WHPS Blog

WHPS Creative Approach to Food Allergies

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Like most schools, Woodland Hills Private School has a number of students and staff with severe food allergies. And like many leading schools we use a word study program instead of asking our students to memorize spelling lists. What do these two things have in common?

On the surface you might think nothing at all. Enter WHPS's creative, passionate kindergarten team. After a couple close calls this year in which well-intentioned parents sent unsafe food items to school, they sprang into action with a clever idea to develop their own food sorting activity based on the school’s word study program. As a class, students then worked to sort images of items and food labels based on whether they are "safe for school" or "unsafe for school." And while it's just one step in helping to educate and ensure the safety of our community, this creative approach to teaching is not only fun but it could help save a life!

 Feel free to download and share this resource with anyone who you think might benefit from it. 

Seth Pozzi

Head of School

 

Upcoming ERB Testing

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

This spring, students in grades 3-5 will take the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) Comprehensive Testing Program. We are adopting the ERB this year, replacing the Stanford 10, which was previously administered to students in K-5. The new ERB assessment system is better aligned with our program because it focuses on critical thinking and goes beyond multiple-choice bubble-in answers. The ERB enables us to compare student achievement with peers in other private schools across the US.

At WHPS, we know that people learn in different ways, and we use the Columbia University reading, writing and spelling assessments, science experiments, math assignments, discussions, portfolios, projects, artwork, and performance to assess the whole child. Our use of standardized test information is viewed as one piece of a complex puzzle which reveals the learning strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, researched the validity of standardized tests to assess student performance. He states, “Most formal testing – whatever the area that is allegedly being tested – engages primarily the linguistic and logical-mathematical faculties. If one has high linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, one is likely to do well on formal testing (from Multiple Intelligences: Theory in Practice).” According to Dr. Gardner and other experts in our field, future leaders and entrepreneurs of the 21st century need to know how to integrate many types of intelligence.

At WHPS, we believe children benefit from a balance between authentic learning opportunities and the experience of taking standardized tests. As students move to secondary school and beyond, they will encounter more tests. We believe a curriculum designed to teach for true understanding, coupled with some experience in taking standardized tests, provides our students with a solid foundation for success in “high stakes” tests, as well as a life full of learning.

You may have some questions about the ERB:  

How is the ERB different from the annual test California public school students take?

ERB test data is different from the test data accumulated by the public schools in California. The state tests are designed to determine if students perform at a set proficiency level, and the percentages reported in the newspaper reflect the percentage of students who are proficient or above. The ERB test is a nationally normed test, which means it compares a student’s performance to that of every other student who took the same test across the nation (students in private schools).

What do we do with the ERB data? 

As a school, we review the data to determine any general areas of school strength or for improvement. We continually evaluate standards and benchmarks in the curriculum, along with information from the ERB tests to ensure that we deliver an exceptional educational experience for each child.

Allergic to Popsicles?

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Does your child or someone you know have an allergy to nuts? Milk? Eggs? Wheat? Soy? Fish? Popsicles?

Yes, honestly, there was recently a voluntary recall of some Popsicle brand Orange, Cherry and Grape flavored ice pops because they may have been inadvertently exposed to milk, which is not listed as an ingredient on the label.

If you know someone who has experienced anaphylaxis during an allergic reaction, it can be chilling to think we can’t always trust ingredient labels. Studies indicate that 16-18% of school-age children who have food allergies have had a reaction in school. In addition, in approximately 25% of the reactions that occur at school, the student had not yet been diagnosed with food allergy.

This hits close to home for me, not only because I have known numerous students who have life-threatening allergies, but also because my younger sister has a life-threatening allergy. My “little sister” will be 35 year old in December, but I still worry about her. I have seen her face swell up, resembling Will Smith in the movie Hitch. For loved ones who have seen this happen, it can feel very helpless.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Fatal and Near-Fatal Anaphylactic Reactions to Food in Children and Adolescents” indicated that four of the six deaths from food allergy examined in the report occurred in school, and were associated with significant delays in treating the reactions with epinephrine. Several other studies that have looked at food allergy and anaphylaxis management in schools and childcare settings have found inadequate food allergy management plans and inadequate recognition of allergic symptoms and treatment with epinephrine. 

Long story short, we must be educated and vigilant about preventing our children from being exposed to known allergens. We also need to know what to do and be prepared to respond if a child [or adult] in our school has a reaction. While some basic school training is required by the state of California, OUR staff have received a considerable amount of additional training on early recognition and intervention. Even so, you can never be too prepared! I encourage ALL parents to visit the Kids With Food Allergies (A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) websites. Read about how you can help identify an allergic reaction early and potentially save a life. Our staff receive regular updates from Kids With Food Allergies and FARE on emerging issues and how to save a life. You can too.

Information adapted from: http://www.foodallergy.org/home

Standardized Testing!!!???

