Remembering Maynard C. Reynolds: 1922-2012

Reynolds did important work on domain-referenced testing and criterion-referenced testing that preceded work on curriculum-based measurement and curriculum-based assessment

By James Ysseldyke and Thomas K. Fagan, PhD

On October 16, 2012, special education and school psychology lost a pioneer, an esteemed colleague and friend. Maynard Clinton Reynolds was born on February 16, 1922, into a homesteading family in Doyan, North Dakota and grew up in the northern Minnesota cities of Bemidji, Thief River Falls, and Moorhead. His parents were Robert and Rachel (Pray) Reynolds. Maynard progressed from his youthful renown as a well-known drummer in a dance band heard regularly over an NBC affiliate radio station in Fargo, to a national and international reputation in education and school psychology. Education: Maynard Reynolds completed in three years his B.S. degree and certification in secondary social studies from Moorhead State College (1942, then Moorhead State Teachers College) and went into the Army Air Force during World War II, stationed in the South Pacific until 1945 (Hallquist, 1997). He completed his MA from the University of Minnesota (UMN, 1947), and taught at the University of Northern Iowa before completing his PhD in educational psychology at the UMN (1950). For a year following his PhD, he taught at California State University at Long Beach, and then returned to UMN where he taught from 1951 until his retirement in 1989. During his tenure with UMN he served as Director of the Psycho-educational Clinic, Chairman of the Department of Special Education, and taught in that department and the Department of Psycho-educational Studies (later named Educational Psychology). In his early years at UMN he worked with many renowned psychologists including John E. Anderson, Florence Goodenough, Dale Harris, Paul Meehl, and Donald Patterson (Chambers, 1994; Hallquist, 1997). Maynard was instrumental in establishing the UMN Department of Special Education and then its school psychology program in the late 1950s (Hallquist, 1997).

Dr. Reynolds served as co-investigator at the National School Psychology Inservice Training Network at the UMN in the early 1980s, was one of the planners of the Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psychology in the Schools, and was on the task force that produced the first two editions of "School Psychology: A Blueprint for Training and Practice."


Reynolds is probably best known in school psychology and special education circles for his work in the early 1970s at the UMN’s Leadership Training Institute in Special Education. It was there that he did important work on domain-referenced testing and criterion-referenced testing that preceded work on curriculum-based measurement and curriculum-based assessment. Reynolds was strongly committed to advancing the education of students with disabilities and wrote about the attitudinal and measurement changes that needed to be achieved. His contributions were instrumental in passage of the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now IDEIA). In Domain-Referenced Testing in Special Education (Hively & Reynolds, 1975), he supported the notion that children have a right to an appropriate education and it is the educator’s obligation to deliver such. He contended that our measurement technologies ought to make a difference in the lives of students, not simple predictions about their lives, and that the measurement technologies ought always to be linked to appropriate instructional outcomes for all students (Reynolds & Birch, 1977).

Reynolds was a proponent of “mainstreaming,” now in educational settings typically called inclusion. His ideas preceded the 1975 federal legislation (P.L. 94-142) that required placement in the least restrictive environment and his conceptualization of a Cascade Model, influenced additional models on service delivery (Goodman, 2007; Reynolds, 1962). In a taped interview following his retirement, Reynolds recalled that for too long persons were considered disabled and belonged in some special place. “It always seemed to me that that was too simple a way of looking at it and it didn’t adequately recognize the varieties of arrangements that could be made on the administrative or organizational side to deal with human differences” (Chambers, 1994, p. 14). He was well ahead of others in recognizing that the mild disability categories and the fine distinctions between them were not adequately relevant to effective education.

He was a pioneer in promoting far greater integration of students with disabilities and in insisting that we could obtain better results with greater implementation of the knowledge base on effective instruction. According to his obituary (2012),

A notable achievement occurred 55 years ago when the Minnesota Legislature did something only one other state had previously come close to doing. It decreed that ‘every school district shall provide special instruction and services for handicapped children of school age who are residents of such district.’ In effect, special education was born in Minnesota… The Minnesota Legislature met in odd-numbered years and major issues were studied and bills crafted by small, select panels of legislators between sessions - hence, ‘interim study commissions.’ Commission members were free to organize their work as they saw fit. They were accountable to the full Legislature, and expected to convert their findings into bills introduced in both the House and Senate the next session. The possibility that many developmentally disabled children might be educated and become full participants in society was ripe for interim commission treatment in 1955. Warehousing the handicapped in state hospitals was increasingly seen as inhumane, costly and, with modern therapies, unnecessary.

