needing surgeries as a result of dancing at OSA. I feel very confused by this and would love to hear from parents who actually know what's going on. Also would auditioning as an 8th grader benefit her chances of acceptance versus applying for 9 th grade? Your insight will be very much appreciated! Prospective OSA parent
If your daughter truly doesn't thrive under pressure, then, yes, perhaps the OSA School of Dance would not be a good match. As a parent of an OSA dance student, I sincerely do not believe that the ballet department is ''crazy,'' and although there are students who have been injured, and I know of one student who has had surgery, I am not aware of injuries or surgery that I would fault the dance department for. In fact, OSA students get an incredible amount of instruction on injury prevention. My daughter has to work very hard in their department, but she has also learned a tremendous amount while at OSA so she is appreciative of the instruction she is receiving from Mr. Savage and the other dance teachers. Yes, there can be a lot of pressure, but for those students who are interested in becoming a professional dancer, this is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of life as a professional dancer.
Auditioning as a 7th grader for 8th grade certainly has its advantages. We recommend signing up for a tour and a ''shadow.'' OSA Parent
My up-coming 5th grade daughter is currently enrolled at an independent school that we are mostly happy with, but says that she wants to change schools for middle school. She is very interested in OSA. She would be applying for the fine arts program. She definitely sees herself as an artist, and is especially interested in fashion design. She has pretty good, mostly self-taught sewing skills and spends lots of time sketching designs. I hear that admission is highly competitive, especially in the fine arts program. I would love to know if anyone has had experience going through this process and could offer any insight/advice? I know that you can audition more than once. Is it common to get turned down before finally being admitted? If you are turned down do they offer constructive criticism for preparing for the next audition? Any info would be greatly appreciated! Anon
1. Show your daughter's interests: the fact that she loves fashion and fashion drawing is great. I would definitely bring or take photos of any of the clothes she has designed and bring a strong sampling of her fashion drawings.
2. That being said, OSA wants to see a variety of work. Thse kids will be spending 2-3 hours on art each day, and it won't always be the same stuff, or stuff your kid is even interested in(ie, not all fashion drawing). So make sure her portfolio reflects a broad variety of work. (THAT being said, in looking through my daughter's portfolio, I see she rareley used color, but she still got in!)
3. They don't want to see what your kid was doing in 1st or 2nd grade. THAT being said, we did include in her portfolio a few older drawing (3rd grade) that were particularly good and tied in to her more recent drawings(a series of self-portraits and portrails of family members).
4. Spend some time going through your daughter's works to organize and arrange. OSA likes to see sketchbooks, as well as finished works. We brought one portfolio of ''finished'' works, and then a folder of sketches, or less finished drawings. Mind you, for a 10 year old, (or at least my 10 year old) the line between ''finished'' works and ''sketches'' is pretty fine. My daughter and I worked together going through her gazillion drawings and organizing them in the portfolio/folder to show them to their best advantage. For example, she had gone through a manga phase, and had literally hundreds of manga characters, of various types and sizes. Rather than bring all 100+, we chose 10 or 12 of the most interesting (eg, different facial expressions, gestures etc), cut them down to size, and arranged the 10 or 12 of various sizes on facing pages of the portfolio. Seeing 12 of her manga characters all together made a much bigger impact visually than flipping through 12 pages of manga. We similiarly arranged other related drawings, often placing 2 or 3 small but related drawings on one page of the portfolio.
When we went through this editing and arranging process, it also became more clear what was ''finished'' and what was a ''sketch.'' Then we put the best of remains in the sketch folder (we made sketch folder, rather than bring a sketchbook, because she had so many sketchbooks, most of which were only half drawn in). OSA says more is better, but actually my daughter's art looked even better once we judiciously edited and arranged it. At the audition many kids had giant expensive portfolios, but we just used a 9X12 portfolio you can get anywhere. soon to be OSA mama
Hope that's helpful although obviously we haven't been through the process yet so I don't know about constructive criticism etc. I plan to attend an upcoming information day. The dates are posted on their website.
