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

The Different Ways Schools Go About Character Development

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Content of Their Character: Inquiries into the Varieties of Moral Formation is dense and subtle, but it’s also informative and valuable, particularly for educators. We’ve come to expect as much from the University of Virginia–based Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, headed by Ryan Olson and founded by his co-editor, the distinguished UVa professor James Hunter. 

Analysis and Commentary

Even More Social Engineering In New York Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

When the New York City Council moved the other day to require every one of the city’s thirty-two community school districts to develop a school desegregation plan, it was advancing a major initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio, his schools chancellor Richard Carranza, and a sprawling advisory panel, all of them committed to rooting out every form of selectivity and “disparate impact” in the offerings of the country’s biggest public school system. 

Analysis and Commentary

The Silence Of The School Reformers

by Frederick M. Hess, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Monday, December 2, 2019

A tidal wave of wokeness threatens to destroy the movement to improve our nation’s stagnating schools.

Featured

Even More Social Engineering In New York Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

When the New York City Council moved the other day to require every one of the city’s thirty-two community school districts to develop a school desegregation plan, it was advancing a major initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio, his schools chancellor Richard Carranza, and a sprawling advisory panel, all of them committed to rooting out every form of selectivity and “disparate impact” in the offerings of the country’s biggest public school system.

Featured

Time To Put An Ice Pack On The Fever For Social And Emotional Learning

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, November 1, 2019

Call me a crotchety old guy and you have a point, but I need to vent my angst over a new report from the NewSchools Venture Fund, authored by the very capable Stacey Childress and her colleagues. They’ve landed with many feet on the social and emotional learning (SEL) bandwagon. Indeed, their new “insight brief” proudly declares that “enthusiasm for social emotional learning has reached a fever pitch among policymakers and funders.” 

Interviews

Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli: The Education Gadfly Show: On Education, Warren’s Got A Pander For That

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss Senator Warren’s flawed education proposal.
Analysis and CommentaryEconomy

Senator Warren’s “Pretty Awful” Education Plan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, October 25, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren is famous for hurling at least one major plan against every policy issue and societal problem you ever heard of—or hadn’t. It’s true that a lot of them make my head ache, some of them turn my stomach, and practically none seem likely to get enacted during her lifetime, even were she to win the Oval Office. Still, her plans often contain provocative ideas, not all of them bad.

Analysis and Commentary

Can That Plan, Senator Warren!

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren is famous for hurling at least one major plan against every policy issue and societal problem you ever heard of—or hadn’t. It’s true that a lot of them make my head ache, some of them turn my stomach, and practically none seem likely to get enacted during her lifetime, even were she to win the Oval Office. Still, her plans often contain provocative ideas, not all of them bad. At least she’s thinking about big, substantive matters and going after them with big, substantive proposals. That’s a nontrivial part of what a presidential candidate—or president—should do.

Interviews

Chester E. Finn Jr.: AP Classes

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via Charlie Brennan (KMOX)
Monday, October 21, 2019

(12:23) Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn diecusses his new book Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement.

Featured

AP: Great For Gifted High Schoolers

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Andrew Scanlanvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 9, 2019

When considering the available options for gifted high-school kids, the Advanced Placement (AP) program may not be the first thing that comes to mind. That’s too bad because AP might be America’s most effective large-scale “gifted and talented” program at the high school level. That’s a conclusion we reached while researching and writing Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement, published last month by Princeton University Press.

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