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editor note: Before 2009, Tilden Preparatory School was known as the School for Independent Learners
Re: Private high school for disorganized smart kid
We are parents of a 13-year-old 8th grader who is high-achieving, but disorganized. Starting with 7th grade, we enrolled him at Tilden Prep. It's been a great fit for him. The one-on-one teaching keeps him focused and moving forward. The school is well-managed and extremely responsive. We definitely encourage you to check it out. Berkeley Dad
Hello, I'm interested in the one-on-one instruction and mastery learning at Tilden Prep School in Albany. That approach sounds great, but Tilden is such a small school. Our daughter does not have any learning issues, but she's been distracted during her freshman year and her grades were not very good despite the fact that she's a bright girl. We want her to have a chance to refocus on academics and to improve her grades. She of course is thinking more about the social aspects. Could Tilden be a fit? Or should we just give it up? (We find the teaching approach to be so appealing!)
If you have first hand experience with Tilden Prep, could you please share the following:
1. How are the teachers? Do Tilden teachers really get kids engaged in learning? Do kids really do better and retain the knowledge better with this learning approach?
2. Do we need to worry about drug issues? Because the school's so small, does it make it easier for drugs to be accessible?
3. My husband and I have had traditional education in large public schools, and, although we find Tilden's teaching approach to be very appealing, we're undecided about considering this non-traditional approach for our daughter. If she goes to Tilden, there would be no school dance, school plays, team sports, Prom, etc. Is it worth giving up those things for academics? Esp. when she does not have any learning issues (except for the teenage-disease ad lack of focus)? Has anyone tried Tilden for the academics and successfully supplement the social aspect somehow? How?
We'd appreciate any feedback you have! Anonymous
I've not heard about alcohol or drugs, and doubt that it's much of a problem.
There are some great social activities, but there is not the variety that large schools can offer, nor is there usually the opportunity to meet other students in class (some classes are 2-3 students if desired). If your student is involved in social activities outside of school, this might not be a problem, but it's something to consider. How easy/hard it is to attend part time depends on which public school is involved. Good luck!
Editor Note: Maybeck High School was also recommended
This is another rave review for Tilden Prep. I did everything I knew to do for my ADHD son (meds, special programs at his public school, therapy, used ed consultants, sent him to a special boarding school, sent him to another special boarding school, researched all the Bay Area schools suitable for him, sent him to Sterne School in SF). None of it worked nearly as well as his time at Tilden, because Tilden is 1:1 teaching by talented staff and talented administrators who set everything up with great intelligence and full customization. My son HATED being sent away to boarding school, but I could find nothing as good in the Bay Area, and I did an exhaustive search -- for middle schools, at the time. I now wonder how much better it all could have been if I had discovered Tilden Prep several years earlier.
All along, I had not heard of Tilden Prep in spite of all my research. I was referred to it by Sterne's wise headmaster. My son has blossomed at Tilden. He has developed a love of learning, his self-confidence has increased, he likes to discuss his school work with me (a first for him), he has loved his Tilden teachers, especially one of them (Hi, KW!) who I view as a teaching genius.
It just makes sense that a student with learning differences will benefit hugely from 1:1 help, and my son has. Tilden is a gem of a school. I'm familiar only with the Albany campus, but the Walnut Creek campus is run by the same amazing leaders. It's a v long commute for us (90 minutes door to door), via BART, but my son finds it well worth it and at long last loves school AND tells me how important it is.
I'd be happy to talk in more depth to anyone: just call Tilden for my contact info. A very grateful Tilden parent
We found that this was one of the best reasons to attend Tilden. The teachers were fantastic without exception. Our daughter learned more in a semester at Tilden than she would learn in a full year at her rigorous high school that she transferred from because she was really engaged in learning. Most importantly, she struggled with writing, and her writing skills improved by leaps and bounds. And yes, the knowledge is retained because the teacher really makes sure the student has learned the subject matter before moving on.
Drugs were never a problem for our daughter and we didn't hear much about them from other parents. There was one student who had an issue with drugs that we know of, and the school handled it so that student completed courses at home rather than coming to the school.
Our daughter went to proms at other schools as an invited guest and that worked well for her. At Tilden, they have some structured social events like movie and game nights, all-school potlucks, etc., and everyone has the same lunchtime, so they can socialize then as well. There are also group classes that lead to social opportunities. For example, our daughter took an AP Art class and then the class went to the museum together.
