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

The Gordian Knot Of High School Reform

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I know nobody who denies that high school education in America sorely needs an overhaul. Achievement scores are flat—whether one looks at NAEP, PISA, TIMSS, SAT, or the ACT. Graduation rates are up—but incidents of padding, cheating, and fraud are appearing more and more often. Scads of kids enter college ill prepared to succeed there. 

Analysis and Commentary

Should Passing The Citizenship Test Be A High School Graduation Requirement?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, May 3, 2018

Way back when you were young (i.e., 2003), the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation published a hard-hitting report titled Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? It lamented the manifest failures of social-studies education, identified a number of culprits, and recommended a series of fundamental rethinks and reforms.

Analysis and Commentary

Teacher Strikes, Teacher Pay, And Teacher Status

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

It’s hard not to sympathize with the striking teachers in several states. They’re not very well paid, inflation is creeping up, a lot of classrooms are crowded with kids and lacking in textbooks and supplies, and a number of state and local budgets for school operations are extremely tight and sometimes declining.

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A Degree of Disappointment

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Friday, April 20, 2018

“College for all” has diluted the value of a bachelor’s degree and diverted many young people from better paths toward the working world.

Analysis and Commentary

Can Social Studies Get Even Worse?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Way back when you were young (i.e., 2003), the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation published a hard-hitting report titled Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? It lamented the manifest failures of social-studies education, identified a number of culprits, and recommended a series of fundamental rethinks and reforms.

Analysis and Commentary

Virtues—And Sins—Of Commission

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, February 16, 2018

For the past year and a half, I’ve been honored to represent the State Board of Education on the Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education, which released its preliminary report this week. Much heavy lifting lies ahead as Commission members work with staff and consultants to put flesh on the bones of our broad policy recommendations and to cost them out.

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Truth Decay In Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The emphasis on “critical thinking” is misplaced. Students need to learn the facts.

Analysis and Commentary

Narrowing The Gifted Gap For Disadvantaged Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Amber M. Northernvia EducationNext
Friday, February 9, 2018

The United States wastes an enormous amount of its human capital by failing to cultivate the innate talents of many of its young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. That failure exacts a great cost from the nation’s economy, widens painful gaps in income, frustrates efforts to spur upward mobility, contributes to civic decay and political division, and worsens the inequalities that plague so many elements of our society.

Featured

Why We Need State-by-State NAEP Scores For 12th Graders

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, February 8, 2018

The single best thing that could happen to American education in the next few years would be for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to begin regularly reporting state-by-state results at the twelfth grade level.

Analysis and Commentary

Narrowing The Gifted Gap For Disadvantaged Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Amber M. Northernvia Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Thursday, February 1, 2018

The United States wastes an enormous amount of its human capital by failing to cultivate the innate talents of many of its young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. That failure exacts a great cost from the nation’s economy, widens painful gaps in income, frustrates efforts to spur upward mobility, contributes to civic decay and political division, and worsens the inequalities that plague so many elements of our society.

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