UPDATED: Alameda middle school options

UPDATED: Alameda middle school options

Michele Ellson
Alameda Community Learning Center

Students engage at Alameda Community Learning Center. Photo courtesy of David Hoopes.

It's that time of the year again: Parents of fifth graders all over the Island are applying to middle schools for next fall. To help families navigate their options last year, The Alamedan asked the leaders of all seven of Alameda’s free, public middle schools – a list that includes charter, magnet and traditional schools – to offer some basic information about their programs. This year we're reprising the piece by reader request, with updates noted in the text.

Students who choose to attend their neighborhood middle school don’t need to do anything to enroll. Lincoln Middle School is open only to students who live in the school’s attendance zone; enrollment in Alameda Unified’s other middle schools – Wood, Junior Jets @ Encinal and Bay Farm – opens today, with forms due by February 27. More information on enrolling in the district’s schools is available here.

Alameda Community Learning Center is holding its initial admissions lottery in February but will accept applications through the end of the year; The Academy of Alameda Middle School’s enrollment deadline is also February 27. Nea Community Learning Center’s priority enrollment deadline is this Friday, but applications for a spring lottery will be accepted after that date. Forms for Alameda’s three public charters are available on their websites, linked below.

ACADEMY OF ALAMEDA MIDDLE SCHOOL

Originally submitted by Matt Huxley, executive director

Name of school: The Academy of Alameda Middle School

Address: 401 Pacific Avenue

Year founded: 2010-11

Number of students: 480 (2013-14)

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: The Academy of Alameda empowers all students to be conscious contributors to their communities by equipping them with the critical thinking skills, knowledge, mindset and personal qualities to be successful in high school and college.

What makes your school special?: The level of dedication from the staff, parent body and board; the diversity of the student body; a strong academic program that includes a challenging core academic program, a comprehensive support program, and opportunities to stretch students including advanced level classes; and a comprehensive after school program. We also have a comprehensive social emotional program that includes the teaching to and celebrating of six critical student qualities including a growth mindset, integrity, resilience, preparedness, self-control and cultural competence.

Elective wheel: In the sixth grade students can take music and art, and all students take an enrichment wheel consisting of character education, literacy circles, and technology I. Seventh and eighth grade students have an expanded list of electives to choose from, including art and advanced art, beginning and advanced band and orchestra, choir, Spanish 1a and 1b, journalism, and technology II.

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1a and 1b

Special programs: Seventh and eighth grade honors literacy seminar, a sixth grade honors literacy project, advanced art, an array of after school enrichment classes including robotics, cartooning, computer programming, creative writing, and filmmaking.

Sixth grade schedule: Core: English language arts and social studies, math (grade level, advanced, intervention math courses), science, physical education, enrichment wheel

After school program: Next year our year-long GOLD after school program will cost $100 for three to five days of after school program classes from 3:35 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Classes include homework support (the first hour for all students), and then students can choose different classes including cooking, leadership, dance, sports, technology, and leadership.

ALAMEDA COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER

Updated by David Hoopes, lead facilitator, and Bara Waters, parent

Name: Alameda Community Learning Center

Address: 1900 Third Street

Year founded: 1996-97

Number of students: About 375

Update: The school relocated from the Wood Middle School campus to its new and long-term location at the former Woodstock Educational Center, adjacent to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club and near the College of Alameda. Curriculum expansion includes the splitting of middle school humanities into separate English and history classes.

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: The Alameda Community Learning Center is a tuition-free public charter school that provides a creative and rigorous college-prep program for grades 6-12. We challenge learners to become active participants in their education by fostering a progressive and empowering learning environment that goes beyond state standards to create deeper knowledge and understanding through experiential learning.

What makes your school special?: Our innovative and research-based program uses college-like scheduling with open periods built into students’ weekly schedules. This approach fosters independence, personal responsibility and time management skills. Our program is founded on a project-based and experiential learning model for greater depth and motivation; a democratic and learner-empowered culture that increases confidence, participation and leadership; and individualized learning opportunities and academic support that result in higher educational outcomes. Activities revolve around “The Center,” a large central space used for collaborative project work, research, study, meeting space and community activities. As a small, dynamic and community-oriented learning program of less than 400 learners, our program emphasizes the development of important skills including: critical thinking, creative problem-solving, leadership ability, self-motivation, active participation, investigative interest, technological savvy, personal responsibility, flexibility, open-mindedness and lifelong learning.

