School History

Crossroads School provides a unique K-12 program built on a progressive, developmental model of education. Crossroads was founded in 1971 by Paul Cummins, along with a small group of teachers and parents, who wanted to provide a new approach to learning in a nonprofit, coeducational college preparatory day school.

As a college preparatory school, we certainly believe in the importance of academic success, yet not at the expense of a child’s emotional or social well-being. While students need to be challenged, we feel that it is crucial to develop and deliver curriculum that is appropriate for the age and ability of each grade level. This is what we mean when we describe ourselves as a “developmental” school. 

Crossroads recognizes that there are many ways to learn. Integral to our identity as a progressive school is the notion that our teachers must design instruction that incorporates a variety of learning styles. Equally important is our belief that the curriculum should have meaning and interest for the student. It is, therefore, necessary to create inquiry-based lessons that explore and build upon the students’ knowledge base. In order to accomplish these objectives, teachers must know their students intimately. Therefore, relationship is the key to our educational model. In short, teachers at Crossroads are expected to know their students as individuals, determine how they learn best, and teach accordingly. Additionally, we view education as a work in progress. We constantly review what we do and how we do it with an eye to what needs to be refined, changed, or retained, always committed to the importance of offering a most relevant and meaningful educational experience.

Since our inception, Crossroads’ commitment to all forms of diversity has made it possible for us to be racially, economically, geographically, and culturally inclusive. Even in the earliest days, Crossroads made a major commitment to community service and soon developed a comprehensive program that served as inspiration for many other schools. In the 1990s we developed a different facet of community service we called “institutional community service” and created a separate non-profit foundation, the Crossroads Community Outreach Foundation, so that the School could model the values expected of our students.

Statement of Philosophy

The School was built upon five basic commitments:

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • to academic excellence;

    Important dimensions of a student's education at Crossroads are an interest in exploration, intellectual risk taking, and engaging with the unfamiliar. While a rigorous curriculum and student performance characterized by demonstrable, sophisticated cognitive functioning are integral aspects of the educational experience, we feel that true academic excellence encompasses much more. It includes such critical elements as creativity, imagination, innovation, collaboration, and the capacity to shift point of view. At Crossroads, this approach to learning begins in kindergarten and continues through graduation. 

    Relationship is at the heart of meaningful and lasting learning. Students who feel valued and are encouraged to form authentic relationships with their teachers and fellow students are willing to take intellectual risks, knowing errors are opportunities for discussion and growth, rather than judgments about performance or deficits. The process of thinking through problems and reflecting upon mistakes can ultimately be as instructive as finding the right answer. 

    The Crossroads faculty is dedicated to our mission of nurturing and supporting each stage of a child’s development, and their classrooms are exciting places where subjects are brought to life. Students are an active part of the teaching process and demonstrate a personal investment in their growth and learning. Our dynamic curriculum fosters skill development and problem solving at every level and is specifically designed to be interactive, challenging, and developmentally appropriate. The program also encourages students to apply what is learned in the classroom to the broader world. 

    As students mature, classes require increasingly more sophisticated thinking and the integration and synthesis of complex material. This means that academic excellence is far more than an accumulation of facts; it’s about communicating effectively with a variety of people, knowing how to interpret information, and thinking across disciplines. Students thrive in this stimulating, respectful environment because it allows them to follow their passions and explore new interests.
  • to the arts;

    The arts and the creative, imaginative and expressive abilities of all children are essential components of a well-rounded education. An integral part of our curriculum, the arts are considered as important as math, English, and other traditional curricular building blocks.

    Involvement in the fine and performing arts encourages students to think creatively and teaches the kind of concentration and dedication that positively influence academic life. The arts allow students to demonstrate personal vision and humanity, which contribute to one of the most important goals of a Crossroads education: a life in balance. 

    Elementary School children learn to express emotions and ideas through all of the arts. Music, dance, drama, and visual arts are taught by specialists who collaborate with homeroom teachers to integrate these artistic experiences across disciplines. 

    The Middle School Arts Program meets four hours per week. A rotation through a range of arts in sixth and seventh grades leads to arts electives in the eighth grade. In addition, Middle School students may select further offerings in their Options classes. A rich and focused curriculum in visual arts, dance, choral and instrumental music, drama, writing and film is also available to all students in the Upper School. Those who have a specific passion may elect to become a drama, music, or visual arts major. This program, unique among high schools, allows students to concentrate on one area of the arts in a four-year sequential program. The course work for arts majors is in addition to our college preparatory graduation requirements. 

    Involvement in the arts builds self-confidence and provides students with an appreciation and respect not only for their abilities, but also for the many skills and talents of their classmates. In the words of founding headmaster Paul Cummins, “The arts develop leadership: in every artistic endeavor the best artists are pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, expanding the breadth and understanding of human experience, and creating for the world something that was not there before.”
  • to the greater community;

    From its founding, Crossroads took a leadership position among independent schools by requiring community service of all its students. This concept is embedded in the school’s values, practices and curriculum and is a critically important dimension of the “education in balance” that Crossroads seeks to provide every student. Here, Community Service is not a theory, an option, an elective or “an extra.” From service learning in the Elementary School to the specific community service classes and requirements in the Upper School, the spectrum of opportunities and initiatives that students are exposed to echoes the myriad ways an individual can and should contribute to the society we all share. 

