Commission on Adult Basic Education Honors TERC Researcher Mary Jane Schmitt

May 11, 2004

Contact: David Shepard

TERC researcher Mary Jane Schmitt has been awarded the prestigious Kenneth J. Mattran Award from the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE), which annually honors an individual with a distinguished record of achievement in adult literacy.

The award honors SchmittÂ’s 33 years of work in adult numeracy, as a mathematics teacher, coordinator, and supervisor, and most recently as Co-Principal Investigator for the Extending Mathematical Power (EMPower) project at TERC, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, education non-profit organization. For the past four years, Schmitt has been working with the EMPower team to develop a mathematics curriculum for out-of-school youth and adult learners.

In nominating Schmitt for the award, Esther Leonelli said “Mary Jane’s impact on and leadership in the field of adult mathematical instruction measures up to anyone. Her record of distinguished leadership in the field of adult basic education is demonstrated by her work with the Adult Numeracy Network, the Adults Learning Maths Research Forum, her publications, and her numerous synergistic activities.”

Over 40% of the adult population in the US lacks the quantitative literacy skills necessary for societyÂ’s demands. Approximately 4 million adult learners enroll annually in adult education programs based in community colleges, local school systems, community-based organizations, and prisons.

In accepting the award, Schmitt acknowledged the assistance and support of the teams she has worked with and learned from over her years in adult education. Speaking at the COABE Awards Luncheon, Schmitt addressed the work still needed to improve adult numeracy.

“There are many reasons why adult numeracy has to become a hallmark of adult education programs. While numeracy has become more visible in our field [of adult education], that is not enough. Quality is an issue. Until adult ed takes numeracy as seriously as it does language and literacy learning, this system which we promote as a ‘second chance’ can only be second rate. I know we just won’t settle for that,” she said.