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Sizers Call For Educators to Teach Integrity By Example

Renowned educational reformer Theodore Sizer and his wife Nancy visited Teachers College to discuss their recent book, The Students Are Watching: Education and the Moral Contract, as part of the TC BookTalk series.

Theodore, a former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, former headmaster of Phillips Academy at Andover and Professor Emeritus at Brown University, and his wife, Nancy, who has 25 years of classroom experience, said there is too much hypocrisy in education.

The discussion, which was moderated by Richard Heffner of WNET's The Open Mind, touched on this point. Teachers often criticize their students for coming to class unprepared, when they themselves haven't prepared to teach that day, Nancy said.

The Sizers, who are co-principals of the Francis W. Parker Charter School in Massachusetts, are familiar with the pressures confronting teachers. "It is difficult not to get into bluffing given the work load of modern high school teachers," Theodore said.

The biz-ed industry's pressure for profits have also come to bear in the classroom. The demands for profits require that the process of teaching be easily duplicated and quantified, leading to rigid curriculum and outcomes that can be reduced "to a simple test score," Theodore said.

That there is no universal formula for changing schools has been the message of the Coalition for Essential Schools, an organization founded by Theodore to help educators across the country redesign the American high school for better student learning and achievement.

Based on academic study and his experience at Parker, the coalition has promoted flexibility as an agent for reform. The coalition suggests: administrators and faculty alone can be the most effective agents for improving schools; let students and teachers learn in their own ways; have students exhibit mastery of their work; get the right incentives for students and teachers; have students use their minds in their work; and keep the structure simple and flexible.

The important relationships between teachers and students, adults and teenagers, is the book's main message. There must be a "moral contract" between them creating a "thoughtful community" built on a foundation of mutual respect and common purpose, rather than rules alone.

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