Our daughter got to enjoy academic success, which boosted her self esteem immensely, and made her very confident when she went off to college. She sees herself as the bright student she is and that will be with her for the rest of her life, so we think that was a really good trade off. Tilden Grad Dad
We had been looking for some interesting and stimulating extracurriculars for our 6th grader this year. He's been fascinated with computers and technology since he was very young. He's had summer camp experiences getting some degree of familiarity creating simple computer games and web sites, but he really seemed ready and interested in learning about computer programming.
Tilden Preparatory School has a great reputation locally for working with kids on an individual basis for a variety of subjects (up to full-time) for middle school and high school kids. Shary Nunan, the director, was able to offer our son and his friend weekly classes on our schedule, starting with the basics of computer programming. Kenny Wat has been the instructor, and the results have been terrific so far. Both boys are incredibly engaged, and Kenny has the intelligence and experience to adjust to their individual learning styles.
Our son looks forward to programming class every week, and clearly feels he's learning something meaningful. While his biggest goal at the moment may be ''creating mods in Java for Minecraft'', the learning and computer skills he's learning will most likely be invaluable in other ways in the future. We highly recommend Tilden Preparatory, not just for the computer programming class, but for all the good things we've heard and seen about other course offerings, and the great people there who make it all happen. == Very happy with Tilden
If anyone had told me last September that my decision to send my daughter to Tilden Prep would have such a positive outcome, I would have laughed and would have not believed it at all. Last fall my daughter, who was a senior in boarding school back East, wanted to come home a few weeks after school started. She was depressed and extremely stressed, and I knew it was not wise to keep her there. It was one of the hardest decisions for me to make, but against all odds I decided to bring her back home. I was desperately looking for school once we came back home to Oakland, and read about Tilden Prep in the Berkeley Parents Network site. It looked like a possible option and I went to meet with the school administrators.
When I met with Shary Nunan last September and told her my predicament, she was so supportive and immediately started working with my daughter's school to get her transcript and prepared curriculum to complete high school. It was a blessing to find this school at such a difficult time. Everything went well and her transition went very smoothly.
I do not have words to tell you how supportive the school administrators and the teachers have been at Tilden throughout the school year. My daughter says that her teachers are the best teachers she has ever had, and that they bring the best out of her. She had a lot of work, classes were challenging and she complained at times. But in the end, she gained back her confidence and is much happier and ready to go to the college of her choice. She was able to work her grades up to A's and some B's, including her AP English class, and she was able to raise her GPA from 2.4 to over 3.0. She has been accepted to many colleges, including her first choice! Overall, it has been a wonderful year for my daughter. This would not have been possible without the teachers and school administrators at Tilden, and all the office staff that made sure all her paperwork was complete and sent on time to colleges. Please feel free to call me at 510/703-7909 if you would like to talk to me. Elsa
Re: Highly gifted ADHD student - which high school?
My daughter attends Tilden Prep. Like your child, she's very bright but also has ADHD. Academically Tilden has been a great fit. The pace is flexible, redundant assignments are avoided. She loves literature and has a lot of choice about the books she reads. The best thing about Tilden is the teachers, they are very smart and knowledgeable. She feels like she is treated like an intellectual equal when having discussions with them. She gets detailed editing and feedback on essays to improve her writing, that wouldn't be possible if a teacher had to edit 30 students' assignments. There is minimal social interaction among students. There are some clubs that meet at lunch time (book club, anime, gaming) and organized community service events. My daughter feels like there are basically two groups of kids, those who are really smart and don't fit in at 'normal' schools and kids who had to leave their schools for drug or other types of violations, but that doesn't have to change the flavor of the positive aspects unless you want it too (those are mostly her words). The flexible schedule is great, she has a whole day a week with no classes to pursue other interests, music ensemble and other hobbies. Overall it's a good fit for an introvert who is comfortable with adults, because the primary interactions are with the instructors in one-on-one class sessions. We are overall quite happy with the support she is getting around her learning differences too. Satisfied Tilden Parent
Our oldest child attended Tilden for one year, getting individual instruction from teachers. The directors are both knowledgeable in the education field, and we found the teachers to mostly be good. They are well-prepared in the topics they teach but they are not necessarily trained as teachers. The school seems to work well for students who are motivated and are able to get work done independently. It also allows students who are struggling with a subject to go at a slower pace. Because the classes are one-on-one it can get expensive.
