In education, 2018 brought some worthy new beginnings. Policymakers, wonks, and teachers alike realized that large-scale education reform is waning, and that a renewed focus on instruction and practice is needed. This reckoning runs through our most-read posts of the year, which discuss high quality curricula, teacher policies and preparation, classroom instruction, literacy education, the systemic flaws that allow these classroom-level problems to persist, and more. The first seven articles comprise our top posts written by Fordham staff, and the last three include our most-read guest-authored pieces.

The top seven Fordham-authored posts of 2018

1. Direct Instruction: The Rodney Dangerfield of curriculum, by Robert Pondiscio

In response to a meta-analysis on Direct Instruction, Robert Pondiscio examines why this curriculum—which research has proven effective for fifty years—gets no respect. This article was also number one on “The Top 10 Education Next Blog Entries of 2018.”

2. An open letter to my ed school dean, by Robert Pondiscio

Robert writes to his education school dean—modeled after a letter from Patricia C. James to her dean at Arkansas State University—lamenting how poorly his teacher preparation program prepared him to teach reading. This inspired further commentary from Chalkbeat, Eva Moskowitz on LinkedIn, Education Week, and Joanne Jacobs.

3. Why don’t districts do the easy things to improve student learning?, by Michael Petrilli

Mike Petrilli offers two simple initiatives that school districts should implement to boost achievement: adopt an aligned high quality curriculum and establish a more rigorous tenure approval process.

4. Education reform is off track. Here’s how to fix it., by Robert Pondiscio

Written early in the year, Robert attributes the underperformance of education reform to a surfeit of policy and dearth of interest in classroom practice. Late in the year, Mike echoed this idea in another Flypaper post that elicited responses in the policy world and among the general public.

5. Secretary DeVos has earned our respect—and a dignified return to private life, by Michael Petrilli

Following the midterm elections, Mike respectfully advises U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to step down from her post and focus her efforts elsewhere. This provoked multiple conversations on Twitter, including recommendations for possible replacements and a response from DeVos’s press secretary.

6. NAEP 2017: America’s “Lost Decade” of educational progress, by Michael Petrilli

Mike explores seven story lines in the stagnant National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results—complete with national, state, municipal, and district data disaggregated by subgroups.

7. Dubious move to reject Advanced Placement, by Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Checker Finn responds to eight D.C. private school heads who announced that their schools were eliminating Advanced Placement courses, calling it off-base,  disingenuous and downright deceptive, considering that their students still can—and surely will—continue to sit for AP exams.


Our commentary would be impoverished without the valuable and varied opinions of our guest bloggers.

The top three guest-authored posts of 2018

1. High school reimagined (and we truly mean reimagined), by Jessica Shopoff, M.Ed., and Chase Eskelsen, M.Ed.

In this Wonkathon-winning piece, Jessica Shopoff and Chase Eskelsen, members of the K12 Inc. Academic Policy and Public Affairs teams, outline a personalized learning model for high school that ensures that graduates will be ready for college and career.

2. Expanding the important national conversation about reading, by Susan Pimentel

Sue Pimentel, a co-founder of StandardsWork and Student Achievement Partners, builds off of Emily Hanford’s “Hard Words” documentary by compiling a list of best practices and classroom resources for improving elementary school literacy instruction.

3. To spark a Catholic school renaissance, we need to put our faith in autonomous school networks, by Kathleen Porter-Magee

KPM, as we know her, the Superintendent of Partnership Schools in New York City, discusses the ramifications of America’s epidemic of Catholic school closures and a possible remedy.

Sophie Sussman is a research intern with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Currently, she is pursuing a master's degree in education policy at the George Washington University. She also has a bachelor's degree in early childhood education (prekindergarten-5) from the University of Georgia. Sophie's interests include curriculum, teacher quality and assessment as a basis of ensuring high quality education for all students.