Paul E. Peterson

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Awards and Honors:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
National Academy of Education

Paul E. Peterson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, and editor in chief of Education Next: A Journal of Opinion and Research. He is also the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University. His research interests include educational policy, federalism, and urban policy. He has evaluated the effectiveness of school vouchers and other education reform initiatives.

In 2006, Peterson was appointed leader of the Florida state Education Citizen Review Group and is a member of the Department of Education’s independent review panel, which is evaluating No Child Left Behind. In 2003, he was awarded the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Prize for Distinguished Scholarship. Among the many other honors and fellowships Peterson has received are a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a German Marshall Fund of the United States Fellowship, and a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award from the American Political Science Association for the best book published in politics, government, or international relations. The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center reported that Peterson’s studies on school choice and vouchers were among the country’s most influential studies of education policy.

Peterson is a former director of governmental studies at the Brookings Institution and has been elected to the National Academy of Education and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His most recent book, with Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School, documents the large economic costs of a stagnant K-12 education system. Other works include Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning, School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Educational Adequacy; The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools; Reforming Education in Florida: A Study Prepared by the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education; Generational Change: Closing the Test Score Gap; and Choice and Competition in American Education.

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Recent Commentary


Paul Peterson: Over 50 Years, One Study Finds No Progress Has Been Made To Close Achievement Gap

interview with Paul E. Petersonvia WBUR
Monday, March 18, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Paul Peterson discusses a new study which shows that the national achievement gap between low and high-income students has failed to close over the past 50 years.

In the News

Student Achievement Gap Unchanged In Nearly 50 Years, Study Says

featuring Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Petersonvia The Harvard Gazette
Monday, March 18, 2019
But at least it’s not getting wider, say authors, who cite decline in teacher quality as offsetting programs like Head Start.
In the News

For Nearly 50 Years Student Achievement Gap Fails To Close

featuring Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Petersonvia EducationNext
Monday, March 18, 2019

Differences in the performance on math, reading, and science tests between disadvantaged and advantaged U.S. students have remained essentially unchanged for nearly half a century. In a new article for Education Next, Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, and Ludger Woessmann report that the achievement gap is as wide today as it was for children born in 1954.

Analysis and Commentary

The Education Exchange: How Much Should We Spend To Tackle Climate Change?

interview with Paul E. Petersonvia The Education Exchange
Monday, March 18, 2019

What tradeoffs are involved when we choose to spend huge sums of money to slow global warming? Are there more cost-effective ways to do more good in the world? Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, sits down with Paul E. Peterson to discuss his research on the impact on global temperatures of goals set in the Paris climate accord and how the funds being used to meet those goals could be better spent.

In the News

No Progress In The Achievement Gap In 50 Years, New Study Says

quoting Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Petersonvia The Boston Globe
Sunday, March 17, 2019

Despite decades of public education reform efforts, the national achievement gap between low-and high-income students has been stagnant for nearly a half century, according to research at Harvard and Stanford universities set to be published Monday in a new study.


The War On Poverty Remains A Stalemate

by Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Petersonvia The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, March 17, 2019

The War on Poverty drags on. President Trump’s budget proposes heavy cuts in domestic spending, but not to compensatory-education programs, which aim to lift the achievement levels of disadvantaged students. Since 1980 the federal government has spent almost $500 billion (in 2017 dollars) on compensatory education and another $250 billion on Head Start programs for low-income preschoolers.

Analysis and Commentary

Milwaukee Voucher Program Helps Students Avoid Risky Behavior

by Paul E. Petersonvia The Education Exchange
Monday, March 11, 2019

Researchers studying school choice programs often look at the impact of using a voucher on student test scores or high school graduation. A new study of the longer-term impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program finds that students who used vouchers to attend private school were less likely to be involved with criminal activity and paternity disputes.

Analysis and Commentary

The Education Exchange: Subject Tests For Prospective Elementary Teachers Have High Failure Rates

by Paul E. Petersonvia The Education Exchange
Monday, March 4, 2019

A new study finds that astonishingly high numbers of elementary school teacher candidates fail their professional licensing tests each year, with the highest failure rates among candidates of color. The tests assess subject knowledge in English, science, mathematics, and social studies. The study, conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), also finds that teacher preparation programs give little attention to the content knowledge that teacher candidates need.

Teachers picket in La Habra last December
Analysis and Commentary

The Education Exchange: Public Sector Unions Not Devastated By Janus

by Paul E. Petersonvia The Education Exchange
Monday, February 25, 2019

When the Supreme Court ruled last year in Janus v. Afscme that unions could no longer collect agency fees from employees who choose not to join, many predicted a major decline in union membership. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public union membership declined less than 1% in 2018.

Analysis and Commentary

The Education Exchange: Florida Tax Credit Scholarships Boost College Enrollment

by Paul E. Petersonvia The Education Exchange
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Florida Tax Credit (FTC) scholarship program is the nation’s largest private school choice program. A new study finds that students who enroll in private schools through the FTC program are more likely to go to and graduate from college than their public school peers.