Turning Point School Blog
At Turning Point, Level 6 students begin their middle school experience with a course in Performing Arts. This class pairs important stories with song repertoire and culminates in a theatrical choral concert at the end of the trimester.
This year, students learned about baseball and the pivotal players who broke the barriers of race, religion and gender on the path to a more perfect union. Here is an excerpt from their concert, entitled GAME CHANGERS: Baseball and Breaking Barriers. They are singing “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” by Woodrow Buddy Johnson.
Our singers are accompanied by Graham Jackson on piano, Taylor Kennedy on Percussion, and our very own band teacher, Lilly Aycud, on trumpet!
Level 2 students enjoy exploring chemistry in their Science class with Mrs. Goo! Recently, students learned about endothermic and exothermic chemical reactions by making slime and a "growing gnome." Through these experiments, they were able to observe how two reactants make a permanent product when combined.
First, students combined polyvinyl alcohol and sodium borate to make an oozing ball of slime - which they determined demonstrated an endothermic reaction since it was cold to the touch. For the second experiment, students used a polyurethane foam system. When the two reactants combined, it created a foam that felt hot to the touch, making it an exothermic reaction. Because the foam in the cup looks so much like the hair of a gnome, the experiment has been named the "growing gnome!"
I am the parent of a middle schooler. The other night he told me, “Mom, my friends helped me clean my locker, so I passed my locker check. But I failed my binder check. I had too many stray papers.” I vacillated between my frustration over his disorganized binder, my relief that his locker wasn’t storing old burritos or unwashed athletic uniforms, and my surprise that he had preemptively told me about the inspection results.
All those disparate feelings that washed over me —frustration, relief, and surprise—were really just an expression of my underlying desire to control an unknown future. While my background is in the humanities and social sciences, and I should know better than to bank on a linear path of growth and development—or even to desire that path as the richest and most stimulating course—I do wish sometimes that the route from A-to-Z followed the alphabet faithfully. But when I think about imposing this sequential pathway on my child, or on any child, for that matter, I am struck by its limitations and restrictions.
To imagine an outcome for a child and then impose on him or her a plan you have envisioned may seem like an uncluttered, clear way forward. But it is often the unexpected opportunity that leads us to a place we would not otherwise have visited. Lists and diagrams and quick-fix books may help us feel better, but it is short-lived relief. Our children blossom at their own rates, and we do not know—can never know—what will precipitate their blossoming. We do not know who our children are until they become who they are; in other words, we would benefit from taking the long view.
A New York Times blog post recently ruminated on the long view. Jessica Lahey, middle school teacher and author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, points out that shortcuts are tempting, but they just distract us from thinking about parenting as “the long haul.” In other words, we search for short-term relief rather than tolerating the discomfort of keeping our eyes on the horizon.
Sometimes I think of parenting as a long, disjointed epic, much like the story of the Greek hero Odysseus’ attempt at homecoming after the Trojan War. What should be an unhindered course home turns into ten years of wandering, with many adventures that alter and refine him. When I first read The Odyssey, I found myself anxiously distracted; I fixated on one goal: wanting Odysseus to get home and get on with his life. But, of course, his adventures were his life.
As parents, we can want our children to get on with their lives. We ask them to sacrifice chunks of their childhood for the future. We make decisions on their behalf in their “best interests” without knowing what the future may bring. In our fear, the horizon diminishes into a single point. We can have failures of the imagination, because we cannot foresee the innumerable ways our children can have satisfying, productive, meaningful lives. As Lahey points out, adults have “elaborate timelines and checklists,” in our need to assert some semblance of control, but children meander. They take one step forward and two steps backward. They spin around in circles and venture off the path into the wilderness. Their lockers are orderly but binders chaotic.
At Turning Point, we trust in the untimed timelines of children’s development. We know that by cultivating each child, the best of them will unfold. We wait patiently for them to navigate early adolescence and emerge as capable young people, ready to thrive in high school. We honor the long haul and keep the wide view in sight. Our students leave middle school with optimism and confidence that materialize from the gifts that we give them: perspective, time, patience, and our trust in them and their unique talents and paths.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Turning Point students and staff enjoyed learning and sharing about our community this week when Culver City mayor Jim Clarke visited our campus. Mayor Clarke spent time visiting with students, touring the school, and discussing the City Council's goal to enhance Culver City's reputation as a “city of kindness” as part of its recently adopted strategic plan.
