The Academy is a unique school with wonderful, caring teachers and challenging, inspiring academics. It has a family-like feel that makes all of the children in K-8 feel nurtured and loved. Friendships develop across grades to create an exceptional environment for learning and fun.
Our child went to this school and it was not the best experience. The school is a bit dysfunctional and has been trying to rebuild over the past two years after being run by a family for many years. The school staff and teachers are entirely white (except for one teacher) and a lot of the classes have mostly boys. Some kids who have social problems or trouble following rules are being admitted, and that has affected kids who want to learn without a lot of distractions. The school also has a really small play area, and that made it very hard for kids to play without bumping into each other. Overall, the school has some promise, but has experienced a lot of student turnover over the past few years. The best private schools in the Bay Area are always filled and have waiting lists. This school always has openings.
Our daughter recently transferred from a Contra Costa School and within a few days we saw some amazing changes in her. First of all she sat upright when doing home work. Secondly, she shared with us and with excitement some of the work she performed during the day including science and music projects and finally she sang to us various verses of the Sound of Music. We hope with the current management, skilled Principle and wonderfully experienced first grade teacher for our daughter's continued great education.
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!