A Look at Student Perceptions

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

Student Perceptions
What do they think, and what do we do with that information?

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to serve on a WASC Accreditation Committee, conducting an in-depth evaluation of another school. I spent three days on campus meeting with the school’s leadership team and parents, observing teachers/students, and learning what their program is all about. I enjoyed serving on the committee and gaining some wonderful insights into their program. But, it also reinforced how special and outstanding our program and community are. This year, our school is also renewing our WASC accreditation, and I can’t wait for the committee to come see what we are all about. 

What is WASC Really Looking at?
We develop a self-study and action plan, outlining our goals for the next six years, addressing the areas below. These goals are based on feedback from: students, parents, teachers and the leadership team.

  • Organization & Support for Growth - How well does the school live out its vision and support the needs and academic achievement of all students? 
  • Community Involvement - How is the school involved in the community and how involved is the parent community with the school? 
  • Resource Management - Are resources allocated equitably to best support the needs and academic achievement of all students?
  • Curriculum Instruction & Assessment - To what extent is the school’s curriculum rooted in educational research and proven to be effective? 

Student Survey
Part of our self-study includes a student survey, which we recently conducted with the entire elementary school. We asked students about their school experience. You can find a list of the questions here. I am sharing some data from the survey (a full analysis will be included in the WASC report available to parents this spring). 


 Further expansion of the leveled library has already been added to our next action plan for Resource Management. The above questions reflect just one small example of how feedback (in this case from students) is used in shaping our goals. 

I DARE you to read this last part and not smile!
In the survey we asked students the following open ended questions. Students were not required to answer. Here are all the answers we received (click the links to find out what they said).

  1. I think my family chose WHPS because...
  2. The best part about WHPS is...
  3. Something I wish we could learn about is...

You can learn more about our action plan and goals throughout the year. And, I strongly encourage you to come meet with our Accreditation Committee when they are on campus this Match. Stay tuned for more information.

Student Survey Responses

I think my family chose

WHPS because...

 The best part

about WHPS is...

Something I wish

we could learn about is...

My parents love the school and when they meet the kids they felt that all the kids feel happy.

Because they want me to learn a lot.

It's a good school and the last school was the worst.

Because I am on level.

Because it is close to my house.

I chose this school because my best friend from preschool was going to it.

Because my family wants me to learn a lot and for me to go to a good school.

It is a safe environment.

Because it is a really good school and it’s a private school.

Because it was a smaller, calmer, easier, school.

This school is fun.

My brother went to this school.

I think they think that it is safe.

Everyone is nice and no bullying.

Because it has better education than public schools and we have friends that go to this school and everybody is very respectful.

It is a good school.

It is a good private school and is close to my house.

Because it is a great school and I can learn a lot.

Because I think that it is a very good campus to learn.

My family chose this school because my TK and kindergarten best friend came to this school.

Homework, better education, closer to home.

Because it has a lot of different subjects.

We have been her for 6 years.

It does grade ahead work. Everyone is united and is a friend.

Because it's nice.

Because it's a private school.

Because it was big.

Because I will learn more.

Because they liked it.

Because they thought this was a good school for me to learn.

Because another school wouldn't let me go in 1st grade.

Because I was in a bad school and then they saw WHPS.

They thought it would be awesome.

Because it's good for me.

Because they want me to learn more.

Because they saw it and they thought it was going to be a great school.


Because they are so kind to me.


Because they liked it.

Most of the things I need to learn - books, math makes me smart. Not too much fun.

Because they like it for me.

Because it’s new and they want me to learn new things.

To have fun be good and learn. This school is really helpful.

It's a good school and a nice place to learn.

It's helpful.

Because my cousin goes to the other campus.

Because it's a good school.

Big school and I like it.

Because it's a big school and it's good for me.

The wanted me to be at a good school.

It's the right school for me.

Because it has a lot of nice teachers and is really expensive and I love it.

Because they think I will like it a lot.

Because I'm a good listener at school.

Because I was here in preschool.

Because I’m happy.

They were good friends.

I wanted to come to this school.

God said.

It was good for me.

They like it.

It's super good and I'm not grumpy when I leave school.

They didn't like schools that were different.

It's a nice school.

Because it has nice play yards.

Because it's nice people here.

I'm not sure.

Because they went to school when they were kids.

Because my brother went here.

Because I love it here.

Its name is Woodland Hills Private School.

That they didn’t want me to wear a school uniform.

It’s a good school and I will have fun and learn.

It is close to our house.

Because WHPS is the best school ever.

It was a good school.

It is good for me.

Because I have been at this school for my whole life.

I don’t know.

