Skip to content

Two Recent Losses to Public Education

In recent weeks two men who have made significant contributions to public education passed away. Ted Sizer, founder of the Essential Schools Movement died at age 77 after a long battle with colon cancer. Gerald Bracey, 69, one of America’s most persistent critics of education reform, unexpectedly passed away in his sleep.


Ted Sizer

Sizer’s prominence began in earnest with the publication of “Horace’s Compromise” (1984), a critique of America’s high schools based on a five year  study of 80 high schools. He followed this with “Horace’s School: Redesigning the American High School” (1992), and “Horace’s Hope: What Works for the American High School” (1996). His critique was told through the voice of Horace Smith, a fictionalized composite of high school teachers seen by Sizer in the course of the study. Over the years Sizer became an unyielding opponent of top down reforms including standardized testing. He was the founder of  the Essential Schools Movement, a network of schools across the country who share a belief in a set of Common Principles

The Common Principles (abbrev.)
Learning to use one's mind well
Less is More, depth over coverage
Goals apply to all students
Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach
Demonstration of mastery
A tone of decency and trust
Commitment to the entire school
Resources dedicated to teaching and learning
Democracy and equity

At a time when education reform seems driven by entrepreneurial notions, we could all do well by reflecting on the values promoted by Ted Sizer and the Essential Schools Movement.

Gerald Bracey made a very different contribution. Driven by a similar set of values, Bracey was the unrelenting critic of a reform mentality that sprang from the “Nation at Risk” – a  mentality which hasBracey as its operational principle that American public education has gone to Hell in a hand basket. He was a researcher with a mission. His mission was to debunk the myths that have been the underpinnings of many elements of education reform in the last twenty-five years. On the day he died he was working on his annual “Bracey Report” for Kappan Magazine. Just this summer he published his most recent book, “Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality.”

In recent years Gerry embraced the internet. He developed his own website called “Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency”. He was a frequent contributor to the blog site Huffington Post.  One of my favorites is The Evolution of the Schools Suck Bloc. Teachers of my generation who have experienced the whole sweep of education reform attempts since the mid-seventies owe a debt of gratitude to Gerry Bracey for his relentless attempts to shine a light on those who used disinformation and misinformation to batter America’s public schools. He will be missed.

One Comment
  1. caring teacher #

    Sincere condolences from a caring teacher.

    November 11, 2009

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: