Chester E. Finn, Jr.

    Author Website:

    Author Bio:
    Chester Finn, Jr. is a scholar, educator and public servant who has been at the forefront of the national education debate for 35 years. Born and raised in Ohio, he received his doctorate from Harvard in education policy. He has served, inter alia, as a Professor of Education and Public Policy at Vanderbilt, Counsel to the U.S. ambassador to India, Legislative Director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement. A senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and chairman of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, Finn is also President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. He serves on the board of several other organizations concerned with primary-secondary schooling. The author of 16 books and more than 400 articles, his work has appeared in such publications as The Weekly Standard, Christian Science Monitor, Commentary, The Public Interest, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Education Week, Harvard Business Review and Boston Globe. Dr. Finn is the recipient of awards from the Educational Press Association of America, Choice Magazine, the Education Writers Association, and the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. He holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colgate University. He and his wife, Renu Virmani, a physician, have two grown children and two adorable little granddaughters.  They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Focus your philanthropy on innovation outside the system

America’s Smart Kids Left Behind

Catching up to our global peers will require changing education policy and culture

Different Kids Need Different Credentials

Forum: Rethinking the High School Diploma

WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

Rethinking the 
High School Diploma

Education Next talks with 
Chester E. Finn, Jr., Richard D. Kahlenberg and Sandy Kress

WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

Ending Our Neglect of Gifted Students

It’s a matter of fairness, equal opportunity , and long-term societal well-being.

Can Digital Learning Transform Education?

Education Next talks with Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Michael B. Horn

Exam Schools from the Inside

Racially diverse, subject to collective bargaining, fulfilling a need

FALL 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 4

First, We Need a Brand New K–12 System

Part 1 of a forum on whether digital learning can transform education

Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 1

A Battle Begun, Not Won

The following essay is part of a forum, written in honor of Education Next’s 10th anniversary, in which the editors assessed the school reform movement’s victories and challenges to see just how successful reform efforts have been. For the other side of the debate, please see Pyrrhic Victories? by Frederick M. Hess, Michael J. Petrilli, […]

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

Authorizing Charters

Helping mom-and-pops in Ohio

Fall 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 4

Education Data in 2025

Fifteen years hence, we will know exactly how well our schools, teachers, and students are doing

Winter 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 1

E Pluribus Unum?

Two longtime school reformers debate the merits of a national curriculum

Spring 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 2

What Congress Is Not Working On

Podcast: Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. gab about NCLB this week, and consider whether the law will be reauthorized by 2014, which is the deadline for all students to achieve proficiency.

Will Universal Preschool Help Poor Kids?

Video: Chester E. Finn, Jr. talks with Education Next about the contradictions behind the push for for universal preschool.

The Preschool Picture

Universal preschool will be a boon for middle-class parents. How it will help poor kids catch up is not so obvious.

Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4

More Money for Less Accountability?

I don’t think so!

Spring 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 2


The education of Chester Finn

Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2

Crash Course

NCLB is driven by education politics

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

What Innovators Can, and Cannot, Do

Squeezing into local markets and cutting deals

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

A New New Federalism

The case for national standards and tests

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

Selective Reporting

Quality Counts 2001, A Better Balance: Standards, Tests, and the Tools to Succeed by the editors of Education Week

Fall 2001 / Vol. 1, No. 3

Just the Facts

School Figures: The Data Behind the Debate
by Hanna Skandera and Richard Sousa
Hoover Institution, 2003, $15; 342 pp.

Spring 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 2

Faulty Engineering

The diversity of values within American society renders public schools ill-equipped to produce the engaged citizens our democracy requires

Spring 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 2

Lost at Sea

Early 20th century Progressive reformers established elected school boards as a means of shielding public school systems from the politics and patronage of corrupt city governments. Citizens, rather than political dons or their favored appointees, would govern the community’s schools with the community’s interests at heart. Today, however, elected school boards, especially in America’s troubled […]

Summer 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 3

Book Alert

The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market, by Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane; Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap, by Richard Rothstein; Leaving No Child Behind? Options for Kids in Failing Schools, by Frederick M. Hess and Chester E. Finn Jr., eds.; Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy, by James P. Spillane

Winter 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 1

Paying Teachers Properly

That the uniform salary “schedule” for teachers is obsolete and dysfunctional is a truth widely accepted but rarely challenged.

Winter 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 1

Tread on Me—but Lightly

The Era of Big Government Is Complicated

Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Things Are Falling Apart

Can the center find a solution that will hold?

Winter 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 1

Blog Posts/Multimedia

Will England Bring Back Selective Public High Schools?

Within weeks of becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May made clear that she wants more of them.


School Accountability Systems Must Focus on Proficiency

A school’s results matter in the real world, more even than the gains its students made while enrolled there.


Battle over Control of School Calendar Continues in Maryland

The key issue is whether Maryland schools and districts should be able to start the year before Labor Day and continue it into the summer.


Missing Al Shanker

Three recent experiences have served to remind me how much I miss—and how much the country and the cause of better education were diminished by the loss of—the late Albert Shanker, who passed away in 1997.


Can Special Ed Be Fixed?

Everybody is scared to touch special education, much less fundamentally alter it.


States Should Use ESSA To Do Right by High-Achieving Students

The overwhelming majority of states provide schools with few incentives to focus on their high-achieving students.