Elective wheel: The Art of Science (sixth grade), Learning to Learn (sixth, seventh and eighth grade), Creative Expressions (sixth and seventh grade), Digital Video Studio (seventh and eighth grade), Digital Music (eighth grade), Art (seventh and eighth grade)

Foreign languages offered: Fundamentals of Spanish (seventh grade) and Spanish 1 (eighth grade), and up through Spanish 4 in high school.

Special programs: Our Common Core standards-based curriculum is greatly enriched through project-based learning, collaborative assignments and multimedia technology. Though our learners take classes, much of their learning happens outside the classroom while working on projects, doing research, collaborating in teams and engaging in unique leadership activities. High school learners take college classes at the nearby College of Alameda, with some completing up to a full year of college credits by graduation.

Sixth grade schedule: Math 6, English language arts, history, science 6, physical education, The Art of Science, Learning to Learn, Creative Expressions

After school programs:
• Facilitators (teachers) are in their classrooms and available for extra support on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 4 p.m. The Center is open until 5 p.m.
• Rock Shop is a rock band class. It is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.)
• Debate is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:45 p.m-3:45 p.m)
• Poetry is offered every Tuesday and is free to learners. (3:10 p.m.-4:30 p.m.)
• Cartooning and Animation is offered every Friday and is free to learners. (3:10 p.m.-4 p.m.)
• Drama Ensemble is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.)
• Many learners take advantage of our location adjacent to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club and Woodstock Park for additional after school activities.

Additional information:
• A creative and accepting culture makes middle-school learners feel welcome.
• Rigorous academics promote high school readiness, and our 6-12 program encourages seamless integration into high school.
• Our 869 API score is the highest of all open-enrollment high schools in Alameda.
• We have been recognized as one of “America's Best High Schools” by U.S. News & World Report since 2009.
• Approximately 90 percent of our graduates attend four-year colleges.
• Our graduation requirements exceed those of other high schools in Alameda as well as admission requirements for the University at California system. To graduate, our learners must be eligible to attend a four-year university or college, fulfill a career/interest-based internship, devise and lead a community-oriented senior project, prepare a senior portfolio and complete at least one college class.

For more information, contact David Hoopes at 995-4300 or e-mail david.hoopes@alamedaclc.org.

BAY FARM SCHOOL

Updated by Babs Freitas, principal

Name of school: Bay Farm School

Address: 200 Aughinbaugh Way

Year founded: 1992-93 (elementary school)

Number of students: N/A

Update: The school welcomed eighth grade students this year.

What is your school's philosophy/mission: Our school: Bay Farm is committed to being the heart of our community, bridging home and school. We provide a collaborative and inclusive environment where everyone values cultural and learning differences. Students enjoy the pursuit of personal and academic excellence as they become confident and compassionate citizens of our local and global communities. Our school as a 21st century school: We seek to develop 21st century citizens who are creative problem solvers and intellectual risk takers, so that they are prepared for a world of the 21st century. Our 21st century learning environment is an aligned and synergistic system of systems that:

  • Supports professional learning communities that enable educators to collaborate, share best practices, and integrate 21st century skills into the classroom practice.
  • Enables students to learn in relevant, real-world 21st century contexts (e.g., through project-based or other applied work).
  • Allows equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies, and resources.
  • Supports expanded community and international involvement in learning, both face-to-face and online.

What makes your school special?: We are a neighborhood community school that currently has students from grades K-8. With our innovative plan for 21st century learning, all of our general education classrooms are equipped with SMART boards and we have been able to provide 1:1 technology (either Google Chromebooks or netbooks and iPads in the media center). We kicked off a BYOD (bring your own device) initiative this year; most of our student are bringing their own device from home, but those who can't are issued a device to use at school. Our students have been able to participate in some amazing overnight field trips. Our eighth grade students are traveling to Washington, D.C. and New York over spring break!

Elective wheel: Our middle school students attend weekly music classes with a trimester each of choral music, instrumental music and musical theater. They also receive weekly instruction in our media center where they learn how to apply the multi-platforms (netbooks, Chromebooks, iPads) available at our school.

Foreign languages offered: Seventh grade students are introduced to foreign language with Rosetta Stone and have a choice of either Spanish, French, or Mandarin. Our eighth grade student are studying Mandarin as their world language.

Special programs: Students have the opportunity to join our ukulele band that practices at lunchtime and play at many of our events and competitively.

Sixth grade schedule: Our sixth grade teachers team teach using a flexible block schedule model.

After school program: Currently, our after school programs are primarily offered through the Alameda Education Foundation and include a variety of classes such as band, seasonal competitive sports, karate and computer programming. Fees vary depending on the class. Additionally, we offer a free after school glee club.

