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, former chairman of Hoover's Task Force on K–12 Education, member of the Maryland State Board of Education and of Maryland's Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, and Distinguished Senior Fellow & President Emeritus 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 Bruno V. Manno and Brandon L. Wright) is Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities. Earlier works include Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (coauthored with Brandon L. Wright), Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools (coauthored with Jessica Hockett), 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

“What Do You Mean, ‘Proficient’?” The Saga Of NAEP Achievement Levels

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, May 19, 2022

As I write this, representative samples of fourth and eighth graders are taking National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in math and English. These exams must be held every two years in accordance with federal law to determine how well ongoing education reforms are working, whether achievement gaps between key demographic groups are growing or shrinking, and to what extent the nation is still “at risk” due to weakness in its K–12 system. 

Analysis and Commentary

Assessing The Nation’s Report Card: Challenges And Choices For NAEP

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Assessing the Nation’s Report Card: Challenges and Choices for NAEP is available for purchase from Harvard Education Press and Amazon, among other bookstores.

Featured

“It Felt Like Guerrilla Warfare”

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Student achievement levels in the Nation’s Report Card: a brief history of “basic,” “proficient,” and “advanced”

Perspectives on PolicyFeaturedFeatured

Overhauling The Nation’s Report Card

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via PolicyEd
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will need to embrace vital changes in order to preserve itself as the gold standard of educational achievement testing.

Featured

Assessing The Nation’s Report Card: Challenges And Choices For NAEP

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, May 12, 2022

Tuesday marked the formal debut of the book that’s consumed most of my work life over the past two years, the book I generally think of as a “biography of NAEP” or “the past, present and future of NAEP.” I’m sincerely grateful to the Harvard Education Press for publishing it, to Fordham’s Pedro Enamorado for helping in so many ways to get it done, and to the Smith Richardson Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York for helping make it happen.

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Assessing the Nation’s Report Card: Challenges and Choices for NAEP

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Harvard Education Press
Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Assessing the Nation’s Report Card examines the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and outlines plans for improving and modernizing the organization.

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A Lesson in Balance

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Schools must learn, with wisdom and humility, to blend both parents’ rights and society’s needs.

Featured

The Little-Known Test That Matters The Most

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, April 28, 2022

How will we gauge the learning loss that young Americans suffered due to Covid-forced school shutdowns? How do we see whether achievement gaps between groups of students are widening or narrowing? How do we know whether kids in Pennsylvania are better or worse readers at the end of middle school than their peers in Colorado?

Featured

We’re Rewriting The Most Important Educational Test You’ve Never Heard Of

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Hill
Monday, April 25, 2022

Thousands of fourth and eighth graders have just completed a pivotal test that few Americans know anything about: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the “Nation’s Report Card.” 

Featured

Denver’s Cautionary Tale For The “Charter-Lite” Strategy

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, March 31, 2022

It’s no secret that Denver’s latest school board is wreaking havoc on the suite of bold education reforms that the Mile High City was known for over the past two decades. Parker Baxter and Alan Gottlieb recount the sorrowful saga at some length in the latest issue of Education Next.

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