Michael J. Petrilli

Research 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 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, 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

“Children, Be Quiet And Watch Your Lesson”

by Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Friday, March 11, 2016

A few years into my experience as a public school parent, I can confidently say that I know what angers us moms and dads the most: when a teacher puts on a movie during the school day.

Analysis and Commentary

Did Kansas Err In Going It Alone On Standardized Testing?

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia The Wichita Eagle
Thursday, March 10, 2016

A wise old African saying cautions: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Analysis and Commentary

What Ordinary People Know But Elites Won’t Admit About College Readiness

by Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I’m appalled that The Donald might actually win the Republican nomination running on a “platform” of bombast and xenophobia. But like many of you, I’ve also been trying to understand his appeal. A booming cottage industry—shall we call it Trumpology?—is emerging to explain his supporters to the rest of us.


School Policies Have Gotten Smarter In The Decade After ‘No Child Left Behind’

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Washington Post
Friday, February 12, 2016

A decade ago, U.S. education policies were a mess. It was the classic problem of good intentions gone awry. At the core of the good idea was the common-sense insight that if we want better and more equitable results from our education system, we should set clear expectations for student learning, measure whether our kids are meeting them and hold schools accountable for their outcomes, mainly gauged in terms of academic achievement.

Great Ideas For Designing Accountability Systems For Schools

by Michael J. Petrillivia EducationNext
Monday, February 1, 2016

On Tuesday afternoon, we at the Fordham Institute will host a competition to present compelling designs for state accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The process has already achieved its objective, with more than two dozen teams submitting proposals that are chock-full of suggestions for states and commonsense recommendations for the U.S. Department of Education.

Analysis and Commentary

Some Great Ideas From Our ESSA Accountability Design Competition

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, January 29, 2016

On Tuesday afternoon, we at the Fordham Institute will host a competition to present compelling designs for state accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Analysis and Commentary

ESSA Accountability Design Competition: The Contenders

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, January 28, 2016

Under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states now face the challenge of creating school accountability systems that can vastly improve upon the model required by No Child Left Behind. To help spur creative thinking about how they might do so, and also to inform the Department of Education as it develops its ESSA regulations, the Fordham Institute is hosting an ESSA Accountability Design Competition.

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Bad News Is Good News

by Michael J. Petrilli, Robert Pondisciovia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Low test scores may be unwelcome, but they’re entirely necessary. Parents shouldn’t shoot the messenger.

Analysis and Commentary

The School Choice Movement's Schisms, Explained

by Michael J. Petrillivia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

As my Fordham colleague David Griffith wrote late last year in a post accompanying the release of The Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice), resistance to the spread of parental choice in education is futile. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back.


Free Tuition Is A Needless Windfall For Affluent Voters And State Institutions

by Michael J. Petrillivia The New York Times
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Nothing in life is truly free — but don’t tell that to dogmatic liberals and their pandering politicians, who would turn the first two years of college into a new universal entitlement. This idea has the same fatal flaws as universal pre-school: a needless windfall for affluent voters and state institutions that does very little to help the needy.