JUNIOR JETS @ ENCINAL

Updated by Tracy Allegrotti, assistant principal

Name of school: Encinal Junior Jets

Address: 210 Central Avenue

Year founded: 2013-14

Number of students: 220

What is your school’s philosophy/mission?: We believe our scholars need to:

• Talk to each other
• Solve real world problems
• Read complex text
• Integrate technology
• Extend their learning outside of the classroom
• Engage with different learning modalities
• Work with a variety of types of people
• Be introduced to college and career options
• Engage in meaningful community service experiences
• Have 21st century presentation skills
• Feel known and respected

What makes your school special?: As part of a 6-12 school, our scholars have access to many more electives than at most middle schools, as well as athletic facilities, school plays and other clubs, and accelerated coursework. By eighth grade, most students will have taken at least one class with high school students (electives, math, etc.). This year, we have approximately 75 percent of our seventh and eighth grade students successfully taking at least one high school course (elective and/or math). This experience eliminates or minimizes the often-difficult transition to high school.

We also integrate technology into our core classes, with our Nexus tablets and Google Chromebooks. We have several electronic accounts for textbooks, curriculum, and other online programs.

As a small school with a strong focus on our students’ social and emotional needs, kids cannot “hide” at Junior Jets. We interview all students and families before school begins in order to get to know our kids, their needs and their strengths. We also have an advisory program that addresses academic, social, and emotional growth. In advisory, all students explore college and career options and attend college visits. By the time our students enter high school, they will have toured a community college, a public university, and a private university. This year, our sixth graders toured The College of Alameda, our seventh graders toured Stanford University, and our eighth graders visited the University at California, Berkeley.

Elective wheel: Our sixth grade elective wheel consists of digital literacy, art and drama. Additionally, our sixth graders may choose band or orchestra (in lieu of the wheel). Our seventh graders have access to a two-semester wheel that consists of digital art and integrated art history, or they can choose Spanish, French or band/orchestra. Eighth graders have access to all of the electives that our high school students do, including foreign language, multimedia art, drama, art, ceramics, 3-D design and advanced band or orchestra.

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1, 2 and 3; French 1, 2 and 3

Special programs: Because our eighth graders have access to high school electives, they are able to continue on to advanced levels since they have already met introductory requirements. Eighth graders who have completed levels 1 and 2 in a foreign language may go on to level 3 as freshmen. Drama students may advance to drama 2. Students who have completed multimedia 1 can go on to video game design or 2-D animation. This is true for the arts as well. What is exciting is that every current eighth grader has chosen to move on to the next level of courses for their freshman electives this year as freshmen. Students also have access to all clubs that are offered at the high school level, as well as middle school only clubs. Our Junior Jets have also started clubs that they wanted to see at Encinal, including art club, glee club and Junior Jet Ambassadors.

Sixth grade schedule: English language arts and history core, math/science core, elective wheel or band, physical education/advisory

After school program: Currently our media center is open each day after school until 6 p.m. We have applied for a grant for the 2015-16 school year to fund a free Junior Jets after school program. This program will have 80 spaces and include both enrichment courses (culinary arts, dance) and academic support and tutoring.

Additional information: For more information, please contact Tracy Allegrotti at 748-4023, ext. 3407 or e-mail tallegrotti@alameda.k12.ca.us.

LINCOLN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Originally submitted by Michael Hans, principal

Name: Lincoln Middle School

Address: 1250 Fernside Boulevard

Year founded: 1977 at its current location

Number of students: 957 (2013-14)

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: Our mission is to meet the needs of all of our students in their academic, social and physical development. We strive to provide an engaging and challenging curriculum. We have high expectations for all of our students.

What makes your school special?: The role of a middle school is to prepare its students for success in high school. We do an incredible job preparing our students and in fact, I would say that we offer more of a traditional high school experience than many high schools do today. We offer a seven-period day every day so students experience having multiple teachers and moving from class to class. We have lockers for every student so they don’t have to carry all of their books.

Our elective program and our campus facilities are what truly set us apart. Next year, we will be offering beginning strings and I believe we are the only middle school that will offer a strings class. We are hoping to grow this program and offer advanced strings the following year. We have an award-winning marching band that was recently seen on television preforming in the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade. We have a dynamic wood shop program, one of the last of its kind in any school district middle or high school.

