Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Staying up on the news can be exhausting and even painful these days. The headlines are full of allegations of fake news and ad hominem attacks. And on the flipside, many studies are now showing the dangerous effects of confirmation bias – our psychological tendency to embrace new information that affirms our pre-existing beliefs and to ignore evidence that doesn’t. This is played out on Facebook, in particular, as there is an increasing tendency to mute or unfriend people who think differently than we do. While I am definitely not advocating for any of us to go on Facebook to troll those with whom we might disagree, there is danger if we simply lean into our confirmation bias or are too afraid to engage in genuine, respectful debate and discourse. While it is concerning that our children are entering a world that can be fraught with disrespect and vitriol, I believe this actually creates a special opportunity (and moral imperative) that we equip our children differently.

So what can one school in the San Fernando Valley do? We may not be able to make an immediate impact on what’s being said and done in the public domain, but we can certainly teach our children that it is possible to cheerfully disagree, question, or only partially agree with others, but still respect and get along with them. The Center for Responsive Schools, which developed our school’s social-emotional curriculum, shared a wonderful article last month about using Interactive Modeling to expose children to what respectful disagreement might look and sound like. This approach gives children a chance to notice for themselves the exact words and tone to use when respectfully disagreeing. Then children actually get to practice wondering, disagreeing, and questioning and get immediate feedback from their peers and teachers about how they were doing with this social skill.

There is no better time than the holiday season when you spend time with family and friends to help children with this skill at home (and maybe even practice it ourselves). It doesn’t have to be a contest between right and wrong, but rather an opportunity to listen with an open mind and heart.

In our school, when we teach children sentence starters or special ways to talk about their thinking, we call this Accountable Talk. Here are a few examples of Accountable Talk sentence starters you can model and practice with children (or even other adults):

  • “I see what you’re saying, but I wonder if __________.”
  • “I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with that because __________.”
  • “Could you give me a few examples of what you mean?”
  • “That makes me wonder if/about __________.”
  • Paraphrase what you heard and ask, “Could you explain a bit more, please?”
  • “I haven’t thought about it in that way before. Where could I find more information about that?”
  • “So that I can be sure I understand you, could you say that in a different way?"

2017 ERB Results!

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

While Woodland Hills Private School is open to all students and not exclusively for gifted, talented and high achieving students, many families choose WHPS for the advanced and enriched academic program. Over the past few years, with the adoption of cutting-edge curriculum and enhanced teacher training, we have found new ways to help our high-achieving students reach new heights.

To that end, we were pleased this week to receive our students’ ERB results from the spring. This assessment compares our students to peers in private and independent schools across the country, and unlike the test children take in California public schools, the ERB uses a constructed response section to look at students’ thinking, not just multiple choice questions. Thus, it assesses critical thinking at a much deeper level.

Here are the results from this year’s graduating class:


  • 60% of our students scored in the 8th stanine, which means they were in the top 11% of students who tested nationally.
  • 87% of our students scored in the 7th stanine, which means they were in the top 23% of students who tested nationally.


  • 53% of our students scored in the 8th stanine, which means they were in the top 11% of students who tested nationally.
  • 73% of our students scored in the 7th staninewhich means they were in the top 23% of students who tested nationally.                     

 Parents in grades 3-5 will be receiving their child’s individual ERB score report via email this week. Please watch for this email and don’t hesitate to contact the school office if you have any questions.

WASC Update

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

As you may know, WHPS has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) since 1996. This past March, as part of our school’s six year accreditation renewal, we completed a Mid-Cycle Review. You may be wondering what WASC was looking at during the visit. Below are the seven key areas which our school had chosen to focus on in our 2014 WASC Action Plan:

1. Formalize the cutting-edge curriculum and programs that were happening in some classrooms across
the entire school.
2. Educate the school community on the research that underpins our educational philosophy.
3. Increase strategic technology integration across the entire school.
4. Continue to enhance the physical structure of indoor and outdoor learning spaces.
5. Strengthen our relationship(s) with feeder schools.
6. Build Expected Schoolwide Learning Results (ESLRs) into student metrics and strengthen community
awareness of the ESLRs.
7. Engage the school community in the adoption of new programming.

As a result of the emphasis areas in our WASC Action Plan, you have already seen some of the following

 Elementary Division’s adoption of Responsive Classroom, Columbia University literacy program and leveled library, Words Their Way, FOSS Science, and STEAMTrax 3D Printing & Engineering.
 Preschool’s adoption of Emergent Learning, Dramatic Play, and the expansion of the Outdoor
 Family education opportunities for our programs, such as The Leader in Me, Columbia University literacy, Emergent Learning, and our recent screening of Most Likely to Succeed.
 Expansion of technology hardware and infrastructure at both campuses, focusing on novel, transformative uses of technology, such as the 3D Printing & Engineering program, the addition of Interactive Projectors, and mobile technology.
 Formation of strong relationships with 25 top middle schools that are of interest to our families and the launching of middle school information sessions.
 Report Cards and Progress Reports that are now aligned to the ESLRs.

