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The Inaugural Sizemore Distinguished Professor

Arnetha F. Ball, Ph.D. • Professor of Education • Stanford University

“Teachers…primarily come from backgrounds that are different from those of their students, and they feel woefully underprepared to teach students from cultural and linguistic backgrounds that differ from their own.”

Dr. Arnetha F. Ball of Stanford University—one of the world’s leading teachers and researchers in the field of urban education—will serve as a Visiting Scholar and the inaugural Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore Distinguished Professor in the School of Education, Duquesne University.

Dr. Ball will serve at a critical time. Duquesne’s undergraduate Leading Teacher Program is a successful and highly regarded model, but must be revised in accord with changing requirements for teacher certification promulgated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As part of this process, Dr. Ball will utilize her vast experience and expertise to weave a new urban education strand throughout the curriculum.

Her efforts will set a tone and underscore the School’s commitment to urban education. The School’s long-term plan is to attract and retain outstanding faculty members with expertise in the field of urban education to serve in any of the School’s departments or in an interdisciplinary position.

Both Dr. Ball and her successors will expand the School’s existing partnerships with the Pittsburgh Public Schools—especially those in the Hill District immediately adjacent to campus, Dr. Sizemore’s home and the site of her groundbreaking research on the education of African American children and youth. Through teaching and research, the current and future Sizemore Distinguished Professors will provide intellectual leadership for faculty development in urban teaching and learning; support the preparation of future teachers for work in linguistically and culturally diverse urban communities; and assist the School in identifying and securing sources of external funding.

Before entering the professorate, Dr. Ball was a speech/language pathologist, taught in pre-school, elementary and secondary classrooms for more than 25 years, and founded and directed an early education center for students of diverse backgrounds. Dr. Ball is currently pursuing an ambitious interdisciplinary research agenda that aims to improve education for urban populations in three intersecting contexts: American schools in which predominantly poor African American, Latino and Pacific Islander students are underachieving; community-based organizations that are part of an alternative education providing “second chance” or “last chance” opportunities for individuals in search of personal, academic and economic success; and teacher education programs across the United States and South Africa. This research integrates sociocultural, sociolinguistic and ethnographic approaches to investigate the processes of teacher change and development, as well as the language and literacy practices of students in multicultural settings.

One of the world’s leading authorities in urban education, Dr. Ball is vice president of the Teaching and Teacher Education Division of the American Educational Research Association, and is past president of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy.


I think it’s progressive to expect that a poor child can learn and to have high expectations and their outcomes match them.” —Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore

Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore was complex, confident, controversial, and—most of all—committed to the ideal that all children could learn and succeed, regardless of social or economic background.

As a child and young adult, Barbara Sizemore (1927-2004) overcame racial discrimination to excel in her own studies. As a teacher, she enthusiastically embraced students who struggled the most, successfully teaching them to read when others could not. As the first African American superintendent of a major urban school district, she crusaded against standardized testing, asserting that the exams were racially biased, placed minority students at a disadvantage, and were not well suited as tools for determining the services or resources each child needed to excel.

As a professor and chair at the University of Pittsburgh, she conducted groundbreaking research on schools and students in low-income neighborhoods—studies that changed her outlook and her approach. Recognizing the breadth and depth to which testing is embedded in American culture, she found a new personal mission—to help poor and minority students pass the tests.

As Dean of DePaul University’s School of Education, she developed and implemented structured, research-based strategies that improved test scores and learning outcomes in some of Chicago’s worst-performing schools. Her fearless and focused intensity confounded her critics across the political spectrum, but her results spoke for themselves.

With financial support from the University and from the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Sizemore Distinguished Professorship has been established as a visiting scholar position beginning in academic year 2009-2010.

The Sizemore Distinguished Professor will prepare teachers for the challenges and opportunities found in the urban classroom, and for the critically important task of helping all children—regardless of socioeconomic background—to achieve ambitious learning goals.