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Volume 12, Number 4
July/August 1996

Hard-Won Lessons from the School Reform Battle

A Conversation with Ted Sizer


Theodore Sizer retired on July 1 as University Professor and director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. He retains the title of chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools, which he founded in 1984, and will spend his time visiting schools, writing, and speaking out on reform issues. Sizer previously served as dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, headmaster at Phillips Academy, Andover, and director of A Study of High Schools. His books include Horace's Compromise, Horace's School, and his latest, Horace's Hope, What Works for the American High School, to be published in September by Houghton Mifflin. He was interviewed for the Harvard Education Letter by Edward Miller.

HEL: What matters most in what schools teach children? That is, what is school really for?

Sizer: School is for what young people do when no one is looking. I care about the social studies hot shot with high test scores who in fact bothers to vote and votes in an informed way. I have no interest in the kid who gets a 5 on the U.S. History A.P. but never votes in an informed way or reads a newspaper.

HEL: Are there tests to measure these things that matter most?

Our current predominant form of testing is extremely time bound and thus unrealistic. Show me the serious business or military organization or college faculty that makes its personnel judgments on the basis of time-driven paper-and-pencil tests. There isn't one. Only the schools are subjected to that formula.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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