has announced a $35.5 million gift from the to establish an early childhood learning initiative at the .
The Zaentz Initiative will pursue a number of interlocking strategies aimed at advancing policy and practice in the field. Chief among them will be a five-year, population-based study that follows a diverse cohort of three-year-olds to investigate areas critical to early childhood learning, including language, cognition, social-emotional development, and neurophysiology. To be led by Professor Nonie Lesaux and Associate Professor Stephanie Jones, the study also will address key questions facing today's policy makers and practitioners, including questions about scale, the long-term impacts of early education, and the key ingredients needed for success.
In addition, the gift — one of the largest ever given to a university in support of early childhood education — will create and fund the activities of the Saul Zaentz Academy for Professional Learning in Early Childhood and will endow two new chairs at HGSE — one for a tenured or tenure-track faculty member and the other for a practice-based faculty member — both of whom will play significant roles in advancing the goals of the initiative.
"Developmental science makes the benefits of early education clear, but our research base has not kept pace with the changing demographics of today's childhood population, one that is increasingly diverse and growing up in an era of great economic instability. We still need a much better understanding of what early education models work for whom, and under what conditions," said Lesaux. "The scope of the study — following children over time and across their many contexts — is unprecedented and will address many of today’s most pressing questions, therefore informing targeted and innovative policy solutions for impact."