Michael J. Petrilli

Research Fellow

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 research 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


Ed Trust Midwest Report on Michigan’s Charter Authorizers: A Decent Start, But Hardly the Final Word

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Friday, February 20, 2015

Followers of Fordham’s work know that we are obsessed with charter school quality, both nationally and in our home state of Ohio. We are also a charter school authorizer, responsible for overseeing a portfolio of eleven schools in the Buckeye State—a job we take very seriously.

Scott Walker the Governor of Wisconsin
Featured Commentary

Scott Walker Doesn’t Need A Degree — And Neither Do You

by Michael J. Petrillivia National Review
Friday, February 20, 2015
The pundit class is raising questions about whether Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree disqualifies him from being America’s 45th president. This is what educators call a “teachable moment,” because the issue goes much deeper than Governor Walker’s biography.

One Size Fits Most, Even in the Suburbs

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last week, writer Laura McKenna took to the Atlantic to try to understand why some suburban moms (many of them white) have turned against the Common Core. She settles on misinformation as a driving force, which is certainly a factor.

Featured Commentary

Common Core Is Working; Nevada Mustn’t Turn Back

by Michael J. Petrilli, Michael Brickmanvia Las Vegas Review-Journal
Monday, February 16, 2015

The year 2015 will carry special significance throughout much of the country — including Nevada — as schools complete the transition to the Common Core standards.

Other Media

Letter to the Editor: Should Charter Schools Be Compelled to Backfill Seats?

by Michael J. Petrillivia Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Requiring charter schools to “backfill” their “empty seats” when they lose students to attrition should remain the prerogative of the school, not the state.


Backfilling Charter Seats: A Backhanded Way To Kill School Autonomy

by Michael J. Petrillivia Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Princess Lyles and Dan Clark, the executive director and lead organizer of the school-choice group Democracy Builders, argue that states and/or authorizers should require charter schools to “back-fill” their “empty seats” when they lose students to attrition. This is a terrible idea.

Featured Commentary

Are Wyoming Politicians Ready For Higher School Standards?

by Michael Brickman, Michael J. Petrillivia Casper Star Tribune
Sunday, February 1, 2015

2015 will carry special significance throughout much of the country — including Wyoming— as schools complete the transition to the Common Core standards.


Nine Questions: What Does It Even Mean to Oppose the Common Core?

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Friday, January 30, 2015

Almost every article and column written about the nascent GOP presidential campaign mentions Tea Party opposition to immigration reform and the Common Core—and most candidates’ efforts to align themselves with the Republican base on these two issues. (A Google News search turns up more than 11,000 hits for “Common Core” and “immigration” and “Republican.”)

Detention Dysfunction

by Michael J. Petrillivia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The government wants to force a racial quota system onto student punishment. This is an even worse idea than you might suppose.


The Case Against Federal Accountability Mandates in Education

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Congressional Republicans have promised to overhaul the No Child Left Behind act this year; the big debate so far has been whether to maintain the law’s annual testing requirements.