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Public Education Mourns Loss of Theodore R. Sizer

Founder of Coalition of Essential Schools was a leading voice in education reform

By Kevin Hart

Friday, October 23, 2009 -- Public education lost a passionate supporter this week with the death of Theodore R. Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools and a zealous advocate for more inclusive schools that focused on individualized student needs. Sizer died October 21 after a long battle with cancer.

Considered one of the leading voices in the modern education reform movement, Sizer held posts as dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, headmaster at Phillips Academy Andover, and as chair of the education department at Brown University. It was in 1984, during his time at Brown, that Sizer founded CES, a progressive organization dedicated to reforming how students are taught, how their success is measured, and how schools are best organized to facilitate academic achievement and personal growth. He also was the founder and first director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown.

Sizer believed that instruction should be tailored based on students’ individual needs, and that schools should be democratic societies where teachers, administrators and support staff worked collaboratively to ensure student success. He opposed single, standardized measures of student achievement and believed that adequate pay, planning time, and professional development were critical to building a staff of quality educators.

Sizer wrote several books, including the well-known “Horace” trilogy, which included Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School; Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School; and Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School. In those books, Sizer talked about how issues such as bureaucratic red tape, a lack of support for educators, and too little cooperation were causing unnecessary challenges in America’s schools.

“Ted Sizer is widely recognized as a giant in the modern educational reform movement in the United States,” CES said in a statement. “His life and work have greatly influenced the instructional practices of schools, districts, states, and educators across the country and abroad for three decades. His eloquent and fervent championing of progressive educational ideals has had a profound effect on hundreds of thousands of educators and students.”

Sizer leaves behind a wife, Nancy, four children, 10 grandchildren, and many friends and admirers.

CES is collecting tributes to Sizer. To submit your thoughts and condolences, click here.


Coalition of Essential Schools Web site

Pay tribute to Theodore R. Sizer

Read books by Theodore R. Sizer