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 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

Fancy Private Schools Swim In Lake Wobegon

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, May 19, 2017

As more and more elite independent schools price themselves out of the upper-middle class parent market, as more of their traditional distinguishing features—things like honors courses, ample Advanced Placement offerings, library and technology access, small classes, oodles of art and music—get picked up by ever more district and charter schools, and as selective colleges seek to fill their entering classes with more variegated kids from a wider array of high schools, many private schools are struggling to devise new ways of setting themselves apart from the masses (and, presumably, justifying their lofty price tags).


The Purpose Of Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via US News
Monday, May 8, 2017

3 ways charters reform and improve district-level schools.


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.