Michael J. Petrilli

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    Author Bio:
    Mike Petrilli is an award-winning writer and one of the nation’s most trusted education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Petrilli helps to lead the country’s most influential education policy think tank, and contributes to its Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter. He is the author of The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, published in 2012. 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, 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. He is author, with Frederick M. Hess, of No Child Left Behind: A Primer. Petrilli helped to create the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement; the Policy Innovators in Education Network; and Young Education Professionals. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Honors Political Science from the University of Michigan. He lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.


Coming Soon: ‘Car-Key Kids’

What autonomous automobiles will mean for adolescence

SPRING 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 2

Equity Trumps Excellence

Among news media, competition less important than achievement gap

FALL 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 4

Pulling the Parent Trigger

Education Next talks with Ben Austin and Michael J. Petrilli

SUMMER 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 3

There’s a Better Way to Unlock Parent Power

Forum: Pulling the Parent Trigger

SUMMER 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 3

Tweet Thine Enemy

How “narrowcast” is the education policy debate?

Spring 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 2

The Newsroom’s View of Education Reform

Surprise! The press paints a distorted picture

SUMMER 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 3

Obama’s Education Record

Does the reality match the rhetoric?

SPRING 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 2

All A-Twitter about Education

Improving our schools in 140 characters or less

Fall 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 4

Pyrrhic Victories?

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 A Battle Begun, Not Won by Paul E. Peterson, […]

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

Lights, Camera, Action!

Using video recordings to evaluate teachers

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

All Together Now?

Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom

Winter 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 1

School Reform Hits the Big Screen

Why 2010 is a banner year for the education documentary

Fall 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 4

Bye-Bye Blackboards

Interactive and expensive, whiteboards come to the classroom

Summer 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 3

Charters as Role Models

The charter school movement turns 14

this year, and its behavior, some might say, is “developmentally


Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Disappearing Ink

What happens when the education reporter goes away?

Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4

Linky Love, Snark Attacks, and Fierce Debates about Teacher Quality?

A peek inside the education blogosphere

Winter 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 1

Arrested Development

Online training is the norm in other professions. Why not in K–12 education?

Fall 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 4

Opinion Leaders or Laggards?

Newspaper editorialists support charter schools, split on NCLB

Summer 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 3

Wikipedia or Wickedpedia?

Assessing the online encyclopedia’s impact on K–12 education

Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2

Let’s Talk About It

Talk radio’s take on K–12 education

Winter 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 1

Teacher’s Little Helper

New technologies target teacher performance

Summer 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 3

Testing the Limits of NCLB

Implementation is not the problem

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

The Key to Research Influence

Quality data and sound analysis matter, after all

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

No Business Like Show Business

Hollywood and Hip-Hop Discover Charter Schools

Winter 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 1

Misdirected Energy

Schools get an A in resisting reform.

Winter 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 1

The Cure

Will NCLB’s restructuring wonder drug prove meaningless?

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

A New New Federalism

The case for national standards and tests

Fall 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 4

Blog Posts/Multimedia

The Two Tracks of School Reform

Standards-based reform and school choice are interdependent, maybe even codependent.


“Kid, I’m Sorry, but You’re Just Not College Material”

Is exactly what we should be telling a lot of high school students.


Common Core ‘Spring Training’: Maintain Realistic Expectations

The Common Core is still in the very earliest phases of implementation. It isn’t yet time to pay much attention to the score; instead, we ought to work out the kinks and improve the fundamentals.


The Imperfect “ObamaCore” Analogy

There are vast differences between ObamaCare and the Common Core when it comes to federal involvement.


The Common Core Sanity Check of the Day: Estimation Is Not a Fuzzy Math Skill

Those who criticize the Common Core standards for asking kids to estimate the answer to a math problem get a few things wrong.


Lies, Damned Lies, and the Common Core

If you want to understand why supporters of the Common Core are frustrated—OK, exasperated—by some of our opponents’ seemingly unlimited willingness to engage in dishonest debate, consider this latest episode.


Executive Action I Can Support: Weighted Lotteries for Charter Schools

The U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance for the Public Charter Schools Program that will allow charters to use “weighted lotteries” without forfeiting their chance to receive federal start-up funds.


Re: Flipping Out

If DCPS wants to have diverse schools among its ranks, it’s going to need some help from public policy. Controlled choice is one way.


How D.C. Schools Can Ward Off the ‘Big Flip’

At some D.C. elementary schools, rather than settling into a healthy racial and socioeconomic balance, student populations are flipping from one extreme to the other, with fourth-grade classes dominated by minorities and preschool classes that are mostly white.