I'm interested in finding out from current OSA parents what they think of the middle and high school math and science programs. Obviously the level of learning in the arts is high, but do you feel that your kids are getting a good grounding in mathematics and the sciences? Another, more specific question about the approach to math in the lower grades. The AP precalculus summer assignment posted on the website seems fairly creative. ''Over the summer, you are to read one of the following four books. You are to write a short report (approximately 1000 words) due on the 3rd day of class in Precalculus. The report will include a short summary of the book (250 words max for this part), how it relates math and the real world, your opinions on the book (also a maximum of 250 words), and how you might see it used in a math class. Moneyball - Michael Lewis; The Math Behind The Music - Leon Harkleroad; Bringing Down the House - Ben Mezrich; The Calculus Wars - Jason Socrates Bardi''
How much of this kind of approach to math do you see in the lower grades at OSA, especially in middle school? Thanks for your responses! Considering OSA
My 12 year old is considering OSA for high school in a year or two, specifically in the Circus emphasis. Anyone have current experience with the school (with this emphasis a bonus)? I'm concerned about the academics. How are they? How is the school in general? Are the kids happy? Getting prepared for college? Friendly? Any feedback appreciated.
My child is in their 2nd [and our last] year at OSA. We have been very unhappy (mildly stated) with the Instrumental Music Department. In class, when asking routine questions, my child has been mocked and humiliated, and has witnessed the same happen to classmates. My child has had grades lowered at the end of the semester, without explanation. When asking about this, my child was actually told the school had a waiting list of kids who are probably better musicians and that my child could easily be replaced. My child was also present when this has been said to other students. For my child this has made the music classes, which should be the best part of the day, a very harsh, non-learning environment.
There was a petition, signed by Instrumental Music families, which addressed these same concerns and experiences. I participated in Instrumental Music Department meetings for families where these concerns and experiences were discussed. My child reports some improvement and less humiliation, but no longer has trust in the teachers. From my perspective as a parent, no school polices have been enacted to ensure that a respectful, encouraging learning environment will be created and maintained. Parents' only true recourse is to remove their children from the school, which we are doing, and as over 20% of Instrumental Music families did last year. The shame is the school has some outstanding academic teachers who go above and beyond to help the kids. Anon
I know that some parents in the jazz program have brought their concerns to mr. Harris who has responded quickly and appropriately. We are thrilled to be at OSA and I could not recommend it more highly. However, there are high expectations, kids have to be committed to their instruments and be willing to work hard! S.
My theatre-geek daughter is interested in Oakland School of the Arts for high-school and we attended a recent Open House and were impressed by the Executive Director. We have several questions better addressed to current/ graduated students and their families and would be grateful for responses to any of these: 1. How strong were the academics and support? 2. Do you have a sense of what level an entering HS student needs to be to have a good chance of acceptance to the theater program. My daughter has been involved in good local youth theater and is middle- of-the-pack in terms of poise and getting into character. She is always complimented on her enthusiasm, sparkle and transmitting emotion, and tends to get comedic or ''pretty'' roles instead of the lead, but my sense is that craft over sparkle is what she needs for this program. 3. Any feedback on the Digital Media program? She is interested in film and very good with tech. 4. Were you impressed by the general level of arts achievement by the average kids- not the stars. 5. Do the new HS kids meld well with the rising middle-schoolers? 6. How many new HS kids in theater at the 9th grade level. 7. Final question: daughter started as a singer but moved to musical theater. Still loves to sing (and probably her real strength) butknowledge of theory is rudimentary and cannot sight-read. We can cram some theory, but she wouldn't be able to sing from a page by the time of auditions. Would it be worthwhile to audition for Voice at the HS level? Not sure where new highschoolers would have picked this up, I only know one youth choir that teaches it (Pacific Boychoir!). Mom of a Gleek
She has friends in most emphasis areas, and the parents I meet seem happy with the school.
My daughter's academic classes are all smaller than we expected- there are under 20 students in all but one of her academic classes, and teachers are supportive, approachable, and experienced. As a high school student, she is expected to ask for help when needed, and she has always received the help she needs.
I think OSA is a gem! I would encourage anyone to apply. If a student is not accepted after the first round of auditions, I would suggest continuing to go to OSA auditions; enthusiasm, focus and determination count for a lot. Happy OSA parent
editor note: also recomended: Innerspark/California State Summer School for the Arts
My daughter and her friend are interested in attending the Oakland School for the Arts. We will be going to an open house next month, and I've found a bit of information on the web (including here on the parent's digest, but it's not that up to date), but I'm hoping to hear from someone whose teen is currently enrolled. Do you and your son/daughter like it there? Thank you for any insight Suzanne
Can anyone with recent experience at Oakland School for the Arts say how they and their kids are liking it this year? I have two smart, quirky, somewhat reserved kids who are unhappy at their large public middle school. We are looking seriously into making a change. One will be in ninth grade next year and is applying to Literary Arts; the other is entering 7th and applying under music performance. For that matter, if you know of another charter school that might be great, feel free to pass on the tip. We have investigated a few, and are also applying at North Oakland Community Charter School for the seventh grader. Checking it Out
I wonder from reading your posting whether you are interested in applying to get out of the school you are currently in or whether your kids are passionate about the art they would pursue at OSA. If your kids are really interested in and committed to their ''art'' I think it would be a good choice. osa mom
We have been quite satisfied with the academics at OSA, and found that as long we stick with the honors or advance classes that our daughter is being adequately challenged. Some teachers are truly exceptional and clearly have a great positive impact on the kids, while a very few (just as in any school) really don't belong in teaching. I have to say, though, that our daughter has only had one such teacher (in 6th grade), and otherwise has really enjoyed her teachers.
