Our daughter went here for two years but we were dissatisfied enough to leave. First, school does not have a good handle on social/emotional issues and bullying/social exclusion seem to be recurring problems. It was definitely a problem in our daughter's class, and five families left out of a class of 19, largely because of social issues the administration refused to take seriously. Differentiation was very limited, and the general attitude of the school was that everyone there was gifted and could be served by the same curriculum. I also thought their approach was not terribly developmental and there was a lot of pressure to have kids reading early, and more homework in the early grades than we thought was developmentally appropriate and more than even schools like Head-Royce. On all of these issues the school administration was not interested in really working with parents, but rather in just explaining why they thought they were right. The middle school program seems better than the lower school program, but we didn't feel inclined to stick around.
Our experience has not been a positive one and we are leaving. We have spent a lot of money( in additional to tuition) on identifying and remediating problems etc. We are not getting the support of the teacher with any of this- she basically makes us feel that we are an imposition on her and that she does not like my child or our family. She has yet to implement anything that shows an understanding of my child's issues . There is an learning specialist now this year, but the teacher has not solicited her assistance or support for our family.
Additionally, social bullying is a major problem at the school and the school is not willing to recognize it. Instead the parents are told by the administration that their kid is the only problem and that no one else has ever brought up similar issues! Never mind that many in the same class have reported similar experiences.
My daughter is in 6th grade. This is her first year at BPC. She loves the teachers and school culture. As a parent, you couldn't ask for a better educated, prepared faculty. The middle school isn't very racially diverse; however, my daughter feels like she belongs and is treated well. The curriculum is solid. The first thing a sixth grader learns is organizational skills and accountability. Teachers are involved and more than willing to help a child who asks for it. Their P.E. Program rocks! coach Vince works those kids like Jillian Michaels. My kid is not athletic and is pretty thin. She's learned to do regular push ups, squats correctly, play baseball, run the Cooper, etc. My daughter is performing better at this school than she did at her last public school. She is becoming more of a reader and used to hate writing preferring math and science. She writes poetry now. Since September she's already read, analyzed and written about six major texts like "Call of the wild" , "Green Glass Sea", "weed flower", "Esperanza Rising", etc.. It's amazing to watch her mature. Great school.
Or daughter started 1st grade at Black Pine Circle this year. We are LOVING it. The academics are great- the subjects are very well integrated and overlapping, the teachers are fantastic, and the kids spend a ton of time outside. The music and art programs are fantastic as well. They treat the kids as individuals, and it's fun- my daughter doesn't want to leave, and doesn't like weekends because she misses school. We just moved here from out of state, and everyone at Black Pine Circle has been so helpful and welcoming. I think what really makes BPC great, is the staff. Everyone is so dedicated. The staff does a bunch of continuing education/training. Not to mention how fun they are! I really feel like all different personalities will/do thrive at BPC. I highly recommend Black Pine Circle.
Black Pine Circle has been a wonderful experience for my daughter, now in 2nd grade. The cozy, familial environment at the school created the perfect transition from her smaller preschool. Through the eyes of a child, I imagine BPC is comfortable in every way -the physical campus isn't too big or overwhelming (although there is ample room to run around), the classrooms are limited to 21 students (with two loving teachers in each), and highly conceptual academic skills are integrated into fun, hands-on projects. BPC does not have a "rich private school" feel. Parents are down to earth and value diversity within the school and staff. The community is very supportive and the parent body is active at all levels of school affairs. The school has increasingly prioritized financial aid, thus allowing for more and more socio-economic diversity in each classroom. There has also been a school-wide effort, through the diversity committee, to place more attention on LGBT and cultural inclusivity through after school events, parent education nights, and new curriculum in the classroom. I feel so lucky to be part of this community.
Black Pine Circle is a very good school led by a great principal. our child loves going to school every day and each day is filled with learning and improving. A real plus is its pull-out instrument program taught by two very experienced and patient teachers. It's weekly music class is taught by yet another great teacher. The frequent assemblies offer the students a great opportunity to perform in front of their peers and parents, which REALLY builds up these youngsters' confidence and pride (this we believe is so important to a child's success in their adulthood). Our introvert child is not fazed at all now by performing and talking in front of lots of people. On the minus side, our child feels that the daily math class is taught too easy (at lower grade) and the weekly math specialist class is not that impressive either. But overall we love our school and feel fortunate to have a principal like ours.
My children - 2nd and 5 grade - have been at BPC since Kindergarten. My children have vastly different temperments and social needs - Thankfully, BPC has been a fantastic fit for both. They are thriving and couldn't be happier with their academic and social experiences. Independently they've both reported that "BPC is a great school - filled with great people who really care about kids and their learning!" The best surpirse about BPC is the development of the LOVE of music! Thanks to BPC - both play various instrument and have a passion for all kinds of music. On a family note - BPC is a small, warm close-knit community that embraces all kinds of kids and families. We have been very happy and very pleased with our children's academic, social, emotional, and artistic growth.
I am a parent of a second grader at BPC. We couldn't be happier! The head of school is fantastic--he has a strong vision for the school and what it is intended to accomplish, and he executes it very well (plus, he is a BPC parent himself). The staff has clearly bought into the philosophy and are very good, engaged and creative. The relatively small size of the school makes for a tight community where all the teachers know all of the kids and allows the younger kids to know the older ones, and ask the older ones to learn to mentor the younger ones. Similarly, the small community allows for very good staff/parent communications, and there are a wide variety of activities and roles for parents to play to help (without pressure or obligation) provide the best environment for the kids. The strong music and math programs demonstrate this little schools ability to excel in academics and the arts. We are very lucky that we found this school during the tours. Go visit and see for yourself!
