Expertise: 

Michael J. Petrilli

Visiting Fellow
Biography: 

Mike Petrilli is an award-winning writer and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, one of the country’s most influential education policy think tanks. He is the author of The Diverse Schools’ Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools and coeditor of Knowledge at the Core: Don Hirsch, Core Knowledge, and the Future of the Common Core. Petrilli is also a visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and executive editor of Education Next. Petrilli has published opinion pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post Bloomberg View, Slate, and Wall Street Journal and has been a guest on NBC Nightly News,, ABC World News Tonight, CNN, and Fox, as well as several National Public Radio programs, including All Things Considered, On Point, and the Diane Rehm Show. Petrilli helped create the US Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, the Policy Innovators in Education Network, and Young Education Professionals. He lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Recent Commentary

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

A Civil Rights Rollback, Or A Victory For Common Sense?

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The national press jumped all over the news last week that the Office for Civil Rights in the Trump Department of Education will be taking a different tack on federal civil rights enforcement than it did under the Obama Administration. As Andy Rotherham wrote, “not surprisingly, with those words—Trump, civil rights, federal—in the same sentence, people are alarmed.” And sure enough, the mainstream media published articles with alarming headlines, like “Education Dept. Says It Will Scale Back Civil Rights Investigations.”

Education Image
Analysis and Commentary

Betsy DeVos's Team Stumbles On ESSA

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Just when they were starting to hit their stride, the new team at the Department of Education made a big unforced error this week. The good news is that it’s almost certain to be corrected, thanks to pressure from Capitol Hill.

Analysis and Commentary

Can Research Help Us Design Better Education Policies?

by Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

One of the greatest and longest-lasting education accomplishments of the George W. Bush Administration, in which I was honored to serve, was the creation of the Institute of Education Sciences. Thanks to the vision, courage, and persistence of IES’s first director, Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, education research is no longer the laughingstock of the social sciences. 

Analysis and Commentary

School Vouchers, LGBTQ Rights, And Religious Liberty

by Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

At a House budget hearing two weeks ago, Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) pushed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to comment on a Christian school’s policy toward LGBT students and families.

Analysis and Commentary

New Jersey’s Plan To Fix Its Failing Schools Falls Flat

by Brandon L. Wright , Michael J. Petrillivia Trentonian
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Jersey’s plan to fix its lowest performing schools is about as creative and inspiring as a rest stop on the Turnpike. We don’t mean that as a compliment.

Analysis and Commentary

Civil Rights And Private Schools: An Explainer

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, June 5, 2017

With President Trump and Secretary DeVos advocating for a federal school voucher initiative, private school choice is having its moment in the spotlight. One question that has been raised by critics, including on Capitol Hill, is whether private schools would be required to follow civil rights laws if they became recipients of federal funds.

Analysis and Commentary

Mike Petrilli Vs. Liz King On Setting Utopian Goals In Education Reform

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, June 2, 2017

The education reform movement is a big tent, which is particularly true when it comes to the idea of holding schools accountable for results. And, I would argue, the organizations that represent the extreme poles of that tent are the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the right, and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights on the left.

Education Image
Analysis and Commentary

Advice For Secretary DeVos From Five Public Relations Professionals

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Few people would disagree that Secretary DeVos's tenure is off to a rocky start. Much of this is not her fault; working for President Trump is proving to be a challenge for just about everyone, all the more so in a field where he is so widely despised. Some sort of restart is clearly needed.

Analysis and Commentary

Don't Let Personalized Learning Become The Processed Food Of Education

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

There’s a lot that’s appealing about personalized learning, properly construed. Rather than march a classroom of students through academic material at the exact same pace, regardless of their discordant levels of readiness or their varying degrees of background knowledge, personalized settings allow schools to target instruction to the exact needs of individual children.

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