Our only big problem is that our daughter has always been interested in musical theater, but the teacher in charge of the yearly school musical has chosen to develop the program to support the African American kids almost exclusively. They did The Wiz this year (with all African American leads), and are planning on the Color Purple next year. So the non-AA kids are out of luck with musicals, except for the occasional very small part. (Less than half the kids at OSA are African American.) This tends to be the schools signature event of the year, which makes it even more disappointing. We are hoping another theater teacher will step forward in the near future to produce a more inclusive musical for the kids. OSA Parent
If you want a good high school for musical productions, look at Bishop O'Dowd or Alameda HS - they always do top notch shows. Also, OSA required the kids (even those with tiny parts) to stay after school everyday, as well as come in on weekends and holidays. Since the high school doesn't get out until 4:15, this means the kids don't get home until 7:30 everyday. In community theater, which turns out shows with much higher production values, those in small parts are usually only asked to be at rehearsals 1-2 times a week until the very end. Even the local kids theater companies do a better job at producing high quality shows that what I saw at OSA in December. Bottom line, don't worry about the discrimination of the OSA in this area, just find other and better outlets for you musical theater loving teen. Another OSA parent
Many high schools present a very traditional stock of plays, e.g. Shakespeare, Man of La Mancha, Annie, and other productions that don't exactly represent ''the Black experience''. As as a white parent, I think it's great they're presenting The Wiz and The Color Purple. OSA stands for the Oakland School for the Arts, not Orinda, and our schools should should reflect our city's diverse population. - Patience in Oakland
My daughter, who's in 5th grade at an Oakland hills public elementary, is very interested in attending the Oakland School for the Arts Charter for middle school. I'd love to hear from parents whose children are at OSA now, or who have recent experience there.
I've read the previous BPN postings on OSA as well as the reviews on GreatSchools.net, and we have attended an open house and a school tour, as well as shadowing a 6th grader there for the morning.
My questions: I understand that OSA has been through a lot of administrative turmoil in recent years -- is that all in the past, or are there still issues? What do you think of the school's new director? Is OSA academically challenging/engaging enough for a child who, in addition to her ''arty'' side, is also very bright? What do you think of the Visual Arts program? What's the atmosphere and general student behavior there like? (Things seemed a bit rowdy/unfocused during our last campus visit, but it WAS the morning after the election, and the kids were very excited about Obama's win. I do plan to go back to visit on a more ''typical'' day, but won't be able to do that until after OSA moves into its new home in the Fox Theatre over the winter break.)
I have my fingers crossed that OSA is truly a viable option for my smart, creative daughter, but do have a few lingering concerns. I'd very much appreciate feedback from any experienced OSA families out there. Thanks so much! Hopeful OSA Parent
Re: Choosing a high school for gay son
I don't know how arts-oriented your son is, but have two daughters at Oakland School for the Arts, and we have found that there are many openly gay kids at this school. These kids (mostly boys that we know of) seem very well liked, and well accepted. In fact, the school does a great job in making kids from various backgrounds, interests, and family structures feel included and part of the school community.
