He received a doctorate from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
He is associate dean of University of Pittsburgh School of Education.
From 1971-1984, the poet was a co-editor of the Slow Loris Press.
He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He holds a joint appointment as a Professor in the School of Education and the English Department. Along with Stephanie McConachie, he co-directs the English Language Arts Disciplinary Literacy Project in the Institute for Learning at the Learning Research and Development Center. As a part of this Institute project, he has worked with professional learning and curriculum development in English for school and district leaders in the public schools of Austin, Dallas, Denver, New York City, Fort Worth, Prince George’s County, and Pittsburgh. Petrosky currently serves on the Reading and English Common Core Standards Project for the Chief States School Officers to develop common core reading and English standards for the US. In conjunction with this project, he also is a member of the Gates Foundation funded Aspects of Text Complexity Project to develop procedures for assessing text complexity for the common core reading and English standards. He was the Principal Investigator and Co-Director of the Early Adolescence English Language Arts Assessment Development Lab for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards which developed the first national board certification for English teachers. He has also served as Co-Director of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project. He was a senior researcher for the MacArthur Foundation’s Higher Literacies Studies, where he was responsible for conducting and writing case studies on literacy efforts in the Denver, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Ruleville and Mound Bayou school districts in the Mississippi Delta. He is past Chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Research and a past elected member of the NCTE Research Foundation. His first collection of poetry, Jurgis Petraskas, published by Louisiana State University Press (LSU), received the Walt Whitman Award from Philip Levine for the Academy of American Poets and a Notable Book Award from the American Library Association. Petrosky’s second collection of poetry, Red and Yellow Boat, was published by LSU in 1994, and Crazy Love, his third collection, was published by LSU in the fall of 2003. Along with David Bartholomae, Petrosky is the co-author and co-editor of four books: Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts: Theory and Method for a Reading and Writing Course, The Teaching of Writing, Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers, and History and Ethnography: Reading and Writing About Others.