Dr. Sharon Lynn (Lynn) Kagen is the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy and Co-Director of the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Professor Adjunct at Yale University’s Child Study Center. Recognized internationally and nationally for her accomplishments related to the care and education of young children, Lynn is a prolific public speaker, author of 325 articles and 16 books, and a member of over 30 national boards or panels. Lynn’s scholarship focuses on the development of new and usable knowledge that can impact governments and institutions as they craft policies for young children; in particular, her research on young children and the institutions that serve them addresses systems theory, governance, finance, pedagogy, and transitions. Lynn’s academic background is enriched with experience as a Head Start teacher and director, public school administrator, and Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Early Childhood Education. Her policy work has been honed by experiences in the US Senate and in work with 93 national governments around the world, including consultancies and Fulbright Fellowships in Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States and throughout central and Western Europe.
The recipient of international and national honorary doctoral degrees, she was made a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 2010 and elected to membership in the National Academy of Education in 2012. She is also a Past President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Family Support America, and has served as Chair of the National Education Goals Panel Technical Planning Group for Goal One; a member of the Clinton Education Transition Team; a Distinguished Fellow for the Education Commission of the States; and a member of numerous National Academy of Sciences, foundation, and administration panels. Perhaps most importantly, however, Lynn may be best known as the only woman in the history of American Education to be recognized for these contributions with its most prestigious awards: the 2004 Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the 2005 James Bryant Conant Award for Lifetime Service to Education from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
Sharon Lynn Kagan brings a wealth of experiences and knowledge at the intersection of practice and theory that have helped formulate her research and perspective as an early childhood researcher. While she acknowledges that much progress for young children has been made in recent decades, she fears that the hardest challenges (achieving quality, equity, sustainability and efficiency) lie ahead. To better prepare us to address these challenges, Lynn seeks to learn from diverse fields (economics, political science, organizational development) and from diverse countries. She emphasizes the importance of breaking the mold of conventional thinking and pushes the field to think even bigger; to be more conceptually integrated, and to develop more comprehensive governance and finance policies so that children’s development and learning will be supported no matter what program or venue they attend in their early years. We now understand the early years matter; now we need to understand and actualize how to render services during the early years of far greater quality and how to assure far more equitable access to that quality for all.
“I suppose if I have one goal,..it would be to institutionalize the field of early childhood policy as a legitimate domain of inquiry and action. It would be to bring the attention historically accorded to early childhood pedagogy to early childhood policy. Specifically, I’m going to keep pressing for early childhood policy programs at lots and lots of institutions of higher education around the country.”
“WE have come such a long way in my professional life, but some of the biggest challenges lie ahead (achieving quality, equity, sustainability, and efficiency in early childhood practice and policy. While we can learn from other fields and other countries, we must honor our unique context, stringing to improve the quality of options for all children The next generation is going to have to craft an early childhood system that really works and that really works for everyone. That is their charge.”