A Strong Case for a Knowledge-Centric Curriculum

Why Knowledge Matters, E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s fifth book on education, is as important as his first.


Sorting Out the Advice for Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Can philanthropists most powerfully effect “system change” by going at the system frontally or by circumnavigating it with actions that will inevitably compel it to change?


Americans Win Gold at Math Olympiad

The six-student American team beat out competitors from over 100 other countries in this year’s International Math Olympiad for high school students.


California’s Too-Colorful Accountability Plan

California’s new accountability system for schools and districts is complicated beyond imagining and does not lend itself to useful interpretation by parents, taxpayers, voters, or policymakers.


Are Republicans and Democrats Turning Their Backs on Education Reform?

Little energy remains for school reform today—much less for working across the aisle.


What Will the Next Twenty-Five Years of Charter Schools Look Like?

June 4 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the enactment of Minnesota’s charter school law, the nation’s first.


Three Fixes for the Charter Marketplace

Even after twenty-five years, charters in most places remain an alien implant in the body of American public education, and all sorts of immune reactions persist.


The Value of NAEP Achievement Levels

NAEP’s achievement levels, especially “proficient,” do expect a lot from American schools and students, but proficiency in twelfth-grade reading on NAEP equates pretty closely to college readiness.


Should the Charter Sector Focus on Expanding and Perfecting the No Excuses Model?

The no-excuses model ought to remain a sturdy pillar of the charter sector, but bona fide school choice means plenty of different options,


Charter Schools: Where They Work, Where They Don’t

Some of America’s highest-achieving schools are charters, but so are some of its worst.


Where Did Charter Schools Come From?

The onset of chartering was no lightning bolt. This audacious innovation had multiple ancestors and antecedents.


If Republican Legislatures Drown in Trump’s Wake, What Will Happen to Education Reform?

If November 2016 ushers in widespread erosion in the ranks of Republican policy makers, what might we anticipate on the education reform front?


A Response to David Denby

Reform always begets opposition, and that’s not an altogether bad thing. Those bent on changing things must be able to explain why the case for reform is stronger than the case for the status quo


School Policies Have Gotten Smarter in the Decade After No Child Left Behind

A decade ago, U.S. education policies were a mess. It was the classic problem of good intentions gone awry.


The Bush Education Plan

Bush’s plan deserves at least two and a half cheers—which is a cheer or two more than any other GOP candidate has warranted on this issue.


A Different Kind of Lesson from Finland

Finland has been lauded for years as this planet’s grand K-12 education success story, but since 2009, it’s scores and rankings have slipped.


Germany Is Leaving its Bright Students Behind

Germany has been praised for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality. That’s no small feat—and one well worthy of recognition and accolades–but Germany’s bright students aren’t enjoying any of these gains.


Losing the Ability to Compare Academic Performance Across States

The promise of the Common Core included not just multi-state standards but also multi-state assessments, but just 21 states are currently still participating in the two assessment “consortia.”


R.I.P. John Chubb

John Chubb was a fine scholar, tireless education reformer, and creative innovator.


Should NAEP Tests Be Updated to Reflect What’s in the Common Core?

It’s critical that NAEP’s math (and reading and writing) frameworks not flex with recent changes in standards, curriculum or pedagogical emphasis.


New York City is Failing Its Bright Poor Students

New York is leaving too many gifted children behind, especially disadvantaged students who are gifted.


Pell Grants Should Go (Only) to Needy Students Who Are Ready for College

What if we stopped subsidizing remedial courses on campuses and insisted that students pursuing higher learning be prepared for college-level courses? And what if those courses were also made available to young people even before they matriculated to a four-year program?


Education Governance: Who Makes the Decisions and Who Has the Power?

Our education governance system, lamented and disparaged as it often is, is one of the least understood aspects of American K–12 schooling.


Charter Schools: Taking Stock

It’s time to review the progress of the charter movement and the challenges that lie ahead, what we’ve done right as well as where we’ve gone astray..


New Poll Offers News Both Heartening and Glum for Education Reformers

When it comes to fundamental principles and practices regarding K–12 education, the American public is generally pretty sensible and steadfast.


A Pause in the History Wars

The College Board deserves a cheer for trying to stabilize the vessel known as Advanced Placement U.S. History


Is a Massive New Set of Federal Regulations the Best Way to Reform Head Start?

Head Start is an example of sound impulses gone missing into the jungles of governmental extravagance and bureaucracy.


RIP, Marva Collins

Marva Collins put her own money and reputation on the line to prove that poor minority kids could succeed just fine if given the right kinds of expectations, encouragement, and instruction.


Will States Tell Parents and Students the Truth About College Readiness?

Amid way too much talk about testing and the Common Core, not enough attention is being paid to what parents will actually learn about their children’s achievement when results are finally released from the recent round of state assessments .


Defining ‘College Readiness’ Down

Not only is middle school content finding its way into college classrooms, college credit is being awarded for learning it.



The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, unveiled a few days back by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and scheduled for HELP Committee mark-up on April 14, is a remarkable piece of work.


College Preparedness Over the Years, According to NAEP

The proportion of recent high school graduates attending college is far higher than the proportion of twelfth graders who are prepared for college—and that gap has worsened over time.


Can Gifted Education Survive the Common Core?

