Edward Zigler, PhD, the Yale psychologist frequently called the father of Head Start, has won the $250,000 Heinz Award in the public policy category.
"The courage with which Edward Zigler has fought on behalf of America's at-risk children is ample evidence that he has consistently put their interests above his own," says Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation. "He has taken risks himself, especially in his criticism of the administration of Head Start, a program he helped establish. But such outspokenness has helped make that program the model of effective action that has had enormous impact on the great majority of child development leaders."
Zigler says he has not yet decided what to do with the money.
Zigler joined the Yale faculty in 1959, and in 1970 became the first director of the Office of Child Development, now the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.
As a young professor in the 1960s, Zigler became interested in the socio-emotional factors that encourage or hinder learning during the early years. At the same time, policy-makers became concerned that many poor children were ill-equipped to learn when they entered school.
In 1964, Zigler, who had already distinguished himself with research on mental retardation and early child development, was asked by the White House to join a panel of experts commissioned to plan an intervention program for children ages 3 to 5. That was the beginning of Head Start.
Head Start did more than provide an early education. It included nutrition counseling, health screenings and parental involvement when it was launched in 1965.
But a few years ago, when Head Start was enjoying great popularity, Zigler charged that one-third of Head Start centers were offering such poor service that they should be closed. He was deeply worried that the program was expanding too rapidly and without a plan, threatening the quality and results he had fought for for so long.
"Thus," said Heinz officials, "he shocked many with his aud acious remarks but he shocked them into action that led to higher quality services."
Zigler says things are back on track now. "The idea is to try to have a good program," he says. "What we originally said was that we never wanted to expand unless we had good quality. But, in the old days, it seemed impossible to close a center. People would call their congressmen."
Zigler's most recent book is "Child Development and Social Policy" (McGraw Hill, 1999).
The Heinz awards were established by Mrs. Heinz in 1993 in honor of her late husband, Sen. John Heinz (RPa.), who was killed in a plane crash. It honors outstanding leaders in areas where the senator was most active.