The projects that our students are making are at a high school level. We have a fantastic art program, and we offer an advanced art class that allows our students to enter higher level art classes when they get to high school. We have a drama program that puts on a yearly play. We have an award winning tolerance class, taught by Alameda County Teacher of the Year Chris Hansen. We have a journalism class that not only designs our yearbook, but they have an online magazine where they post articles, on our school’s website. We have a cheerleading club and a dozen other clubs that meet and organize events. We have an outdoor development program that not only works on the landscaping of the school, but they also work in our nature area and run our recycling program.

What is also so special about our school is our facilities. We are large school that still has lockers for every student. We have a huge athletic field, large blacktop, and large multi-use room that serves as a gym. In fact we are the only middle school that has what could be considered close to a real gym in its size and its ability to seat spectators. We have a boys and girls locker room and our students still dress out for physical education every day – we are the only middle school in the district that has students dress out for physical education. We are the only school in the Bay Area that I know of that has a nature area that runs along the bay, which is used every day by our science classes and our outdoor development classes.

Elective wheel: Sixth graders have two choices: They can take band for the entire year or they can be placed in the sixth grade elective wheel. This wheel is our way of exposing our sixth graders to a variety of electives, which we offer as year-long or trimester classes to our seventh and eighth graders. The wheel classes run for six weeks and every sixth grader not in band will take intro to French, wood shop, intro to drama, art, engineering and academic strategies (a how-to-survive-middle-school class). Our seventh and eighth graders take either trimester wheel classes or year-long electives. All of our eighth graders get two electives choices since their core classes are only two periods (English language arts/social studies), unlike our sixth and seventh grade core classes, which are three periods long (English language arts/literature/social studies).

Foreign languages offered: Eighth graders can take French 1, Spanish 1 and hopefully next year, Mandarin 1. All of these classes count as their first year of foreign language and if they are successful, students can enter high school at a level 2 class. This allows them to progress and take an advanced placement class their senior year in high school.

Special programs: We have a very successful green waste program which is doing a fantastic job in reducing our amount of landfill waste. We offer English language development for students who are not yet fluent in English. We have a Fusion reading program that is designed for students who are reading two or more years below grade level. We offer a variety of special education classes for students with individualized education plans that run from mild to moderate and special day classes for our moderate to severe students. We also have a bridge program that is designed to support our autistic students.

Sixth grade schedule: All sixth graders take a three-period core (English language arts/literature/social studies) with the same teacher. This gives them the support they need as they transition from elementary school. They then have different teachers for science, math, physical education and their elective.

After school program: Our school site council funds after school study hall with a teacher three days a week. We have several math support programs after school. The Alameda Education Foundation also runs multiple classes on our campus. They offer various classes at a cost to the student. The foundation also runs the district’s middle school sports program. Lincoln is only middle school in the district that can field an A and B team for all of the sports provided by the foundation. Those include co-ed volleyball, girls’ basketball, boys’ basketball and track & field. We won the A and B volleyball championship and our A and B girls’ basketball teams played in the championship games on February 25. Many of our clubs also have after school activities, such as our running club, which runs off campus every Friday after school.

Additional information: Safety is our number one priority at Lincoln. We know we are a large school and that can be scary for some families. The reality is that we have very few safety issues. We want our students feeling safe and ready to learn when they come on campus. We have a full-time campus supervisor, an assistant principal and a principal who are always out and about. You will see us patrolling before school, at lunch and after school, and we are in the hallways at every passing period. Our school counselor and our admin team are very proactive in addressing student issues and concerns. It should also be noted that Lincoln is not an open enrollment campus. We have more than enough students from our four feeder schools of Edison, Otis, Earhart and Bay Farm. Students must live in our attendance zone, which is everything east of Park Street, to attend Lincoln. I’ve had a number of parents ask me to accept their child even though they don’t live in the Lincoln attendance zone. I cannot do that. Again, we are not an open enrollment school.

NEA COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER

Updated by Bara Waters, parent

Name of school: Nea Community Learning Center

Address: 1900 Third Street

Year founded: 2009-10

Number of students: About 500 (K-12)

Update/what’s new: Nea has relocated to 1900 Third Street, reuniting the formerly separated Lower Village (K-5) and Upper Village (6-12) on one campus that encompasses the full spectrum of our unique K-12 program. Nea also has a new lead facilitator, Annalisa Moore, and a new assistant lead facilitator, Annahita Rad.

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: Nea is founded on the central principle of knowledge and the quest for lifelong learning. At all levels we emphasize, teach, model and celebrate the Nine Nea Principles: knowledge, teamwork, persistence, organization, accountability, compassion, problem solving, courage and integrity. Focusing on these core values helps develop the whole child beyond academics into engaged citizens, productive and responsible people, and active lifelong learners.