The advent of the Common Core standards can and should boost the learning of America’s ablest young learners, not serve as a rationale for denying them opportunities to fulfill their potential.


The Conservative Case for HR 5

The “Student Success Act” would, if enacted, be the most conservative federal education move in a quarter century.


The Future of School Accountability

Telling states how to operate their accountability systems hasn’t worked. It’s time to put the accountability monkey back onto the backs of states.


NCLB Accountability is Dead; Long Live ESEA Testing

Despite frantic efforts by a number of groups to preserve some sort of federal accountability mandates in the next ESEA cycle, I think these should go away and almost surely will.


Is It Quality Or Quantity That Counts?

Ah, January is upon us: The wind is howling, the thermometer is plummeting, and we are greeted by the nineteenth consecutive edition of Quality Counts, Education Week’s compilation of mostly useful data, analysis, rankings and commentaries.


Barack Obama’s Love Affair With Universality

The real problem is the failure of existing schools and programs to do right by those who need the most help


Punishing Achievement In Our Schools

The most recent exercise of mission creep and nanny-statism by the Office for Civil Rights involves what the enforcers call “equal access to educational resources.”


A Five Point Plan To Resuscitate Catholic Schools

Two big changes in American education policy have been good for kids in general, but not particularly good for Catholic schools, especially the urban variety.


Time for a Reboot

It’s probably time for education reformers and policymakers to admit that just pushing harder on test-driven accountability as the primary tool for changing our creaky old public school system is apt to yield more backlash than accomplishment


The Challenges of AP History: Are You Sure You Want College Credit?

The trickle downward of university curricular mischief into our schools and other institutions continues unabated, and it’s not a problem that the College Board alone can solve.


We’ll Miss You, Graham Down

Graham was as close to a Renaissance man as we have known in person.


The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach

Why do American public schools spend more of their operating budgets on non-teachers than almost every other country in the world, including nations that are as prosperous and humane as ours?


Save Our Data! Protect the Integrity of Education Statistics

Everything you may be trying to accomplish, change, or protect in American education hinges more than you might realize on the integrity of our education data system and that data system is more vulnerable than you might think.


Education Reform in 2014

On August 1, Chester E. “Checker” Finn, Jr., will step down from his role as founding president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, passing the baton to Michael J. Petrilli. Here is his “farewell address” as president.



What is the benefit conferred by preschool if there’s no school after the pre?


We’ll Miss You, Michael Gove

The path on which Gove and his predecessors placed English education resembles the path taken by U.S. education reformers.


Whither the NEA?

Perhaps the historic coupling of the NEA and the Democratic Party is loosening a bit.


The NCES, NIEER, and Spinning Preschool Data

The job of a statistical agency is to provide people with data by which they can judge these things for themselves. On the preschool front, the National Center for Education Statistics has let the country down.


Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement

Principal hiring practices continue to fall short of what is needed, effectively causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great.


Pie in the Special-Ed Sky?

Will the new federal regulatory scheme lead to real change on the ground?


The ‘Balanced Literacy’ Hoax

Balanced literacy is neither “balanced” nor “literacy,” at least not in the sense that poor kids taught to read via this approach will end up literate.


Between a Rock and a Hard Place

State education leaders will have to decide if their states are ready to move forward with consequences based on Common Core assessments.


Intellectual Coherence and the Common Core

Once educators and local (and state) officials see how poorly their kids do on tougher assessments and what the standards really require, they will start looking for better curricular materials and training.


Now You’re Entitled To Your Own Facts Too

In the preschool realm, the U.S. Department of Education has it outsourced the number-gathering to a prominent interest group in the field and it has allowed that interest group to add its own spin.


Almost, Peggy, But This Time Not Quite

When it comes to the Common Core State Standards, Peggy Noonan is only about 60 percent right.


Is Differentiated Instruction a Hollow Promise?

Teachers are expected to be all things to (almost) all youngsters, but most acknowledge that, while technology and small classes surely help, they do not feel like they’re differentiating all that well.


The Opt-Out Outrage

Is it legal to opt your child out of state tests? Should it be legal?


Education’s Endless, Erroneous Either-Ors

The K–12 education world brims with debates and dichotomies that get us into all manner of needless quarrels and cul-de-sacs, thus messing up every reform initiative and retarding progress.


Disciplining the Undisciplined

The tough letter that senior House Republicans sent last week to Arne Duncan and Eric Holder should have been even tougher. For the “guidance” that their agencies issued to U.S. schools in the guise of improving school discipline can only make it harder for educators to create safe, serious, and effective learning environments.


Flipping Out: Controlled Choice Restricts Options

“Controlled choice”restricts families’ education options and imposes a top-down, government-run, social-engineering scheme based on somebody’s view of the value of racial and socioeconomic integration.


Knowledge at the Core

For thirty years, Don Hirsch has tried to persuade policymakers to undertake perhaps the one reform we’ve never tried: the widespread adoption of a coherent, sequential, content-rich curriculum. What might change the outcome over the next thirty years?


The “War on Poverty” and Me

Forgive an aging education-reformer’s reminiscences, but LBJ’s declaration of war on poverty shaped the next 50 years of my life.


