Dr. John M. McKee
Pace Learning Systems’ visionary founder, Dr. John McKee, devoted his professional career to breaking the cycle of failure and bringing success to struggling learners. From 1953 to 1962, Dr. McKee was the Director of Alabama’s Community Mental Health Program. He expanded the state’s mental health centers from three to ten and developed a school mental health program throughout the State. He was alarmed by the number of young students in the mental health program who were failing in school, and he ultimately formed the Rehabilitation Research Foundation with the mission of researching and providing a means of turning academic and personal failures into successes.
During this time, Dr. McKee began educating inmates at an Alabama correctional institution. He strongly believed that education could be a prisoner’s “ticket” out of prison and provide hope for a productive life. He quickly discovered that many prisoners had failed academically and possessed negative feelings about learning. He set out to design a program that would quickly bring them instructional success, believing such success would motivate them to continue learning. In 1962, Dr. McKee conducted a demonstration project in education and rehabilitation at Draper Correctional Center, a prison for youthful adult offenders. This project was so successful that it was expanded through grants from the Ford Foundation and the Aaron Norman Fund.
Dr. McKee then resigned his position as the Director of Alabama Community Mental Health Program and took full direction of the prison’s experimental demonstration project. At this time, he received a three year grant from the National Institute for Mental Health. This grant was renewed for an additional three years, and the findings of his studies were disseminated on a broad scale nationwide. Dr. McKee adopted what was at the time, an experimental student learning method called programmed instruction, and he implemented a highly individualized learning system that worked quickly and successfully. His students included those who had failed with traditional instruction, and they were excited by the success they experienced with his non-punitive approach. They realized that quick progress was possible and asked for more and different material.
After 15 years of success with his inmate education program, Dr. McKee expanded the scope of his work beyond corrections. In 1977, he founded Pace Learning Systems to market his successful program and began development on other programs, including dropout prevention, to help struggling learners. Dr. John McKee has been honored with a charter membership in the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). In 2007, the Correctional Education Association (CEA) honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.