As the 2014 WASC Action Plan is nearing completion, we are already beginning to strategize for the school’s next steps. In the year ahead, will be exploring a number of ways to take our children’s critical thinking to new heights and focusing on Arts-Integration across the curriculum. Stay tuned for more discussion about these topics in the 2017-2018 school year!

Student-Led Conferences (SLCs)

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

As part of the Leader in Me program, our Elementary Division launched Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) this year. This Leader in Me program is designed to help children develop leadership skills and competencies, as well as foster initiative, critical thinking, and communication skills. While the exact format of the SLC varied slightly by grade level, the key ingredient was our students’ Leadership Notebooks.

Leadership Notebooks
Every student in the school has his/her own Leadership Notebook which is designed to capture and represent information about each student’s individual learning profile (a hallmark of the WHPS program). The Leadership Notebook has a section to identify and explain personal and academic strengths and a section for a variety of assessment data. Assessment data include the student’s reading level, developmental spelling level, published writing samples, graphs and charts showing progress over time, and other artifacts that reflect growth.

Parent Survey Results
We are proud of the work our students and teachers have done this year to begin to develop a long term portfolio and learning profile for each student. We also take your feedback seriously and wanted to know how parents felt after the second round of conferences in this new format, so we surveyed parents after the second round of SLCs. Of the parents who responded to our survey, 95% said they appreciated the SLC process over the traditional parent-teacher conference format.

Parents said:
 It involved and empowered students, holding them accountable and helping to build self-confidence.
 They were well planned. I loved hearing about my child’s goals and achievements.
 I really like that the students are having a say in their own goals. This is a necessary life skill for the children to develop.

We also received some great constructive feedback, which we take to heart. 12% of respondents said that they would still like a separate opportunity to meet with their child’s teachers. Parents are welcome to request conferences at any time throughout the school year. We will also create a more defined time to meet with any families who wish to have a formal sit-down prior to SLCs in the fall. In addition, we hope you won’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to have a more formal meeting with the teachers at any time during this final trimester of the 2016-2017 school year. And of course, if you didn’t fill out the SLC survey, I welcome any other feedback you might have about our Leader in Me program.

Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .


We are born creative. The average five year old asks 100 questions in a day. Most kindergartners consider themselves to be artists. But then something happens. As Tony Wagner, author of Most Likely to Succeed (the book that inspired the 2015 Sundance film of the same name) says, “We call it school.” The longer children spend in a traditional school environment, the less curious they become, the less they consider themselves artists, and the more preoccupied they become with test scores.

Perhaps even more alarming to Wagner was this staggering statistic: 45% of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed, with 1/3 of graduates moving back home after college. The conventional wisdom that a degree from a top school will translate into a successful career is not holding true for almost half of our kids.

To understand where we are going wrong, Wagner launched a massive-scale global study interviewing hundreds of notable innovators from all walks of life all over the world. One common thread among the subjects he interviewed was that they had a teacher who inspired their innovative mindset. Wagner tracked down many of these teachers, and then interviewed and observed them teaching. He found a recurring pattern of teaching in ways that were fundamentally different from their peers, yet remarkably similar to one another.

Below are five characteristics these innovator-inspiring teachers tended to have in common:
1) They promoted deep collaboration and teamwork and even participated in team teaching whenever possible.
2) They organized interdisciplinary work as opposed to focusing on a single subject at a time.
3) They fostered a unique classroom culture that centered on creative problem solving, not just taking in and regurgitating information.
4) They embraced the F-Word: Failure! As teachers, they were not afraid to take risks, even in front of parents and peers. They understood that true creativity and innovation cannot happen in a setting where everyone is averse to risk. They focused more on iteration, a process of trial and error, which is how we really learn as human beings. They also avoided too much emphasis on conventional grading. What if you could only give an A, B, or Incomplete?
5) They fostered intrinsic motivation in students. They didn’t want their students to get an A for the sake of the grade, but rather because the work had value and was interesting.

What would it look like if a school embraced these characteristics? I would argue that it would look a lot like WHPS. How could we leverage Tony Wagner’s research even further and foster a truly transformative innovator mindset in all our children? I invite you to come join the conversation at our Most Likely to Succeed film screening on March 8.

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