- Harvard's Graduate School of Education is launching a new early childhood education initiative aimed at transforming pre-K in the U.S., with $35.5 million in financing from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.
- The program aims to build on work done by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University by pursuing related strategies for impact, including "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," the Harvard Gazette reports.
- As part of the initiative, a new study, called the Harvard Early Learning Study, will launch, delivering "unprecedented" population-based research into a diverse cohort of 3-year-olds and how their language, cognition, social-emotional development and neurophysiology relate to the nature and quality of early learning environments.
At this point, early childhood education is a hot topic with bi-partisan support, and the time is ripe for initiatives like Harvard's latest to help steer policy. Various studies, including research from the Center for American Progress, has shown that high-quality universal preschool definitively helps close socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps. The Center for American Progress notes that by attending a high-quality preschool, the learning gap between wealthy and poor students can be closed by 41%.
USC Anneneberg's Voices in Urban Education has also called for boosting collaboration and support among the nation's pre-k programs, as well as the creation of a Early Learning Network to focus on context-specific factors that bring positive learning effects for young children. Though some lawmakers disagree on pre-K implementation, few question its efficacy and importance.