The students are expected to complete 10 minutes per grade per night on homework. Add in up to 30 plus minutes a night for reading and it adds up. The time expectation on homework contradicts the recommended bed times. It's difficult to get your child in bed by 8 (as the school recommends for 4th graders) when they have to eat, bathe and do homework between 6 and 8.
There have been incidents of bullying at the school. Efforts to address this focus un using the emotional toolbox to regulate interactions but it does not seem to be working very well. There are also parental cliques that make it undesirable to volunteer at school functions and fundraising events.
Things were fantastic during our K and 1st grade years. 2nd grade was not as great due to lack of responsiveness in regards to our concerns with our child's math performance. The teacher told us it was lack of focus and effort. 3rd grade was even more frustrating with a teacher who was overwhelmed with 2 or 3 students with persistent behavioral problems and no support. Our child fell further back in math and we were again told that it was lack of focus and effort because our child was engaged and excelled at all other subjects. Seems obvious now that the lack of engagement should have been a red flag, but the teachers ignored it. Now we have to go through the process of having our child evaluated for a learning difference and not getting the support we would expect from the current teacher. Teachers have also been reluctant to collaborate with each other within grade cohorts, and they have been somewhat unreceptive to incorporating enrichment classes into the curriculum, so some enrichment gets cancelled because there is not enough instruction time for core subjects. The new principal has a solid vision but she is now the 3rd principal in 5 years. So I don't expect much to change unless it looks like she's going to be around for a while.
Washington is a relatively large school with 3-4 classes at each grade level. As student population has grown the school has struggled to keep up. For example, lunch has to be broken into three shifts and kids only have 15 minutes to stand in line for food, sit and eat amid loud chaos. The facilities are older. The pro of this is that the classrooms are bigger than some of the other Berkeley schools. The con is that some classes are held across the street in portables forcing kids to cross the street multiple times in a day and everything is a little worn. The teachers are good (with a couple exceptions) and care about teaching and mentoring. There are a number of teachers who are also parents. The principal has only been there a year but comes with a good reputation. Science, gardening and cooking, music, and art are taught by specialized teachers. The is a dedicated PE teacher who is also in the playground for recess. Parents are generally involved. The student body is very diverse drawing kids from throughout Berkeley.
The Washington principal and staff don't spend a lot of time promoting the school, and instead are doing their job, which is why you won't see 100 reviews all submitted on the same day from an obvious PR effort. The rating on this site does not reflect the current school or enthusiasm for this school. Here's what you need to know about the school: * Wonderful proximity to UC Berkeley, BHS, downtown, etc. allows for amazing community support and field trip opportunities. My daughter had really bright UC Berkeley students coming in every week to teach math. When she was younger, BHS students came and read with her. The school has a great program where SFSU students getting their teacher credentials come in on an almost full time basis and provide teacher support. It's all about teacher support and ratios and this school has great programs and doesn't just rely on parent support. * Committed, motivated, active parents. We also have a new principal and the momentum is great to take a really good school & make it even better. * Great extras---dedicated, long-term PE teacher, gardening, movement, Mosaic, counselors, art, science, swimming at the local YMCA (!), etc., etc, etc.
Berkeley schools are great. My daughter was transferred into this school when the principal at John Muir refused to handle a bullying situation effectively (or at all... they stuck my kid in the same class as her bully from the previous year who tortured her regularly). The principal at Washington was very open, kind, and was a great communicator. The teachers and parents are very accessible. There was always someone available to talk to if needed. My daughter - who was in 2nd grade - had pretty sloppy handwriting, and her teacher Mr. Tubbs was very patient and helpful. I once walked in unannounced and saw him working with three kids helping them correct their spelling and clean up their handwriting. I wish we never left. I'm a single parent and was going to school full-time, waiting for financial aid. It was taking too long, and when I finally got it, no one would rent to me (I assume because I was a single parent and a student and not a "professional") and we ended homeless. We packed up and went to Florida to stay with my parents and it's been hellish ever since. Being in the schools here in Florida really put things into perspective (as if I needed a reminder).
Overall we've been very happy at Washington. Our child was in the Hi5 program this year and there were a few bumps but the teacher was outstanding, very responsive, open and available. The school overall is very nice, great location.
My son is in 1st grade, and thriving at Washington. The teachers do a terrific job of challenging and supporting students with a range of abilities. There are lots of great enrichment activities - music, art, p.e. gardening, library, cooking. The culture of the school is really nice - from the way the kids treat each other on the yard, to the way the parents interact, to the way that the principal and teachers care about the kids and families. Washington gets overlooked because the building is a bit old, but it's referred to as the "hidden gem" by people in the district, and with good reason.
We've been at Washington for two years, and I can report that our first grader loves school, is eager to get up and go every day, and is learning at a ferocious rate. He has a wonderfully diverse set of friends, has learned reading skills we couldn't imagine for him two years ago, and comes home with the most fantastic knowledge learned in his gardening, art, music, and many other enrichment classes. We love Washington!