Expertise: 

Michael J. Petrilli

Research 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 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

Analysis and Commentary

What Reformers Can Do To Expand Charters And Choice Besides Advocating For Policy Change

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A few weeks ago, I argued that policy change is not the only path to education reform, floated five other approaches for improving educational practice, and promised to flesh them out in future posts. Here’s my attempt at the first of those five strategies, just in time for National Charter Schools Week.

Analysis and Commentary

Colorado Parents Should "Opt In" To Higher Standards

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia The Gazette
Saturday, April 30, 2016

For too many families, school policy and instructional methods are essentially a black box: Moms and dads drop off their kids each morning, pick them up each afternoon and get a "good" and a shrug when they ask what went on in class that day. Teacher meetings and report cards come a few times a year, but they don't break down the fundamentals of what kids actually learn. 

Analysis and Commentary

Montana Right To Stick With Rigorous Testing

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia Billings Gazette
Saturday, April 30, 2016

During his 1864 re-election campaign, Abraham Lincoln famously cautioned voters that “it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river.” It’s not known whether the president came up with the aphorism himself or simply popularized it, but his meaning was as clear as it was folksy: If your course of action is sound, don’t abandon it just because the waters are rising.

Analysis and Commentary

Announcing The Fordham Institute's Third Annual Wonkathon. This Year's Topic: ESSA And Parental Choice

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Thursday, April 28, 2016

In 2014, we hosted our first-ever Wonkathon, which was dedicated to the subject of charter school policy. Joe Siedlecki of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation was voted the wisest, wonkiest wonk of all.

Analysis and Commentary

The Office For Civil Rights Jumps To Conclusions On School Discipline

by Michael J. Petrillivia National Review
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We have many reasons to be troubled by the Left’s push to dramatically reduce the use of suspensions and expulsions by public schools to impose discipline and order. At the top of the list is the worry that disorder and violence will return to high-poverty schools across the land, putting the safety and learning of poor and minority students at even greater risk. 

Analysis and Commentary

Arne Duncan, Lamar Alexander, And The Rule Of Law

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Over the weekend, I attended a performance of the Tony-winning show All the Way, whose title political junkies (or readers of a certain age) will know refers to Lyndon Johnson and his 1964 presidential campaign. The play was entertaining and enlightening, depicting President Johnson as a funnier, more likable Frank Underwood—with the salty language and some of the paranoid tendencies of Richard Nixon.

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Servants of All

by Michael J. Petrillivia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 18, 2016

Advice to would-be school reformers: argue less, listen more, and check your halo at the door.

Analysis and Commentary

New Hampshire Should Stay The Course On Testing

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia New Hampshire Union Leader
Monday, April 18, 2016

During his 1864 reelection campaign, Abraham Lincoln cautioned voters that “it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river.” It’s not known whether the President coined the aphorism or simply popularized it, but his meaning was as clear as it was folksy: If your course of action is sound, don’t abandon it when the waters are rising. 

Analysis and Commentary

Policy Change Is Not The Only Path To School Reform

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, April 18, 2016

It strikes me, and several others with whom I’ve spoken in recent months, that education reform is at a turning point. It’s not just the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which sends key decisions back to the states. It’s bigger than that. It’s a feeling of exhaustion with policy as the primary driver of educational change.

Analysis and Commentary

Maine Voices: Was Our School-Test Decision Wise?

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia Portland Press Herald (ME)
Sunday, April 17, 2016

A new study finds the Smarter Balanced test well-matched to Maine standards. That's not the test we chose, though.

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