OSA is moving into the newly-refurbished Fox Theatre next year, and has a great college-prep curriculum. Students can choose acting, music (instrumental or vocal), dance, visual arts or theater tech as their area of emphasis. There is an audition required for admission. OSA parent
Are there any BPN parents whose child is at the middle school at Oakland School for the Arts? The latest posting on the website if for 2005 and I am interested in getting more updated information about the quality of the academic program, the quality of the instrumental arts program and the teacher retention rate. Thanks for your help! Anon
OSA is scheduled to move into the historic Fox Theater in the Fall and the school has a new director, Donn Harris, formerly the director of the thriving San Francisco School for the Arts. Mr. Harris brings tremendous experience and vision to OSA, with the intention that Oakland have a strong arts school in a program-driven facility designed specifically with the arts and the needs of the students in mind. -- OSA parent
Are there any other OSA parents out there who are as worried/dismayed/disgusted with the way things are going as I am? My daughter is a new 10th grader with a Vocal Music emphasis. She has been placed in the wrong classes, had her favorite teacher quit the second week of school, has no regular science teacher, did not get into the Choir we were promised she would be in, the list goes on. As far as I can tell, many of the teachers this year are new to the school, new to teaching, and don't have credentials. They seem to be struggling to manage their classes and teach the material. Why can't the school find and keep good experienced teachers? Neither my daughter nor I are willing to sacrifice her academic education for the sake of her ''art'' -- she needs to be prepared for college. The Directo! r of Admissions who was our main contact before is also gone. Many of the students my daughter met last year did not come back this year, and quite a few who started the year are leaving. I'm beginning to thing this was a big mistake. I would love to hear from anyone else who has or had a kid at OSA. Should I be looking for another school? Melinda
My daughter was in the first year and my husband and I worked veryhard for almost two years to help the school be what it promised to be. There were wonderful teachers, most left, there was a fabulous dean, he was fired, there were amazing students who my daughter still stays in contact with, and there were dedicated parents. The issues in my opinion, (that I didn't want to see for the first year or so) is that the Director and Assistant Director do not know how to run a school, and do not treat teens, parents, and staff with respect and dignity. There were many times that we attempted to work with the Administration to find solutions to the problems that any new school faces, but they were not open to ideas and they had so little experience with students this age. It takes an edu! cator to run a school, not an actor/director ... an educator with experience in high school issues and an educator who respects the entire community and expects problems to exist -- problems that are normal for teenagers. Many teachers I have spoken with put their time and energy to make OSA a good school, but they did not get the support they needed. The school has great potential, and the students are wonderful.....but in my opinion it needs a new administration. I also found the board to be difficult to work with when we had a problem -- they seemed too dedicated to the administration to really hear the issues and respond. They seemed to have little interest in communicating with parents.
My daughter is in her senior year at BHS (she entered as a Junior) and she is having a very creative and dynamic experience. She has been in plays, dance production, made a film, and will direct a play this year. Her academic work is more challenging, and the CAS program offers her some of what she liked about OSA and more. (Small school, diverse students, interested teachers, creative thinking).
At one point parents at OSA began to meet, to see if we could do anything about changing the direction of the administration... I am sorry that I didn't continue along that path. I admit now that I was fooled by some of the promises of the administration, and I regret not working more with other parents who were also disappointed and frustrated. From what I can tell, most of the outspoken parents (who were not happy with thier child's education and school policies) are no longer there. It was too frustrating for them and their students. Also, my daughter was not being challenged academically and had a lot of ''wasted time'' during the all too long school day. When this was brought up with the Ad. I was told that the school couldn't do everything and that they couldn't live up to the promise of a strong academic program at this time. (this was over a year ago...so I don't know if things changed). My daughter had to go to summerschool to catch up with her science classes. She loved singing at OSA... but we see now that she should have left after her first year. Her favorite teacher left early in the 2nd year after he had serious differences with the Ad. related to his art. There was also unfair treatment of students when discipline problems happened -- some were treated very badly (and punished very harshly) ... and others had their problems kept secret....with fewer consequences. So much had to do with the likes and dislikes of the administration, and once you spoke out about problems, you were more likely to not be responded to in the future.
For some students, OSA is a much better alternative than their local High School -- especially if they have talent in the arts -- and so it can work for some, but not for everyone. Some of the students I know from class #1 have stayed because they didn't have a better public alternative, and they could not afford private school. The issues are very complex, with underlying conflicts based on race, class, discipline, communication and expectations.
I wish the best to you and your child. Rona
I have a 7th grader at EBWaldorf who's interested in OSA. I looked in the BPN archive, but the info was pre-2004. Does anyone have any current experience of the school? How are they doing? What's the student culture like? i.e., is it fiercely competitive? Thanks for any info you have! Laura
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My daughter was accepted into the literary arts program at OSA for the Fall. Can anyone comment on the integrated curriculum, quality of teachers, long days, pros and cons of the school. Thanks
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I recently joined this newsletter so I missed most if not all the discussion about the Oakland School for the Arts. I would like to remind those interested that the application deadline is February 18. The website www.oakarts.org has more information. My daughter did not know anyone at OSA and now has wonderful friends. We have been extremely impressed by the high caliber of teachers-- they all seem to have been educated at topnotch universities and are more than qualified--they all love to teach! There have been a few starting pains in the first year but they have worked out. Mr. Berry, the director, and his staff are all very accessible, hard-working, friendly and eager to solve problems. The hours are indeed long but the kids seem to have adjusted and they have learned so much. We have been very pleased by the quality of the education and it is just getting better and better. We are looking forward to the remaining enriching experience this year and next year. I highly recommend OSA to any family with a child who has artistic ability as well as an interest in a high quality academic education. Erica
I would love to hear from a family with a student that is currently enrolled at Oakland School for the Arts. I've been very impressed with what I've seen (I currently have a 7th grader so will be looking next year) but would love to hear from somebody who is experiencing it.