They saw a commercial and decided to put me into it.

I think that they love this school so much.

So I could be with my brother.

It is a great school.

Better education.

It is very close to my house and it is private.

Because I like animals.

Because WHPS is close to my house. 

Great teachers and everybody is friendly.

The basketball hoops.

My friends.

It is a fun place.

Either the barnyard or the cool specialist classes.

It teaches me a lot about subjects.

Is the friends that I made.

My friends and the games and teachers.

It feels like home.

The administration.

The teachers.

The teachers.

The education system.


P.E. (thx coach) everybody is nice and very respectful smart and helpful.

The supportive teachers.

The friends and teachers I have.

It is fun.


All the people and students are very nice and caring and are super kind.

P.E & Computers & Math.


It has a good time for the school day.

Bully free.


My friends.

That we have a pool.

That I have friends.

I get to play with my friends.

I went to Collins campus.


Going to barnyard.


When I get to see my sister.

That we get to learn a lot.


We get to play at PE, recess, snack and lunch.

We do art.

Play yard.

Play equipment.

I get to play with friends.

A lot of math.


Get to have fun.


Great toys.

Computer and art more often.

My friends.


Fun and helpful for me to learn.

Making new friends.

Playing inside.

Ms. Tripp is my teacher and I love her.

Lots of books.

Playing on the playground.

That there's so much to do.

Hugging Miss Kasey.

Clapping hands.





Playing with Samaara.

The basketball.

Sometimes we have PE.



Readers workshop.

Writers workshop.

Being nice to others.


Maple yard.

Writers workshop and computers.

Writers workshop.

It's fun.

Math, recess and lunch.

That I can make new friends and play with them.

The subjects, the people , the teachers, but mostly everything!

The barnyard and to meet and socialize with other kids to make new friends. The extremely nice teachers and the curriculum to find the perfect level of reading, math and special abilities to help kids learn.

I love having friends at this school.

They have nice teachers

To see my friends.



That they help us in math.

I love writers workshop.

The teachers and the animals.



Having fun.

PE because we run a lot and it's super fun.


I have a lot of friends.

I can learn. 

Is that the school is safe for me.



What happens after life.

9th grade math.


Civil Rights!

The history of sports in P.E.

How to type faster.

Walt Disney.

I don't know. They already teach so many cool things.

Beginning of Earth.

I like everything.

A lot of experiments.

Royals and leaders of other countries.

What is going on all around us.

More weird things in science.

Harder math topics.



Probably more social studies.

Other countries via multicultural night.

How to make crystal candy.

6th grade math in 4th grade.

Geology and physics.


More playing.

Learn about how air is not in space and how air got to Earth.





Counting to 100 in Spanish.

How rockets go into space.


To read.


Switch jobs.




What stuff is made of.








Learn more about school.


More writing.



Learning how to count to 100.

Hot wheels.


Being more helpful.



Having a gym.



To make pumpkins into jackolanterns.



United States.


To read.

To read.


Writers workshop.


How to tie my shoe.

Do more writing on the computer.

Doing math faster.

Kitties and rainbows and puppies and hamsters.




Library class.


Nature and my body.



To learn about the Earth.

Getting better at tipping.

Amazing people.

I wish WHPS had a bigger computer lab.


Learning about how to feed baby animals.

Space, planets, and black holes.

Famous people’s art.


Space station.

  Back to the top

Person-First Language

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Person-First Language
It’s not just about being politically correct

Our language shapes our attitudes; our attitudes shape our language; they're intertwined. If you’ve been reading my newsletter and blog articles over the years, you know how strongly I feel that the specific words we choose can impact a child's mindset, motivation, self-image, and the likelihood they may comply with what’s being asked of them. Language also has significant implications in how we teach children to perceive others. Using person-first language is one way we convey respect and dignity to people and avoid teaching children implicit bias.  

What is Person-First Language?
Quite simply, it means putting the person first when talking about someone. Person-first language avoids using labels or adjectives to define someone, utilizing terms such as "a person with diabetes or "a person with dyslexia instead of a diabetic or a dyselxic. The intention is for a person to be seen foremost as a person and only secondly as a person with some trait. Here are some examples:

Person-first language originated in the education and disability communities. It has become more present, though I would argue not as ubiquitous as it should be, in journalism and media and in the legal code. 

journalists and editors remember to use person-first language (or focus more explicitly on the person, not their traits), it can help reduce bias in the media.

Think about these three sentences:

  • The man ran from the burning building.
  • The Black man ran from the burning building. 
  • The turban-wearing man ran from the burning building. 