Students in Levels K-3 shared with Mayor Clarke what kindness means to them, and how they think kindness can be expressed in the community. Thoughts included helping others by providing food and resources, reaching out to other students in the community who may be less fortunate, and making an effort to keep our parks and streets clean.
The mayor also met with a smaller group of Level 8 students, asking for feedback about what they think it takes to get more youth involved in service around their communities. Students spoke about the causes and initiatives that personally inspire them to action such as water conservation, opportunities to mentor younger students, and the ability to be part of a larger, intergenerational circle of community change-agents.
Following the visit, Turning Point students and staff gathered in their Family groups to enjoy a no-waste lunch and create thank-you cards to Culver City, showing through words and pictures the businesses, parks, schools, and attractions for which they are most grateful.
We are so grateful to Mayor Clarke for his time and his engagement with our students. It was wonderful to hear our students so thoughtfully and enthusiastically respond to questions about kindness and community. We look forward to being good ambassadors to Culver City for many years to come!
Culver City Mayor Jim Clarke (2nd from left) with Turning Point representatives Steven Tolbert, Chief Financial Officer; Will Segar, Elementary Division Head; and Gaby Akana, Middle School Division Head.
The Turning Point community will celebrate Computer Science Awareness Week (December 5 -11) next week by participating in an Hour of Code. Throughout the week students will join others from around the globe to complete programming activities during their computer lab time.
To culminate the week Turning Point will once again host its annual Code and Coffee event in the SmartLab on Friday, December 9 from 7:30 - 9:00 am. If you are interested in learning more about the Hour of Code or how coding is taught and integrated into the school’s curriculum, please register online for one of the three available time slots at 7:30 am, 8:00 am, or 8:30 am.
At the event, members of Turning Point’s Robotics team and student ambassadors from the Level 6 coding and elective class will be on hand to demonstrate their work and help guide guests through various activities.
If you are the parent of a student in Levels 3 through 8, you are aware that students are participating in standardized testing this week and next. At Turning Point, we utilize the CTP (Comprehensive Testing Program) which is designed by the ERB (Educational Testing Bureau)—a non-profit educational service organization that provides standardized testing to both public and independent schools. Almost all our peer schools in the California Association of Independent Schools administer the CTP as a point of reference for curricula, and use the results to assess the learning and comprehension of students both individually and as a group.
Just hearing the word “test” can quicken our pulses and dry our mouths. At Turning Point, we use a variety of ways to truly understand and assess student mastery. Knowledge is complex, and exhibiting mastery is best revealed in ways that honor its complexity. Multiple choice answers have their place, but provide a limited analysis. Understanding the history and purpose of standardized testing as it relates to a much larger, more comprehensive process of assessment can help address questions and assuage anxiety.
Part of what makes tests such as the CTP “standardized” is that they use consistent procedures for how the test is administered and scored. This ensures that results from different students are comparable; consequently, these tests offer educators a common benchmark. Educators use the results as one data point to analyze individual curricular decisions and to help create a picture of students’ abilities and skills, identifying areas where a student has untapped gifts or needs more support.
The CTP tests include a reasoning assessment and an achievement assessment in language arts and mathematics. It is very helpful to have these benchmarks as a small part of what we use to make determinations about how our children will succeed as learners. However, what standardized tests do not measure are qualities such as creativity, emotional intelligence, tenacity, grit, resilience, and effort. As Turning Point educators, we see these skills and qualities linked to success as much as we do academic achievement, observations that are backed by scientific research.
The CTP’s test results showcase a child’s development over time and help us identify areas of strength and challenge. But they are only a snapshot; in other words, we understand that many variables can affect a student’s performance on a test. We responsibly look at the test in conjunction with other performance indicators, such as formative, on-going assessments, and summative assessments for mastery.
We always want to keep in mind that independent school students who take the test are the top 20% when compared to national norms. When compared with other independent school students, the scores can be lower. A 50% score on a CTP test, compared with independent school scores, means that the student scored higher than half of the independent school students, the 20% of all students nationally who take the test. We also know that students in elementary and middle school have less experience with timed tests because teachers are looking for mastery, not speed. True mastery takes time to accomplish and to demonstrate, and our teachers know this.