What makes your school special?: One of Nea’s prime advantages is a hands-on, project-based curriculum that adheres to Common Core standards, with a focus on arts and expansive electives. Our student-centered and experiential curriculum creates strong academic, social and emotional connections among learners and facilitators (teachers), further enhanced by our small class sizes, creative and inspired teaching and vibrant community.

Nea offers a democratic school model that encourages learner participation and development of leadership skills, and our K-12 grade range fosters multi-age exchange, role modeling and mentorship among grade levels. Nea high school learners can take concurrent college classes in academic subjects or career-oriented or technical fields. Our school also enjoys a synergistic relationship with the adjacent Alameda Boys and Girls Club and Woodstock Park, and the nearby College of Alameda.

Electives: In the Upper Village, electives are chosen for the semester or the year, and learners choose them based on personal interests or post-secondary goals. Elective examples include: BioSTEM, digital music studio (beginner or advanced), band A or B, art 1 and 2, robotics, software certification, creative writing, fashion design, tinkering, maker studio, leadership, yoga, musical theater, public speaking and debate, and yearbook/graphic design, to name a few! Electives change from year to year depending on learner interest and facilitator skills.

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4; American Sign Language

Special programs: Middle school learners prepare for high school and college by learning to manage time and tasks within a seminar schedule, somewhat similar to a college schedule. Upper Village learners utilize the "Tree" – Nea’s unique community space in which they work on projects independently or in groups. Tree periods help create self-directed learners, teach time management and work prioritization skills, encourage research and the exploration of interests, develop a deeper sense of community among learners and allow for greater flexibility in home and extra-curricular life.

In addition to having the highest graduation standards in Alameda and exceeding admission requirements for the University at California system, Nea offers advanced placement courses through the University of California Scout Program, and high school learners must complete at least one college course, an internship, a senior project and senior portfolio to graduate.

This past fall, Nea began piloting a program of UC-approved courses in career and technical fields including medical, automotive, culinary and programming. These college credit courses will allow students to explore potential careers, lead to skill certification for jobs, and help differentiate them on college applications.

Sixth grade schedule: Math (by diagnostic placement), humanities (English language arts and history), science, physical education and electives by choice.

After school programs: Free after school enrichment activities include subject tutoring and support, and a variety of clubs and sports supervised by Nea facilitators and coaches. A range of after school classes are offered in partnership with the Alameda Education Foundation; costs vary by class. Additional supervised activities are available at the adjacent Alameda Boys and Girls Club and Woodstock Park. Nea Childcare is available at $5 per hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

WILL C. WOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL

Originally submitted by Cammie Harris, principal

Name: Will C. Wood Middle School

Address: 420 Grand Street

Year founded: 1965 at its current location

Number of students: 411 (as of September 23, 2013)

What is your school’s philosophy/mission?: We are proud to teach and nurture the whole child. It is the intent of the faculty of Wood Middle School to provide a safe and nurturing environment where the academic, social-emotional and physical needs of a child are supported. This is being done through school wide implementation of Alameda Unified School District-adopted Positive Behavior Intervention System, systemic Response to Intervention and mentorship through an Academic-Social Advisory taught by credentialed faculty. Next year, all students will be members of small learning communities where teachers will collaborate to create meaningful, and aligned content in a balanced academic program.

What makes your school special? Wood Middle School staff, students and parents are excited about being the first true STEAM middle school on the Island. STEAM is a Rhode Island School of Design led initiative to add Art and Design to the national agenda of STEM education and research in America. STEM + Art = STEAM. The goal is to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.

Foreign languages: Spanish

Special programs: We currently offer art, drama, Spanish, leadership, a Service Learning Waste Reduction Project with StopWaste.org, the EPICS/Teen Techs robotics program with Purdue University and an award-winning music program.

Comments

Submitted by Justin A. Green (not verified) on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

Why no love for St. Philip Neri or St. Joseph? Both have fantastic middle school programs?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

Hi Justin: The goal of this piece was simply to help folks navigate all of their public school options, since they have grown quite a bit over the past several years.

Submitted by nora (not verified) on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

This micromanagement of primary education invites the "can't see the forest for the trees" warning. I am not sure so much choice gives the taxpayers a good return on their investment.

Submitted by Cynthia (not verified) on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

As a former catholic elementary school student, I appreciated the close knit community that is still a part of my life. I do believe allowing the children of our community to have diverse options to blossom in this world is a true gift that our public middle schools offer. Kudos to a commitment for all our students by AUSD. Passions are discovered in many places.