Real diversity in the student body. This is not a self-selected group of academically oriented kids, but a haphazard group of the poorest and richest kids in the area. I would say that this is the year my child sat up and took responsibility for her own education. Now she wants it.
Several programs on campus encourage dialogue and respect between students. Students attend each other's performances (there are all kinds of performances of all different kinds…music, dance, poetry slams, history reinactments, plays, student council speeches, science fair presentations, speeches as assignements, etc.), and other kids support each other in putting it out there, taking the risk, even when not very accomplished. Our daughter is less afraid of speaking to groups now than in the past, and is (her words) “in awe of my classmates”.
Yes. Students are held accountable for their actions, and there is not a lot of favoritism. Many teachers use the socratic method, and this helps kids relate to each other and see each other as equals. Also, the adults on campus are trained and sensitive to the extreme socio-economic range, so effectively avoid presenting challenges that automatically give richer kids a leg up.
We’re unexpectedly happy with this school. We were skeptical and even applied for a transfer to another District, but after months of form-dogging and not getting it, we decided to make the best of it. Our daughter thrived, and the school’s diverse student body, along with a handful of incredible teachers had a lot to do with it. Not every teacher is stellar to be sure, but she learned valuable lessons about how to deal with less-than-perfect leaders. Yes, there were moments of frustration. But she has also made some incredible and unexpected achievements and breakthroughs in writing, analysis, speaking, and algebra. My only regret is that she’s not part of the outstanding and very cool band program….
So summing, this school isn’t perfect, but it is good. It is repeatedly and dishonestly used in a political game by a lot of people who don’t have kids in the system any more. The excellent principal has a firm hold on the tone and culture. It has the most socio-economically diverse student body anywhere, and as parents, we’re proud of our daughter for seeing how rich this makes her.
My daughter is in her second year at KMS and she is thriving. She is very social and outgoing and has made many friends, most of whom come over to our house after school. We go through a lot of snacks! They are all nice kids and some of them are taking 9th grade math at the high school while in 8th grade at KMS. The class sizes are large but she's is thriving academically and tells me how much she enjoys her advanced history class. Her advanced English class seems engaging and challenging. She's not crazy about P.E. but I have yet to meet a middle school student that likes changing for P.E. Overall, she's having a good experience. This is our second child to go here and our oldest has done extremely well at El Cerrito High. The principal is wonderful and has encouraged her. He is very supportive of all the student.
It is hard to rate Portola because the quality varies greatly from one teacher to the next. In math, you might as well leave your child alone with his book and computer to figure all out by himself, but you might have a very positive experience with the English class. Parent perspective on school quality in WCCUSD is skewed by the many underperforming schools in the district. Portola ends up being a better choice than others, but that is not saying much. If you have a child and must live in the WCCUSD, this middle school is located in a safe neighborhood, and despite all, has a very good principal at this time. The band teacher is very active. It is probably the best thing about this school. They just changed the school's name to Korematsu Middle. A more meaningful change would have been to reelect all the school board members in WCCUSD, especially those who have lingered on for too long due to their political ambitions, not because they care to serve the children. Land deals and profits from expensive building projects govern WCCUSD. A good area to live in if you own a large construction company and want to get rich fast, not if you have school age children.
Portola Middle is disorganized and the leadership is poor and unable to inspire real improvement. While this school boasts itself as a diverse community, the reality is that students and staff are not treated equally. Teacher quality varies widely and teachers are not supervised properly. I question the safety of the students at Portola. The local police officer that works at Portola is often seen playing basketball or football with the kids instead of supervising the school. There appears to be a lack of supervision overall. The image of Portola as a great school is merely an image.
We are so pleased with our up-and-coming middle school! We have a dynamic, engaged principal who is 100% present on campus and behind the scenes. Under his wonderful leadership, we see a welcoming, positive student culture where all students feel at home. My daughter had a great two years here, and is prepared for high school academically, and (perhaps more importantly), she is prepared emotionally. We love the diversity of Portola, the heterogenous classes, and the involved parent community.
We are happy at this school. This is our second year here, and we notice that LOTS of kids from our elementary school are enrolled this year, and all the kids at the school seem sweet and welcoming. We are looking forward to another great year!
With the new campus set to be opened during the 2015-16 school year, and the temporary campus getting love from parents, teachers, and students, there is a really positive vibe at Portola. Well-loved programs like band, math club, Writer Coach Connection, drama, and leadership are going strong. Plus new programs like chess club, after school language programs, and the dual-immersion Spanish-English program are taking off. Teachers will be getting additional support and training this year from a Scholar-In-Residence. Though the diversity of the campus creates challenges to educate and care for children with different backgrounds and needs, it is also a boon for my child who gets to experience many different cultures and perspectives. Despite the hard work ahead to insure a high quality education for every single child who attends, this is a school on the right track. My student is proud to attend her neighborhood middle school!