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

Knowledge Power

by Michael J. Petrillivia National Association of Elementary School Principals
Thursday, October 19, 2017

How KIPP and other high-performing charter networks are making an impact through well-rounded curricula.

Analysis and Commentary

Can Machine Learning Unlock The Keys To Great Teaching?

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

For decades, education technophiles have envisioned a future wherein gee-whiz devices and engaging digital applications whisk students away from the doldrums of traditional classroom instruction and into a fun world of beeping computers, self-paced lessons, and cloud-based collaboration.

Analysis and Commentary

Education Is Still A Sturdy Path To Upward Mobility

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, October 13, 2017

It’s the chicken-or-the-egg question at the heart of the education-reform wars: Can education help young people overcome poverty, or must we defeat poverty before more young people from disadvantaged circumstances can successfully learn?

Analysis and Commentary

The Charter-Schools Movement Needs To Stop Alienating Republicans

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When conservatives hark back to a golden age, they understandably think of the 1980s and the economic growth and Cold War victory that President Reagan unleashed. But there’s an argument to be made that the apogee of conservative social policy was actually in the 1990s, with tough-on-crime laws, which broke the back of a crack-fueled murder wave; welfare reform, which reined in government dependency; and education reform, which curbed monopoly power of the teachers’ unions in our big cities.

Analysis and Commentary

An Innovation That Looks Good Even Up Close

by Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In September, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had the best week of her tenure, thanks to a well-orchestrated back-to-school tour that ended in Indiana on September 15. She had a clear, attractive message and stuck to it: We need to unleash the creativity and innovation of our schools and educators, and stop trying to make one size fit all. 

Analysis and Commentary

No, Half Of American Schoolchildren Are Not "Low-Income"

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It might be the most common mistake in education writing and policy analysis today: declaring that a majority of public school students in the U.S. hail from “low income” families—or, even worse, that half of public school kids are “poor.” Let’s put a stake through the heart of these claims because they are simply not true—and paint a distorted picture of the challenges America’s schools are up against.

Analysis and Commentary

Devos's Call For Innovation Is Laudable, But We Must Also Ensure Quality

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, September 29, 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just had the best week of her tenure so far, thanks to a well-orchestrated back-to-school tour that ended in Indiana on September 15. She had a clear, attractive message and stuck to it: We need to unleash the creativity and innovation of our schools and educators, and stop trying to make one size fit all. She also demonstrated a true commitment to sector-agnosticism—she visited traditional public schools, not just private and charter ones—and celebrated schools that are as far from her own conservative Christian upbringing as one can imagine—and did it all with grace and humor. 

Analysis and Commentary

Big Data Transforms Education Research

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

For decades, education technophiles have envisioned a future wherein gee-whiz devices and engaging digital applications whisk students away from the doldrums of traditional classroom instruction and into a fun world of beeping computers, self-paced lessons, and cloud-based collaboration.

Analysis and Commentary

Is Parental Satisfaction Enough?

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

As with so many issues—from trade and immigration to Russia and taxes—the Trump presidency has exposed a schism within the conservative movement when it comes to education policy. While expanding parental choice is a paramount objective on the right, a key question is whether choice alone is enough, or if results-based accountability ought to be sustained and strengthened, too. How this question is resolved will have wide-ranging consequences—for education reform in general and for the design of school-choice initiatives in particular.

Analysis and Commentary

When Diploma Mills Give Innovation, And School Choice, A Bad Name

by Michael J. Petrillivia The 74 Million
Sunday, September 24, 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just had the best week of her tenure so far, thanks to a well-orchestrated back-to-school tour that ended in Indiana on Sept. 15. She had a clear, attractive message and stuck to it: We need to unleash the creativity and innovation of our schools and educators, and stop trying to make one size fit all.

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