* how are the academics?
* how does your child deal with the long day?
* lack of PE/physical activity/sports?
* physical building?
* anything else!
* how are the academics? There have been a lot of problems with the development of the curriculum. Remedial? College-bound? Using arts to sweeten a conventional curriculum? Training students for professions in the arts? Teacher-generated? Director- mandated? These basic issues have not been decided.
* how does your child deal with the long day? In principle everyone is required to stay till 6 and later (11 pm?) for field trips. But some kids with longtime after- school activities have been excused from this, so there is tension around this issue. Very inconsistent. The long schedule may be hard for families that spend a lot of time together or whose children relax in the afternoons.
* lack of PE/physical activity/sports? In principle everyone is moving around in dance class. But no sports, recreation or fresh air breaks are, of course, difficult (unhealthy?)at this age, physically and socially.
* physical building? Most classrooms are underground, so there is no fresh air or natural light. There is no exterior area.
* anything else! The school lost three experienced teachers and its managing director in less than three months so all cannot be well. The relationship between the school and the other tenants of the Alice Arts Center is a hostile one. The school's administration has no effective oversight and some highly idiosyncratic policies go unsupervised. The school was the Mayor's project but he is understandably preoccupied. Perhaps someone else can speak in its support. Good Luck.
Mondays and Fridays are the art intensive days for all students. That means on those two days, students in theatre work exclusively in theater etc.
Tuesdays, Wed., and Thursdays are academic days. The core curriculum for all high school students is what is covered on these days.
Contrary to popular belief, all the students are involved in some form of physical activity even if that isn't their core art study. I'm pretty sure that this is coordinated by the dance department. You could call the school to make sure.
I can't speak for all of the academic studies at OSA, but I can tell you that what I have observed in the English studies is very impressive. The English instructor I observed is passionate about his work.
The key concept the school is trying to get across to the students and parents is intergrated studies. In other words, what is studied in history class is also intergrated in theatre studies, dance studies, visual arts etc.
I'm a graduate of one of the oldest and most sucessful Magnet Art Schools in the United States. The High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas which is celebrating it's 30th birthday.
It was the beginning of a whole new world for me and a whole new life for me. I had a place I finally belonged to and kids I could relate to.
I started out in poetry and fiction writing. Then I discovered photography and was determined to understand it. I graduated in a class of 106 students. My mother always reminds me I won an award for ''Most Improved Photograpy Student'' when I graduated. This experience lit a passion in photography I didn't even know I had. I went to the best Art School in the United States and got my Bachelor of Fine Arts. None of this would have been possible if I hadn't applied to my magent arts school.
If your child is interested in applying, I suggest you help them out with the process. It was the best thing my parents did for me. beth
As an instructor, I've found the Monday/Friday Core Academics, T/W/Th Art Intensive setup the school has to be very difficult for students and teachers alike. The intensity of ''all curriculum/all arts all the time'' for about 8 and half hours (including a lunch break and afternoon break) to be an opressive environment.
Also you should know that the majority of the staff at OSA do not have their teaching credentials as of yet. I used to pay lipservice to the whole notion of having to get your credentials in order to teach. Emphasis on the words used to, until this year when I started working in a school with seasoned teachers who had their credentials and experience under their belts. From what I can tell, the school doesn't have a plan of action to convert their emergency credentialed to credentialed teachers. This not only impacts the level of education the current students are receiving but it also impacts the school's ability to receive state and federal funding in 2003.
Also, the school only has instructors for the 9th grade. Currently there are no instructors for 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. What happens to the current crop of students after they graduate into the 10th grade? This is only one person's opinion, but to me, the school feels very much like a work in progress. I'd encourage parents with creative children to pursue after school classes through more established performing and visual arts organizations until OSA gets it's bearings.
I have a question about a high school for the arts. I know that there is a SOTA in SF, but they are reducing their out of district population to 10% (of 400 kids). I've heard that one may be starting in the east bay; does anyone know anything about this? Any other ideas for a kid who wants good academics but with an arts/theater focus? Thanks--Joanna
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