Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow

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

Creating Autonomous Schools In Traditional Districts

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Progressive Policy Institute’s indefatigable David Osborne, a long-time student of and advocate for quality charter schools, now joined by Tressa Pankovits, has penned a valuable guide to the creation of autonomous “innovation schools” within traditional districts.


Chester Finn And Michael Petrilli On The Education Gadfly Show: The Loathsome War On Exam Schools

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss the growing, misguided war on selective-admissions high schools.

The Hunger (for Admission) Games

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, October 19, 2020
The University of California’s decision to scrap standardized tests earns an “F.” The move does nothing for fairer admissions or better schools.

Empty Pedestals, Hollow Minds

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, October 19, 2020

Those who failed to learn history are especially eager to erase it.


Equity And Unintended Consequences In The Washington Suburbs

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Not far from my backyard, two big public-school systems are on the verge of letting their attentiveness to equity and racial justice lead to consequences they may end up regretting. And that saddens me, both as their neighbor and as one who cherishes both pluribus and unum, both excellence and equity.

Analysis and Commentary

Rocky Road To Better Civics Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

There’s much energy in the cosmos these days around civics education, history education, maybe even “patriotic” history and civics education. Raj Vinnakota’s project on behalf of several private foundations yielded an admirable “landscape analysis,” and the WW Foundation (née Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) that Raj now heads launched a “civic spring” project to foster “hands-on civic learning” among young people.

Analysis and Commentary

Donald Trump, Patriotic History, And The Federal Role

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Republican party has no 2020 platform. They refer people looking for one to the 2016 version. That goes for education along with everything else. The Trump-Pence campaign website doesn’t display policy positions, either, though there’s a section on “promises kept” that includes one skimpy page on education.


Teacher Unions Vs. Private Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The private schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, are breathing a sigh of relief that, after much sturm und drang this past week, they’re back in charge of their own decisions about whether and how to re-open. 


Chester Finn: The Education Gadfly Show: Another Reason For More School Autonomy

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn talks about how schools can be given autonomy to adapt to students’ varying needs and to external events.

Analysis and CommentaryBlank Section (Placeholder)

The Education Exchange: The Pandemic Is Killing Standardized Testing And The Accountability That Comes With It

by Paul E. Peterson interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Education Exchange
Monday, August 3, 2020

A Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and co-author of “Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present and Future of Advanced Placement,” Chester E. Finn, Jr., joins Paul E. Peterson to discuss standardized testing, and how higher education is moving away from requiring tests as part of the application process amid the Covid-19 pandemic.