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Advocates for universal preschool share education prize

Medicine@Yale, 2008 - Mar Apr


Three scientists associated with the School of Medicine’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy (EZC) have won the 2008 Grawemeyer Award in Education from the University of Louisville. The EZC, operated under the aegis of the medical school’s Child Study Center (CSC), is devoted to improving the well-being of children and families by bringing objective child development research into the policy and public arenas.

The award, which carries a $200,000 cash prize, is shared by Edward Zigler, Ph.D., Sterling Professor Emeritus of psychology at Yale; Walter S. Gilliam, Ph.D., assistant professor in the CSC and EZC director; and Stephanie Jones, Ph.D., a recent doctoral student of Zigler’s who is now assistant professor of psychology at Fordham University.

In a 2006 book entitled A Vision for Universal Preschool Education, Zigler, Gilliam and Jones drew on four decades of research to present a compelling case for dramatically increasing access to preschool education in the United States.

Forty states now fund pre-kindergarten programs, Zigler, Gilliam and Jones found, but these programs enroll fewer than 10 percent of all preschoolers.

The Yale team argues that universal preschool would improve the school-readiness of the nation’s young children, fill a gap for working families, lower the high school dropout rate, reduce crime and boost the economy.

The book “stands alone in its field for its accessibility, clarity, timeliness and ability to combine a solid research background with practical recommendations,” said their award nomination.

Zigler is best known for his work on intervention programs for economically disadvantaged children, especially the Head Start program, founded in the mid-1960s.

Gilliam conducts research on the effects of preschool programs on school readiness, while Jones studies the social and emotional aspects of early childhood and adolescence.

The Grawemeyer Foundation, established by industrialist, entrepreneur and University of Louisville alumnus H. Charles Grawemeyer, awards a total of $1 million each year for outstanding achievements in education, psychology, music composition, ideas improving world order, and religion.

This is the second year that research at the CSC has been honored by the foundation. The 2007 Grawemeyer Award in Education was awarded to James P. Comer, M.D., the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the CSC, who founded the School Development Program, which has formulated a strategy for improving education that has been applied in over 1,000 schools worldwide.

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