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Each spring, students in grades 3-5 take the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) Comprehensive Testing Program. The ERB enables us to compare student achievement with peers in other private schools across the US. The ERB assessment system aligns nicely with our program because it focuses on critical thinking and goes beyond multiple-choice bubble-in answers

At WHPS, we know that people learn in different ways, and we use the Columbia University reading, writing and spelling assessments, science experiments, math assignments, discussions, portfolios, projects, artwork, and performance to assess the whole child. Our use of standardized test information is viewed as one piece of a complex puzzle which reveals the learning strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, researched the validity of standardized tests to assess student performance. He states, “Most formal testing – whatever the area that is allegedly being tested – engages primarily the linguistic and logical-mathematical faculties. If one has high linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, one is likely to do well on formal testing (from Multiple Intelligences: Theory in Practice).” According to Dr. Gardner and other experts in our field, future leaders and entrepreneurs of the 21st century need to know how to integrate many types of intelligence.

At WHPS, we believe children benefit from a balance between authentic learning opportunities and the experience of taking standardized tests. As students move to secondary school and beyond, they will encounter more tests. We believe a curriculum designed to teach for true understanding, coupled with some experience in taking standardized tests, provides our students with a solid foundation for success in “high stakes” tests, as well as a life full of learning.


You may have some questions about the ERB:


How is the ERB different from the annual test California public school students take?
ERB test data is different from the test data accumulated by the public schools in California. The state tests are designed to determine if students perform at a set proficiency level, and the percentages reported in the newspaper reflect the percentage of students who are proficient or above. The ERB test is a nationally normed test, which means it compares a student’s performance to that of every other student who took the same test across the nation (students in private schools).


What do we do with the ERB data?
As a school, we review the data to determine any general areas of school strength or for improvement. We continually evaluate standards and benchmarks in the curriculum, along with information from the ERB tests to ensure that we deliver an exceptional educational experience for each child. ERB scores are also shared with any middle schools to which a family applies, as part of the student's academic learning profile.

The Impact of Mindset on Children's Learning

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

“I’m just not a math person.” I was speaking with someone last week who uttered this [unfortunately] common statement. Many people, especially in the U.S., will say this as though it’s no big deal. Yet, rarely would someone say, “I’m just not a literate person.” Why is it that one of these statements is considered socially acceptable while the other is not? It’s widely accepted by experts that success in math is a strong predictor of college and career success, but top researchers have found that more kids have a fixed mindset about math than any other topic. As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to stop perpetuating this myth. Brain research is now telling us what a profound impact a parent’s relationship with math can have on their child’s learning and achievement. According to a recent University of Chicago and UCLA study, “[The] parents’ math anxiety stifled their child’s learning of math across grades 1 and 2, but only if parents helped their children on math homework. If they did not help them on homework, the parents’ math anxiety did not detract from their children’s learning.” The implication is not that parents shouldn’t help with math, but rather our approach and mindset needs to reflect patient problem solving and perseverance.


Enter Dan Meyer, perhaps the most famous contemporary math teacher. He emphasizes the importance of helping children become patient problem solvers who can think critically about complex problems. In a recent TED Talk, Meyer compares traditional teaching methods to watching Two and a Half Men. He discusses the kinds of problems we should be asking children to solve. You may have seen him on Good Morning America talking about the supermarket problem: You’re at the checkout and there is a lane with one cart with 19 items or a lane with 2 carts, each with 5 items. Which lane will be faster? Meyer’s activities, by definition, are not closed-ended problems with answers you can look up in the back of the book. This is not a Two and a Half Men problem. Meyer warns that we are inhibiting children’s initiative, perseverance, and retention of information when we simply provide a formula to practice. He says traditional teaching methods are making children “impatient with irresolution” and averse to word problems.
New neuroscience research is also telling us that the kind of struggling a child’s brain does when solving math problems causes synapses to fire and creates brain pathways, essentially growing their brain. Meyer’s former Stanford advisor, Dr. Jo Boaler, points out that before a series of recent experiments, “no one knew the brain could grow and shrink like that.” This is a fascinating field of research with constantly evolving findings and implications on how we can best reach all learners. For now, I encourage us all to think about how we can model patient problem-solving the next time one of our children brings home a complicated math task.


As Dan Meyer says, no problem worth solving comes with all the necessary information and can be solved in 22 minutes or less, the equivalent of Two and a Half Men. The textbooks our children deserve will present open-ended complex thinking activities. I have been excited to see this kind of complex thinking in our school this year. On a recent visit to 1st grade, I witnessed groups of students debating about bridge designs and building and testing bridges. And, of course, the 4th and 5th grade alternative energy project is wrapping up this month. Students have been engineering, prototyping and using CAD software to create blades for their wind turbine models. There is no correct answer in the teacher’s guide because there simply is no right or wrong answer. In a couple of weeks, when we 3D print and test the blades’ effectiveness at generating electricity, we are just taking one more step in the evolution of the design. This is the kind of work that teaches deliberate, patient problem solving. Dr. Boaler would remind us that these types of projects create brain pathways and help us grow our children’s brains.

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