Gifted Education— What I Saw, What I’m Learning

I’ve visited eight countries to see how they educate their high-ability kids in the hope that we might pick up tips that would prove useful in improving the woeful state of “gifted education” in the U.S


Financing the Education of High-Need Students

Special education is in need of a top-to-bottom makeover that nobody seems willing or able to undertake. But some worthy repairs can be made around the periphery of current policy


Be Careful What You Wish For

Besides its influential teacher union, Taiwan has a powerful parent union that appears to cause at least as much harm as it does good.


De Blasio’s Education Agenda Is Full of Hot Air

De Blasio would’ve done more to persuade education-reformers that he’s serious if he’d dispensed with 24-point agendas and instead said who he’d hire as schools chancellor.


Japan’s Robin Hood School-Voucher Program

The Abe government has proposed to impose tuition charges for public high school attendance by children of wealthy families and to use the proceeds from that tuition charge to subsidize the attendance of low income children in private schools.


Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments

Common Core standards expect English language arts teachers to do things very differently than they have in the past. Will that really happen?


Rethinking High School

As waves of reforms and would-be reforms have washed over American public education these past three decades, high schools have mostly stayed dry.


Two Speeches

Although the latest glum international-education data weren’t even released until this week, last week brought a pair of provocative and contrasting speeches about the state of American education in 2013, both of which repay close attention.


Governance Matters

Tucked away in Amanda Ripley’s pages are a number of examples of how Finland, South Korea and Poland organize and govern their education systems, and these are illuminating as well as actionable in the policy realm.


Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned!

Don’t call me and my friends Chicken Littles. The sky was beginning to fall three decades ago.


What Parents Want—and How Policymakers Can Provide It

Most parents want a strong core curriculum in reading and math and an emphasis on STEM subjects, but once these non-negotiables are satisfied, different parents want different things; some seek high test scores, others favor vocational training, some want diversity, and others value art and music.


Let’s Hear It For Proficiency

Kids can show plenty of “growth” in school but still not be ready for college because they aren’t actually proficient. This is why absolute levels matter and why schools should be judged in part by how many of the students emerging from them are truly college and career ready.


Partisanship and Bipartisanship

Gridlock and stasis don’t seem to be leaving the K–12 space in Washington anytime soon.


Chicken Little Goes to School

The Common Core sky is not falling. Rather, the Common Core is right sizing.


Implementation, Implementation, Assessment, Assessment

For the Common Core standards really to take root and blossom, every state that claims to follow them faces a mammoth implementation challenge.


Summer School for Republicans

Add education to a long list of federal policy issues that vex and perplex today’s fractured Republican Party.


Reforms That Cross the Atlantic—and Don’t

The U.S. and its “mother country” continue to track—and copy and study and refine—each other’s programs and policies.


The Big Squeeze

Without immediate action, the pension funding problem will grow worse and school districts will eventually get crushed—meaning tomorrow’s children will pay the price for yesterday’s adult irresponsibility. State lawmakers need to step up to the plate.


Disappointing Science Standards

Fordham gives a grade of C to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)


Repairing the Conservative School Reform Coalition

For nearly 30 years, education-minded conservatives have embraced a two-part school reform strategy, focused on rigorous standards and parental choice. Recent events have frayed that coalition, but it’s not too late to stitch it back together.


The Selective-Admission Quandary

Why does it have to be so difficult for outstanding students to get into top-flight high schools? Why not create more such schools?


Why Private Schools Are Dying Out

A few elite institutions at both the grade-school and college levels are doing better than ever. But their health conceals the collapse of private-sector options in the U.S.


For Pete’s Sake, Let’s Try It

Why so bleak about parent triggers?


Conservatives and the Common Core

When a group of state leaders, many of them Republicans, can come together to set expectations for the curricular core that surpass what most of them set on their own, conservatives ought to applaud, not lash out


Will the Assessment Consortia Wither Away?

If ACT and College Board scarf up much state business, there won’t be a lot left for the consortia.


Texas: Big, Proud…and Wimpy?

By scrapping ten of the state’s fifteen “end of course” exams, Texas essentially forfeits uniform academic expectations and returns to the days when individual districts, schools, and teachers decided which students get diploma credit for which classes.


Margaret Thatcher, Education Reformer

Foreign policy isn’t all that Margaret Thatcher and her team had in common with Ronald Reagan and his. The 1980s also saw much crossing of the Atlantic—in both directions—by their education advisers, too.


Accountability Dilemmas

A useful new report from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation underscores the painful divide between parents and education reformers on the crucial topic of what to do about bad schools.


Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century

Perhaps the biggest failing of the education system is its fragmented approach to making decisions. There are too many cooks in the education system and nobody is really in charge.


Obama for Governor!

But first clean up Head Start


Science Standards 2.0

If states are going to make rational decisions to replace their own science standards with these new ones, it’s only right to insist that the new ones be stronger


The Issue Left Behind

Republicans and education reform


On Closing Schools

Secretary Duncan and his team were mobbed the other day by agitated parents and kids protesting the closing of public schools around the land.


Is the Red Tape a Red Herring?

Many proponents of private school choice take for granted that schools won’t participate if government asks too much of them. But is this assumption justified?


Cutting to the Chase

As the U.S. education world eagerly awaits more information about the new assessments that two consortia are developing to accompany the Common Core standards, big questions remain about cut scores.


Gifted Students Have ‘Special Needs,’ Too

Are our national education-reform priorities cheating America’s intellectually ablest girls and boys? Yes—and the consequence is a human capital catastrophe for the United States.


