Michael J. Petrilli

Visiting 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 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

The Concern About Subgroups In ESSA Accountability Systems May Be Overblown

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, October 19, 2018

A recent analysis by uber-wonk Anne Hyslop and her colleagues at the Alliance for Excellent Education adds to a long list of reports expressing concern that many states’ accountability systems are turning a blind eye to the performance of disadvantaged students and students of color. The analysis finds that, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, “Many states fail to include student subgroups meaningfully across two of the law’s most important accountability provisions: (1) school ratings and (2) the definitions used to identify schools for targeted support and improvement.”

Analysis and Commentary

From Report Cards To Parent-Teacher Conferences, Schools Must Do A Better Job Of Telling Families How Their Kids Are Doing

by Michael J. Petrillivia The 74 Million
Friday, October 19, 2018

“Parental engagement” is one of those self-evidently appealing ideas for improving education. Who doesn’t want to engage parents? What child isn’t well served by more of it? Yet doing it well is hard, because it means shooting straight with parents about how their daughters and sons are performing, and committing to making hard changes and expending real resources to help those children do better. It’s not a program. It’s a promise: to be honest and do right by all kids.

Analysis and Commentary

From Cat Videos And Cooking Tips To The History Of The Punic Wars

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Extra History is one of a growing number of YouTube channels providing engaging educational videos for free.

Analysis and Commentary

Opening Remarks For The Inaugural Event Of The Education 20/20 Speaker Series: Heather Mac Donald On Double Standards In School Discipline

by Michael J. Petrillivia Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Friday, September 28, 2018
Over the course of the 2018–19 school year, the Education 20/20 speaker series, sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution, will prod prominent conservative writers, intellectuals, and policymakers to provide compelling answers to the age-old question, “What's the purpose of school?”
Analysis and Commentary

The Case For Adding A Second 2nd Grade To High-Poverty Elementary Schools

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Veteran education analyst Marc Tucker wrote something the other day that stopped me cold. Describing some of the highest performing education systems in the world, he said, “Students do not routinely arrive at middle school from elementary school two or even three years behind. It simply does not happen.”

Analysis and Commentary

How To Reverse Grade Inflation And Help Students Reach Their Potential

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Many of us, if we’re lucky, can fondly recall a time in elementary school when our parents proudly posted one of our A papers on the refrigerator door. Maybe it was a spelling test or set of multiplication problems—no matter. What mattered, though, was the outstanding achievement that mom, dad, and kid believed was embodied in that A, and the pride and satisfaction that we felt in seeing it every time we opened the fridge for a sandwich.

Analysis and Commentary

Finding The Sweet Spot Between Defeatism And Utopianism When Setting School Standards

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, September 14, 2018

“But you support the Common Core!” So said Laura Jimenez of the Center for American Progress on the Education Gadfly Show podcast when I argued that it was a mistake to peg high school graduation standards to the “college-ready” level. Guilty as charged. I do support the Common Core, which is designed to get students to “college and career readiness” by the end of high school. 

Analysis and Commentary

Point Of View: Oklahoma’s Math Standards Don’t Make The Grade

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia News OK
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In spring 2016, Oklahoma adopted new math and English language arts (ELA) standards after making the decision drop the Common Core. In doing so, it was well within its rights. But Oklahoma also has a responsibility to make sure its standards are strong, clear and rigorous. For ELA, the state has accomplished this. But for math, it fell short.

Analysis and Commentary

A Back-To-School Buffet

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I’ve been away on vacation, and you probably have, too. Here’s my attempt to catch up on several issues of educational importance. Dig in! 

Analysis and Commentary

The Perils Of Revising The Common Core

by Amber M. Northern, Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

For the first decade of Fordham’s existence, starting in 1997, reviewing state academic standards was our bread and butter, but the pattern always seemed to be the same: A few states had done a commendable job of identifying the knowledge and skills—grade by grade—that their students needed to master to be on track for success after high school. But most state standards were horrendous—poorly written, disorganized, incomplete, and replete with dubious ideas.