Our younger child attends the new Mentoring Academy. The students take a mix of Mentoring classes and on-line classes. The classes are accredited and meet UC requirements. A wide range of classes is available and students who are ready for more challenging classes take college-level classes. They are at school from 9-5:30, working on their classes, getting individual tutoring, or working with other students on projects. They also participate in various social events. They complete all their work at school and don't have homework. Our child attended a private high school for two years and was a good student, but somewhat bored. At Mentoring he is taking classes that really interest him. The director, John Muster, is a gifted educator. He was well-respected by parents and students as the head of Maybeck High School. He has an amazing rapport with the students. At Mentoring he works closely with the students to make sure that they get the right classes and are actively engaged in their own educations. Mentoring Academy is new and still very small, but I imagine it will grow quickly as the word gets out, and there are plans to add art and other classes. It has been exciting to see our son so engaged in his classes. Even though he does not have homework he sometimes works at home because he is so interested in what he is doing. A Berkeley Parent
My husband and I are so happy to have found Tilden Preparatory School (on Solano Ave. in Albany) that we wanted other parents to be aware of this wonderful alternative to more traditional schools. After several years of bad experiences with public and private schools, my son (8th grade) had developed anxieties around attending school. The staff at Tilden were very willing to work with us to meet my son's specific needs and were very patient, understanding and caring in working with us through difficult times. The teachers we have had are uniformly excellent, but if, for whatever reason, we needed a change, the staff are always accommodating and flexible. I have never seen such responsiveness to student/parent needs in a school (and we've been through several!). It also is very well-run administratively; everything runs smoothly. One-on-one teaching is available, or teaching in small groups, and electives (such as digital photography) are available. And it is accredited. I wish I had been aware of Tilden sooner! Nancy in Berkeley
My son has attended Tilden Prep since Sept 2011, and it's the best fit for him EVER, after years of searching for the right place.
After resource help in grade school, extensive evaluations at Children's Health Center (Palo Alto), the help of a number of therapists, and a very rocky time in public school up to 6th grade, I sought the help of ed consultant Molly Baron, who recommended Forest Heights Lodge (Colorado), a residential treatment center that was excellent, except for the fact of my son being so far from home. Next, he went to two other boarding schools that experts said were suited to his diagnosis, and then to The Sterne School (San Francisco), where after one year the director referred us Tilden Preparatory School, or Tilden Prep. Tilden Prep has two campuses, one in Albany and one in Walnut Creek. We started at the Albany location, and I cannot say enough good things about it.
After my long struggle to find the best (or even an acceptable) fit for my son's complicated and hard-to-define learning issues, I can say that Tilden is the first place he has thrived. The one-on-one nature of classes seems very right for him (his diagnosis was originally ADHD with executive function impairment, depression, anxiety and easy distractability (making a classroom setting with even 5 others, as at Sterne, impossible for him). A recent expert called it ''the ABC diagnosis: a little of everything.''
Now, I get encouraging reports from his Tilden teachers (via the Tilden online quick-report daily comment site). I see his depression/anxiety waning. I see him telling me about his work at school. He is offering positive comments about his teachers (a first for years, after slowly coming to like some of his teachers at Forest Heights Lodge). This is the first time I see him actually learning at school, and liking it enough to tell me ''school is important'' the other day.
More about Tilden:
-- The two directors of Tilden Prep have wonderful credentials, and it shows. They far exceed what I saw at most of the 20+ other schools I visited. They are a delight to work with.
-- Most importantly, Tilden has hired teachers who are very impressive in terms of (1) what my son is learning (2) all their skills in engaging him, and (3) their ability to understand very quickly what his academic strengths and weaknesses are, and work from there.
-- Tilden's model of self-paced learning (i.e., not moving on until mastery of the work is achieved) is a blessing in creating confidence in my son, for the first time.
-- The flexibility of schedule is very helpful because of a long commute.
-- My son's learning disabilities do not show (as with Down syndrome) so he was very unhappy to be at ''special'' schools where many of the other kids had visually recognizable disabilities. He kept telling me these schools were not right for him, reducing his motivation to do his best. Esp now, I agree. At Tilden, he is at a ''regular'' school.
-- Tilden of course enrolls students of all kinds (high achievers, those with temp disabilities like illness, those with time constraints), for whom the teachers I have encountered would also be superb.
