School reforms abound today, yet even the boldest and most imaginative among them have produced—at best—marginal gains in student achievement. What America needs in the twenty-first century is a far more profound version of education reform. Instead of shoveling yet more policies, programs, and practices into our current system, we must deepen our understanding of the obstacles to reform that are posed by existing structures, governance arrangements, and power relationships. Yet few education reformers—or public officials—have been willing to delve into this touchy territory.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Center for American Progress have teamed up to tackle these tough issues and ask how our mostly nineteenth-century system of K-12 governance might be modernized and made more receptive to the innumerable changes that have occurred—and need to occur—in the education realm. We have commissioned fifteen first-rate analysts to probe the structural impediments to school reform and to offer provocative alternatives.


  • Paper Abstracts
  • Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli: "The Failures of U.S. Education Governance Today"
  • Cynthia Brown: "Fractured Governance of Resources and the Need for a Coherent and Fair System of Funding to Support High-Quality Public Schools"
  • Michelle Davis: "Governance Challenges to Innovators within the System"
  • Marguerite Roza: "The Machinery that Drives Education-Spending Decisions Inhibits Better Uses of Resources"
  • Steven F. Wilson: "Governance Challenges to Innovators outside the System"
  • Jeffrey Henig: "The End of Educational Exceptionalism: The Rise of the Education Executives in the White House, State House, and Mayor's Office"
  • Frederick M. Hess and Olivia M. Meeks: "More than the Mantra of 'Mayoral Control': Rethinking District Governance for the 21st Century"
  • Kathryn McDermott: "The Next Wave of Standards-Based Reform? Interstate Standards and Testing Consortia"
  • Kenneth K. Wong: "Toward a New Federal Role in Public Education: The Challenge of Governance in Performance-Based Federalism"
  • Sir Michael Barber: "Reimagining Education Governance: An International Perspetive"
  • Michael Mintrom and Richard Walley: "Education Governance in Comparative Perspective"
  • Barry G. Rabe: "Governance in Other Policy Sectors: Lessons from Health-Care and Environmental Policy"
  • Paul T. Hill: "Picturing a Different Governance Structure for Public Education"
  • Kenneth J. Meier: "Governance Reform: From Theory to Results"