Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 

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 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


Education Changes In Trump’s First 100 Days

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, May 4, 2017

Those who follow federal education policy or work on education at the state level are well aware of a few big changes wrought by the Trump team (with some help from Congress) in its first hundred days, including wiping out the late Obama ESSA accountability regs and easing off on bathroom access rules.


The End Of Teacher Tenure?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, April 21, 2017

Tenure arrived in K–12 education as a trickle-down from higher ed. Will the demise of tenure follow a similar sequence? Let us earnestly pray for it—for tenure’s negatives today outweigh its positives—but let us not count on it.


What Helps Disadvantaged Students: No-Excuses Charters Vs. Income Integration?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax has a provocative lead essay in the latest issue of National Affairs that warrants thoughtful attention by all concerned with boosting the educational opportunities of poor and minority youngsters. (Isn’t that just about everyone in education these days?)


Curriculum Becomes A Reform Strategy

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"Structural” education reformers—the kind who worry about school governance, choice, standards, accountability, ESSA, universal pre-K, graduation rates, collective bargaining, etc.—have long been faulted by “inside the classroom” educators for neglecting pedagogy and curriculum.


The Collapse Of Academic Standards

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, March 23, 2017

While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.


A Painful ESSA Setback In Maryland

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Maryland prides itself on having high-performing public schools, but the truth is that its primary-secondary education system is failing to prepare far too many children for what follows. On the most recent (2015) National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, barely one third of the state’s eighth graders were “proficient” or “advanced” in either math or reading.

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College Classes In Name Only?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas (Hoover Institution)
Thursday, March 16, 2017

Many high schools offer students courses for college credit, but it’s unclear how rigorous they really are. 

Analysis and Commentary

Putting The Needs Of Maryland Children First

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Baltimore Sun
Monday, March 13, 2017

Will Maryland ever place the educational needs of its neediest children above the interests of its middle-class adults? History — and recent events — suggest that the answer is no, barring a fundamental change in the stance of policy makers and those who influence them.


What ESSA Means For States And Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My outrageously prolific friend Rick Hess has another new book out, this time co-edited with Max Eden, formerly of AEI and now the Manhattan Institute’s resident D.C. education policy stalwart. It’s all about the Every Student Succeeds Act, which as you know is the latest incarnation of ESEA and such an elusive, ever-changing creature that they were brave to undertake something as long-fused, durable, and static as an actual hard-copy book.


Time To Roll Back Obama’s Misguided Discipline Guidance

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, February 23, 2017

As Secretary DeVos and Attorney General Sessions and their teams work down the list of Obama-era mischief that needs reversing, let’s hope that their agencies’ joint 2014 “guidance” regarding school discipline is near the top.