Robert Pianta, Early Childhood Expert, to Become Curry School of Education Dean

April 27, 2007 -- Robert C. Pianta, a longtime faculty member in the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, has been named its eighth dean, President John T. Casteen III announced today.

Pianta, 50, who joined the faculty in 1986, succeeds David W. Breneman, who will step down in June after serving as dean for 12 years.

Pianta is an expert on early childhood education and teacher quality whose work spans the worlds of policy, practice and basic science. In addition to his teaching and research, he directs the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).

“Bob Pianta’s proven leadership, transformative research, commitment to excellence and lifelong dedication to the Curry School will serve him well in his new role as dean," Casteen said. “I expect Bob to provide the inspiration and vision — at this high point in the school’s history — that will allow his faculty to be instrumental in further enhancing teaching and learning in all levels of education across Virginia, the nation and the world.”

Pianta, the Novartis U.S. Foundation Professor of Education and professor of psychology, foresees exciting times ahead for the school and his colleagues. “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the University as dean,” he said. “And thanks to David Breneman’s leadership, I will inherit a strong foundation of programs and external support, a faculty that already is recognized for its excellence, support staff who provide real service every day of the week and students who are second to none.”

Pianta believes there is great benefit to having spent his entire academic career at the University. “I know there could be no better place to do this work than at U.Va., and I will continually look for new ways to link the great resources throughout this University to solving the problems facing our schools,” he said.

In the next decade, Pianta added, the Curry School will be able to demonstrate in decisive ways the impact that a school of education can have on the lives of children and teachers. “We are poised to shape national and international debates on what makes a good teacher, how to create schools that really fit students’ needs, and how to promote not only academic achievement but also health and well-being,” he said. “Perhaps most importantly, I believe we will create a model for a research-intensive school of education that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Pianta’s current research focuses on the effects of schooling on children's social and academic life and ways to improve the classroom experience through teachers’ professional development.

He also heads several interdisciplinary research and training efforts with more than $25 million in funding, including the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, which he founded in 2005. CASTL’s mission is improving the educational outcomes of the nation’s children from preschool through grade 12 through scientific study of teaching and classroom learning.

The outgoing editor of the Journal of School Psychology, Pianta has published more than 300 scholarly papers and is the lead author of several books, including the recent "School Readiness and the Transition to Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability."

A frequent consultant to foundations and state and federal agencies regarding early childhood issues, Pianta is the U.Va. representative to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s Virginia Preschool Initiative.

Pianta joined the University faculty after receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut.

He and his wife, Ann McAndrew, who is also an educator, have three children, one of whom is a third-year student at U.Va.