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

Analysis and Commentary

Germany Is Leaving Its Bright Students Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In The Atlantic this week, Carly Berwick praised Germany for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality.


Pell Grants Should Go (Only) To Needy Students Who Are Ready For College

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, November 2, 2015

What if federal aid for college students were focused exclusively on those who are truly ready for college?


How New York Fails Students Who Are Gifted But Poor

by Brandon L. Wright , Chester E. Finn Jr.via New York Post
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New York is leaving gifted children behind. Scads of K–3 students in low-income neighborhoods aren’t even taking entrance exams for gifted programs. Four of the city’s 32 school districts don’t even have programs for gifted students, and many that do aren’t getting the word out. Which leaves it to savvy, pushy parents and watchful teachers to nudge kids forward, an arrangement that nearly always works better in middle-class communities.


America's Abandoned Smart Kids

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Intel’s recent announcement that it will cease sponsoring and underwriting the prestigious Science Talent Search, which it took over from Westinghouse in 1998, is another nail in the coffin of gifted education in the United States.

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Readiness Isn’t Optional

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Friday, October 16, 2015

New tests can show parents whether their kids are on track. Will the states give them the results straight?

Analysis and Commentary

How Schools Can Offset The "Asian Advantage" For Other Kids, Too

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Asian American Achievement Paradox, a new book by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, prompted New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to pen a provocative column on Sunday. Kristof agreed that “the success of Asian-Americans is a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education,” but went on to caution that “because one group can access the American dream does not mean that all groups can.”

school children

The Bright Children Left Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A great problem in U.S. education is that gifted students are rarely pushed to achieve their full potential.

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Why Bother Educating Smart Kids?

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright quoting Eric Hanushekvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, September 17, 2015

While it’s important to help out low achieving students, it’s the most talented students who will lead our country into the future. 

Analysis and Commentary

Charter Schools: Taking Stock

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Mannovia Education Next
Thursday, August 27, 2015

In 2016, it will be a quarter century since Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law.


Education Governance: Different Schools Of Thought

by Amber M. Northern, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anyone who has spent serious time within the U.S. public education system would likely agree that there are too many chefs in the school governance kitchen.