-- Tilden is like having the very best 1:1 tutor for each subject, meeting the student wherever he is right now, and taking that student as far as individually possible.
Parent of a Tilden Prep Student
Re: High school that accommodates ADHD student
Hi - I would add Tilden Preparatory School to your list. My son has AD/HD and attended there last semester when he was overwhelmed at his highly academic/competitive public school. It is a wonderful supportive environment for all types of students and tries to help kids learn organizational skills without penalizing them for executive functioning weaknesses. The teaching is usually one-on-one or sometimes small groups. Kids get to focus on the course content without getting overwhelmed by the busy work that some high schools require. Grateful mom
My daughter is 14 and started at Berkeley High in the IB program this year. In the past, she loved school, but it's gotten increasingly more difficult socially over the years. She excels in school academically (this is a kid who read The Hobbit in first grade) but is bothered by the general attitude of most of the students and teachers who don't care about actually learning. She is also suffering under a huge load of busywork. We're looking into alternate options, especially Maybeck, for next year. Is there anyone who has transferred their child from BIHS to Maybeck?
Re: Summer Physics for high schooler?
I highly recommend Tilden Prep on Solano Ave in Albany. http://www.tildenprep.com/ 510-525-5506 The school offers excellent college prep classes taught by engaging teachers who know their subjects well. The course can begin at any time and the student works at his own pace. Our son completed his AP Chemistry class there during the summer - a very challenging course - and had a great experience. He is now finishing his senior year and has been accepted to the four colleges he has applied to. Mom
Our 15 year old son is shy and often not willing to speak with people he doesn't know. But even he knows that he needs help with his French and Chemistry classes and has asked for help. He is smart and funny, but needs coaxing. The younger (and cooler) the tutor the better. He will need drawing out. Do you have someone you can recommend?
My son attended the School for Independent Learners (now named Tilden Prep) during the summer of 2008. He is a student at Berkeley High School and had been ill (with Mono) his junior year. He had fallen behind and need to make up 2 classes, Chemistry and Math Analysis (pre-Calc). It was very important for him to complete these classes prior to his senior year and college application. The School for Independent Learners, located on Solano Ave in Albany was a wonderful experience for my son. He took both classes with a teacher one on one. He learned the material and was able to complete the classes at his own pace. My experience as a parent was very positive as well. Daily progress reports were posted and my phone calls were always returned the same day. I would recommend this school for students that want to make up work, complete classes over the summer for any reason, or want to work at their own pace. kmbw
Re: Considering alternatives to public high school
My son, too, struggled with similar problems-- wasn't engaged with his high school classes, spent way too much time on the computer playing video games, and was not very social. He also struggled with anxiety. I took him out of his too large and too hectic high school and he is doing much better at the School for Independent Learners in Albany. The directors, Shary and Karen, are fantastic, and so are the teachers. I wish I'd known about this school when my son first began high school. It is wonderful to see him excited about learning. Grateful mom
I would like to hear from anyone who has experience with the full time program at the School for Independent Learners in the East Bay (Albany). I have a 15 year old (10th grade) son who has struggled in school since 7th grade. He is very bright, but does not seem to do well in traditional public school environments. He is currently attending a small public charter school but I am looking for an alternative before it is too late for him to qualify for entrance to a 4-year college. looking for an alternative
SIL is a great alternative to traditional education in that it is truly self-paced, works with the whole child, and works to meet each child's individual needs. If your teen is bored, unmotivated, anxious, struggling, interested in things other kids aren't, I believe SIL can work with your child. Teens with special learning needs, emotional needs, or differences do well at SIL as well as kids who find school boring, slow, who are not interested in the social scene at their school (perhaps put off by the party-drug scene, or who are pursuing a time-consuming interest or sport. My daughter who is bright but was undermotivated found the high-powered High School she attended was not a great match for her needs. No more wasted time, no more repetitive homework assignment, and teachers who take the time to know your teen as a person. We have found the teacher's at SIL are not only warm and inspiring but they show a deep respect for who our daughter is.
Some kids at SIL just repeat a class they received a failing grade in, or take an advanced placement class not offered at their school, or receive tutoring or SAT preparation. Others take several classes or do a full load. If your child is not getting what they need or deserve at their present school, I would highly recommend calling The School For Independent Learners. Happy Parent
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