This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted February 27, 2015
- a parent
We love Wildwood. We love its commitment to best practices and its pedagogical modernity. I think a comment posted below needs clarification: our Upper School (high school) director is wonderful, heads up an academically rigorous and progressive program and is not leaving. Our current middle school (junior high) director is leaving our city for a job in his hometown. While we are sad to see him go, our dynamic Head of School will no doubt make another smart, visionary hire, like he has been doing for years. I am happy to report that Wildwood is a strong and committed community of intelligent and creative students, innovative faculty, and supportive administration; and it has rigorous, academic, research-based, pedagogically progressive programs in place that serves students well as they journey from the elementary school, to middle school, to upper school, and into the college years and beyond.
We have been at Wildwood 9 years thus far. Each stage of academic and personal development is articulated in the curriculum and requires not only the student to rise to the challenges of growth and learning, but this system also requires the parent to gently "release" their child gradually so that the child may develop an authentic understanding of self, start to take more responsibility for their learning and develop their own voice. This is especially true in middle school where they leave the cozy nest of elementary school and start the exciting, adolescent work of individuation and finding their unique passions. This is a place where students are encouraged to take risks and learn how to make mistakes successfully. Academics become more challenging, and that is a good thing. Homework is relevant and projects demand not only application and mastery of content, but also teach the emotional and social skills so important throughout life. Executive functioning skill sets are also emphasized, especially at the middle school level. Our child is thriving at Wildwood.
WW upper school is currently very troubled. The mid-year switch to a tracked system in the MS has the parent body turning against itself (those with kids in the fast track mostly support it, those in the slower tracks mostly do not), and so far, the search to fill the open director spot with someone who has the vision and experience to unite the school seems bleak. The large number of families applying out this year could turn out to be the best thing for WW, though, if the exodus leaves behind a more unified parent and student body. The school keeps failing in its attempt to be everything to everyone: both progressive and rigorous/college prep; inclusive of learning challenges as well as giftedness. But it could be a really great place if it honed its identity and just tried to do one thing really well.
While our family LOVED the elementary school, we have been confused, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed by the middle school. The lack of communication from both administration and teachers is a major problem. Too much emphasis is currently being put on the new sports program and not enough on curriculum. The recent announcement about the middle school director leaving has families feeling anxious.
Wildwood is a school that looks absolutely amazing on the outside, but is struggling internally because of incompetent leadership. A teacher there who also happens to be a friend said that the ship is sinking, and everyone is abandoning it. I currently have kids both at the elementary and middle. My older son is having a horrible year at the middle school. We recently found out that their non-responsive middle school director will not be here next year leaving behind a math program that Is currently in shambles. Almost EVERY 6th grade parent is upset at the current STEM program. The math class was combined with science which sounds great on paper, but the end result is a watered down program that does not teach either subject well. My son along with the majority of his class had the BEST math experience of his life last year with a once in a lifetime teacher (Alan Yu) who left to focus on his own STEM school in West Los Angeles. Alan was also a parent there and his own daughter no longer attends the school. Many of the current families are applying to different schools for 7th grade for their children. Both of my boys will not be returning next year.
We have 2 children currently attending Wildwood School and find the curriculum to be stimulating, challenging, and rewarding for both of them. The school's progressive approach towards learning is perfect for them in that they're better students when they are able to have a hands on approach. They've become better problem solvers because they're not afraid to fail and they're consistently stretched out of their comfort zones. We are very fortunate to have teachers and administrators that truly care for our children.
We have been a family at Wildwood for seven years and have fallen in love with the school. The teachers know the kids so well and work with them individually to challenge them to move beyond their comfort zone. Our child is a likable kid and a good student, but the teachers dig deeper to find the area where she could be stretched. She now has new goals for this year that will be difficult for her but attainable if she can persist. Contrary to some people's uneducated opinion that the school lacks structure, I find it absolutely to provide structure. Just because a school is identified as progressive does not mean there is not structure. Teachers' expectations of the kids are outlined in advance, so the kids know exactly what needs to be done. Then, once the work is done, it is not really done. There is discussion about how to go back and make improvements and revise to be continually improving. Teacher assessments/evaluations are very specific and therefore provide guidance for future work. In general, it seems that the school cares more about preparing kids for the real world than about running a school to meet society's stereotypes of how a school should be.
I used to have concerns that Wildwood was strong in liberal arts but not so strong in math & science. But currently my child is taking a math class 2 years ahead of grade level while a group of students in his same grade are 3 years ahead in math. The science program is inspiring and fun yet rigorous in teaching scientific methodologies. One of my two children at Wildwood would certainly get better grades at a school that is more structured and directed. But we believe that the challenge of Wildwood's open ended assignments will provide a stronger foundation for success in the future. The teachers at Wildwood are incredibly caring and compassionate, and are always approachable. I would prefer a different head of school---someone less promotional with stronger leadership skills. We have found the "ruling class" of Wildwood families to be cliquish, unwelcoming, and obsessed with status (as perhaps many expensive private schools are). But our children have made some good friends at Wildwood and have many friends outside of school.
I attended Wildwood School for two years and having had experience at other schools I can genuinely appreciate what Wildwood offers. A Wildwood education is truly comprehensive. The teachers treat each student as an individual by helping to develop their unique strengths and challenging their deficits. The evaluations provide so much more than a single letter grade, you clearly understand where you have exceeded expectations and how you can work to improve in other areas. Students are encouraged to communicate proficiency orally, visually, or verbally, which is tremendously confidence building. There are many extracurricular opportunities for academic enrichment generated by students, teachers, and from outside venues. The preparation for college was excellent and everyone in my class was accepted by their first choice school. I am much more prepared for college because of the work I did at Wildwood. I wish every student in the country could be educated this way!
My daughter graduated from Wildwood last year, and now attends an ivy league college in NYC. I was worried that this progressive education (which I loved) would leave her unprepared for such a big college experience. I was completely wrong to worry- she actually seems more prepared than many of her peers who went to more traditional schools. She is able to solve problems and seek out help when she needs it. I am thrilled that she was able to get such a good education, (leading to such an amazing college choice,) but still had a wonderful and balanced high school experience.