Ted Sizer

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Ted Sizer
Theodore Ryland Sizer

(1932-06-23)June 23, 1932
DiedOctober 21, 2009(2009-10-21) (aged 77)
EducationB.A. Yale University
M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University
Known forEducation reform
SpouseNancy Faust Sizer (m. 1955)

Theodore Ryland Sizer (June 23, 1932 – October 21, 2009) was a leader of educational reform in the United States, the founder (and eventually President Emeritus) of the Essential school movement and was known for challenging longstanding practices and assumptions about the functioning of American secondary schools. Beginning in the late 1970s, he had worked with hundreds of high schools, studying the development and design of the American educational system, leading to his major work Horace's Compromise in 1984. In the same year, he founded the Coalition of Essential Schools based on the principles espoused in Horace's Compromise.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Sizer was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Caroline Wheelright (née Foster) and Theodore Sizer, Sr. (1892–1967), an art history professor at Yale University.[2][3][4]

He earned his B.A. in English from Yale in 1953 and subsequently served in the Army as an artillery officer. He later described his experience leading soldiers in a democratic and egalitarian fashion as a formative influence on his ideas about education. After teaching in high schools, he earned his masters and doctorate in education from Harvard University in 1957 and 1961, respectively. He was a faculty member and later dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a position he held during the 1969 Harvard student strike. While dean, he reorganized the school into seven departments, expanding the resources available for research (particularly in the area of urban education), while expanding minority enrollment.[5] In 1970, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Education.[6]

Sizer left Harvard to serve as headmaster of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, from 1972 to 1981, to lead a study of American high schools sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Independent Schools. From 1983 to 1997, he worked at Brown University as a professor and chair of the education department,[7] and, in 1993, he became the Founding Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.[1]

During his years at Brown, he produced most of his books, including Horace's Compromise. In it, he examined[8] the fundamental compromise at the heart of allegedly successful American high schools.

Sizer frequently collaborated with his spouse and fellow educator, Nancy Faust Sizer. After Brown University, the couple took a one-year position during the 1998–99 school year as co-principals of the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, which Ted helped found and served as a Trustee.[9] Deborah Meier joined the couple in authoring Keeping School, based on the Parker experience. From 1997 through 2006, Sizer returned to the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a visiting professor. He and Nancy co-taught a course on redesigning the American secondary school,[10] while he continued to work on the issues of integrating the multiple services that low socio-economic status families need in poor communities.

Sizer was a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences[11] and the American Philosophical Society.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Theodore Sizer and Nancy Faust wed in 1955 and had four children together. He died at age 77 on October 21, 2009, at his home in Harvard, Massachusetts, due to colon cancer.[13]


  • The Age of the Academies (1964)
  • Secondary Schools at the Turn of the Century (1964)
  • Places for Learning, Places for Joy (1973)
  • Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School (1984)
  • Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School (1992)
  • Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School (1997)
  • The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract (1999, co-authored with Nancy Sizer)
  • Keeping School: Letters to Families from Principals of Two Small Schools (2003, co-authored with Deborah Meier & Nancy Faust Sizer)
  • The Red Pencil: Convictions From Experience in Education (2004)
  • The New American High School (2013, posthumously)[14]


  1. ^ a b "Theodore R. Sizer". Archived from the original on 2006-09-30.
  2. ^ "Theodore Ryland Sizer, born 1932". Harvard Graduate School of Education. Harvard University. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  3. ^ Obituaries. Theodore Sizer (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. October 1967. pp. 213–216. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 August 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  4. ^ Wheelwright, Charles Henry (1958). "Correspondence of Dr. Charles H. Wheelwright: Surgeon of the United States Navy".
  5. ^ "Theodore Ryland Sizer, born 1932. Dean, 1964-1972".
  6. ^ "Theodore R.Sizer". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
  7. ^ "Ted Sizer: A Vision for Education". Archived from the original on 2006-09-04.
  8. ^ "Who the Heck is Ted Sizer". Gotham Schools. Archived from the original on 2010-12-18.
  9. ^ "Profile of the Parker School". Archived from the original on 2006-08-21.
  10. ^ "Harvard Graduate School of Education Obituary".
  11. ^ "Theodore Ryland Sizer". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  12. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  13. ^ Fox, Margalit (October 22, 2009). "Theodore R. Sizer, Leading Education-Reform Advocate, Dies at 77". New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  14. ^ Mathews, Jay (2013-07-24). "A visionary's high school ideas". Washington Post. Retrieved 2023-04-28.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Headmaster of Phillips Academy
Succeeded by
Donald McNemar