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

Self-Discipline: Yet Another Catholic School Advantage

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How does self-discipline develop? Certainly it comes in part from institutions of civil society such as home, family, and church. But schools can make a difference too, and over the years Catholic schools—the largest provider of private education in the United States—have been particularly committed to the development of sound character, including the acquisition of self-discipline.

Analysis and Commentary

Seven Do's And Don't's Of School Discipline Reform

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It seems likely that the Trump administration will soon revise or rescind an Obama-era directive intended to address racial disparities in school disciplinary actions. The "Dear Colleague" letter in question, issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, has been the subject of much debate. 

Analysis and Commentary

7 Suggestions For Better School Discipline

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Week
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

It seems pretty likely that the Trump administration will revise or rescind an Obama-era directive intended to address racial disparities in school disciplinary actions. The "Dear Colleague" letter in question, issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, has been the subject of much debate of late. 

Analysis and Commentary

Reporters Should Stop Caricaturing Conservatives On Race

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We all know that this is a difficult time to talk about issues of race and class in this country, thanks to the extreme polarization and division, including on this issue.

Analysis and Commentary

The Case For Holding Students Accountable

by Michael J. Petrilli, Adam Tynervia Education Next
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How extrinsic motivation gets kids to work harder and learn more.

Analysis and Commentary

The Evidence On Test Scores And Long-Term Outcomes: Limited But Encouraging

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

For weeks now, I’ve been debating Patrick Wolf, Michael McShane, and Collin Hitt about the relationship between short-term test score changes and long-term student outcomes, like college enrollment and graduation. Most recently I proposed three hypotheses that those of us who support test-based accountability—for schools of choice and beyond—would embrace. Now let’s see how the evidence stacks up against them.

Analysis and Commentary

Test-Based Accountability Deserves To Be Assessed Against A Valid Hypothesis, Not A Straw Man

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Last month I published a five-part critique of a recent AEI paper by Collin Hitt, Michael McShane, and Patrick Wolf that looked at the connection (or lack thereof) between test scores and long-term outcomes in school choice programs. 

Analysis and Commentary

We Should Irrigate Charter School Deserts. Here's How.

by Michael J. Petrilli, Amber M. Northernvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, April 30, 2018

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2016–17 was one of the slowest-growth years for charter schools in recent memory. Whereas the Race to the Top era usually saw an annual net gain of 360–380 more charters, by 2016–17 that increase dropped to roughly 120.

Analysis and Commentary

A Closer Look At “Mismatch” In School Choice Studies

by Michael J. Petrilli
Monday, April 23, 2018

Last week, I argued that Hitt, McShane, and Wolf erred in including programs in their review of “school choice” studies that were only incidentally related to school choice or that have idiosyncratic designs that would lead one to expect a mismatch between test score gains and long-term impacts (early college high schools, selective enrollment high schools, and career and technical education initiatives).

Analysis and Commentary

Yes, Impacts On Test Scores Matter

by Michael J. Petrillivia Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Friday, April 20, 2018
All week I’ve been digging into a recent AEI paper that reviews the research literature on short-term test-score impacts and long-term student outcomes for school choice programs. Here I’ll summarize the paper and what I believe is wrong with it, and conclude by calling on all parties in this debate to discuss the existing evidence in much more cautious tones.

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