In the end, while we all know the limitations of standardized testing, for practical purposes we know these scores will be part of your child’s application to high school. Families want students to do well on these tests, as they are one area that we can seemingly control. We are also conditioned to believe that smart people do well on multiple choice tests—and, indeed, some smart people do shine on these tests—but there are multiple ways to express knowledge and plenty of “smart” people will never do as well with multiple choice as they will a more subjective assessment.
There are multiple ways to be intelligent and to demonstrate one’s acquisition of knowledge. Good schools know this and will want to learn about your individual, unique child. They desire a broad view of each child’s potential and performance, and seek nuance as a means to know each student individually. And isn’t that what we all hope for our children? To find a school, with a warm community like Turning Point, that wants to know your child/ren, honor their unique learning styles, and help them to continue developing into their best true self.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
All are welcome to the Level 6 Choral Concert, on Wednesday, November 30 at 5:00 pm in the Theatre.
The concert is entitled GAME CHANGERS: Baseball and Breaking Barriers and examines baseball and the pivotal players who broke the barriers of race, religion, and gender on the path to a more perfect union. Join us for some classic baseball tunes, the 7th Inning Stretch in Yiddish, a jazzy homage to Jackie Robinson, and an important story of perseverance and dignity.
The Levels 2 and 3 After School Theatre class took on quite a challenge this past trimester! They not only read through many of Aesop’s Fables to decide on their favorite stories to perform, but they also contributed their own writing to the scripts. Each personal monologue told a story of a time where they learned an important moral. Mask making, improvisation, and script building were all major pieces that contributed to their collaborative final performance last Tuesday November 15 on the Wolfson-Fadel Stage. Congratulations on a hit show!
Join us as we welcome five panelists to discuss how sports can help our kids connect joy with resilience, competition with optimism, and health with confidence. Our panelists – including Olympic champions and renowned experts in the field of sports – will share experiences from their perspective as competitors, coaches, and wellness experts and answer questions about how adults can positively support children’s involvement in athletics.
- Allyson Felix: Olympic Track and Field medalist and 200m World Champion
- Robert Forster, PT: Physical Therapist to professional and novice athletes
- Rod Dixon: Olympic Track and Field medalist; advocate for children's health and fitness
- Ginnie Crawford: Decorated USC and US Track and Field athlete (and Turning Point teacher!)
- Shawn Crawford: Olympic Track and Field medalist and 200m US Champion
RSVP Now: Save Your Seat!
The Turning Point community celebrated another successful food drive to benefit S.A.V.E.S (Saint Augustine Volunteer Emergency Service) with a special all-school assembly. Students embraced the spirit of giving through song, dance, prose, and displays of student leadership. The items donated will help feed families in the Culver City area this holiday season.
Many thanks to our special guest from S.A.V.E.S., Sister Margaret, for speaking with our students about the impact their donations will have on the greater community. And our sincere appreciation to our PSA Community Service Co-Chairs, the Faculty Service Learning Committee, and our parent volunteers for organizing this important annual event.
Thank you to all who donated and thoughtfully participated. Service learning opportunities are an ongoing and important part of the Turning Point culture, and are designed to deepen connections for our students with the school’s curriculum and core values.
Two of Turning Point's Robotics teams competed at the FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament this weekend at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks. Over 20 other schools were also on hand to put their robots to the test and share their love of science and innovation with the community. Each team was evaluated in the following categories: robot design, core values, and team project.
This year the Gold Team, comprised of our Middle School students, built an app using MIT App Inventor and an Android tablet that helps citizens track coyotes by geotagging photos of such sightings. The Green Team, made up of our Level 5 students, built a prototype of a horse harness that not only allows disabled patients to receive horse therapy, but also supports their ability to kick and control the horse using sensors and motors.
Congratulations to both teams for all of their hard work, perseverance, and amazing effort. Go Tornadoes!
The Levels K and 1 After School Theatre class recently performed I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, based on the book by Karen Beaumont. This colorful and silly performance was a hit for family and friends last Friday November 11 in our very own Wolfson-Fadel Theatre. This ensemble class not only learned about rhythm, blocking, and stage presence, but also made their own costumes and background! Congratulations on a fantastic and memorable show!
Level 7 students are working on an integrated Geometry/Environmental Studies project this week. They are designing schools and houses using the principles they have been studying in geometry this trimester. The projects will be designed using Google Sketch-up, a program that they have been learning to use in the SmartLab.
The project also includes a requirement that they incorporate a minimum of three sustainable features in their design. In Environmental Studies, they have been exploring renewable energy, water conservation, and eco-friendly materials for building.
