Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
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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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Featured

New Book From Charter School Advocates Offers Lots Of Bad Advice

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Some smart education reformers just made two thirds of a very dumb mistake. In Charting a New Course: The Case for Freedom, Flexibility & Opportunity Through Charter Schools, Jeanne Allen, Max Eden and others (including Mike McShane, Ben Lindquist, Derrell Bradford and Jay Greene) offer several solid suggestions for state policy makers, such as encouraging more small one-off charters, having more than one authorizer in a given locale, systematically auditing the regulatory burden on charter schools, and giving them latitude to hire the teachers of their choice.

Analysis and Commentary

What Philanthropy Has Done Right — And Done Wrong — On Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Monday, June 12, 2017

September 2017 will mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of America’s first charter school, City Academy High School in St. Paul, Minn. In the quarter-century since its founding, charters have become the fastest-growing school-choice option in the United States, with almost 7,000 of them enrolling more than 6 percent of public-school-age pupils. (In 17 districts, the figure is more than 30 percent.) Charters account for the entire growth of K-12 public-school enrollment since 2006.

Analysis and Commentary

Three Ways Charters Reform And Improve Our Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, May 26, 2017

City Academy High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, will celebrate a milestone in September: twenty-five years as the nation's first charter school. During that quarter century, charter school growth has been remarkable. Today, forty-four states and Washington, D.C. contain some seven thousand of these independently operated public schools, serving nearly 3 million students. Remarkably, charters account for the entire growth in U.S. K–12 public school enrollments since 2006.

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Featured

Inapplicable Insights

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Linda Darling-Hammond, smart as she is, doubtless has many fresh thoughts and insights. In her new book series on “empowered educators,” however, after bringing in a sizable body of information on how other countries go about it, she and a number of colleagues recycle many of their sturdiest old thoughts and insights. Subtitled “how high-performing systems shape teaching quality around the world,” they—under the aegis of a Stanford policy center and Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy—describe in depth (via a 280-page overview treatise and multiple supplemental volumes) “how seven international educational systems create a coherent set of policies designed to ensure quality teaching in all communities.”

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The End Of Teacher Tenure?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ending the practice in K-12 schools would be good for students and taxpayers.  

Analysis and Commentary

Fancy Private Schools Want To Abandon High School Transcripts And Grades

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Monday, May 22, 2017

As more and more elite independent schools price themselves out of the upper-middle class parent market, as more of their traditional distinguishing features—things like honors courses, ample Advanced Placement offerings, library and technology access, small classes, oodles of art and music—get picked up by ever more district and charter schools, and as selective colleges seek to fill their entering classes with more variegated kids from a wider array of high schools, many private schools are struggling to devise new ways of setting themselves apart from the masses (and, presumably, justifying their lofty price tags).

Analysis and Commentary

Fancy Private Schools Swim In Lake Wobegon

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, May 19, 2017

As more and more elite independent schools price themselves out of the upper-middle class parent market, as more of their traditional distinguishing features—things like honors courses, ample Advanced Placement offerings, library and technology access, small classes, oodles of art and music—get picked up by ever more district and charter schools, and as selective colleges seek to fill their entering classes with more variegated kids from a wider array of high schools, many private schools are struggling to devise new ways of setting themselves apart from the masses (and, presumably, justifying their lofty price tags).

Featured

The Purpose Of Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via US News
Monday, May 8, 2017

3 ways charters reform and improve district-level schools.

Featured

Education Changes In Trump’s First 100 Days

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, May 4, 2017

Those who follow federal education policy or work on education at the state level are well aware of a few big changes wrought by the Trump team (with some help from Congress) in its first hundred days, including wiping out the late Obama ESSA accountability regs and easing off on bathroom access rules.

Featured

The End Of Teacher Tenure?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, April 21, 2017

Tenure arrived in K–12 education as a trickle-down from higher ed. Will the demise of tenure follow a similar sequence? Let us earnestly pray for it—for tenure’s negatives today outweigh its positives—but let us not count on it.

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