Our kids, one in 5th grade and one in 7th, have been at BPC since Kindergarten and are absolutely thriving. The academics are unmatched and the community is quirky but welcoming and close-knit. We couldn't be happier with our choice of BPC!
My husband and I are both teachers and we looked long and hard to find the right middle school. BPC successfully supports rigorous academics, serious arts education, and the essential social-emotional development. They do an exceptional job at making the daily experience for students meaningful, and they create a safe and supportive community at the middle school level - no small task. I highly recommend Black Pine Circle School.
I am stunned by our good fortune in finding this school. My 5yo, whom I feared would be too gentle and academically advanced for any place we looked at, is absolutely thriving. BPC differentiates (teaches according to each student s level) better than any other place I've seen. I spent > 50 hrs visiting classrooms. Though a lot of places offer lip-service to a strong curriculum and high standards of world citizenship, nowhere else came close. Behind the L.S. Head s kind exterior is a kind and effective interior. The Head of School calls it straight, with great integrity and respect for the students and our planet. His is absolutely a labor of love, and his enthusiasm gives the school a very active, optimistic, empowered feeling. Taking chances where they see a learning opportunity is part of the BPC culture. Convenience doesn t win out over enabling experience. Teachers are genuinely committed to these children. Many BPC parents are professors elsewhere who bring our enthusiasm to the classroom. These kids are happy and ready to change the world. The community is highly ethical, and the students are friendly and engaged. Thank goodness for Black Pine Circle!
Schools! I visited them all staring at drawings on walls question the teachers & parents remembering my childhood's halls. it's a goldilocks story, looking for a "just right" place I wanted rigorous math, science and writing but not a mad race Great art, music and drama, all aspects of voice. There are a lot of good schools and I made a great choice. Now it's 4 years later My kids are 3rd and 1st graders, (one bold and one shy) I'm very pleased with our choice and I'll summarize why: Each week my kids will encounter +/- 14 teaching adults sharing their passion & professionalism, and yielding academic results. But what truly puts me at ease about the tuition we pay is that I know my kids are seen and loved each and every day. Oh yes, and what's more, parents don't put on airs (just be as you are!) There might even be some carpooling if you live rather far. The website (http:www.blackpinecircle.org) has details but make time for the tour Good luck with your search Be sure to open BPC's door!
BPC is a wonderful school. The faculty take the time to know the students as individuals. The specialist teachers are all outstanding - and an amazing resource at a small school. This is a small school with a big heart!
BPC is a terrific school, diversity however is its lowest point, but the school is making active efforts to change that, it may be very expensive, but more than 20% of the students are on financial aid thanks to the terrific scholarship program...
We have had 2 kids at BPC, one graduated and the other is in the upper school now (junior high). Both started in kindergarten. There are some amazing teachers at the school. The quality of the work that is done in English, history, math, and science is really outstanding, and it is not just because they are cherry-picking the brightest students. Music and drama are really excellent. The school embraces the 'socratic method' of teaching, which means that kids are taught to be inquisitive and to challenge assumptions, so kids don't learn how to flatter teachers, but do learn to be active participants in class discussions- a worthy trade-off in my opinion. Drawbacks: the small size of the lower school can make things difficult socially, since the pool of potential friends is small. Not all teachers are outstanding, and they are all unavoidable, due to the size of the school.
Despite it's location in the heart of Berkeley and a slightly Bohemian feel, BPC has an emphasis on traditional academics, combined with a strong arts program. The Socratic method (or learning by discovery) is basic philosophy. Students take violin/cello and drama classes during school. Visual and performing arts integrated into the very organized cirriculum. Sports program suffers. The afterschool program is adequate with a good variety of classes, but lacking a 'cozy' place and opportunities for independant art projects. The parents are very active and social, lots of University-types, artists, small business people. There are no social strata based on income, working moms feel welcome, materialism is not rampant among kids. Administration is the most open of any school I looked at, although I don't always agree with relatively academic approach to learning and behavioral problems. A low-pressure option for smart/ motivated/ creative kids.
Black Pine Circle is a small school that uses a Socratic philosophy to education. Therefore there is a lot of opportunity for kids to engage in discussions in school and many of the assignments are thought provoking a creative. The social environment among the students is very positive. The quality of the teachers is uneven. Some are not being successful in engaging students. Communication with families is fair but could be more specific and proactive. Overall, it is an academically challanging environment where students have a chance to navigate the start of adolescence in an environment that is small and supportive. Great enrichment opportunities. Great math teacher in the upper grades.
Black Pine Circle provides as academically challenging and supportive environment for middle school kids. It's a great group of kids who are motivated and fairly accepting of individual differences (a challenge for middle schoolers). The teachers really connect with the kids and gain their respect. The math program offers opportunities for accelerated learning, a math club, and does very well in state-wide competitions. The overall environment is fairly liberal with many families associated with UC Berkeley.
This is a really good school and me and my sister enjoy it a lot. But it would be a little better with more kids in the 6-8 section. because i think it is a little too small.
This school is great because of the wonderfully small classes. Every child earns an excellent education and friends. The only problem is it's very expensive
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