The $30 million national initiative involves nine universities around the country that have grouped together to form the Sanford Education Collaborative, which is led by San Diego-based National University and based on Sanford’s vision to help children ages pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

USD and South Dakota State University will be involved in disseminating the Sanford Harmony program, which has been found to improve academic performance, increase positive attitudes about school and reduce classroom aggression. It will be introduced to some pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students in South Dakota during the 2015-16 school year. Participating programs receive free classroom materials, professional development opportunities and teacher guides. The program is centered around a fictional character called "Z."

USD’s Nicholas Shudak, chair of the division of curriculum and instruction, and Gera Jacobs, professor of early childhood and elementary education, will be working with the Sioux Falls School District to implement the program in its PreK classrooms. The USD researchers will work with PreK and kindergarten at both Austin Elementary in Vermillion and Beresford Elementary. St. Agnes Schools in Vermillion will implement the program schoolwide in PreK through fifth grade.

Sanford and Easton-Brooks spoke with the Sioux Falls teachers during a training session.

The Sanford Education Collaborative is a coordinated effort among participating schools of education to advance research-based programs that support PreK-12 student learning and development. Through online resources and classroom tools, the Collaborative provides immediate teaching solutions for in-service and pre-service teachers while serving as a framework for identifying and assessing impactful teaching methodologies. The Collaborative is administered through nonprofit National University, which confers the fourth-largest number of master’s degrees in education nationwide, and its Sanford Education Center, which was established in 2014 through a generous gift by philanthropist and entrepreneur T. Denny Sanford. The inaugural members of the Sanford Education Collaborative are: National University (California); Long Island University (New York); Nova Southeastern University (Florida); City University of Seattle; South Dakota State University; University of Maine; University of South Dakota; Touro College (New York); and University of Central Florida.

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