Marie Clay (Continued)
Reading Recovery was developed and trialed in the short span of three years. Barbara Watson was appointed to the leadership team to contribute to this rapidly expanding effort. Field trials conducted in five schools in 1978 were replicated the following year in forty-eight Auckland schools. Reading Recovery became a national education program in New Zealand in 1983. Remarkably, Reading Recovery is now operating in most English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, the United States, and other jurisdictions; Anguilla, Bermuda, and Jersey), and has been redeveloped for use in Spanish and French languages.
Clay’s role in developing and guiding the implementation of Reading Recovery is such a demanding and illustrious one that there is a danger that it will mask her accomplishments in other areas, including oral language (Clay, 1971; her first book, and Clay, Gill, Glynn, McNuaghton, & Salmor, 1983), writing (Clay 1975, 1987), and teaching-learning interactions that accommodate individuals with diverse starting points and rates of learning in typical primary classes (Clay, 1998). Although literacy learning has been an early and abiding focus of her work, Clay’s academic and intellectual curiosity has taken her along multiple paths of inquiry.
In 1980, Clay had her first opportunity for academic leave. In her report on this six-month sabbatical, she describes, among other things, an international conference on the study of counseling, a developmental psychology conference on the theme of language and cognition, and a scholarly search of the scarce and elusive literature on quadruplets and higher multiple births. The latter project culminated in a book with a catalogue of reported cases (Clay, 1989). In the spring of 1997, Marie spent an afternoon in Galveston, Texas in the home of Helen Kirk, who had been tracing the lives of twins and other children of multiple births for decades. The two women shared their fascination in nonstop conversation while Marie learned about the later lives of the siblings about whom she had written. Her developmental interest in adolescent psychology is manifested in the book Round About Twelve (Clay & Oates, 1983), which documents the interests, activities, perceptions, and behaviors of New Zealand youth on the threshold of adolescent changes. Clay’s lens, once again, is sensitively focused on individuals on the verge of change.
When Marie Clay became a professor of education in 1975, she was the first woman professor at the University of Auckland. Clay has been the recipient of many prestigious honors. In 1978, she was awarded the International Citation of Merit at the IRA World Congress on Reading. The following year, she received the David H. Russell Award from the National Council of Teachers of English for distinguished research in the teaching of English. The citation for this award concluded with the words, “Hers has been a quiet voice of reason in a field of frequently jarred by the conflicting cries of the marketplace. We do honor to the depth and scope of her scholarship and to the impact which it has made on the education of young children.” In 1982, Clay was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame. She was the recipient of the Mackie Medal in Education from the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (1983) and the New Zealand Association for Research in Education (1993). In 1993, she was also co-recipient, with Gay Su Pinnell, of the Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Education.
Marie Clay’s research and achievements in the fields of developmental psychology, school psychology, and education have been recognized by her peers. She was elected an honorary fellow of the New Zealand Educational Institute, a fellow of the New Zealand Psychological Society, and, in 1995, a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The latter was, in part, recognition of her extended efforts to have social science research recognized as worthy of state funding alongside other sciences. Clay served as chair of the Social Science Subcommittee of the New Zealand government’s National Research Advisory Committee.
A major contribution of Marie Clay’s has been to change the conversation about what is possible for individual learners when the teaching permits different routes to be taken to desired outcomes. This conversation is now embedded in diverse international educational systems. Our thinking has been stretched in ways that make some former assumptions about the lowest-achieving children intolerable. We now live inside of a new agreement about what is possible…an agreement, a paradigm that did not previously exist and that will shape future actions and conversations.