Like it or not, our own implicit bias kicks in when race, gender, weight, age, religion or other factors are involved. The topics of bias and representation are complex and will be discussed in other blog posts and conversations. The point being that careful word choice has power.

Legal System
The legal system is also gradually evolving. Just this year, AB 46 was signed into California law, replacing derogatory and stigmatizing terms such as crazy, lunatic, insane, feeble-minded, mentally defective, and abnormal (which were part  of the legal code until 2019!) with terms less rooted in negative stereotypes, such as: a person experiencing a mental health disorder.

Learning Profile & Personality Profile
In our school, in addition to striving to always use person-first language, we use the terminology: learning profile
or personality profile. We work with a lot of gifted (about 1 in 5 WHPS students) and highly intellectual children and also children who experience a variety of learning differences or are on the autism spectrum. We find that viewing these traits as part of the child’s learning and/or personality profile helps to acknowledge that giftedness, high IQ, anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing, speech/language disorders, dyslexia or autism are only one, of many, aspects of the child’s learning or personality profile.

My closing thought...
We can't always get it right, but we should make our best effort to use person-first and respectful language intentionally. If you're not sure, try talking like a [good] journalist: focus explicitly on the person, not their traits. If you are talking to your child about that boy in their class. Consider just calling him the boy rather than adding (autistic, gifted, Black, Spanish-speaking, epileptic, gay, Muslim, etc.). It's a small language shift that could reduce some of the implicit bias we pass along to our kids.

* Addendum About the Autism Community (Person-First v. Identity First Language)

Identity-first language is preferred by some people in the autism community. While many autism advocacy groups support using person-first language (in general), there are different opinions about person-first language as it pertains to the autism community.

Identity-First Instead?
In the autism community, some self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “autistic,” “autistic person,” or “autistic individual” because they see autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity. They feel is impossible to affirm the value and worth of an autistic person without recognizing his or her identity as an autistic person. Some of these advocates assert that referring to someone as “a person with autism,” or “an individual with ASD” is demeaning because it implies that
 it is unfortunate and an accident that a person is autistic. These advocates say that using person-first language implies that the person has value and worth, and that autism is entirely separate from what gives him or her value and worth. Most of these advocates are careful to point out that they don't reject the principles of person-first language, rather, they reject the assumption that autism is an affliction.

Positive v. Negative Stigma
These advocates often point out that (in general) we don't separate traits like "winner," saying, "person who has won," because winning is not regarded as a negative that should be untangled from someone's identity. The argument above treats autism similarly: it is not a negative to be untangled from an autistic person's identity; therefore the use of person-first language may be misguided in this particular context. Person-first language aims to separate disabilities and other negative characteristics from people: this intention to be respectful may backfire if it demonstrates that the person writing or speaking regards the characteristic negatively when the person being described does not.

The best part(s) about WHPS

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

A little bucketfilling for the week! In our September 2019 newsletter, we will be sharing some of the results of our 2019 parent survey. At the end of that survey, parents had an opportunity to tell us what they think the best part of WHPS is. Here is a full list of parent responses (including a few teacher shout-outs). We appreciate the positive feedback as well as some of your suggestions for making WHPS even better in the future. Stay tuned for more information in this month's newsletter.

The best part about WHPS is...

