UMass Amherst Provost Cora Marrett Named to National Panel on Reading

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Cora B. Marrett has been named to a national panel that will study the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children how to read, and then report on the best ways to apply these findings in classrooms and at home.

The National Reading Panel was created by the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Duane Alexander, in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, after a request by the U.S. Congress. Donald Langenberg, physicist and chancellor of the 13-member University System of Maryland since 1990, will chair the panel, which includes prominent reading researchers, teachers, child development experts, leaders in elementary and higher education, and parents.

"Each panel member brings substantial experience and significant contributions in their respective fields to this task," Alexander said.

Marrett said that while her position at UMass generally does not allow her time to sit on many of the panels, commissions, and other groups, that invite her participation, this particular one merited a positive reply given the importance of the topic, the University’s commitment to improving K-12 education, and the national visibility her membership will bring to the University.

According to Alexander, the panel will build on the recently announced findings presented by the National Research Council’s Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Based on its review of the literature, the panel will: 1) determine the readiness for application in the classroom of the results of these research studies; 2) identify appropriate means to rapidly disseminate this information to facilitate effective reading instruction in the schools; and 3) identify gaps in the knowledge base for reading instruction and the best ways to close these gaps.

As assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1992-96, Marrett was the first person to lead the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. She also was director of the United Negro College Fund/Mellon Programs; associate chairperson for the department of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, and a member of the board of directors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and vice president of the American Sociological Association.

In 1979, Marrett served on the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. She is a member of: the Board of Governors, Argonne National Laboratory; the Board of Directors of the Social Science Research Council; the Commission on the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council; the Peer Review Oversight Group for the National Institutes of Health; the National Advisory Council for the Fogarty International Center, also of the National Institutes of Health.

The 15 members of the panel were selected from among nearly 300 persons who were nominated by individuals and organizations interested in addressing research-based mechanisms to teach children to read.

The panel’s inaugural meeting will take place at 9 a.m. April 24 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., and the full panel will meet several times in the Washington, D.C., area after that. Plans are also being made for several regional meetings to allow local administrators, researchers, teachers, parents, and others "the opportunity to present their own views in person, without having to travel to the Washington area," and the panel is soliciting written input from all interested parties," according to Langenberg.

The panel’s final report will be presented to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Education, and to appropriate congressional committees.