Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Biography: 

Chester E. Finn Jr. has devoted his career to improving education in the United States. As a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, chairman of Hoover's Task Force on K–12 Education, and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, his primary focus is reforming primary and secondary schooling.

Finn has led Fordham since 1997, after many earlier roles in education, academe, and government, including professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, US assistant secretary of education, and legislative director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

A native of Ohio, he holds an undergraduate degree in US history, a master's degree in social studies teaching, and a doctorate in education policy, all from Harvard University.

Finn has served on numerous boards, currently including the National Council on Teacher Quality and the Core Knowledge Foundation. From 1988 to 1996, he served on the National Assessment Governing Board, including two years as its chair.

Author of more than four hundred articles and twenty books, Finn's latest (coauthored with Jessica Hockett) is Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools. Earlier works include Ohio's Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines (coauthored with Terry Ryan and Michael Lafferty); Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform since Sputnik; Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut; Leaving No Child Behind: Options for Kids in Failing Schools (coedited with Frederick M. Hess); Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education (coauthored with Bruno V. Manno and Gregg Vanourek); and The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide from Pre-School through Eighth Grade (coauthored with William J. Bennett and John Cribb).

He and his wife, Renu Virmani, a physician, have two grown children and three adorable granddaughters. They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary

Blogs

Pre-Kraziness

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Way back in 2000, the United Nations went through an elaborate process of setting “millennium development goals” for the world. To be attained by 2015, these were, of course, entirely laudable—e.g., “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” and “achieve universal primary education”—and they have definitely influenced the priorities of various UN agencies, other governmental and multilateral aid providers, and private philanthropies.

Featured Commentary

Beyond the Common Core

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review Online
Monday, July 28, 2014

The raucous Common Core debates of recent months have distracted many conservatives from their primary mission in the education wars: ensuring that every state and district in the land moves forcefully to raise academic standards, hold schools and educators (as well as students) to account for their performance, provide sound education choices to every family (including those with gifted or disabled youngsters), and squeeze more bang from every taxpayer buck that pours into primary and secondary education.

Classroom students
Featured Commentary

We’ll Miss You, Michael Gove

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review Online
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recent revelations suggest that David Cameron’s unexpected move to replace reform-minded education minister Michael Gove (who’s been popular with British conservatives) with Ms. Nicky Morgan might have been triggered by more than crass pre-election maneuvering to placate teachers and women.

Blogs

Whither the NEA?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Friday, July 11, 2014

I’ve never been to the annual conference of the National Education Association and I’ve never regretted it, but it would have been fun to be a fly on the chandelier at last week’s shindig in Denver.

Learn to Spell “Compromise”

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“Either/or” positions have paralyzed education reform. Let’s pull our desks into the middle.

Open Book Image
Blogs

The ‘Balanced Literacy’ Hoax

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Monday, June 30, 2014

My chief mentor, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, occasionally warned against “semantic infiltration,” which he correctly attributed to the late arms-control expert, Fred Ikle. It is, of course, the judo-like practice of using terms that are appealing to an audience as fig leaves for practices that the same audience would find repugnant—turning one’s own language against one’s interests, you might say.

school children
Blogs

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Monday, June 16, 2014

Last week, Gates Foundation education chief Vicki Phillips wrote a “letter to our partners” urging that states give students and teachers time to adjust to the new Common Core standards before using those standards as factors “in high-stakes decisions on teacher evaluation or student promotion for the next two years, during this transition.”

High school students in class
Blogs

Intellectual Coherence and the Common Core

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just because some criticisms of Common Core standards are over the top and dripping with misinformation doesn’t make them all so. Plenty of valid concerns exist, and the estimable Peggy Noonan recently homed in on several of them. She acknowledges “that Core proponents’ overall objective—to get schools teaching more necessary and important things, and to encourage intellectual coherence in what is taught—is not bad, but good.” 

Graduation
Featured Commentary

America’s College Kids Are a Bunch of Mollycoddled Babies

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Politico
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

t’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry over the demand by U.S. college students for “trigger warnings” to alert them that something they’re about to read or see in one of their classes might traumatize them—apparently a new trend, according to the New York Times. Ditto for off-beat campus sculptures, placards displayed by protesters and more.

High school students in class
Blogs

Now You’re Entitled To Your Own Facts Too

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Monday, May 12, 2014

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