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Publishing Early on Early Childhood Education

While still a doctoral student, Kate Tarrant has published two books on early childhood education. Her co-author is no slouch, either

While still a doctoral student, Kate Tarrant has published two books on early childhood education. Her co-author is no slouch, either

By Patricia Lamiell

Most graduate students consider themselves lucky simply to discover the right research topic and find a good advisor. Co-authoring books with the most qualified person in the country—and possibly the world—tends to be off the radar, yet that’s precisely the scenario that has unfolded for Kate Tarrant.

In 2003, Tarrant, then a master’s degree student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, was researching early care and education for very young children. Aware that brain research had shown the importance of a rich environment for children’s early development, she was dismayed to find a disconnected hodgepodge of programs that varied substantially in quality, depending on the population they served.

“The lack of investments and infrastructure to support young children was particularly disturbing, given their potential to have such a tremendous impact on development,” she says.

Tarrant found her way to Sharon Lynn Kagan, TC’s Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood Policy, who has spent the past three decades leading the charge for creation of a coordinated national early childhood education system. Kagan, who co-directs TC’s National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) has advised more than 40 of the world’s poorest nations on developing early childhood learning standards. Tarrant finished her work at Columbia, signed on as a graduate research fellow at NCCF, and dove into early childhood policy work.

Together with Kagan and another student at the time, Kristie Kauerz, Tarrant co-authored The Early Care and Education Teaching Workforce at the Fulcrum: An Agenda for Reform (Teachers College Press, 2008), which calls for increased compensation and benefits for early childhood teachers, as well as improved preparation and credentialing. Tarrant and Kagan then co-edited Transitions for Young Children: Creating Connections Across Early Childhood Systems, an international guide to efforts to help children transition from one child care or learning setting to another.

After completing her dissertation, which examines the impact of early childhood policy on program quality in Colorado, Tarrant hopes to use research to help make real-world policy that directly supports young children.

“My personal mission,” she says, “is to ensure that young children, regardless of socioeconomic status, are exposed to safe environments, responsive caregivers and stimulating experiences that will give them a great shot in life.”

Published Thursday, May. 19, 2011