Paige, Petrilli Join Fordham Foundation

Published July 1, 2005

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington, DC-based education research organization, gained two education experts formerly with the U.S. Department of Education this spring.

Rod Paige, U.S. secretary of education during President George W. Bush’s first term, was elected to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and Michael J. Petrilli, former associate assistant deputy secretary in the department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, will serve as the foundation’s vice president for national programs and policy.

Advocates for Standards, Choice

Foundation President Chester E. Finn Jr. said in a news release it was a “thrill to welcome onto the Fordham team two of the wisest, most ardent and effective education reformers in the land. Rod Paige and Mike Petrilli embrace both standards-based and choice-based reform strategies and appreciate the crucial nexus between them. They’re as pumped about charters as about testing, as keen on quality teachers as on standards.”

Paige, who handed the U.S. Department of Education reins to Margaret Spellings earlier this year, is currently a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholarship. During his tenure as the nation’s seventh education secretary, Paige played a key role in creating the No Child Left Behind Act.

Prior to his appointment in 2001, Paige served as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, where he was elected National Superintendent of the Year in 2001 by the American Association of School Administrators. During his lengthy career, he served as a classroom teacher, coach, and dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he established the Center for Excellence in Urban Education. He is now writing a book on African-American leadership and the achievement gap.

Pressing for Continued Innovation

Paige, also in the news release, said he is “honored to join the distinguished individuals who comprise the Foundation’s board and staff, people whose work I have long respected,” and that “no organization surpasses Fordham at posing and illuminating the fundamental issues that confront American K-12 education. … I look forward to helping to advance that vital work.”

This is Petrilli’s second stint with the Fordham Foundation. In the late 1990s, before being tapped to work for the federal government, he served as the foundation’s program director, editing reports and directing its reform programs in Dayton, Ohio.

At the federal level, Petrilli supervised reform-centered discretionary grant programs, coordinated evaluation and dissemination activities, and promoted innovations such as charter schools and alternative certification programs. Prior to that, he served as a special assistant for policy and planning in the deputy secretary’s office.

“I will never forget the four historic, rewarding years I have spent at the U.S. Department of Education,” Petrilli said in the release, “and I look forward to continuing to fight for the principles embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act” as a senior officer at Fordham.

Krista Kafer ([email protected]) is a freelance education writer based in Denver.