  • The staff and teachers
  • Overall student development
  • It’s unique ability to create such a wholesome feeling environment for my child
  • The attention given to our son has been fantastic for his growth and development.
  • The social emotional learning, the teachers, and the fact that the faculty is always trying to improve. The desire to have cultural diversity in the education is something I appreciate.
  • The community and self-esteem that it fosters amongst the students. My child is incredibly connected (as are we) and comfortable. She truly feels comfortable exploring the campus and has a sense of ownership and pride at the school.
  • I love the program as well as the community and we view academic rigor as extremely important so we chose this great school for all these reasons . The campus is unlike any other I fell it’s very special.
  • The teachers are responsible and staff are very nice.
  • Location, Teachers and campus / barnyard + activities
  • Great school
  • Nut-free campus
  • Project-based learning
  • Low student-teacher ratio.
  • The entire staff is amazing and always accommodating. The curriculum is top notch and Their attention to the safety of our children both emotionally and physically is excellent.
  • This is the best school my son has ever attended we are so sad it does not continue into middle school. Leaving there next year will be tough on our family as we love it there so very much.
  • Teachers and creativity in their lessons
  • The wonderful atmosphere that nurtures independence and responsibility.
  • The teachers and administration. They are incredible.
  • The staff and teachers are always engaged and kind.
  • The sense of community that comes from the teachers, staff and parents.
  • My daughter loves it.
  • The teachers! We love Ms. Valerie & Ms. Judith.
  • The environment, the staff. I feel confident sending my child to school each day, knowing she will get the attention and nurturing she needs to continue to grow.
  • The administrative staff and teachers.
  • Community and teachers
  • Community
  • Warm community
  • Amazing activities
  • Nurture and love that my child gets from teachers/staff
  • My son had grown, learned so much and made lifetime long friends. We cannot wait for our daughter to start next fall.
  • Warmth, campus, community feeling & energetic staff
  • The people that work there
  • The teachers and community
  • Caring teachers, good discipline, beautiful campus, and library.
  • Community
  • Teachers and the type of education my child received
  • Faculty
  • Teachers, community
  • The teachers! The barnyard and other play areas including the oak tree were key for us! My daughter loves being outside and this was a HUGE reason we loved WHPS.
  • Staff is very attentive and take time with the children, the diversity in learning opportunities.
  • The teachers and staff! I feel like we hit the jackpot with Ms. Maryam & Ms. Ellen, Ms. Kirsten, and now Ms. Annette & Ms. Cindy and Ms. Tanya & Ms. Nicole. They are all extraordinary teachers and I can't sing their praises enough for the ways that they've cared for, nurtured and educated my boys. Mr. Matthew, Ms. Lidia and the additional support staff are also wonderful, as are the preschool directors Ms. Christine & Ms. Tracy. All are positive, enthusiastic and kind.
  • The other best thing is WHPS' schedule. It has been extremely convenient to have full-day preschool that is mostly open year-round.
  • I think school did an amazing job helping with socializing, sharing and playing with other kids.
  • Our daughter loves the teachers, campus, and the curriculum.
  • Environment
  • Safe and caring education
  • How much fun our child has at school and the amount of growth we've seen in her development.
  • The love and patience from the teachers
  • The location
  • The campus and teachers. All of the teachers are so wonderful with the children and are real people that really take the time to adhere to the children’s needs and personalities. The campus is gorgeous with large size classrooms and many different outdoor areas. I appreciate all the constant updates. Grass, floors, fences, windows...everything makes for a special environment
  • Preschool is not just a daycare, but rather a strong building block for future education.
  • The teachers and staff and the space.
  • The nurturing from the faculty is number one. My children feel confident because they are supported but encouraged to make decisions for themselves. We cannot express how much this means to us, as parents. It’s the most incredible thing to witness your children thriving! Thank you endlessly from the bottom of our hearts! We also love and adore the parents and the community of WHPS families. They genuinely care for one another.
  • Teachers, and faculty, and involvement in the community
  • The way they nurture their students
  • The community atmosphere and the awareness of the children from the faculty
  • The teachers. Ms Tracy, Ms. Christine, Syra and Traci are WONDERFUL!
  • The staff and teachers! It is obvious how much they care about the school, children, and curriculum.
  • The staff and teachers are all amazing. Such a wonderful environment.
  • The teachers and barn yard.
  • The campus, the nurturing and safe learning environment.
  • Love the staff and environment.
  • Ms. Kirsten in Room 7!!!
  • The amazing teachers, beautiful campus, and all of the enrichment/extracurricular activities.
  • The wonderful community amongst students that fosters friendships, boosts self-esteem, and makes children happy.
  • Program was #1 but we definitely fell in love with the campus & outdoor spaces!
  • Staff, campus (beauty, safety, play, barnyard etc), and child-led (and academic) learning!
  • I love the campus and barnyard. The teachers and staff are awesome.
  • The focus on teaching the kids to be leaders in everything. It is just outstanding.
  • The teachers and faculty!
  • The staff.
  • It’s well balanced with academics and social activities.
  • Level of education and sense of community
  • Caring and nurturing environment. I know my child is safe and getting a great educational foundation.
  • The teachers
  • It's not just a school, it's a community and my child is thriving. Everyone is so nice, which is wonderful. My kid loves to go to school and hates to leave. Thank you WHPS :)
  • Values and leadership.
  • Teachers, directors, outdoor campus
  • The teachers and staff.
  • Barnyard! Campus! Teachers!
  • The campus, teachers/administration, and general philosophy
  • The school environment & teacher
  • The community and barnyard
  • The students, the staff, the warm and welcoming, wholesome and nurturing environment.
  • The teaching methods used with the kids. My son loves math, loves science and enjoys social studies because of the way it is taught.
  • It offers a program that is unique and progressive for learning. They teach to a child's ability not the lowest ability in the class. They also offer a small kind nurturing environment for children to grow and learn in.
  • I love the atmosphere at WHPS. Love the level of attention our daughter receives as well as the open communication among teachers and staff.
  • The teachers and the campus!! Fabulous!
  • Strong community
  • Teachers and pedagogy
  • My child enjoyed the social aspect of the school and it was priced fairly
  • Social skills and play oriented. And the campus
  • Teachers and leaders
  • Sense of community and balance of academic preparation and creative, hands-on learning. Really loved the Reggio-based program.
  • My daughter is so happy there. She loves her teacher and her friends and has made incredibly progress this year.
  • The wonderful teachers and staff. I always feel like my child is learning so much and is well taken care of.
  • The teachers
  • Great teachers and small classroom size. Nice campus.
  • The education and community.
  • Community and love of children
  • My kid loves it. Feels safe, secure, and happy.
  • The staff
  • The environment. Barnyard is beautiful and well kept. Oak tree and grounds are very serene. I trust my child is in good hands and I feel secure that my child is in a safe space and is well cared for.
  • The care for each child
  • The Responsive Classroom, individualized learning, class size, social / emotional approach.
  • All faculty and staff seem to care more about my son's well being than making money, moving on to the next kid, etc.
  • They treat kids like their own kids.
  • It’s a supportive and fair environment for my child to learn and grow.
  • My child is happy and looks forward to going to school every day.
  • It has variety ways of learning
  • This school has been incredible in fostering leadership in my daughter. It is what I will miss most about having to leave.
  • My kids are happy because their teachers love them and provide a variety of learning and playing opportunities
  • The fact that they allow students to work at their own level regardless of grade/age.
  • Friendly and approachable administration/teachers and the programs are effective and often creative.
  • Ms Dexter and teachers (Coach, Ms Maxie etc)
  • The relationships with other families.
  • Loved Madelyn and Batool so much. Amazing teachers who cared so much.
  • The teachers with both my children have gone above and beyond in nurturing them and guiding them with academics and social-emotional needs.
  • Mrs Gottlieb and Mrs Baker were extremely helpful. They always kept me informed of my daughters progress as well as helped me find ways to better manage difficult situations.
  • Love the bonds both of my girls have with everyone at WHPS.
  • We’ve really enjoyed the community we found here at Whps
  • LOVE the leadership program...
  • I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the opportunities for parent involvement. We were looking for a school with opportunity for parent involvement, and we are incredibly dedicated to it at WHPS and so, so, so very appreciative of all that the school does to encourage and facilitate that.
  • Outdoor space, quality of teaching, Admin runs a tight ship!
  • The barnyard! The community, the caring staff, the campus, the curriculum. Everything! :)
  • I've met my very best friends at this school!
  • The innovation, creativity, rigor, support, and commitment to giving the kids the best.

