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

Analysis and Commentary

The End Of Education Reform?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, July 15, 2016

For three decades, leaders of both major political parties have recognized the urgency of reforming and renewing American K–12 education, and major elements of the reform agenda have generally enjoyed bipartisan support: higher standards, better teachers, results-based accountability, and more choices (particularly via charter schools).

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Education Reform Decouples

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas
Thursday, July 14, 2016

For years, the movement was held together by centrists on the left and right—but now it’s grown polarized. 

Teachers picket in La Habra last December
Analysis and Commentary

Teachers' Unions: It Could Be Worse

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, July 1, 2016

With her nonstop knack for making waves, getting noticed, and possibly even advancing the interests of her members, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten is now on the warpath against hedge fund managers. “Why,” she asks, “would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?”

Analysis and Commentary

Finn, Manno, Wright: The Vision For The Next 25 Years Of Charter Schools? Bigger. Broader. Bolder.

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via The 74 Million
Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 4th marked the 25th anniversary of the enactment of Minnesota’s charter school law, the nation’s first. In broad terms, the authors’ vision allowed for the creation of new schools that would be exempt from many of K-12’s overbearing regulations in return for these schools being held accountable for results.

Analysis and Commentary

Jeanne Makes It Manifest

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, June 17, 2016

It isn't perfect, but Jeanne Allen's new education reform "manifesto" makes a number of valuable points and powerful suggestions for the future. Notably, she argues for a fresh emphasis on innovation, an earnest embrace of upward mobility, and a heartfelt commitment to universal opportunity, flexibility, and transparency.

Analysis and Commentary

Repairing The Charter Marketplace

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, June 17, 2016

Last time around, we argued that America’s charter marketplace has done a mediocre job of matching supply with demand and ensuring solid school quality. We fingered three (of many) sources of these partial market failures: too few (and, in some locales, too many) charter schools; weak consumer information; and distracted suppliers.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Tom Loveless Is Wrong About NAEP Achievement Levels

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My friend Tom Loveless is right about most things, and he’s certainly right that scoring “proficient” on NAEP has nothing to do with being “on grade level.” He’s also right that Campbell Brown missed this point.

Featured

Market Malfunctions In The Charter Sector

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our first essay paid homage to chartering’s origins, a prominent strand of which was the mounting awareness that K–12 education’s “one best system” was not meeting the educational needs of every child.

Analysis and Commentary

Charter School Pluralism: "No-Excuses" And Beyond

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Friday, June 3, 2016

Why our founding document undermines effective government—and why we need a more powerful presidency.

Analysis and Commentary

Why It's Hard To Grasp Charter School Effectiveness

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, May 23, 2016

Supporting charter schools requires tough love. It isn’t enough to create them and let kids attend them. They also need to be run with integrity; their books need to balance; their pupils must be safe; and above all, their academic achievement has to be strong, especially when gauged by student growth.

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