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March 19, 2014

Neuroscience and School Reform: Transforming Learning Environments Using Brain Science

Today, many American schoolchildren are growing up under enormous amounts of stress. New research on brain development reveals how this stress can hinder academic success, particularly for children from challenging backgrounds.

On March 19, the S&R Foundation, in partnership with CityBridge Foundation, held this event to discuss using brain science to transform schools so all students can succeed.

Katherine Brittain Bradley is the president of CityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit enterprise located in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Bradley co-founded CityBridge in 1994 with her husband, entrepreneur and magazine publisher David G. Bradley.

The Foundation works to build a citywide system of high-performing schools in Washington, D.C. CityBridge finds, incubates, and invests in the most promising practices in public education, looking to assemble, in the District, the critical mass of transformative schools—traditional public and charter—needed for the success of all children. To ensure the lasting success of this work, CityBridge offers a suite of engagement opportunities for local leaders in business, philanthropy, and the community. The goal is to equip these potential stewards for education with the knowledge and support they need to be advocates for continued, sustained progress in D.C. schools. All of this work involves conscious collaboration with these stewards, local leaders, and other stakeholders. CityBridge’s signature projects include the Early Years Initiative (2006-2011), the Education Innovation Fellowship, and Breakthrough Schools: D.C. (both launched in 2013).

Mrs. Bradley serves as a board member for the KIPP Foundation, Princeton University, and STAND for Children and chairs the Washington regional board for Teach For America. In the winter of 2010-2011, Mrs. Bradley co-chaired Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s education transition team. She graduated in 1986 from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and she and her husband have three sons.

Katherine Brittain Bradley

Katherine Brittain Bradley is the president of CityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit enterprise located in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Bradley co-founded CityBridge in 1994 with her husband, entrepreneur and magazine publisher David G. Bradley.

Katherine Brittain Bradley is the president of CityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit enterprise located in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Bradley co-founded CityBridge in 1994 with her husband, entrepreneur and magazine publisher David G. Bradley.

The Foundation works to build a citywide system of high-performing schools in Washington, D.C. CityBridge finds, incubates, and invests in the most promising practices in public education, looking to assemble, in the District, the critical mass of transformative schools—traditional public and charter—needed for the success of all children. To ensure the lasting success of this work, CityBridge offers a suite of engagement opportunities for local leaders in business, philanthropy, and the community. The goal is to equip these potential stewards for education with the knowledge and support they need to be advocates for continued, sustained progress in D.C. schools. All of this work involves conscious collaboration with these stewards, local leaders, and other stakeholders. CityBridge’s signature projects include the Early Years Initiative (2006-2011), the Education Innovation Fellowship, and Breakthrough Schools: D.C. (both launched in 2013).

Mrs. Bradley serves as a board member for the KIPP Foundation, Princeton University, and STAND for Children and chairs the Washington regional board for Teach For America. In the winter of 2010-2011, Mrs. Bradley co-chaired Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s education transition team. She graduated in 1986 from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and she and her husband have three sons.

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Pamela Cantor, M.D. leads Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with low-performing public schools to understand and address obstacles to teaching and learning that stem from the stress of poverty. By translating learnings from neuroscience and the study of child development into educational practice, Turnaround helps struggling schools set the stage for academic achievement and healthy student growth. As David Bornstein wrote in The New York Times, “What makes Turnaround’s work so compelling is how it has broken down its long-term vision of school transformation into processes and chunks that are themselves teachable to educators and administrators.”

Dr. Cantor practiced child psychiatry for nearly two decades, specializing in trauma. She founded Turnaround after co-authoring a study on the impact of the 9/11 attacks on schoolchildren. She is an Ashoka Fellow and was awarded the 2014 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact.

Pamela Cantor, M.D.

Pamela Cantor, M.D. leads Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with low-performing public schools to understand and address obstacles to teaching and learning that stem from the stress of poverty. By translating learnings from neuroscience and the study of child development into educational practice, Turnaround helps struggling schools set the stage for academic achievement and healthy student growth.