On Wednesday, the class toured the Servicon building across the street from the school, which is Culver City's only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified building. LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, they save money. The Servicon building features such innovations as a solar car charging port for electric cars, a 300 panel photovoltaic solar system, walls made from reconstituted corrugated aluminum, and drought tolerant landscaping. Students asked fantastic questions, and left feeling inspired to apply what they saw to their own projects.
Applying to high school is an exciting and sometimes anxiety-filled rite of passage. It’s difficult to feel evaluated by people who do not know you, or challenged to “sell yourself;” and it can be particularly intimidating to imagine leaving a community where you have been known and valued for years.
At Turning Point, we understand the pressure families feel about matriculating at a high school that will broaden their college choices down the line. But when we consider how well Turning Point Level 8 students know themselves, how confident they are, and how ably they articulate their talents and abilities, we recognize that this is a unique opportunity for our oldest students to make their mark. All the classes and curricula your children have experienced over their Turning Point career have prepared them for the myriad excellent secondary schools in Los Angeles. We take pride in the fact that we know our students so well, and can confidently guide each of them to a school that fits best.
As a Preschool-8 independent school, we value and execute a well-informed and resourced handoff from Level 8 into high school. Our students are characterized by their diverse array of skills, passions, and interests, and can consider a variety of exceptional high school options. We dedicate substantial time and resources to understanding the educational landscape and counseling our families through the numerous opportunities at their fingertips.
Conversations about high school placement can begin at any time, and we do host workshops for our families that outline the steps and best practices for a successful matriculation. The formal process begins in earnest in the spring of Level 7. At that time, students are approaching the final phase of their formative middle school experience. Because of their emerging sense of identity and maturation, they are developmentally ready to participate thoughtfully in exploring the landscape of secondary schools, and identifying the high school environment that presents the best match.
While parents must ultimately make the final decisions, our graduates can more appropriately inform those decisions—a role they relish. The process begins by working with families to reflect upon their child’s educational career to date, upon the child’s current stage of development, and upon the family’s goals, values, and expectations.
We ask families to contemplate the following questions:
- How does my child learn?
- What are my child’s strengths and what are his/her stretches?
- What values do I wish to see represented in my child’s next school?
- What are the interests/passions/opportunities that my child hopes to see represented in his/her next school?
- What are the logistical considerations for my family (i.e. distance, cost, sibling enrollment, etc.)?
The Director of Admissions and Placement works alongside our dedicated middle school faculty and administrators to gain an understanding each student’s academic profile and personal attributes. We meet with every family individually to discuss all aspects of the school search and application processes.
The majority of graduating families anticipate applying to selective high schools. Those schools may consist of area independent schools, such as Harvard-Westlake or Windward, boarding schools like Cate School and Phillips Exeter Academy, parochial schools such as Loyola and Notre Dame High School, single gender schools like Archer and Marymount, hybrid schools like ICL Academy, and of course, public, charter, and magnet schools.
We familiarize ourselves with every application process; visit and develop relationships with each school to which our students apply; and track admissions and enrollment trends. The Director of Admission and Placement watches over this process, providing a skillful level of understanding and insight that advantages our families. From the admissions office to the Division Heads and Head of School, we maintain open communication with the many secondary schools our students attend—cultivating relationships, exploring options, and most importantly, advocating for Turning Point students.
Where will you child land? We cannot wait to help you discover the possibilities!
Visit www.turningpointschool.org/placementprocess to see a list of recent matriculations, check out frequently asked questions, view links to helpful resources, and see a sample timeline and checklist of placement steps.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Director of Admissions and Placement
Thank you so much to all of our students and families who donated candy and wrote letters to our service members as part of this year's Operation Gratitude initiative. We collected a total of 283 pounds of Halloween candy that will be shipped out to troops in time to arrive before the holidays. Also, Turning Point students wrote over 200 heartfelt letters to service members which will also be included in the packages!
Our boxes of candy and letters were delivered to Operation Gratitude last week, where they will be included with other items being sent to service members overseas. The organization sends over 200,000 packages a year filled with food, entertainment, handmade items, plus letters of appreciation to individuals in the military and first responder communities.
We send special gratitude to our PSA Community Service committee for providing us with this wonderful opportunity. Please be sure to stop by the bulletin board outside of Mr. Segar's office to review highlights of all of our community service activities so far this year.