Carol D. Lee has developed a theory of cultural modeling that provides a framework for the design and enactment of curriculum that draws on forms of prior knowledge that traditionally underserved students bring to classrooms. She is the author of Signifying as a Scaffold for Literary Interpretation: The Pedagogical Implications of an African American Discourse Genre. She is co-editor, with Peter Smagorinsky, of Neo-Vygotskian Perspectives on Literacy Research, published by Cambridge University Press. She has published in numerous journals, including Reading Research Quarterly, Research in the Teaching of English, The Journal of Black Psychology, and the Journal of Negro Education, among others.
Lee has recently completed a research project in a Chicago inner city high school that involves restructuring the English Language Arts curriculum, including assessment, in ways that build on social and cultural strengths that students bring from their home and community experiences. Her research projects are or have been funded by the McDonnell Foundation’s Cognitive Studies in Educational Practice, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Center for the Study of At-Risk Children, co-sponsored by Howard University and Johns Hopkins University, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Lee is active in the school reform movement in Chicago Public Schools and has taught in both public and private schools before assuming a university career. She is a founder and former director of an African-centered independent school in Chicago that is 28 years old, New Concept School. She is also a founder of a newly established African-centered charter school, the Betty Shabazz International Charter School. She engages in professional development activity for teachers both locally and nationally. Lee is past president of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy and the chair of the standing committee on research of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is a former trustee of the Research Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of English and former co-chair of the NCTE Assembly on Research. She has been an active member of AERA, serving as a program chair for one of the sections of Division G and as a member of the AERA book award committee, among others. She serves as co-coordinator of the Spencer Research Training program within the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.