WHPS Selected to Pilot New SEL Program

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Everyone is talking about non-cognitive skills. Do you have a growth or a fixed mindset? Are you a gritty person?

The growth mindset concept stems from the pioneering research of Carol Dweck at Stanford, which began in the 1970s. In the past decade, the conversation around child development shifted to include grit, which was the mind-child of Dr. Angela Duckworth, in her research at the University of Pennsylvania and in her work with KIPP, a now infamous charter school system whose mission is to educate underprivileged and socio-economically disadvantaged children and give them a leg up into college. In the early 2000s, KIPP was graduating kids were academically advanced and were accepted into college; then failed or dropped out before graduating.
KIPP had a problem and Duckworth thought she had answers. In working with KIPP, Duckworth and several of her contemporaries developed a program for teaching character strengths such as growth mindset, grit, resilience, curiosity, and optimism. By developing these character strengths in children, KIPP was able to significantly improve on its mission of helping its graduates achieve a college education.
By all accounts, Duckworth and her colleagues’ work at KIPP proved quite effective. This got a lot of parents and educators wondering: What would happen if we applied similar character strengths education principles to children who already have many of life’s advantages? For instance, what if elite private schools did this? There is a wonderful case study about this very idea in Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. This book is a great read if you are curious about how this work and research might apply to our school!
Up until now, experts and even common sense tells us that it is a good practice to teach these skills to children. Many of these skills are embedded in The Leader in Me andResponsive Classroom, which are core beliefs that underpin our program at WHPS.
So we can all agree that these are vital skills for success. What’s been difficult for us—in a school that’s known for building each child’s individual learning profile—is figuring out how to assess the skills in our kids and knowing what to do next. Until now! WHPS was selected as one of 10 schools in the U.S., Italy, and Brazil, to participate in a pilot study with Tessera Research, designed to evaluate children on six domains: Tenacity/Grit, Organization/Responsibility, Teamwork/Cooperation, Composure/Resilience, Curiosity/Ingenuity and Leadership/Communication. When it’s fully operational, the program will provide us with individual strengths reports for each student and specific activities we can use to support continued growth and development.
We are fortunate and excited to be on the forefront of this emerging area of education. A huge thanks to Mrs. Jacey Dexter, our Elementary Principal, who has been leading the partnership with Tessera Research since first learning about the program last year. Mrs. Dexter insisted that our school was the perfect platform to test and implement these new ideas to enable our graduates to become even more well-rounded. Students in grades 3-5 will be able to participate in the Tessera program this March. Parents of those students, please stay tuned for more information about the program in the weeks ahead!
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