Oh, Starr-y Superintendent

Joshua Starr has emerged as a fully fledged anti-reformer, pushing back against the sorts of changes that the Joel Kleins, Arne Duncans, and Jeb Bushes are striving to make.


Revamping Teacher Preparation and Licensure

The Council of Chief State School Officers has come forth with a sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals.


MOOCs in Size Small, Please

Could MOOCs work in K–12 education, too?


Just How Potent Are Teacher Unions?

Are union biceps as brawny as ever, or growing flabby with age? Short answer: It depends, particularly on which state you look at.


Getting Real about the Common Core

States today have sharply divergent views of what stakes, if any, to attach to test results for kids.


College Board Snags Gates Veteran Stefanie Sanford

The College Board will re-appear as a lead actor on the ed-reform policy stage and we are apt to see it spearheading major developments in both K–12 and higher education.


Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools

This wonky but important book is a distinctive, deeply researched, and amply documented plea for full-scale implementation of the Common Core math standards.


Bar Exam for Teachers?

Thanks, Randi, for a proposal that would make Al proud—and that could conceivably do American education some good.


Jeb Bush on Education Reform

I don’t know whether his hat is edging into the 2016 presidential election ring, but I do know that Jeb Bush gave a heck of an education keynote on Tuesday morning at the national summit convened in Washington by his Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.


Let a New Teacher-Union Debate Begin

Examining the power—and the impact—of education’s 800-pound gorilla


The Election Contests that Really Matter

The states are where the action is


Indiana and the Common Core: Tony Bennett Got It Right

Tony Bennett is bogged down in a two-front war in his bid for reelection as Indiana’s State Superintendent.


The Best Bargain in American Education

Exam schools are a good value, indeed a real bargain, not just for thousands of young Americans and their families, but also for the wider society


Gotham’s Exam-School Problem

The NAACP filed a federal civil-rights complaint against New York City, alleging that the special test used for admission to selective public high schools is discriminatory.


How the Common Core Changes Everything

Implementation, done right, must be comprehensive. Which means what?


Common Standards≠ National Curriculum

Dana Goldstein has written a mostly on-target profile of David Coleman, who takes the helm of the College Board in just a few weeks. Here are a couple of things she doesn’t get exactly right.


The Chicago Strike’s Silver Lining

What this episode demonstrated was that what teacher unions care about has practically nothing to do with what’s good for the kids and everything to do with what teachers want for themselves.


Young, Gifted, and Neglected

Smart kids shouldn’t have to go to private schools or get turned away from Bronx Science or Thomas Jefferson simply because there’s no room for them.


Maintenance of Inefficiency

School district officials who have attempted to do more with less have been stymied by federal maintenance-of-effort requirements for special education.


Vouchers − Darwin= ??

How upset should one be that some of the private schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program teach creationism and reject evolution?


Raising the Floor, but Neglecting the Ceiling

The demand for rigorous gifted and talented programs and high schools like TJ vastly outstrips the supply.


Even with Limited Leverage, Uncle Sam Can Promote School Choice

Romney’s plan to voucherize Title I and IDEA has considerable merit—but it’s not the only way the federal government could foster school choice and it might not even be the best way.


The Credit-Recovery Scam

The flap over quality control, academic fraud, false claims, and shortcuts in the world of credit recovery will not die down until American education (and the elected officials who set its key policies) face up to two realities.


Rigorous National Standards: Necessary but Not Sufficient

One major reason for our slipshod academic performance is the disorderly, dysfunctional way we’ve been handling academic standards.


Disruptive Innovation and Independent Public Schools

Independent public schools of choice could turn out to be as disruptive to traditional education systems as those crummy little Sony radios turned out to be to the vacuum-tube behemoths and as Honda was to Detroit.


Confessions of a Former Luddite

Not so long ago, I doubted that computers, cell phones, and the internet would make any more difference in American education than television had.


“Voucherizing Title I” is Worth a Shot

As Jay Mathews perceptively observed, and as others of us have been pointing out for a while, the Obama-Duncan team didn’t leave a heckuva lot of education-reform terrain for Mitt Romney to occupy except for variations on the theme of vouchers. And occupy it he has done. But “voucherizing Title I” is not a new […]


A Race to Fix Education Governance?

How very refreshing, even exhilarating, the inclusion of superintendents and boards in a results-based accountability system.


Tax Credit Scholarships Need a Critical, Not Hostile, Eye

It’s hard to get past the New York Times’s animus toward anything “private” or profit-seeking in the realm of K-12 education.


When Washington Focuses on Schools

Uncle Sam is dreadful at micromanaging what actually happens in schools and classrooms. What he’s best at is setting agendas and driving priorities.


Supersize My Education? Not in Singapore

Is more education—more hours and days, more years and degrees—the cure for what ails us?


The Voucher Animus

As vouchers have become real, the political picture has grown more complex.


Why School Principals Need More Authority

Under the current system, educational leaders have all of the responsibility but none of the power. Allowing principals to act like CEOs may foster a more efficient system.


The Disparities of Disparate Impact

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest? That’s the spin a lot of people have given to last week’s massive trove of federal data on school discipline and sundry other topics.


The Conservative Case for the Common Core

The proper work of conservatives going forward is to stop doing battle with the Common Core and instead do their utmost to ensure that the “loose” part gets done right.