Pamela Cantor, M.D. leads Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with low-performing public schools to understand and address obstacles to teaching and learning that stem from the stress of poverty. By translating learnings from neuroscience and the study of child development into educational practice, Turnaround helps struggling schools set the stage for academic achievement and healthy student growth. As David Bornstein wrote in The New York Times, “What makes Turnaround’s work so compelling is how it has broken down its long-term vision of school transformation into processes and chunks that are themselves teachable to educators and administrators.”

Dr. Cantor practiced child psychiatry for nearly two decades, specializing in trauma. She founded Turnaround after co-authoring a study on the impact of the 9/11 attacks on schoolchildren. She is an Ashoka Fellow and was awarded the 2014 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact.

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Dr. Walker’s research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examines how biological research in genetics, epigenetics, and other biological analytes (hormones, antibodies, and chemicals) can complement social research to promote healthy behavior, fortify learning environments, reduce rates of chronic disease, and optimize health outcomes throughout life. Her work is focused on the biological embedding of chronic stress (the mind-body link) and biological sensitivity to context (individual differences in reactivity to environmental factors) to enhance health and educational outcomes. She is particularly interested in understanding how stress reactivity can be modified via natural solutions such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset coaching, and meditation. Dr. Walker’s research is also focused on understanding prenatal and early childhood origins of health and neurodevelopment, examining how biosocial research on adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress can be harnessed to facilitate early intervention, prevention, resilience, and enhanced quality of life.

Dr. Walker’s doctoral research in the field of Behavioral Genetics at Kings College London examined the relative influence of genes and the environment on educationally relevant behavior. Her work focused primarily on the potential for biological data to inform and optimize individual learning outcomes by examining the respective influence of “nature” and “nurture” on academic achievement, cognitive abilities, and children’s perceptions of their classroom environments.

Dr. Walker has devoted a portion of her academic career to instructing an undergraduate course in Behavioral Genetics at Georgetown University focused on the dynamic interaction between nature and nurture in human development. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Walker was a mutual fund Portfolio Manager in Denver, Colorado. She attended the University of Colorado on a tennis scholarship and played professional tennis in Europe after graduation. Dr. Walker is married with three boys and lives in Washington, D.C.

Sheila Ohlsson Walker, Ph.D.

Dr. Walker’s research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examines how biological research in genetics, epigenetics, and other biological analytes (hormones, antibodies, and chemicals) can complement social research to promote healthy behavior, fortify learning environments, reduce rates of chronic disease, and optimize health outcomes throughout life.

Dr. Walker’s research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examines how biological research in genetics, epigenetics, and other biological analytes (hormones, antibodies, and chemicals) can complement social research to promote healthy behavior, fortify learning environments, reduce rates of chronic disease, and optimize health outcomes throughout life. Her work is focused on the biological embedding of chronic stress (the mind-body link) and biological sensitivity to context (individual differences in reactivity to environmental factors) to enhance health and educational outcomes. She is particularly interested in understanding how stress reactivity can be modified via natural solutions such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset coaching, and meditation. Dr. Walker’s research is also focused on understanding prenatal and early childhood origins of health and neurodevelopment, examining how biosocial research on adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress can be harnessed to facilitate early intervention, prevention, resilience, and enhanced quality of life.

Dr. Walker’s doctoral research in the field of Behavioral Genetics at Kings College London examined the relative influence of genes and the environment on educationally relevant behavior. Her work focused primarily on the potential for biological data to inform and optimize individual learning outcomes by examining the respective influence of “nature” and “nurture” on academic achievement, cognitive abilities, and children’s perceptions of their classroom environments.

Dr. Walker has devoted a portion of her academic career to instructing an undergraduate course in Behavioral Genetics at Georgetown University focused on the dynamic interaction between nature and nurture in human development. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Walker was a mutual fund Portfolio Manager in Denver, Colorado. She attended the University of Colorado on a tennis scholarship and played professional tennis in Europe after graduation. Dr. Walker is married with three boys and lives in Washington, D.C.

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