Summer 2011

August 17, 2011

Four Points Tutoring Summer Newsletter Image

Four Points Tutoring has had a busy summer helping students prepare for the upcoming school year, preparing students for the SAT, and aiding in summer school classes. While we provide first class tutoring in all these areas, our primary focus this summer has been developing students’ writing skills.

Writing is a key component of literacy, and a skill that most students have not mastered. In fact, according to recent results of the National Assessment in Writing only about 25% of America’s kids are considered proficient writers and just 1% advanced writers. Experts say, most kids barely write above a basic level!

We tackled this need and created many avenues for students to improve this essential skill with the support of one of the top writers in the Austin area. We teamed up with our own Four Points tutor Justine Tal Goldberg: author, professional writer, owner of WriteByNight.

We kicked off the summer by hosting writing workshops for middle and high school students. The instructor taught students the tools for essay construction including:

  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Organizing thoughts
  • Outlining
  • Drafting

In addition to writing seminars, numerous students participated in one-on-one tutoring where we provided aid in:

  • Creative writing
  • College essay preparation
  • SAT writing
  • Basic grammar
  • Academic refreshers

We are proud to say that we’ve helped many students prepare for the new school year! Here, we present a few examples of student works. Thank you to Camille Sweeney for sharing the beginning stages of a novel, and Jason Sherwood who will submit the essay below to Senator John Carter for nomination to be admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Sweeney – Novel Excerpt

We were always outcasts. Nobody cared, nobody wanted anything to do with us, and nobody listened to us. It was like we were invisible. The feeling was terrible. On cold nights, much like this one, we struggled to survive. Me and Alexandra were a team. So close, as a matter of fact, we never called each other you. It was always we. We were abandoned by both our parents after their untimely demises, and were left with little supplies … not even blankets or warmth. In the night we would huddle together to stay warm, desperate and lonely. People gossiped about us. They would ignore our pleas. We don’t trust people anymore. That’s what most people call us. They point at us with crooked fingers and laugh. We don’t care. We stay strong no matter what. Winter is what we fear the most. The month with deathly cold temperatures and howling winds. Winter, the month of sorrow … when we lost our parents.

Jason Sherwood – Nomination Essay

Recently, I attended a pinning ceremony for my uncle who was being promoted to colonel in the Army. In front of 30 soldiers in dress uniform, my uncle received praise from his commanding officer for a job well-done and offered thanks to his CO, subordinates and family. Then my uncle’s CO and my aunt stepped forward to pin those silver eagles, the symbol of his new rank, on his shoulders. In that moment, standing beside my uncle who had come so far and done so much, I couldn’t have been prouder to know him. I also wanted nothing more than to be in his place. I can’t think of a better way to become so accomplished than through the Naval Academy.

I made the choice to pursue a career in the Navy very conscientiously. I chose this branch for two main reasons the first of which is that my father was a commander in the Navy. As a result, the values that he learned from his years of service—honor, courage and commitment—were instilled in me. The value that is most prevalent in my life is commitment. I’m captain of my lacrosse team and the third highest ranking officer in my Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp (NJROTC) unit. I’ve also held a steady job as a lifeguard for a year and a half. My boss considers me an asset to the team. I’m always on time, adherent to rules, and fully committed to my role despite my youth. As a result, I am about to be
promoted to supervisor.

The second reason that I chose the Navy is because of the SEALs, the Navy’s special warfare unit. I aim to become a part of that elite group. My interest was sparked by a book I read, Lone Survivor, in which former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell recounts his career in the Navy all the way from BUD/S (the SEALs basic training). I was enthralled. The commitment and
perseverance Luttrell demonstrated inspired and motivated me. I also want to push myself to the limit and beyond to see what I am capable of. I’m not one to just coast through life; rather I am a person who seeks to discover just how far I can go. In school, for example, I do not settle for the classes I need to graduate. Instead, I take high level courses that test my intellect, such as Calculus, 4th-year Latin and AP Chemistry. I was recently accepted into the National Honor Society (NHS) which requires more than impressive grades. I was selected because I exhibited good behavior, participated in
extracurricular activities, performed community service, and demonstrated leadership.

Attending the Naval Academy will be a great way to begin my adult life. I feel strongly that the academy’s discipline, leadership training, academic rigor and, eventually, job security will put me on the road to a successful life. I look forward to a satisfying future of service to my country, my main concern: being the best person and Naval officer I can.

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Spring Newsletter 2011

April 7, 2011

The end of the school year is soon upon us, how fast the year has gone! However, this is the time of the year when TAKS tests are being given, and decisions are being made for summer classes. Our tutors are available to carry your son or daughter through the year as well as to tutor during the summer months. In addition, Four Points Tutoring will be offering a series of very excellent writing workshops this summer for middle and high school students. Read the descriptions below and mark your calendars for these summer opportunities! Each workshop will be presented by Justine Tal Goldberg, professional writer and editor.