The War Against the Common Core

It will be ironic as well as unfortunate if the Common Core ends up in the dustbin of history as a result of actions and comments by its supporters. But in March 2012 there can be little doubt that the strongest weapons in the arsenal of its enemies are those that they have supplied.


21st-Century VocEd Could Be Key to Future Economic Prosperity

Somewhere between the dead-end of old-style vocational high schools and the fashionable but ill-advised “college for everyone” campaign is a course of action that will actually equip young Americans for both successful citizenship and the real economy that they will inhabit.


Big-Government Business Leaders?

If the 2012 election were to be decided on the basis of federal education policy, chalk up another significant gain for President Obama, as the titans of American business come down foursquare for yesterday’s reform agenda, now promoted mainly by Democrats.


Jack Jennings and a Half-Century of School Reform

Much as I respect and admire Jack Jennings, in spite of all his experience in this field, his main tool remains federal legislation, which I’ve come to believe is almost always wielded clumsily in pursuit of nails that either won’t budge at all or end up bent.


Can Schools Rekindle the American Work Ethic?

To do this our teachers and policymakers will need to reverse now-widespread practices and beliefs.


Should Schools Turn Children into Activists? And Should Uncle Sam Help?

Schools have a special responsibility to the young people in their care, which is to be exceptionally careful about providing lessons and activities of a political nature or enlisting them in adult causes, however worthy some may deem them.


The Green-Tea Party

Coming out of a year that has left me ever less enamored of both our major political parties, their polarized and gridlocked behavior on Capitol Hill, their uninspiring candidates and ratty presidential campaigns, not to mention their antics in many a statehouse, I’m ready for a promising, credible third party.


Unsolved Problems—and Signs of Hope—as 2012 Dawns

We need to focus on the barriers that keep us from making major-league gains–not cultural issues, parenting issues, demographic issues, or other macro-influences on educational achievement, but obstacles that competent leaders and bold policymakers could reduce or eradicate if they were serious.


Texas Hit the Accountability Plateau, Then the Rest of the Country Followed

“Consequential accountability” corresponded with a significant one-time boost in student achievement. As an early adopter, Texas got a head start on big achievement gains, and also a head start on flat-lining thereafter.


The Euro and the Common Core

If you hope the Euro crashes, that this week’s Brussels summit fails, and that European commerce returns to francs, marks, lira, drachma, and pesetas, you may be one of those rare Americans who also seeks the demise of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in U.S. education.


Too Many Cooks, Too Many Kitchens

It’s well past time to rethink, re-imagine, and reinvent education governance for the twenty-first century.


On Abolishing the Department of Education

Maybe it never should have been carved out of the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the first place, but the fact is that Jimmy Carter, politically indebted to the N.E.A. for his election (and unable to get out from the commitment he had made to them in return), winkled it through Congress in 1979.


The Unilateral Repeal of NCLB and the 2012 Election

The Obama administration’s new waiver plan doesn’t officially repeal the No Child Left Behind Act, but it is tantamount to making large-scale amendments to it. Which it does unilaterally, without even a thumbs-up from Congress.


Duncan vs. Perry

The gloves are off. What vestiges remained of bipartisanship on education in Washington has been buried. And education may yet turn into a major issue in the 2012 presidential race.


Up With Teachers, Not So Much With Unions

The new Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup survey makes clear that most adults value their children’s teachers.


Is the Charter-School Movement Stuck in a Rut?

As the U.S. charter fleet sails past the 5,000-school and two-decade markers, there is reason to worry that it’s getting complacent, unimaginative, and self-interested.


This Glass is Half-Empty, Maybe Two-Thirds

Sure, it’s great that minority students have made gains, but what does that do for our international competitiveness if the average score is unchanged or declining?


Let’s Talk Education Reform: A GOP candidate’s speech

The Republican presidential field is beginning to take shape, and candidates and maybe-candidates are figuring out where they stand and what to say. Sooner or later, they will need to say something about education. May we suggest a few talking points?


How to Run Public Schools in the 21st Century

Almost everyone who cares about revitalizing American primary-secondary education senses that many of its fundamental structures are archaic and its governance arrangements dysfunctional. Yet any effort to address those problems typically leads either to a glazed look on the visage of the putative audience or else to eye-rolling and shoulder-shrugging.


Good for Texas. Good for America?

Deep in the heart of Texas is where some education-policy lessons might best stay. But they tend not to. Rick Perry’s imminent entry into the 2012 GOP presidential race suggests that, for the second time in less than a dozen years, we could see a Texas governor try to make the federal role in education conform to his own preconceptions and lessons learned in Austin.


Forget Finland: What Ontario Can Teach Us about Good Governance

I’ve long admired Marc Tucker’s tireless efforts to get American educators and reformers to understand and appreciate how other nations address challenges that often resemble our own. Which isn’t to say I always agree with him. And that’s true of his latest paper, too.


Bill Bennett, James Madison, and National Curricular Materials

A whole bunch of folks have spent a whole bunch of time in recent weeks declaiming that Arne Duncan is a sinner if not a lawbreaker because his Race to the Top program encouraged states to adopt the new “Common Core” academic standards. I guess people were born too late—or have short memories. Arne Duncan has plenty of precedents.


The Problems of Education Governance in Twenty-First Century America

The shortcomings of elected local school boards are only the most obvious of the many problems of education governance in the United States in 2011.


