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

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Fight for the Bright

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our highest-achieving students have needs, too—and we’re failing to meet them.

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Governing Urban Schools In The Future: What’s Facing Philadelphia And Pennsylvania

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Urban school governance is a moving target, in part because it’s pretty clear that there’s no best way to handle it and in part because no change in a city’s arrangements ever works as well as its promoters hoped. 

Jeb Bush
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The Bush Education Plan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Education reform has been a specialty of Jeb Bush’s, and his track record on this issue in Florida is unbeatable. He knows the topic up, down, and sideways. But he’s never had to deal directly with federal policy before, so I picked up his “education vision” paper with interest to see how he and his team would approach it.

Analysis and Commentary

A Different Kind Of Lesson From Finland

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Finland has been lauded for years as this planet’s grand K-12 education success story, deserving of study and emulation by other nations.

Analysis and Commentary

How To Solve Scalia's Race Problem

by Brandon L. Wright , Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

During a high-visibility Supreme Court hearing last week on the Fisher v. University of Texas admissions case, Justice Scalia made some ill-considered comments on race in higher education: "There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well."

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Germany Is Leaving Its Bright Students Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In The Atlantic last month, Carly Berwick praised Germany for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality. That’s no small feat—and one well worthy of recognition and accolades.

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Losing The Ability To Compare Academic Performance Across States

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Robert Pondisciovia EducationNext
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Our friend and colleague Mike Petrilli is right about many things, but he’s wrong to dismiss solid interstate comparisons of academic performance as a “nice to have,” not a “must-have.” 

Failing Our Brightest Kids by Chester E. Finn and Brandon L. Wright
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Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Books by Hoover Fellows
Thursday, November 19, 2015

In this provocative volume, Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright argue that, for decades, the United States has done too little to focus on educating students to achieve at high levels.

John E. Chubb
Analysis and Commentary

R.I.P. John Chubb

by Chester E. Finn Jr.featuring John E. Chubbvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, November 16, 2015

John Chubb was not only a fine scholar, tireless education reformer, and creative innovator.

Analysis and Commentary

Fordham's Mike Petrilli And Checker Finn On The ESEA Compromise

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, November 13, 2015

As the contours of an ESEA deal become clear, the country has much to celebrate.

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