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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Recent Commentary

Featured

Quality Control In Dual Enrollment

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dual enrollment is on a roll. Enabling high school students to take college courses for college credit while still enrolled in high school is intended by its advocates to help solve multiple problems that plague American education.

Analysis and Commentary

Resurrecting Catholic Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The two most important changes in American education policy over the past several decades have been the expansion of school choice and changes to school accountability. So far, they’ve generally been good for our country and our kids. Yet they’ve largely left Catholic schools behind.

Featured

The Innovation Infatuation

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Every once in a while, American K–12 education is overwhelmed by the conviction that its basic design is obsolete and that it needs somehow to reinvent schooling. One hears statements such as “If Rip Van Winkle were to awaken today from a century-long slumber, the only institutions he’d recognize would be schools and cemeteries.”

Analysis and Commentary

Do Trump Voters Want Vouchers?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, December 9, 2016

Insofar as Donald Trump paid any attention to primary-secondary education during his campaign, he mostly touted school choice and promised, if elected, to mount a $20 billion federal program to enable low-income kids to attend private or charter schools.

Analysis and Commentary

ExcelinEd Gets A B On School Accountability

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, December 5, 2016

My respect and appreciation for the Foundation for Excellence in Education is almost boundless, particularly for founder/chairman Jeb Bush and CEO Patricia Levesque. Their “summit” last week in Washington was first rate and their policy advice for state leaders is nearly always sound.

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Featured

Should Trump Bother With An Education Agenda?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

As of Thanksgiving 2016, nobody can forecast what the Trump administration will do—or even try to do—in K–12 education. Practically all he proposed during the campaign was a whopping new federal program to promote school choice. There was also loose talk about “cutting” the Department of Education and about the Common Core State Standards being “a total disaster.”

Analysis and Commentary

All High School Students Count, Not Just Low Performers

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Eleven weeks back, those of us at the Fordham Institute reported that current accountability systems in most states give primary and middle school educators scant reason to attend to the learning of high-achieving youngsters—which is to say, those systems generally fail to create incentives, rewards, or even transparency regarding the learning gains that schools are producing for students who have already crossed the proficiency threshold.

Featured

Stop Teaching Anti-Trump Bias

by Frederick M. Hess, Chester E. Finn Jr.via US News
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Teachers aren't helping when they fuel student anxieties about Trump's victory.

Analysis and Commentary

The Massachusetts Charter School Cap Harms Disadvantaged Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Friday, November 4, 2016

The most disadvantaged children in Massachusetts stand to benefit most if the state’s tight cap on charter schools is loosened—a policy decision that will face Bay State voters on Election Day. 

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Featured

Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Thursday, October 27, 2016

America’s devotion to local control of schools is dying, but it is also being reborn as a new faith in charter schools. These independently operated public schools—nearly 7,000 across the country, and counting—provide a much-needed option for almost three million youngsters in forty-two states and Washington, D.C.

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