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 Unfulfilled Promise Of High-School Choice

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

At first blush, high school would seem to be the part of K–12 education where choice should work best—and do the most good. Students are older, more mobile, more independent, with ideas of their own, often beginning to think about the directions they may take in life as adults.

Featured

The Failure Of Civics Education—And The Brown Center

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

The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings continues to issue annual reports on American education, but this year’s version leads one to rue the retirement of Tom Loveless and the exit of Russ Whitehurst (in his case to another berth at Brookings where he continues to churn out terrific stuff).

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Brushing Up on “Truth Decay”

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, July 9, 2018

Separating fact from fiction is an elementary skill. So why don’t we teach it in elementary school?

Analysis and Commentary

Dubious Move To Reject Advanced Placement

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Friday, June 22, 2018

The octet of D.C.- area private school heads who boasted a few days ago that their pricey bastions of teaching and learning will no longer offer Advanced Placement courses made much of how the home-grown classes that will replace AP "allow for authentic engagement with the world and demonstrate respect for students' intellectual curiosity and interests."

Analysis and Commentary

Ending Poverty As We've Known (And Measured) It?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A big surprise—and mountain of confusion—is coming to everyone who cares about educating poor kids, not to mention every policy wonk in the K–12 realm. The definition of “poor” and “disadvantaged” is in flux for the first time in my decades of engagement with K–12 education, and the outcome is going to be a prolonged period of instability and inconsistency. 

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.

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