To help states learn the science of early childhood and apply lessons learned from 40 years of program evaluation research to their policy frameworks, the State Policy Partnership presented a National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy on June 26-27, 2008, which took place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. This nonpartisan, educational event shared cutting-edge scientific knowledge and evidence-based conclusions drawn from extensive evaluations of early childhood programs, policies, and interventions. In addition to plenary sessions, state-based teams of legislators, gubernatorial policy advisors, and business and civic leaders had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions to begin to develop action plans.

Presentations from the Symposium are available below in video and PDF format (when available).

National Symposium on Early Childhood Science & Policy

Overview of Agenda

Thursday, June 26, 2008



"The Science of Child Development and the Future of Early Childhood Policy"
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Center on the Developing Child

This presentation provided a brief overview of the impact of early experience on brain development, focusing on what the brain needs to develop sturdy architecture, how toxic stress can lead to disrupted neural circuits, and why sensitive periods are important. Participants were invited to think about how we can move from building and sustaining state-of-the-art programs to craft a new era in early childhood policy driven by three core features: (1) science-based evidence; (2) bipartisanship; and (3) public-private partnerships.
View video (running time: 73:51) >>
Download presentation (PDF)



"Lessons Learned from Public-Private Partnerships"

Daniel Pedersen, Buffett Early Childhood Fund
George B. Kaiser, George Kaiser Family Foundation

The presenters discussed how private initiatives can leverage public investment and outcome-based approaches can enhance the impacts of public-private collaboration.
View video (running time: 46:36) >>

Friday, June 27, 2008



"What Research Tells us About Early Childhood Program Effectiveness"

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Ph.D., Columbia University
Katherine Magnuson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Ph.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education

These concurrent sessions provided an overview of existing evidence about the characteristics of early childhood programs that provide positive returns on investment and those that are ineffective, and addressed the critical importance of program quality, particularly in the face of taking successful programs to scale. Policymakers heard about the essential lessons that can be drawn from decades of program evaluation research to inform their decision-making.
View video (running time: 44:18) >>
Download presentation (PDF)



"The Impact of Early Adversity on Brain Development"

Megan R. Gunnar, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Pat R. Levitt, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Charles A. Nelson, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston

These concurrent sessions provided a more in-depth look at the influence of significant stress in the early years of life on brain architecture and its implications for emotional development, social competence, and mental health as building blocks for school achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and healthy communities.
View video (running time: 72:39) >>
Download presentation (PDF)



"Delivering High-Value Services to Vulnerable Children"

Richard G. Frank, Ph.D., and Ellen R. Meara, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

This session examined the complicated relation between cost and quality in health care and early childhood systems, and explored the quest to maximize value through enhancing service quality while controlling its costs.
View video (running time: 42:22) >>
Download presentation (PDF)



"Learning from State Experience: Executive and Legislative Perspectives"

Steffanie Clothier, National Conference of State Legislatures
Sarah Daily, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
Janice Gruendel, Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor, Children & Youth (CT)
Don Harmon, State Senator (IL)
Ruth Kagi, State Representative (WA)

State leaders described state experience and lessons learned with policy initiatives aimed at early childhood development and early learning.
View video (running time: 49:27) >>


"Improving Quality in Early Childhood Programs"

Charles J. Homer, M.D., M.P.H., National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality and Harvard School of Public Health

This session provided an overview of the science of quality improvement as applied to the delivery of early childhood services, including the effective use of measurement strategies.
View video (running time: 44:27) >>
Download presentation (PDF)


© 2010 Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
With the permission of the Center on the Developing Child, the content of the slides in the presentations above may be used by others. The copyright notice given above must  be included with each reproduced slide. The Center logo and Harvard shield and name may not otherwise be used publicly, except by faculty and staff formally affiliated with the Center. Slide content may not be altered and should be attributed to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University in a citation. Requests should be made in writing to