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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In the News

What You May Not Know—But Should—About The Nation’s Report Card

mentioning Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Thursday, June 23, 2022

Join Chester E. Finn, Jr. to discuss insights for policymakers from his book, Assessing The Nation’s Report Card.

Featured

Chester Finn: What You May Not Know–But Should–About The Nation's Report Card

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Education Gadfly
Thursday, June 23, 2022

Insights on the nations report card by Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn.

Featured

The End Of School Reform?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Affairs
Wednesday, June 22, 2022

In 2021, amid a grim pandemic that had already brought American education to a standstill, the nation's schools were again assaulted, this time by fierce arguments about critical race theory (CRT) — a term that few outside of academia had previously encountered. 

Co-author: Frederick M. Hess

Featured

Natalie Wexler Goes Astray On The NAEP Reading Test

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, June 2, 2022

Natalie Wexler has done much (along with the likes of Jeanne Chall, Don Hirsch, Dan Willingham, Kate Walsh, and Robert Pondiscio) to establish the fact that there’s science behind the act of reading and the related proposition that real reading (not just “decoding”) is no isolated skill but, rather, a complicated process of making sense of what one reads on the page in the context of what one already knows.

Interviews

Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli: Why We Need—And Need To Improve—NAEP

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia The Education Gadfly Show
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss recommendations for the National Assessment of Educational Progress from his new book, Assessing the Nation’s Report Card.

In the News

This Is The Most Important Standardized Test Administered In America

featuring Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Washington Post
Sunday, May 29, 2022

Expert shows NAEP’s periodic samplings provide so much data it’s easy to misuse.

Interviews

Chester Finn: The Future, Present, And Past Of ‘The Nation’s Report Card’

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Week
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Hoover Institution fellow Checker Finn discusses his new book Assessing the Nation’s Report Card: Challenges and Choices for NAEP.

Interviews

“Assessing The Nation’s Report Card: Challenges And Choices For NAEP” With Dr. Chester Finn

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via Ricochet
Monday, May 23, 2022

Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn explores how the US compares to the rest of the world and he also discusses his new book, Assessing the Nation’s Report Card: Challenges and Choices for NAEP.

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.

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