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

Education and testing
Blogs

Closing The Expectations Gap 2014

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Achieve has spent a decade relentlessly tracking and reporting on states’ progress in adopting “college- and career-ready” (CCR) policies and practices across multiple fronts. Sometimes we’ve found their reports too rosy, or at least too credulous, with a tendency to credit state assertions that they’re doing something rather than looking under the surface to see whether it’s really happening.

education
Blogs

Will States Tell Parents And Students The Truth About College Readiness?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Amid way too much talk about testing and the Common Core, not enough attention is being paid to what parents will actually learn about their children’s achievement when results are finally released from the recent round of state assessments (most of which assert that they’re “aligned” with the Common Core).

Blogs

The State Of Preschool 2014

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, May 11, 2015

Cohabitation continues between the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). And they don't appear to be practicing birth control, because every year brings one or two new joint products. NIEER's hot-off-the-presses report—the tenth in its series of annual "state of preschool" data-and-advocacy scorecards—was again paid for via a multi-year sole-source contract from the National Center for Education Statistics, and was released at an event featuring none other than Arne Duncan.

Blogs

Presidents, Congress, And The Public Schools: The Politics Of Education Reform

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Jack Jennings was the most influential education policy staffer on the Democratic side of Congress for the past half century. He served on the House Education Committee team for some twenty-seven years, then founded and led a well-regarded quasi-think tank called the Center on Education Policy, which continues to issue useful studies.

Education Image
Blogs

Defining "College Readiness" Down

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Friday, April 24, 2015

A vast amount of contemporary education policy attention and education reform energy has been lavished on the task of defining and gauging “college readiness” and then taking steps to align K–12 outcomes more closely with it. The ultimate goal is for many more young people to complete high school having been properly prepared for “college-level” work.

Blogs

Bravo

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Monday, April 13, 2015

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, unveiled a few days back by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and scheduled for HELP Committee mark-up on April 14, is a remarkable piece of work.

Blogs

College Preparedness Over The Years, According To NAEP

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

For almost a decade, the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, studied whether and how NAEP could “plausibly estimate” the percentage of U.S. students who “possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities in reading and mathematics that would make them academically prepared for college.”

Blogs

How Well Are American Students Learning? Part III: Student Engagement

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Brown Center reports on the state of American education are characteristically lucid and informative as well as scrupulously research-based—and they sometimes venture into unfamiliar but rewarding territory. That's certainly the case with the third section of the latest report, which addresses "the intensity with which students apply themselves to learning in school."

Global Education
Blogs

The Smartest Kids In The World, My Arse

by Chester E. Finn Jr.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The idea for this book was born two years ago, when I read Amanda Ripley’s volume The Smartest Kids in the World. I hate to be promiscuous with compliments, but it’s a very adequate effort. Its title, however, is highly misleading, which I realizedas soon as I checked the book’s index and didn’t see any of my granddaughters mentioned. That’s like Romeo and Juliet without Juliet. The Old Testament without Moses. Black Swan without swans.

Classroom students
Blogs

The Conservative Case For HR 5

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Club for Growth is right about a bunch of issues, but they’re wrong about the pending House bill to replace No Child Left Behind with something far better. HR 5 (the “Student Success Act”), slated for floor action a few days hence, would, if enacted, be the most conservative federal education move in a quarter century.

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