    Crossroads models what it asks of its students through a program of “institutional community service”. In 1993, founding Headmaster, Paul Cummins and the Board created a separate non-profit, The Crossroads Community Foundation (CCF), and PSArts was born. Enormously successful, PSArts now provides a comprehensive arts program to more than 14,000 underserved students and became its own separate legal entity in 2003. That same year, CCF became the Crossroads Community Outreach Foundation (CCOF). Under the leadership of Roger Weaver, the school’s second Headmaster, CCOF has two initial projects. The first, PSScience, brings an exploration-based weekly science experience to students in grades 1-3 at underserved schools with the hope of inspiring a life-long interest in science. The other is a partnership with St. Anne School, the only non-public Title I school in Santa Monica, a majority of whose families live below the poverty index.

    Paul also established the New Visions Foundation (NVF) whose mission is to found schools based on the Crossroads philosophy. This educational innovation launched New Roads School and a series of charter schools. NVF is still headed by Paul and now functions independently from Crossroads.

    Our work in outreach reflects the belief that a commitment to the greater community is essential in any responsibly educated person. Crossroads students develop a strong sense of social responsibility, an understanding of “the common good,” and a commitment to community service.
  • to the development of a student population of social, economic, and racial diversity; and

    The unique composition of the Crossroads community is defined by our ongoing dedication to the development of a population of social, economic, and racial diversity. Forty-seven percent of Crossroads students identify as students of color; 31.5 percent of faculty identify as people of color. Crossroads has allocated $9 million this year in tuition reductions for families of varying socioeconomic means.

    Crossroads families live in more than 86 different zip code areas, come to Crossroads from more than 75 schools, and represent a tremendously wide variety of family structures and belief systems. 

    As varied as our families are, they all work together to support the school as members of the Parent Association (PA). The PA is an inclusive organization that embodies the school philosophy, and every parent is automatically a member. The volunteer efforts of hundreds of parents support and coordinate many activities, programs, and events throughout the year. There are countless ways to participate, and parents make choices based on their interests and availability. The close working relationship of administration and faculty with the Parent Association is a unique strength that unites students, parents, and the school in a bond that enhances all three.

    Crossroads is a joyful place where, in a vibrant yet comfortable atmosphere, the student culture hums with activity, social activism, and opportunity. The diverse faculty is deeply invested in relationships with students that support, celebrate, and provide insight into a wide range of human experiences. We facilitate students’ insights into and excitement for their vast planet by encouraging them to explore other peoples and cultures in the local and world communities. While this expands their intellectual development, it also helps them learn from each other in personally relevant and significant ways. The breadth and depth of the offerings at Crossroads assure that there is something for everyone, and that each student can be recognized for his or her unique attributes. 
  • to the development of each student’s physical well-being and full human potential.

    The ultimate goal of a Crossroads education is to help students achieve their full human potential. We have designed a program rich in opportunities that allow students to cultivate passions and pursue excellence. Because we are concerned with educating the whole child, we pay close attention to the inner life of children and their need for conversation and guidance around personal, emotional, and social transitions. Human development is much more than a philosophical concept at Crossroads; it is an essential part of the curriculum. Through the Human Development department, which includes environmental and outdoor education, life skills classes, community service and service learning, and physical education, we offer a comprehensive and diversified program, K-12, that gives students tools to develop personal responsibility, strengthen character, and achieve well-being.

    Life Skills classes support the personal growth of young people and provide a forum for reflection on and discussion of their deepest concerns. “Council” is the format used for sharing thoughts and expressing feelings. In Council, each and every student has a voice and every student learns to listen actively to others. Programs in conflict resolution, anti-bullying, understanding of different kinds of families, peer mediation and, in later years, drug and sex education, help children mature and feel safe. 

    Childhood is a time of rapid development and self-discovery: physical, mental, social, and emotional. The physical education program is designed to advance students in all of these areas. Team play, good sportsmanship, and a life-long commitment to fitness are goals of the curriculum where participation rather than competition is stressed. In addition, a strong and historically successful co-curricular athletic program in grades 6 - 12 inspires students to pursue competitive team sports that further friendships, build character and promote school pride. 

    The world is changing rapidly and young people will have to make important decisions about the future of our planet. Involvement in Crossroads’ environmental and outdoor education program prepares students to respond thoughtfully to environmental issues and to appreciate the natural world both for its own sake and for what it contributes to the human spirit. 
It is the goal of Crossroads School to provide a strong college preparatory program from which each student will develop a personal commitment to learning, a respect for independent thinking, and an expanding curiosity about the world and its people. We consider certain skills to be essential for all graduates: to read well, to write clearly and coherently, to study effectively, to reason soundly, and to question thoughtfully.

Through the educational process, we assist students in gaining self-esteem, self-knowledge, and respect for the knowledge and opinions of others. We believe that education must not be a race for the accumulation of facts, but should be an enriching end in itself. We also believe that education is a joint venture among students, parents and teachers. To be effective with young people, teachers and parents must themselves continue to learn, so that they may perceive the young accurately and treat them wisely.

We believe that the arts are an essential part of the curriculum and that it is important for students to express themselves creatively and to use their imaginations freely. Therefore, music, drama, visual arts, film, writing and dance are significant parts of student life at Crossroads.

Through our academic and extra-curricular programs, we seek to promote social, political and moral understanding, and to instill a respect for the humanity and ecology of the earth.

We understand that there are many kinds of intelligence, and the traditional academic, cognitive area is one. Other important areas of intelligence are intuition, imagination, artistic creativity, physical expression and performance, sensitivity to others and self-understanding. To neglect any of these areas is to limit students in the development of their full human potential.

We believe that the uniqueness of children is revealed in their very existence and that it is the School’s responsibility to foster their innate sense of the mystery and joy of life.

Middle and Upper School: 21st Street Campus | 1714 21st St., Santa Monica, CA 90404 | Phone: (310) 829-7391
Elementary School: Norton Campus | 1715 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404 | Phone: (310) 828-1196
Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences provides a unique K-12 program built on a progressive, developmental model of education.