Teachers Unions Here and There

I don’t always agree with Marc Tucker but he knows a heckuva lot about how other countries organize their education systems; and it turns out that knowledge extends to how their teacher unions have evolved, what roles the unions play, and how their bargaining processes work. The differences set forth in his exceptionally interesting new […]


The Rebirth of the Education Governor

A new crop of reform-minded governors is reclaiming its territory in an efflorescence of leadership and state-level initiatives. With states running out of money and education consuming so many billions, eking greater bang from the available bucks is both irresistible and unavoidable.


Nobody Deserves Tenure

Tenure didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower.


The Rope With Which We Hang Ourselves

V. I. Lenin may or may not have actually declared that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but something of the sort is occurring nowadays between American educators and the Communist regime in Beijing. Consider what happened last week in Chicago.


Sputnik for the 21st Century

On Pearl Harbor Day 2010, the United States (and much of the rest of the world) was attacked by China.


Re-Imagining Local Control

Writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, Diane Ravitch challenged resurgent Congressional Republicans to return K-12 education to “local control” and to repudiate and reverse the nationalizing/federalizing tendencies of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core standards, etc.


Seeds of Reform Sown by Moynihan (and Coleman)

The Coleman Report and its data have been exhaustively analyzed and reanalyzed. But this key finding has never been successfully challenged: School inputs have little correlation with pupil achievement and differences in achievement cannot be significantly accounted for by differences in school resources.


Thanks but No Thanks, NAEP

The latest 12th grade National Assessment results were released this morning. The big news, alas, isn’t news at all, which is that proficiency levels remain dreadfully low in both reading and math.


Mixed Signals on Quality for Preschoolers

Open the Wall Street Journal’s recent spread on “The Turf War for Tots” and learn there that Hollywood is trying to jettison the time-tested cognitively-based “Sesame Street” approach to pre-school television in favor of Disney-style entertainments and faddish “social” skills.


The Welcome Earthquake

As Election Day 2010 arrives, the education stakes are big, even if few voters are placing this issue atop their priorities. The unions may never be the same again. Nor the Democratic Party. Nor maybe, even, the GOP.


A New Start for Head Start — If Congress Doesn’t Get in the Way

The Head Start program has needed a radical overhaul for the past 45 years, i.e. ever since its founding and its near-immediate demonstration that it doesn’t do much lasting good by way of readying poor kids to succeed in school. But Head Start’s iconic status, powerful lobby and influential friends have stymied every effort to turn it into a proper school-readiness program and to purge it of its many shoddy operators.


Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010

Fordham’s newest report, Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010, authored by veteran analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett, surveyed over 700 education professors across the land to determine how they view their own roles and what they think of myriad K-12 policy developments that have taken place over the last decade


Bravo Brockton!

Brockton High School is one of the largest in America and is now producing very strong (not yet stellar) results. More remarkably, it used to produce dreadful results. It exemplifies a successful school turnaround, one of the toughest feats in U.S. education, it exemplifies success in an urban high school attended mainly by poor and minority kids—the other toughest challenge in U.S. education.


Waiting for “Superman”

Waiting for “Superman” is quite a movie. See it if you haven’t. It’s emotionally wringing, as a few of these needy-earnest-capable kids with anxious, hopeful parents make it through the lottery into high-performance charter schools while others—far too many others—do not.


You’ll be Sorely Missed, Mike Castle

Besides almost certainly forfeiting a Senate seat that the GOP could have taken in November, Delaware’s Republican primary voters yesterday made a colossal mistake when it comes to education policy. Mike Castle is, and for two decades has been, one of American education’s wisest, sagest and bravest reformers.


Whither 21st Century Skills?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ disappearance would be a gain for America. The right kind of makeover could be a gain, too. But additional traction for the organization’s current agenda would be bad for the country, bad for the new “Common Core” standards and the assessments being developed around them, and possibly bad for CCSSO as well.


Universal Preschool by Stealth

In the name of boosting academic performance and giving struggling kids a better shot at succeeding in first grade, California appears to be headed down the slippery slope to universal preschool, never mind that state voters rejected such a plan when Rob Reiner got it onto the ballot in 2006.


A Sober Reflection of Race to the Top Results

Let me say this about Race to the Top. Arne Duncan deserves at least a B for initiating and persevering with it. With a relatively small (by federal standards) amount of money, he has catalyzed a large amount of worthwhile education-reform activity in a great many places.


Harvard Wimps Out on Testing

To oppose “results-based accountability” in education is close to a taboo nowadays, a position so antithetical to the spirit of the age that few dare mention it. Let us, therefore, declare ourselves shocked and saddened that Harvard University, in so many ways a pacesetter in education, is embracing that very position.


Denial vs Paranoia with Common Core Education Standards

I deny that I’m in denial. But I don’t deny that Neal McCluskey is paranoid, along with Jay Greene and a few other ardent blogsters and op-edsters.


Book Alert: Taking Measure of Charter Schools

This collection of eleven essays is specialized, even wonky, but it addresses a key issue in the charter-school world, namely how to improve the research into and evaluation of this new universe of schools.


Common Core State Standards: Better Than Ever

Today marks release of the final “Common Core” standards–symbolically occurring in a state capital (Atlanta) rather than Washington, D.C.