Upcoming Parent Workshops

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

 RSVP for Parent Workshops & Speakers:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WHPSParentWorkshops

ALSO COMING SOON: Stay tuned for date/time.

"Giftedness 101" Parent Workshop

Bust the myths associated with giftedness! During this presentation, we will discuss giftedness through the lens of intensity and asynchrony. You will learn about Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities and discover the true primary characteristics of giftedness. Find out how these characteristics impact behavior and create the potential for misdiagnoses. Learn strategies and gain resources to support and guide gifted children academically, socially and emotionally. After attending this presentation, you will better understand gifted children in their classroom, home, and community environments. Question and answer to follow. 


The Honeymoon Phase

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

Welcome to WEEK 2 of elementary school! 

Did you know there is usually a Honeymoon Phase at the beginning of a new school year? The beginning of the year is filled with excitement, new ideas and new friends. Students often experience an easy transition into the year because everything feels so exciting and new.

As some of the novelty wears off, you might see your child regress a little, especially during the morning transition. This can sometimes be shocking to parents after having such an easy start to the year. How can you go from two weeks of bliss to a morning of tears or a rough drop off? 

Rest assured, this is normal and typical for elementary children, though it might look a little different depending on your child’s age. For our younger students, this could mean more tears or resistance saying goodbye in the morning. In upper elementary is may present as complaining of school being...too boring...too hard...no one likes me. 

What you can do to help your child past the Honeymoon Phase:

  • Be proactive with consistent, predictable morning routines. 
  • Validate their feelings but move on quickly. 
  • If your child has a harder time separating in the morning, consider using the carpool lane for drop off. 
  • Avoid showing frustration or jumping in to fix anything; it's a developmentally appropriate phase. 
  • Communication is key - The teachers and administration are here to help. If moving past the Honeymoon Phase is especially challenging for your child, talk to your teacher about coming up with a plan of action. 

Wishing everyone a wonderful WEEK 2, and beyond.

Jacey Dexter

Elementary Principal

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