Carol Lee Wins Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education

Carol Lee Wins Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education

Carol Lee talking to a studentNorthwestern University professor emeritus Carol Lee, president-elect of the National Academy of Education, has received a prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education for her outstanding contributions to learning sciences research.

Lee, the former Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Education at the School of Education and Social Policy, was one of four winners. The others include Richard Baraniuk of Rice University for his work in the field of higher education; and Vanderbilt University’s Doug and Lynn Fuchs for their contributions to PreK-12 education.

The McGraw award recipients will be honored at 4:30 p.m. (CT) Wednesday, Nov. 10 in a streaming ceremony. Each winner will also receive an award of $50,000 and a Prize sculpture. Register for the ceremony at Eventbrite.

Lee, the 2021 McGraw Prize winner in the category of Learning Science Research, has had a profound and lasting impact on the field by introducing “transformative perspectives,” McGraw judges said. She was recognized for both for her research and leadership in cultivating new voices from diverse and marginalized communities.

She was among the early scholars to explore ways to build on children’s everyday experiences as a resource for learning in school. Today her sophisticated ideas behind “cultural modeling” and structured support are a standard approach in the field. 

Lee has spent more than five decades working as a university professor, an English and language arts teacher at the high school and community college levels, and a primary grades teacher.

Lee also is a founder of four African centered schools that span a 49-year history, including two charter schools under the umbrella of the Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools where she serves as chair of the board of directors.

“It’s wonderful to see her acknowledged for her great work and persistence in getting the message out about the diversity of human potential,” said Susan Goldman, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the National Academy of Education. “Carol has shown us the necessity of pushing various systems to recognize and design to celebrate that diversity.”

The McGraw prize is just the latest recognition of her work. She recently won the 2021 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) James R. Squire Award for her “transforming influence” and lasting contributions to education.

In August, she received the Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award from the American Educational Research Association, the premier acknowledgment of outstanding achievement and success in education research.

Among her many additional awards and honors, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA.)

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education is awarded by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Nominees are selected through a public process that includes three rounds of judging with the final group selected by an independent panel of leaders in the field.

Recent winners include Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code; Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools; and Sal Kahn, the founder of Khan Academy.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 10/5/21