Harvard Graduate School of Education(HGSE) Dean James Ryan announced today the Saul Zaentz Early Childhood Initiative at HGSE — a major investment in transforming early childhood education in the United States. The first initiative of its kind, it will distinguish HGSE as a national leader in this field, building significantly on the pathbreaking work of existing faculty and the renowned Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
The initiative is supported by a $35.5 million gift from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, is one of the largest gifts ever given to a university to focus on advancing early childhood education, and the largest gift in HGSE’s history. The Zaentz Initiative will pursue interlocking strategies for impact: conducting research to drive policy and practice, strengthening the field through high-quality professional learning, cultivating new leaders in the field, and bringing credible evidence to bear on public policy affecting young children. By building and strengthening partnerships with organizations in the field and internal collaborators such as the Center on the Developing Child, the Initiative is committed to improving and expanding early childhood education so all children have the opportunity to learn and thrive.
“The Saul Zaentz Early Childhood Initiative is a bold and forward-thinking investment in the field of early childhood education. It is perfectly aligned with HGSE’s mission of expanding educational opportunity and improving outcomes, especially for our most vulnerable children,” said Ryan. “The initiative will provide early childhood educators, from teachers to leaders, with high-quality, high-impact professional learning opportunities drawing on evidence from groundbreaking new research.
“Importantly, it will tap into the strength of our faculty in early childhood, including Professor Nonie Lesaux and Associate Professor Stephanie Jones, allowing us to build a strong evidence base for pre-K program improvement, policy, and advocacy. It will also leverage the broader work of the Center on the Developing Child and its Frontiers of Innovation movement, under the direction of Professor Jack Shonkoff. Finally, the gift’s critical support for student financial aid and attracting outstanding faculty will help HGSE build its capacity to make an impact. I am grateful to the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation for this historic gift, which is a fitting and lasting tribute to the life of Saul Zaentz.”
Associate Professor Dr. Stephanie Jones was the keynote speaker at the Starting Strong Summit, organized by the Collaborative for Educational Services and held on April 26th of this year.