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The 180 Blog Apr 6, 2016

Connecting the Dots

By Pamela Cantor, M.D., President and CEO

I am delighted and excited to share our new brand and website. This project has been over a year in the making, but the core ideas it brings together hail from Turnaround for Children’s founding days. One question has remained constant, a question that we now see as a defining element of who we are – what has been missed in how we educate children in our public education system?

Fourteen years ago, wheIMG_0498n I stepped through the doors of P.S. 132 in Washington Heights, I was taken aback by what I saw – a chaotic school environment with teachers and school leaders ill-equipped to meet the challenges they were facing. I realized that as a physician, I never felt in over my head. On the contrary, I always felt prepared for whatever my patients brought to my office. No matter the experience or trauma they had experienced – and no two stories were ever alike – there was a recurring pattern. I was trained to recognize these patterns and equipped with the tools to address them. But the adults in this school in Washington Heights, as in many low-performing, high-poverty schools across New York City, didn’t understand what caused the student behaviors they were seeing, nor did they have the tools to address them.  Something had been missed in their training.

I founded Turnaround with the belief that the answers to the recurring and predictable challenges I saw at P.S. 132 could be addressed through a deeper understanding of what adversity does to children’s learning, health and development. To figure out what educators and reformers were missing, we looked to the neuroscience of stress and adversity. We read the literature on how children acquire the skills and beliefs that enable them to become engaged learners. We wanted to know if there was a path to the development of these skills and mindsets, and if there were such a path, how the impact of adversity affected it. We asked ourselves – is it possible to create a teaching and learning environment that could reverse the effects of adversity and promote the skills and mindsets most correlated with student achievement and success?

Somewhere along this road, I think we realized who we actually are – translators of science into tools and strategies for educators working with children impacted by adversity. We are an organization that is constantly learning and innovating – always asking what we have missed, yet our brand failed to capture our true identity. We needed a new look, a shared vocabulary, a clear, compelling voice. We needed all of this to raise awareness about the problem we are seeking to solve and how we are solving it, informed by science and by our experience working in high-poverty schools.

Today, too many students are still behind in school and too many schools don’t know what to do about it. We believe science is key to the problem and also key to the solution. There is growing demand to understand what has been missed in the design of our schools and the training of our educators. At Turnaround, we’re connecting the dots between poverty, stress and academic performance, in order to accelerate healthy student development and academic achievement. And our new brand gives us the tools to do just that.

I encourage you to travel through our new site and experience both the discoveries we have made and the questions we continue to ask about what has been missed.  As you do this, know that all this work is in service of our vision that one day all children in the United States will attend schools that prepare them for the lives they choose. Please share your thoughts with us any way you can – through Twitter, Facebook or email. Enjoy and discover!