SOE News

MetaMetrics establishes fellowship at UNC School of Education

Photo of Malbert Smith III

Malbert Smith III

MetaMetrics®, an independent educational measurement and research organization in Durham, N.C., has made a $100,000 gift to the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to establish a fellowship in the doctoral program in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Evaluation (EPME).

Beginning next fall and continuing for five years, a MetaMetrics Fellow will be named annually. Each Fellow will receive $20,000 to cover tuition, provide a stipend and fund travel expenses for the Fellow’s participation in a research conference related to measurement and research methods. The Fellow will work as a research assistant for an EPME faculty member.

Professor Gregory Cizek, coordinator of the EPME program, says that the fellowships will be a tremendous asset to the program. “The gift from MetaMetrics will give us a terrific advantage in recruiting top graduate students,” he said. “In the past, we’ve lost some very qualified and deserving students simply because we were not able to provide this kind of support.”

Cizek also highlighted how the fellowships fit with the School of Education’s mission to prepare educational leaders. “Now, more than ever, we need to train assessment specialists who can help schools in North Carolina and around the country to obtain dependable and accurate test data, and we need to prepare future scholars who will be able to tackle challenging educational problems with advanced research methods. The MetaMetrics fellowships will provide our students with the opportunities they need to fill these roles.”

Dr. Malbert Smith III, president and co-founder of MetaMetrics and a graduate of the EPME program, knows first-hand about the need for assessment specialists as well as the need for student support.

“Today, perhaps more than any other time in history, the role and importance of student assessment are being recognized,” said Smith. “An increased federal emphasis on ensuring that all students graduate from high school, are college- and career-ready, and are competitive with their international peers requires sound assessment and accountability systems. The MetaMetrics fellowship reflects the fact that we need to recruit and train talented, dedicated individuals into the professional assessment community.”

Since earning his Ph.D. in 1980, Smith has maintained a connection with the School of Education and the EPME program while building a highly successful company. He has hired EPME students and graduates to work at MetaMetrics. He has returned to campus to give guest lectures on various topics, including the conceptual and statistical foundations that underlie the cutting-edge psychometric work of his company, which has developed The Lexile Framework® for Reading, The Quantile Framework® for Mathematics and the Lexile Framework for Writing. The Lexile Framework for Reading has become the most widely adopted reading measurement tool, used in all 50 states and abroad.

Professor Emeritus Dick Coop is not surprised by MetaMetrics’ success. “In my 36 years of teaching in the Educational Psychology program at the School of Education, Malbert Smith is one of the best students I had the good fortune to teach and mentor,” said Coop. “Mal is the unique person who has the ability to understand the abstract conceptual theories and also to make very specific applications of the theory. The development of MetaMetrics is just one example of this merger of theory and practice.”

Coop also appreciates the continuing contributions that Malbert Smith has made to the School of Education, including the newly established fellowship. “Mal has volunteered his time in numerous ways to the School of Education from teaching classes to serving on boards and to contributing financial support. The School of Education will be enriched greatly by this gift from Mal and MetaMetrics.”  

EPME graduates are already making their mark on the field of assessment, measurement and evaluation. In addition to participating in research and development projects at MetaMetrics, EPME graduates have been awarded prestigious internships at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., and Pearson Educational Measurement in Austin, Texas. EPME graduates are employed in faculty positions, as well as in research and testing organizations, state and district education agencies, and in federal agencies working on projects such as the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

Thanks to the MetaMetrics fellowship, the School of Education is now in an even stronger position to attract top students who want to make an impact on the assessment field. “We are most grateful that MetaMetrics has decided to support our doctoral students,” said Wendy Gratz Borman, assistant dean for external relations. “This gift typifies the deep commitment Malbert has made in providing ongoing opportunities for our students. This commitment strengthens our School's financial base. Offering fellowships is a critical way to attract and retain our nation's most promising students to the School of Education.”

Borman added, “It is our hope that other alumni and friends with the capacity will join Malbert Smith by supporting our graduate students in similar ways. Securing financial support for our graduate students is one of our School's top priorities.”

If you would like to explore establishing a scholarship fund at the School of Education, please contact Wendy Gratz Borman, assistant dean for external relations, at or (919) 843-4536.