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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a conservative American nonprofit education policy think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. and Dayton, Ohio. Its stated mission is "to close America's vexing achievement gaps by raising standards, strengthening accountability, and expanding education options for parents and families."
The institute's namesake was a businessman and civic leader in Dayton, Ohio. His widow established the foundation in 1959 to support a wide range of causes in the Dayton area. In 1996, the institute narrowed its focus to education under the leadership of Chester E. Finn, Jr. The foundation now has offices in both Dayton and Washington, D.C.
The institute releases its weekly e-bulletin, the Education Gadfly, every Thursday. The Gadfly provides commentary on the latest developments and research in education policy. In April 2006, the Gadfly editors launched the Education Gadfly Show podcast, which features Fordham vice president Michael J. Petrilli and American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick M. Hess. The institute also hosts a blog, Flypaper, which it launched in February 2008.
Between 2003 and 2007, the institute gave two prizes for excellence in education. The first, for distinguished scholarship, recognized individuals whose research had furthered the cause of education reform. The second, for valor, recognized leaders whose actions had had a noticeable impact on public education. Winners of the scholarship award were Paul E. Peterson, Anthony Bryk, Eric Hanushek, Terry Moe, Caroline Hoxby, Paul T. Hill, Stephan Thernstrom, and Abigail Thernstrom. Winners of the valor award were E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Howard Fuller, Marion Joseph, Michael Feinberg, David Levin, and Kati Haycock.
The Fordham Institute is not connected with Fordham University.
The institute believes unions impede reforms necessary for high student achievement in spite of the fact that many highly unionized states have high student achievement. The institute attempts to frame the issue by releasing a study which reinterpreted union strength in several states with different criteria. The new interpretation states that states such as Massachusetts, Delaware, and Maryland, which have outpaced the rest of the country in student achievement gains, do not have unions that are as strong as conventionally believed. It suggests that the student achievement gains are in spite of high union membership and due to weak union power although there is no evidence which proves so. Many critics say the study is "laughable", "silly", and "flawed".