His work with parent groups in the early 1950s and his research on ‘mainstreaming led to his work with Senator Elmer Andersen’s interim commission in 1955 (Chambers, 1994). Reynolds and Andersen connected and developed a plan of action. According to Reynolds’ obituary (2012), former Governor Al Quie who also served on the special education panel, recalled that:

We became enmeshed in the issue of what could be done and should be done with people who are handicapped. We didn’t let ourselves get diverted by all the details about where we will get the money, how does this fit into the public school system, what about the private schools or the state schools and all that. We visited kids. We went to the state schools, the private schools, the public schools in Minneapolis that were already working on this. We went to the homes, where the parent and the handicapped child were. At that time, you often would not see those kids. Those who were mentally handicapped were hidden. Parents hadn’t learned how they could be presentable among other people... There was spiritual growth on that commission. What we came to understand is, there is infinite worth in every individual. That understanding turned the eight commission members into zealots for educating in their own school districts all children deemed ‘educable’ by the standards of the State Board of Education. Their spirit was infectious. It was rare that an interim commission’s entire package of recommendations was enacted intact in one session, but that’s what happened with special education in 1957 (Obituary, 2012).

A brief video of Maynard discussing the commission’s work is  available, along with information about Chambers (1994) and Hallquist (1997).

Associations and recognitions:

Maynard served as President of the International Council for Exceptional Children (1965-1966) and in 1971 received that organization’s John Edward Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award (Wallin was a significant historical figure in special education earlier in the 20th century). He also received the Mildred Thomson Award from the American Association on Mental Deficiency (Hewitt & Martin, 2007). He wrote or edited or co-edited 40 books and authored over 150 articles, bringing to a national and international audience his expertise in those areas of special education (Obituary, 2012). By the time of NASP’s founding, Reynolds had completed half his career at the University of Minnesota. Although never a NASP member, he was a long-time member of the American Psychological Association (associate member in 1949; member in 1958, and fellow in 1962). In APA directories he listed his areas of specialization as educational and school psychology, learning difficulties, giftedness, educational measurement and evaluation, special education, teacher selection and training. His specializations reflect the breadth of his interests and the development of special education and school psychological services during his career. Maynard was also a member of the National Education Association and the Association for the Gifted. In addition he was certified and licensed as a psychologist in the State of Minnesota.


After retiring from the University of Minnesota in 1989, he worked part time with Temple University in Philadelphia writing materials, setting up conferences and managing inner-city projects in the area of special education. He occupied an endowed chair at California State University in Los Angeles in 1990-91 and he spent two years at the University of San Diego (Obituary, 2012). His renown is reflected in the many citations of his work, including several in the three editions of the Encyclopedia of Special Education (Reynolds & Fletcher-Janzen, 2007).

According to his obituary (2012), Reynolds derived deep pleasure from working with dedicated graduate students and teachers who had given their lives to working with atypical students. “It is easy to imagine at this very moment how many thousands of people in this country and abroad are deeply grateful for the life of Maynard Reynolds, who has enabled those formerly languishing in the shadows of society to blossom forth to their fullest potential and live out their lives in dignity.” Maynard had a wisdom and perspective that was conveyed to students. His broad smile conveyed a sense of warmth and acceptance to those who knew him.

Dr. Reynolds’ career spanned perhaps the most significant period in the history of special education and school psychology. He was born into a society where special educational classrooms and school psychologists were few in number and geographic location. At the time he earned his doctoral degree there were less than a half million school-age children receiving special education and American schools employed less than 1,000 school psychologists of varied preparations and titles. His contributions encouraged the expansion of special education and the range of service models in and outside of school settings. That expansion is very closely related to the growth of school psychological services in the past 50 years. Similar to other pioneers in special education and school psychology during the mid-20th century, he was educated and credentialed in related areas and brought these fields to joint fruition in meaningful ways.

Maynard married Donna Lou Gleason on August 28, 1948 and is survived by his wife and their children, Judy (Neil Suneson), Kathy, and John Reynolds (Helenbeth); along with devoted grandchildren, Ryan Suneson (Jessica Neufeld), Peter Suneson, Jill Reynolds and David Reynolds. He was a kind and caring human being and will be missed. Memorials in Maynard’s name may be directed to the University of Minnesota Foundation, College of Education and Human Development.

The authors express their appreciation to Isaac Woods, research assistant in the School Psychology Program at the University of Memphis for assistance in gathering background information.


Chambers, Clarke A. (July 20, 1994). Interview with Maynard Reynolds. A transcript of the taped session is available at,

Goodman, L. (2007). Cascade Model of Special Education Services. In C. Reynolds & E. Fletcher-Janzen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of special education. (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 362-363). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hallquist, S. (1997). Profile: Maynard Reynolds. School Psychology Minnesota, 29(4), 14-18.

Hewitt, E., & Martin, T. (2007). Reynolds, Maynard C. In C. Reynolds & E. Fletcher-Janzen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of special education. (3rd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 1754-1755). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hively, W., & Reynolds, M.C. (Eds.). (1975). Domain-referenced testing in special education. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Obituary of Maynard Reynolds published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on October 18, 2012 See other obituaries for Reynolds at,

Reynolds, C.R., & Fletcher-Janzen, E. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of special education (3rd ed., Vols.1-3, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Reynolds, M.C. (1962). A framework for considering some issues in special education. Exceptional Children, 28, 367-370.

Reynolds, M. C. & Birch, J. W. (1977). Teaching exceptional children in all America’s schools. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

The authors express their appreciation to Isaac Woods, research assistant in the School Psychology Program at the University of Memphis for assistance in gathering background information.