The Forum Mourns the Loss of Convener and Mentor Ted Sizer

It is with great sadness that we at The Forum share with you the news of the death of our friend and mentor, Ted Sizer.  Ted lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday while at home with his family.

In 1984 Ted founded the Coalition of Essential Schools and launched a wave of school restructuring based on engaging all young people in challenging and engaging tasks in order that they might learn to use their minds well.  He dared to challenge the conventional wisdom that seat time equaled learning, that grades actually measured performance, and that students should be sorted for instruction by perceived ability. With his inspiration new schools were launched, programs developed, and literally hundreds of thousands of students found themselves in schools that treated them as learners.

In 2003 Ted, along with his wife Nancy, and colleague Deborah Meier, launched The Forum.  Recognizing that the schools he loved and cared about were facing unfriendly state and federal policy agendas, he wanted to create a way to bring the lessons learned from the field to the policy debates in Washington.  It was his time and generosity that gave The Forum life, and he served as a valued advisor up to his death.

Ted Sizer knew schools.  Whenever he visited one he made a simple request—could he please have a student show him around first.  Ted knew that to really see a school required seeing it through the eyes of the students.  They told him the stories that would fill his books and his writing.  Most importantly, he heard them long to do great things in an institution that often treated them as if they were only there to kill time.

Ted Sizer knew and cared about teachers as well.  When he wrote about the teacher Horace in his widely praised Horace book series, it was not with a haughty or judgmental tone.   Instead he wrote about teachers with respect, and fought for school structures that would empower and enable them to do their best work. 

We will miss Ted Sizer and his tireless voice of reason.  The image that will be forever etched in my mind is of Ted, head resting on one hand, the other hand busy taking notes, listening intently to whomever was speaking.   And then, in his ever so thoughtful way, cutting to the heart of the matter at hand and insisting that we speak plainly, forcefully, and, yes, lovingly, about what is essential about schooling—that being the careful cultivation of every child’s mind. 

While Ted Sizer’s voice has been stilled, his ideas and dreams live on through the work of the many educators and students whose hearts he touched.  We are all better for having known him, and we thank his wife Nancy and his fine children and grandchildren for sharing him with us.  Rest in peace, dear friend.