In Memoriam: Theodore Sizer

By 10/23/2009

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Theodore Sizer, whose passing we honor, grasped the essential fact that high school students are bored. The teachers who work with them too often compromise by agreeing to letting sloppy work pass muster.  The result has been a steady deterioration of expectations of high school students, despite the fact that their parents have more years of education than ever before.  The problem is pervasive, as much a part of suburban culture as that of the central city.

State and federal governments have invented school accountability to fix this problem, a silly step in the wrong direction, because it does not hold either students or teachers accountability, only a non-legal entity, which by definition cannot be held accountable.

Sizer never recommended or endorsed such a wrong-headed approach. Instead, Ted, with his wife, Nancy, created a charter school that allowed them to explore alternatives to the standard district school.

Whether the Sizers’ own approach was successful I cannot say. But Ted and Nancy tell their own tale of the school in one of the earliest issues of Education Next with a frankness and objectivity that other charter school entrepreneurs would do well to emulate.

What is most important is that Sizer, as establishment a figure in education as any, never forgot what was most important: searching for the successful ways of educating the next generation. If only he could be replicated!

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