Amber M. Northern

Research Fellow

Amber Northern was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.  She is vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she helps develop new research initiatives and manages Fordham's research studies. She has more fifteen years of experience in educational evaluation, education policy, and secondary education. She has published in the areas of educational accountability, standardized testing, teacher quality, and educational technology, among others.

Before joining Fordham, she was a senior study director at Westat, where she provided evaluation services for various federal, state, and local education agencies, as well as for educational foundations, textbook publishers, and professional development providers. She has experience directing and overseeing multiple and varied research studies (from small-scale studies to multimillion dollar projects); analyzing and reporting on such topics as performance-based pay for educators, reading instruction, mathematics and science education, and teacher quality; developing research instruments and protocols; assembling advisory panels and communicating with content experts and other scholars; and writing proposals, technical reports, and policy briefs.

Previously, Northern worked with the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Center for Educational Policy Studies, and the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia. Northern has researched and published in the areas of educational accountability, standardized testing, and school choice.

Northern holds a PhD in education policy and evaluation from the University of Virginia. She began her career as a high school classroom teacher.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Another Reason To Love Charter Schools: Their Teachers Actually Show Up For Work

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Fox News
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Like everyone else, educators must occasionally miss work. They and their kids get the flu, too. Yet we also know that teachers are the single most powerful instrument that schools have to boost student learning. When they miss school, their pupils miss out on education. Indeed, research suggests that a 10-day increase in teacher absenteeism is associated with up to 25 days of student learning loss in math.

Analysis and Commentary

What Teens Want From Their Schools

by Michael J. Petrilli, Amber M. Northernvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Boredom. We’ve all experienced it many times. Though we tend to think of it as unpleasant but endurable and harmless tedium, some research now suggests boredom may be harmful to our health—it is potentially linked to everything from weight gain, to depression, to physical pain—even to cheating on one’s spouse!

Analysis and Commentary

Is A Charter School Likely To Fail? Look At The Application.

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Some charter schools do far better than others at educating their students, a reality that has profound implications for charter-goers, and for the charter sector writ large. Painful experience also shows that rebooting or closing a low-performing school is a drawn-out and excruciating process that often backfires or simply doesn’t happen. 

Analysis and Commentary

How Charter School Boards Affect School Quality

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A new Fordham Institute study, Charter School Boards in the Nation's Capital, asks a simple but largely uninvestigated question: Do the characteristics, views, and practices of charter boards have any bearing on charter school quality?

Analysis and Commentary

What Teachers Really Think Of Common Core Math: Lessons From A New Fordham Study

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In 2010, when the final Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were unveiled, our content experts found them worthy of praise, awarding the math standards an A-minus and the English language arts standards a B-plus. That meant that CCSS was “clearly superior” to the standards in the vast majority of states—and that the vast majority of American children would be better off if their schools taught them the content and skills they set forth.

School Buses
Analysis and Commentary

Louisiana's Voucher Program And Student Achievement

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, January 8, 2016

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research examines how Louisiana’s statewide voucher program affects student achievement. The Pelican State expanded its program statewide in 2012; by 2014, twelve thousand students had applied for more than six thousand slots to attend 126 private schools.

Analysis and Commentary

America's Best (And Worst) Cities For School Choice

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

We’ve learned a few lessons about school choice over the past few decades. Key among those lessons are that quantity does not equal quality and that conditions must be right for choice to flourish. Good intentions only take you so far; sturdy plants grow when seeds are planted in fertile ground.


District And Charter Schools Communicate More Than Before, But True Collaboration Is Limited

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Friday, November 13, 2015

Across the nation, charter schools continue to expand. Over the past five years, their enrollment has grown by 70 percent, so that approximately 2.7 million youngsters now attend these schools of choice—over 5 percent of the total number enrolled in public schools.


Education Governance: Different Schools Of Thought

by Amber M. Northern, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anyone who has spent serious time within the U.S. public education system would likely agree that there are too many chefs in the school governance kitchen.

Analysis and Commentary

Sensible Responses To Insolvent School Districts

by Michael J. Petrilli, Amber M. Northernvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

One of the most hotly debated issues in American education today revolves around low-performing schools and districts: how to define “low-performing,” what to do about them, and who gets to decide.