Summer Writing Clinics

Creative Writing Workshop for Middle School and High School Students:
June 2011
If your son or daughter has a knack for creative writing, this is the workshop for you. This interactive seminar educates
students on the short story form, trains them in the necessary elements of craft such as plot, characterization, dialogue, setting, and point of view, and provides the opportunity to share their work with the group and receive constructive feedback from their peers. Students will leave the workshop with an original short story, useful information on how to pursue their literary dreams, and a group of new friends who love to write as much as they do.
How to Write a Stellar College Essay for High School Juniors and Seniors
July, 2011
College applications are at an all-time high, and the rate of acceptance is decreasing. With so much competition, it’s imperative that high school juniors and seniors with their sights set on higher education acquire the tools necessary to write a college essay that will turn heads. In this discussion-based seminar, students learn the five characteristics of a
stellar college essay, brainstorm essay topics, and help each other to develop these topics into prose that sings. Students will leave the workshop with at least one fully outlined essay, and step-by-step instructions for how to proceed on the path to essay-writing success.
Writing for the SATs for High School Juniors and Seniors
August, 2011
Performing on standardized tests is as much about understanding the test as it is about the knowledge you bring to it. Join us for an in-depth look at what the SAT writing section is all about, and what the scoring board looks for in a successful essay. Students get hands-on practice in writing essays that meet the test’s criteria, and learn from their peers’
successes as they share their attempts with the group. Students will leave the workshop with a better understanding of the test itself, a toolbox full of tips and tricks for mastering the writing section, and the confidence to tackle any
essay topic they might encounter.
About Justine Tal Goldberg
Justine Tal Goldberg is a professional writer and editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Whiskey Island and Fringe Magazine, among others; her journalistic work has appeared or is forthcoming in such local
publications as Austin Monthly and the Texas Observer. She holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston, and has provided writing instruction at Emerson College and Vassar College. Currently, she owns and operates WriteByNight, LLC, a writing center and writers’ service in Austin (

Education in the movies -The Race to Nowhere

There has been much debate about how much to push students and the compromises we make when we choose to or not to.  Are we preparing our students to become successful leaders or robbing children of their childhood and creating disheartened youth.  If you are a parent or educator this is a film that you don’t want to miss!

Race to Nowhere according to Vicki H. Abeles the films director the film features the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired. Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change, hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the national dialogue on education and galvanizing change.

Book of the month – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

The recent parenting book that caught the attention of many Western parents, “Tiger Mother” raises the issues of lax Western parenting v.s. the high standards of Eastern parenting. In a Wall Street Journal essay, a “Today” Show appearance, and a now best-selling book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Chau argues that Chinese mothers work their kids harder, expect more out of them and are generally rewarded with offspring that excel in school, careers and life. Western parents who worry whether “learning is fun” and fret over damaging their children’s self esteem, Chau says, are really just damaging their children’s chances for success. “Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough,” she wrote in the Journal. “That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” Chua knows a thing or two about achieving. She is herself a graduate of Harvard Law who teaches at Yale and has two previous books under her belt. She’s also quick to point out that she’s not all strict; successful children are also lavishly praised and rewarded. Chua says the book is more self-deprecating and even- handed then her controversial article. Still, Chua has taken heat from all corners: angry moms, huffing talking heads, and of course, many of those “lax” parents she berated. Maybe some of them weren’t so lax after all.

Order here

Thoughts on Budget Cuts in Education:

Everyone who has children or is involved in some way with education is aware of the crisis facing our public schools in Texas. The Texas House plans to cut $100 million in funding for Austin schools. When we consider the entire state of Texas, it is estimated that cuts in public education over the next two years could reach $10 billion. While cuts in budgets are necessary, cutting money for our schools could have a drastic impact on our children’s education. Quality in education should be a foundational value in our state. Our future depends on the quality of education we give to our children today. Texas ranks 37th in the country in terms of expenditures on per-pupil instruction. Making budgetary cuts can only worsen an already compromised system.Legislators need to exhaust all possible sources of revenue before making cuts in education. Parents and citizens need to do what is necessary to “press” our lawmakers to do the right thing by our children and that is to not compromise quality education in our state.
What can we do?
  • Write a letter to your state representative
    to encourage them to keep education a priority in our state. Find out who represents you by going to
  • Write a letter to the editor expressing
    your concerns.
  • Be informed. Vote for candidates who are
    advocates of quality education.
  • Become involved in your local school
  • Work closely with your children’s teachers to
    give the best support we can to our children.
The 8.4 million school children in our state deserve
the best we can possibly give them.

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