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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Brandeis San Francisco: Jewish Day School

 The Brandeis School of San Francisco is a pluralistic Jewish Day School (see details below) that is warm and welcoming. The school offers a balanced curriculum that is engaging at all levels and rigorous in the middle school. The school features a low student-teacher ratio, gifted-friendly curriculum, and a whopping 50% of students on financial aid, part of their goal to make the school accessible to families regardless of income. Full disclosure, my daughter attends the school, and my son is a graduate of the middle school. 


Academics 

What makes Brandeis special? Brandeis curriculum is balanced, with aspects of both traditional and progressive models. Starting in first grade, math is taught at the same time across the lower school, with leveled groups, and single-subject acceleration in math is available for students who are ready to advance. Reading and writing are also grouped by level in the lower school to enable optimal learning. Much of the lower school day is spent in “pinwheel” groups, which are one-third of each grade level, for subjects such as Hebrew and a rotation of art, music, drama, maker/crafting, or technology. 

The middle school, which runs from 5th to 8th grade, is rigorous. Students learn executive function skills as they grow their essay writing, note taking, and study-guide creating skills. Students start most days in advisory, small groups with a teacher who discusses issues of the day, and long advisory on Wednesdays. The middle school has a 1:1 laptop program (Macbooks), which the students use at school in 5th grade and take home in 6th thru 8th grade. Over 80% of Brandeis graduates test into Geometry or above in 9th grade, and a small number place into Algebra II or beyond (five students in the class of 2024).

The school employs three full-time learning specialists to help neurodiverse students. In second grade, they run “double dose” reading for students needing extra support, and in later grades, the specialists provide learning plans and check-ins. 

Student teacher ratio in the lower school is 13:1 most of the day, with up to 20 children in each of two classrooms, one shared resident teacher per grade, and many supplemental teachers for the pinwheel program. Student teacher ratio in the middle school is 10 to 12:1 in advisory, and ranges up to 20 kids in academic subjects.

The school's athletics department teaches PE twice a week and runs a host of athletic teams after school.


Enrichment Classes 

Brandeis offers a plethora of after school enrichment, which is popular among lower school students. These classes include art, drama, engineering, instrumental music, and more. Middle schoolers have their own room with equipment such as fussball. 

Daytime enrichment classes for the lower school include crafting, technology, art, music, and drama. For middle schoolers, electives include photography, musical theater (with a performance), musical ensemble (beginning at 4th grade), and furniture making. 


Types of Students Served

Brandeis serves gifted, 2E, and neurodiverse students with learning specialists and leveled-based groupings described above. Parents with students who need extra support are encouraged to reach out to admissions to discuss their children’s needs and explore whether the offerings match those needs. 


Jewish Day School – What does this mean?

Brandeis is a pluralistic Jewish Day School. This means that they serve students with a range of Jewish backgrounds, whether they are cultural Jews, practicing Jews, or not Jewish but interested in a Jewish education. Profiles of families are described in this graphic.

Judaic studies class includes ethics, comparative religions, Jewish holidays, history, and Torah. For example, my daughter’s 6th grade class studied the concept of “do unto others” across multiple religions and discussed which sayings meant the most to students. Seventh grade families, during the year when many students celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs, skip gift exchanges between classmates and instead ask families to donate to a charitable tzedakah fund; students spend the year investigating nonprofits and choosing which ones to donate money from the fund. Students attend a joyful tefillah prayer service weekly and host the parents for an annual tefillah that celebrates the Jewish culture and religion, with a potluck brunch afterwards. 

The school is welcoming of families that value a Jewish education. Judaic Studies class is required for all students, so it’s important that families embrace this aspect of the school. For many families, the JS class feels compatible with their values, and their students thrive there.


Tuition and Financial Aid

Brandeis tuition is in the low $40,000’s, and the school has a strong financial aid program with 48% of students receiving need-based financial aid, roughly double the percentage at secular peer schools in the area. For parents working at Jewish non-profits, the school offers a 50% discount.


Role of a K-12 Consultant 

A consultant can help you craft your school list to be sure of a balanced list offering a match of services with the student and parent’s interests. A consultant can also review all admissions materials, in particular student and parent essays, to help focus them to each school’s admissions goals. A consultant can directly work with your child to brainstorm, draft, and edit their own essays. The consultant can provide feedback on whether the essays read as genuine and how to shine during the application process. 


Want more input on K-12 schools?

Vicky consults with families to help select, apply to, and communicate with public and private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vicky maintains a principle of non-judgment. Hourly, VIP, and Season packages include a discussion to review school options, applications, essays, and key decisions. Vicky offers a limited number of packages each year to assure her availability. 

Vicky’s own children have attended both public and private schools, and have received both accommodations and curriculum changes; her elder is in high school, and her younger in middle school. New clients can email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her packages.


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