Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 

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


Missing Al Shanker

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three recent experiences have served to remind me how much I miss—and how much the country and the cause of better education were diminished by the loss of—the late Albert Shanker, who passed away in 1997.

Analysis and Commentary

Can Special Ed Be Fixed?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In a searing expose, reminiscent of the heyday of journalistic muckraking, the Houston Chronicle has assembled and published fairly persuasive evidence that the great state of Texas has placed a de facto cap of 8.5 percent on the number of kids who can be placed in special education.

Analysis and Commentary

Opening New York City's Gifted-And-Talented Doors Wide For All City Kids

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via New York Daily News
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Last October, we lamented New York City’s neglect of high-ability students, particularly in its low-income neighborhoods. Since then, the district and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have taken steps to mitigate the problem. Unfortunately, their efforts fall way short.


Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control In Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Wall Street Journal
Monday, September 5, 2016

Charters are supplanting the union-dominated school board model. The big winners are students.


States Should Use ESSA To Do Right By High-Achieving Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Fordham Institute’s new report, High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA, examines whether states’ current or planned accountability systems for elementary and middle schools attend to the needs of high-achieving students, as well as how these systems might be redesigned under the Every Student Succeeds Act to better serve all students. 

Analysis and Commentary

High Stakes For High Achievers

by Michael J. Petrilli, David Griffith, Brandon L. Wright , Audrey Kim, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

State accountability in the age of ESSA.

Analysis and Commentary

We Must Diversify Charter School Options

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Education Week
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

June 4 marked the 25th anniversary of Minnesota's charter school law, the nation's first. In 1990, charter pioneer Ted Kolderie foresaw that chartering would "introduce the dynamics of choice, competition, and innovation into America's public school system, while at the same time ensuring that new schools serve broad public purposes."

Analysis and Commentary

Sorting Out The Advice For Mark Zuckerberg And Priscilla Chan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Monday, August 22, 2016

My respected friend Marc Tucker—in his open letter taking issue with my earlier missive —sorely misinterpreted or misstated one of my central points, so I must at least try to set the record straight. 


Knowledge Matters: E. D. Hirsch, Jr.'s Fifth Book On Education Is As Important As His First

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

Don Hirsch has done it again. Never mind that he’s eighty-eight. Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories, his fifth book on education reform—there were at least five earlier ones in his original field of English literature, criticism, and composition—is as clear and trenchant as Cultural Literacy was in 1987. 

Analysis and Commentary

Americans Win Gold At Math Olympiad

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, August 12, 2016

While everyone is fixated on the Rio Olympics and the impressive start that U.S. athletes have made there, it’s worth a brief detour to the results of another summer competition—this one in Hong Kong—in which the American team dominated: the International Math Olympiad (IMO) for high-school students.