Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School is one of three public middle schools in Berkeley, California serving students in grades 6 through 8. At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, teachers, staff, and families work together to create a dynamic learning community where every child is known and supported. This partnership results in high academic standards and excellent teacher morale. Teachers challenge their students with rigorous, creative and relevant projects throughout the year. There are many opportunities for students to explore and develop new interests in and out of the classroom.
The spacious King campus provides ample room for student activity. A baseball field, pool, tennis courts, and quarter-mile track are on campus, as well as King’s nationally renowned Edible Schoolyard, initiated and supported by Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters. King students work with Schoolyard staff including a gardener, administrator and chef. Students study plant cultivation as a science and learn to regard the earth as a friend. The new dining commons, completed in August 2008, has further enhanced the idea that nutrition and health are important aspects of the education of every student.
Mission & Philosophy
At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teachers, staff, and families work together to create a dynamic learning community where every child is known and supported. The school uses a cohort model in which a vice principal, counselor, and two resource teachers follow the students from 6th to 8th grade, supporting them academically, socially, and emotionally.
The ideals of Dr. King guide the work of the staff. These ideals include: Equality, Academic Excellence, Community Action, Nonviolence, Respect for Self and Others, and Leadership based on Democratic Principles.
Principal Janet Levenson believes that the strength of the teaching community is the reason behind King’s success. “This staff implemented major educational reforms over the past few years and the fruits of their labor are evident in the school climate, test scores, and staff morale. This is a mostly veteran staff with the energy and curiosity and drive of brand new teachers. There is real commitment here.”
King is the BUSD middle school with a newcomer program for children who arrive in Berkeley from another country. The teachers provide a strong foundation and support network for the students and their families and are constantly working to provide conversation and academic English language instruction. English Language Learner teacher Patty Rathwell happily claims, “Our Berkeley classroom truly represents the world with its myriad of languages, traditions and religions.”
The King LEARNS After School Program offers a wide range of opportunities for students including intramural and competitive sports, theater activities, dance classes, sewing, gardening, homework tutoring, and much more.
Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School was originally named Garfield Junior High School after U.S. President James A. Garfield. It was renamed for the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a few years after his assassination in 1968. Garfield Junior High School was established in the early 1900s at 1414 Walnut Street, just south of Rose Street. The school was moved into new buildings at the present site in 1922. The original site on Walnut Street was subsequently used for an elementary school (University Elementary School) and later as the headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District until the 1970s. The site and buildings are today occupied by the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center.
King was originally a junior high school serving grades 7 through 9. In the 1990s, following multiple school closures and relocations caused by damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Berkeley Unified School District’s grade structure was reorganized. Ninth grade was moved to Berkeley High School, and the sixth grade classes were gradually moved from the intermediate schools to the junior high schools. At King, a new building was constructed to house the sixth grade classes, as well as a new library. The name was changed from “Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School” to “Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School” in the mid-to-late 1990s.
In the early 2000s, the main building of the school was completely renovated and made more earthquake-resistant. Following a long legal struggle, a new cafeteria (the Dining Commons) was opened for use in the fall of 2008. Prior to its opening, food was cooked in a small room in the “Science Building” at the West end of campus.
The ideals of Dr. King guide the work of the staff. These ideals include equality, academic excellence, community action, nonviolence, respect for self and others, and leadership based on democratic principles.
King Middle School has distilled these concepts into four school wide expectations for behavior, the 4 Bs:
Be an ally.
Teachers and staff emphasize situational appropriateness, which entails choosing language and behavior based on where one is and to whom one is speaking.
King has developed the following policies and program to support these expectations:
The school uses a cohort model in which a vice principal, counselor, and two resource teachers follow the students from 6th to 8th grade, supporting them academically, socially, and emotionally. This fosters staff building a meaningful relationship with each student as they move through middle school.
Passing Period Policy
When students are moving between classes, teachers and staff are in the halls, away from their desks and out of their classrooms. This presence helps teachers and staff be aware of student dynamics and encourages a calm and safe environment for all students.
6th Grade Social Smarts
All 6th grade students participate in a nine-week Social Smarts course as part of the Wheel Program. The course teaches students to
Foster empathy for all
Communicate effectively to resolve conflicts
Express their needs and listen to the needs of others
Create a sense of self and cultural understanding
The curriculum focuses on self-confidence, self-awareness, an awareness of the harmful effects of bullying, and how to be an ally. The goal is to create a community that fosters an understanding of differences and empathy for others while learning to take personal responsibility for all actions. Working towards this goal, students examine popular music and literature, view a locally produced film on bullying, write poetry, create several art projects, and regularly share unique perspectives through discussion and journal writing.
King has a no-bullying policy.
Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School is committed to educational excellence: quality instruction and curriculum in all disciplines, high achievement for all students, and exceptional programs throughout the school. We are a professional learning community in which teachers collaborate and plan effective instruction and curriculum. We are particularly proud of the improving student achievement at our school, and actions we have taken to support the goals of Berkeley’s 2020 Vision and getting students to school on time and ready to learn. In an effort to give you regularly updated information about King, we have provided school information sheets.
Should you have any questions or feedback, please contact the BUSD Evaluation and Assessment office at 644-6959 and/or visit the BUSD website.