Teaching & Learning Obituary

Writer, Former EdWeek Reporter Passes Away

By Debra Viadero — February 02, 2021 | Corrected: February 26, 2021 2 min read
Bob Rothman
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Corrected: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect name for the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Robert Rothman, an author of several books on academic standards and testing and an award-winning former Education Week reporter, died at his home in Washington, D.C. late last month from pancreatic cancer.

He was 61.

Rothman covered curriculum and assessments for Education Week from 1986 to 1993 but spent most of his career writing and consulting for national organizations working to improve education. He was known among friends and colleagues as a gentle person and a gifted writer who provided thoughtful analysis on complex education issues and demonstrated a persevering commitment to educational equity.

“Whether the topic was structural racism in the United States, teacher professionalism in China, or any topic in between, Bob always seemed to have a learned and well-reasoned view to share,” Jason S. Dougal, the executive vice president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, wrote in a memo to the staff. Rothman worked at NCEE as a senior editor at the time of his death.

“But more important than that, Bob was a kind soul whose support of his colleagues never waivered,” Dougal continued. “He could find the lesson in any setback but also cut to the heart of the matter on the most complicated issues. He often spoke quietly, but his opinion spoke volumes.”

Rothman wrote three books on standards and assessments: Measuring Up: Standards, Assessment and School Reform; Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education, and Fewer, Clear, Higher: How the Common Core State Standards Can Change Classroom Practice. He also co-wrote Teaching in the Flat World of Learning with Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond and worked as a ghostwriter on other books for prominent education scholars.

Remembered as an ‘insightful reporter’

Rothman began to develop his assessment expertise in his years at Education Week. While there, he also won an award from the American Psychological Association for a special report he co-wrote on cognitive science, before leaving to do a fellowship on assessment at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Retired Education Week Executive Editor Gregory M. Chronister, who worked with Rothman from his first day on the job, described him as “a tenacious and insightful reporter, and a man of integrity and kindness.”

“He devoted his career in writing and policy to improving education for all students,” said Chronister. “His death is such a loss for the field he loved.”

Besides his stint at NCEE, Rothman also worked as a study director at the National Research Council for a national committee on standards and testing, a journal editor at the Annenberg Institute on School Reform, and a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education.

His battle with cancer lasted many months, yet he continued to work from home until two days before his death, according to his wife, Karla Winters. Besides his wife, Rothman is survived by his daughter, Cleo Rothman; a son, Aaron Rothman, who lives in Florida; his brother Howard Rothman, also a writer, and his mother, Ida Rothman.

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