Book Alert: The Flat World and Education

One doesn’t have to agree with Linda Darling-Hammond to be impressed with this major work, which draws together many strands from her work, her research, and her worldview about education and education reform.


Chinese Influence in U.S. Schools

How do you feel about the government of China paying for American public schools to teach our kids Mandarin? And sending teachers from China to the U.S. to assist in this venture? Though one tiny corner of my conscience says sure, the more the Chinese spend IN the United States the less they’ll have left to compete with and undermine us. But most of me is outraged–and a little bit alarmed.


Let’s Hear It for Florida!

Hurrah for the Education Policy Council of Florida’s House of Representatives for endorsing the bold teacher-reforms of pending bill HB 7189, now headed for the House floor tomorrow or Thursday.


Book Alert: It’s the Classroom, Stupid

Flaunting jacket blurbs from some of my favorite people in the education field, this book–declares its author–“proposes to turn on its head conventional wisdom about how to reform the education of America’s poorest students.” And that’s pretty much what it would do.


Back to Basics

For five good reasons, conservatives should take seriously the potential of the newly released (in draft form) “common” education standards to strengthen U.S. education.


Book Alert: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Diane Ravitch’s important new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, will surely stir controversy, exactly as she intends. Simply stated, she believes it should recapture the strengths of the traditional public school system, incorporate a vigorous common curriculum and renounce many of the theories, practices, policies and programs that have constituted America’s major education-reform emphases in recent years.


The Perils of Universalism

There are regulatory domains where government is wise to make its rules universal. There are also some government programs, services and benefits that benefit from extending them to everyone or almost everyone, at least on a voluntary basis. For the most part, however, turning public-sector programs into universal free goods produces unintended and often undesirable results, while failing to solve the most urgent core problem.


Will the Common Core Standards Prove Safe and Effective?

Even though they still haven’t seen the light of day in draft form, much less been joined by any assessments, the evolving “common core” standards project of the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is already being laden with heavier and heavier burdens. This is enormously risky and, frankly, hubristic, since nobody yet has any idea whether these standards will be solid, whether the tests supposed to be aligned with them will be up to the challenge, or whether the “passing scores” on those tests will be high or low, much less how this entire apparatus will be sustained over the long haul.


Thumbs-Up on Obama’s K-12 Education Themes

On primary-secondary education, as on most topics, Mr. Obama stayed at 30,000 feet. The main themes he sounded, however, are fine: use federal education dollars to reward success, not failure; apply Arne Duncan’s “race to the top” reform priorities to the mega-bucks Elementary/Secondary Education Act; and keep a “competitive” element in this rather than simply distributing dollars via formula. All extremely hard to do but all worth doing.


Racing to National Tests?

While everyone obsesses over the competition among the states for Race to the Top funding, the Education Department is readying a separate competition for less than one-tenth as much money that may nonetheless prove far more consequential for American education over the long term.


The End of the Education Debate

The education-reform debate as we have known it for a generation is creaking to a halt. No new way of thinking has emerged to displace those that have preoccupied reformers for a quarter-­century — but the defining ideas of our current wave of reform (­standards, testing, and choice), and the conceptual framework built around them, are clearly outliving their usefulness.


Book Alert: Intelligence and How to Get It

There is no end to the debate over intelligence. The latest book-length entry into this debate is University of Michigan psychology professor Richard Nisbett’s “Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count.”


Ted Sizer, R.I.P.

Theodore R. (Ted) Sizer, who passed away last week after a long and valiant battle with cancer, was a towering figure in American education—and a wonderful guy.


The Ordeal of Equality

If Secretary Duncan is serious about “listening” to ideas for the next ESEA reauthorization (aka “fixing what’s wrong with NCLB”), he would do well to start with this important and depressing book.


Arne Duncan’s Planned Speech Shows Obama Administration Slowly Wading into NCLB

Secretary Duncan makes clear that he’s in no hurry to dive deep into NCLB. He’s inviting more input and advice as to how to set it right. (Never mind that there’s already a five-foot shelf of books and studies regarding NCLB’s shortcomings and needed repairs.)


What Congress Is Not Working On

Podcast: Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. gab about NCLB this week, and consider whether the law will be reauthorized by 2014, which is the deadline for all students to achieve proficiency.


Remembering Irving Kristol

So much that’s true—and important—has been written about the late Irving Kristol, I can add but a few recollections.


Will Universal Preschool Help Poor Kids?

Video: Chester E. Finn, Jr. talks with Education Next about the contradictions behind the push for for universal preschool.


New Book by E.D. Hirsch Challenges Reformers of All Stripes

This provocative new book by E.D. Hirsch (dedicated to the late Al Shanker) poses fundamental challenges to both of the dominant reform movements in American education–challenges that their leaders would do well to ponder.


Ted Kennedy, R.I.P.

More than anyone else who comes to mind in American public life, Edward M. Kennedy ascended from reprobate to icon, from an object of criticism, even ridicule, to statesman.


National Standards: Rush to Judgment?

Writing in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, the Lexington Institute’s Robert Holland and Don Soifer reject the idea of national education standards on three grounds.

Sponsored Results

The Hoover Institution at Stanford University - Ideas Defining a Free Society

Harvard Kennedy School Program on Educational Policy and Governance

Thomas Fordham Institute - Advancing Educational Excellence and Education Reform