||He joined the Social Science Research Council in New York as a staff member from 1958-59. While there, he met Herbert A. Simon and Allen Newell. Simon and Newell, both faculty members at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon), are “credited with laying much of the groundwork for the emerging field of cognitive psychology, which became Morrisett’s lifelong scholarly passion.” They based their theoretical models on computer simulations of the thought process. These early computer simulations led to Morrisett’s permanent fascination with computer technology.
The Carnegie years
Morrisett first encountered the Carnegie Corporation, a philanthropic foundation focused on education, while he was at the Social Science Research Council. Morrisett joined Carnegie as an executive assistant to Gardner in 1959, later becoming Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He stayed with the Corporation for ten years.
One of the main contributions of Carnegie during those years was the creation of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Morrisett was the main Carnegie officer working with the committee that initiated NAEP. He worked closely with Ralph Tyler and John Tukey who were essential in developing it.
While at the Corporation, Morrisett developed a specialty in early education and also became engaged in projects concerning human creativity. He became increasingly aware of the educational disadvantages of poor and minority children and wanted to find a way to better their access to preschool learning. Under his direction, the foundation supported six experiments to test children's responses to teaching methods.
But, says Morrisett, "There was a big discrepancy between what we were doing and what we were trying to accomplish [in reducing the education gap]." Morrisett was frustrated because while the experiments were effective, they reached only a few hundred disadvantaged students. He wanted to reach millions.
Coincidentally, his old friend Julian Ganz had suggested that he get in touch with his cousin, Joan Ganz (now Joan Ganz Cooney) who was, at the time, a producer at New York City’s public TV station, WNDT Channel 13. The two became friends.