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 Problem With ‘Bad Voucher Schools Aren’t a Problem’

Students receiving publicly funded scholarships or vouchers should take state assessments and that the results should be reported publicly.


Can’t Buy Me Love

The so-called War on Poverty has been fantastically successful at eradicating poverty among the old and devastatingly miserable at eradicating poverty among the young.


2014: The Year of Universal Proficiency

No, we did not achieve universal proficiency by 2014. But that doesn’t mean that students haven’t benefited from the law and its associated reforms.


I Refuse to Feel Bad About Letting My Children Watch TV

With winter break upon us, parents face a multitude of decisions. Will we let our kids watch TV? How much? Which shows? Play video games? Which ones? Watch sports?


Little Learners Need Better Curriculum

Any gains provided by a massive new investment in preschool will quickly fade away if Mayor de Blasio doesn’t also tackle New York City’s mediocre elementary schools.


SIG’s Downfall: Judge, and Be Judged, by Proficiency Rates

The SIG analysis released by the Department of Education is completely worthless. Looking at changes in proficiency rates tells us virtually nothing about the progress (or lack thereof) of these schools.


PISA and Occam’s Razor

What’s a better hypothesis for the lackluster math performance of our fifteen-year-olds? Maybe we’re just not very good at teaching math, especially in high school.


Petrilli Testimony on Common Core in Ohio

This testimony was presented in Ohio by Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, on November 20, 2013.


Of Course We Want Instructional Change. Don’t You?

The main reason there’s been so little achievement gain over the past few decades arising from the reforms that so many of us have been pressing is precisely because neither curriculum nor instruction much changed.


How to Fight Poverty–and Win

Someday I’d like to write a book on anti-poverty efforts, and I hope it might have the title above.


What to Do About Richie Rich

Let’s not pretend that the behavior of rich parents is somehow “bad,” even if it creates an unfortunate outcome (greater inequality).


What Obamacare, ‘Supplemental Services,’ and Teacher Evaluations Have in Common

It brings me no pleasure to predict that the project to create rigorous teacher evaluations by fiat is likely to fail.


See You in the Center

There’s a simple reason why education has been in the spotlight for so long: It’s one of the few things upon which the politicians–and the Americans they represent–can agree.


Rain of Errors

In her new book, Diane Ravitch commits the exact same errors for which she lambastes reformers. She oversells the evidence; she fails to consider likely unintended consequences; she doesn’t think through implementation challenges.


The Especially Deserving Poor

Our message to young people, especially those growing up in poverty, should be clear: If you’re willing to do the work, we’ll clear your path to the middle class.


Has the Left Lost Faith in Upward Mobility?

Rather than accept a future of low-skill, low-wage work for our impoverished young people, education reformers aspire to build their “human capital”–their knowledge, skills, capabilities, talents, habits, character–so that the labor market will one day repay their contributions to society with a wage that far exceeds any minimums.


Self-Sufficient Citizens: Public Education's Job No. 1

Is there anything schools can to do to encourage their students to follow the "success sequence"?


What If Self-Interest Doesn’t Explain Everything?

A response to Deborah Meier


If You Send Your Kid to a Failing School, You are a Bad Person

A manifesto in response to Alison Benedikt.


Cities Are For Strivers

Parents of high-achieving students—whether they be rich or poor, newcomers or old-timers—deserve schools that will challenge their children. If they don’t find them in the city, they will move.


All or Nothing on Teacher Accountability

Either policymakers need to combine evaluation systems with reforms that make it plausible to fire ineffective employees, or they shouldn’t bother with high stakes at all.


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.


The Problem with Proficiency

Proficiency rates are terrible measures of school effectiveness.


The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy (Crowdsourced Edition)

On Monday, I published my annual list of the top education policy twitter feeds. It hit a nerve. And for that, I’m grateful, because I immediately heard from the twitterverse that I overlooked some important people.


The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy

In what has become an annual summertime tradition, I present to you the top education policy twitter feeds circa 2013.


Why the ‘Opt-Out’ is Not a Cop-Out

States should allow a small group of schools to opt out of regular testing and accountability requirements and let these schools use an alternative set of metrics instead.


The Tony Bennett Flap: School Grades, Stakes, and Signals

What matters most is how reformers react to the bright spotlight now on school-grading systems.


On Tony Bennett’s ‘Grading-Gate,’ Avoid the Rush to Judgment

There’s little doubt that the media will continue to have a field day with revelations that Tony Bennett worked to change Indiana’s A–F grading system after learning that a high-performing school started by a wealthy donor would receive a C.


Paternalism and Public Policy

The most paternalist policies in place today require the closure of underperforming schools even if they are popular with parents. Who should decide if the tradeoffs are worth it?

A case to be made, but I still don’t quite buy it.

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