Alumni News

School of Education presents annual alumni awards

Alumni Achievement Award
Malbert Smith III

Educators face myriad problems - and it’s rare to find someone who has actually solved one of them. Such is the uniqueness of Malbert Smith III’s contribution to the profession.

Until his company, MetaMetrics, Inc., developed the Lexile Framework, there was no practical, accurate, and scientifically-based way to assess the difficulty of a text or the ability of a reader. The Lexile Framework gives reading teachers unprecedented levels of accuracy and control in selecting texts for their students and in monitoring their progress. This information greatly increases both the efficiency and effectiveness of reading instruction.

Along with his business partner, Jackson Stenner, Malbert co-founded MetaMetrics in 1984. With the help of five Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the company released the Lexile Framework in 1998. Today, it’s the most widely adopted reading measurement tool in use in the United States.

Currently, more than 100,000 titles have been analyzed using MetaMetrics’ algorithms and given a Lexile score. School libraries and individual teachers across the country have organized their books using the scores. Many states also use Lexile levels when they report student achievement. To date, approximately 20 to 30 million students have had their reading abilities assessed with this invaluable tool.

Malbert is known for his ability to transform educational theories and highly technical ideas into practical tools that anyone can use. His company is the first to bring empirical measurement to reading instruction and now it’s working on math. MetaMetrics’ Quantile Framework was released in 2004 to measure mathematics ability on a developmental and scientific scale similar to the way that the Lexile Framework measures reading.

An entrepreneur since leaving Carolina in 1980 with a doctorate in educational psychology, Malbert has co-founded more than 15 companies including ComputerLand. In 1997, Governor Jim Hunt awarded Malbert the prestigious Order of the Longleaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor. 

Deeply respected by his professors and his peers as a person of impeccable integrity, he also is a devoted family man and a deacon at Greystone Baptist Church. Active in his community, he has served on the boards of directors of Durham’s Child Guidance Clinic, the Durham YMCA, and The Hill Center. He is a member of the Advisory Board for Inc. Magazine and serves the School of Education as a valued member of the School’s Foundation Board. 

For these accomplishments, his unique contribution to the field of educational measurement, and his unwavering commitment to improving children’s opportunities to learn, we are proud to present the Alumni Achievement Award to Malbert Smith III.