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Dr. Laura Phillips            All Children Can Learn

The belief that ‘all children can learn’ was the guiding principle of Dr. Laura Phillips when she founded the Children’s Learning Center in 1971, as the applied branch of the Institute of Human Behavior, Research, and Education.

Based on the principles of behavior modification, the school opened with a small number of students with a variety of learning and behavioral challenges. It was one of the first schools of its kind in the East Bay.

Dr. Phillips was trained as an experimental psychologist at UC Berkeley and was conducting significant research on learning, environmental stress, and behavior modification at that time. 

She was a strong believer in breaking tasks down into manageable components, providing positive reinforcement for meeting goals, and individualizing students' instructional plans for the benefit of each student. Dr. Phillips was truly ahead of her time as these are now – some four decades later – the core practices of the IDEA and special education. 


Dr. Phillips advanced the critical idea that if a student was not progressing, educators needed to examine their teaching strategies. She proposed that the question to ask is “what do I, the teacher, need to do differently?” not “what is lacking in the student?” 


The school’s name was changed from the Children’s Learning Center to The Phillips Academy in 2012 to honor the memory and lifelong work of Dr. Phillips. As a proponent of education for all, we proudly follow in her footsteps today. We remain faithful to her principles in serving our current students and the more than 1,500 students that have passed through our doors these past 46 years.

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