This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted July 20, 2014
- a parent
My son has been at The Academy for two years. We are extremely happy with the school and the overwhelmingly positive experiences we've had so far. The teachers are fabulous. Ms. Crippen's (K) classes are fun and creative. Mrs. Labarca's (1) classes have more structure, more singing, and more international flavor--the students sing greeting songs every morning and they count numbers daily in 8 different languages! Due to the school's reputation and screening process, as well as self-selection by parents, the students tend to be academically oriented and motivated. This makes accelerated teaching possible. My son's classmates are all active, bright, and well-behaved. They have different talents and interests, yet all get along really well and are kind to each other, which makes every school day and birthday parties very enjoyable. In my opinion, The Academy offers the best environment and programs for academically-oriented, "gifted" kids in the area. Its academic atmosphere and accelerated, integrated curricula are unparalleled among peer schools. It provides an advanced yet balanced structure for educating an all-around scholar accompanied by intelligent and similar-aged peers.
Our son has been at the Academy for four years and we would not consider another school for him. The academic rigor is matched by caring and dedicated teachers. I am quite familiar with the other prominent private schools in the East Bay and I can say, without hesitation, that none can compare to the Academy. Our son has thrived both intellectually and socially, has found (overall) school-mates who are exceptionally compassionate, and educational opportunities that are simply not offered elsewhere. In regards to the teachers, I would have to respectfully disagree with previous posts that lamented a move towards mediocrity. I have seen this neither in the lower school, nor the upper school. If you are a parent who wants a strong academic program for your child, I would highly recommend the Academy.
As its name suggests, the academy is a highly academic environment, the most advanced in the east bay. English and Math levels are a grade above the public schools (they cover the second grade math book in grade 1 for example), and science and social studies are also advanced and interesting. There are specialists to teach French, Science, Art, Music and PE. Class sizes are small (usually less than or equal to 10 children in a grade) and it is a very family environment... children know each other from all grades through the aftercare program. While it is academically advanced, the Academy is also very sensitive to the emotional needs of children. Although not explicitly stated, it is a school aimed at gifted children, and tests are required for admissions to higher grades (and a brief evaluation with the owner Ms. Claudeanos for Kindergarten, that tests knowledge of letters, numbers, basic puzzle solving, writing basic letters etc.) High school placements are excellent, with over a third of the children going to College Prep. For academically advanced children, I believe it is the best environment in the east bay and elsewhere.
The school we switched to has a far more solid academic program than The Academy, particularly in Science, Math, and English. Our friends switched to another school, also with higher academic standards. A third family did say that the academics were "easier" at the school they switched to, - but the package of programs at the new school was much more interesting. The Academy likes to point to past successes - it used to be a good school - but it has lost most of its good teachers in the past three years or so, and hired mediocre ones. There are many other problems with this school - none of which mattered to us in the end, as the teachers and the academic focus that had originally attracted us to the school simply weren't there anymore, so we left, along with many other families. Just ask how many kids who're in upper school now have been at TA more than one year: almost none!
I was surprised to read in one of the comments that The Academy is "a place of bullying" and "mediocre academics". If anything, academic rigor is what this school is about. We have friends who left the academy and went to other private schools and all agree that the academy was academically more rigorous. When Academy students leave the school, they usually get accepted into any other private school of their choice. And when they go to public schools, they often get bumped a grade. You only have to look at where they place their graduates to see that the academics cannot be mediocre. As for bullying, I don't know where that came from. We've had our children in the academy for 6 years now and have never heard of a single bullying incident. The class sizes are too small to allow for bullying and it is in no way tolerated by the school. While no school is perfect, one should be fair in posting comments so as not to mislead others.
The Academy is the best kept secret among private schools in the East Bay. Both our children are thriving there. Several attributes distinguish it from other private schools: 1. high academic standards: the teachers are outstanding and the curriculum challenges the kids; one only need to look at the high-school placement of the Academy children to see that this school is doing something right! 2. true diversity, in all aspects: many students have parents who were born outside the US, which enriches the experiences of all children; there is also a remarkable ethnic and socioeconomic diversity for a private school. Unlike most other private schools, the families at the Academy are a true reflection of Berkeley's diverse society. 3. small size: this creates a caring community, and allows the teachers to give students a lot of attention in class. Both our children are thriving there, both academically and socially. If you are looking for a private school that will push your children to excel academically, receive a great education and have friends from all over the world, the Academy is the place.
An amazing school with a curriculum to match. Socially, this school is perfect for any child. There is a complete absence of any sort of bullying or misconduct. My child was able to quickly make great friends that are in turn a positive influence on him, which was not the case at the other private schools he previously attended. Academically, The Academy is above and beyond. This is truly a school I expect to produce some of the great minds of our time. Not only are the academics rigorous, but a true sense of the importance of hard work is instilled in each child. As per the staff; the teachers are incredibly responsive to your needs. They are always willing to set up a private meeting to discuss any aspect of your childs education. The administration works very hard to improve the school more and more each year. I am always pleasantly surprised to see some sort of new addition when I return each year after summer. All in all, this school is a true gem in the sea of mediocre schools out there. Thank you The Academy!
The education is superb! The curriculum is challenging and really pushes my son to learn. I am happy that so many people of different backgrounds attend the school. The parent involvement is wonderful and it is very inclusive. I feel like it is one big family. I recommend this school to everyone.