Peggy McCardle, a key aide to her influential and controversial predecessor, has been confirmed as the new chief of the branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that oversees federal research on reading and math disabilities.
Before her confirmation by the institute’s leadership last month, she served as the acting chief of the child-health and -development branch of the federal agency since G. Reid Lyon was reassigned last spring.
Ms. McCardle will oversee the branch’s $120 million annual grants budget and a new network of learning-disabilities research centers to be announced later this year. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She also directs the branch’s research program on human learning and learning disabilities, which includes bilingual and adolescent literacy.
“Reid really pushed the K-6 findings on reading instruction, because that was where the major breakthrough was,” Ms. McCardle said last week. “But we’re at a different point with the research now. We need to push reading comprehension, and focus a lot of attention on older kids, although we’re not done … in K-6.”
The former speech-language pathologist became the associate director of the branch in 1999 after working as a senior adviser in the NIH’s office of the director.
Mr. Lyon helped raise the profile of the NICHD and researchers financed by the branch as a chief adviser to the White House and Congress on reading research and policy. But some reading researchers maintained that he promoted a narrow view of reading research and its findings and dismissed the views of those with alternative viewpoints. (“Select Group Ushers in Reading Policy,” Sept. 8, 2004.)
As associate director, Ms. McCardle was charged with strengthening the branch’s collaboration with researchers and reading organizations, such as the International Reading Association. That effort was largely successful, according to IRA officials.
But others in the field question whether Ms. McCardle will provide a decidedly different kind of leadership over the direction of reading research.
“Although I understand she was once a classroom teacher, I see no evidence of grounded expertise in education, including reading,” said G. Michael Pressley, a professor of education at Michigan State University, in East Lansing. “She clings strongly to the evidence-based position as narrowly defined by the NICHD perspective of the past half-dozen years.”