Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow

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


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.


Securing The Public's Interest In Good Schools: Markets, Testing, And Accountability

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My friend and colleague Robert Pondiscio has done his best—and that’s a high bar—to navigate and mediate between Jason Bedrick and Mike Petrilli in the latest chapter of America’s endless debate about whether school accountability is best done via the parent marketplace or state assessment regimes.

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The Schools We Deserve

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Hoover Digest
Friday, January 27, 2017

Old-style local control of public schools is fading—except, that is, in charter schools. 

Analysis and Commentary

Do Trump Voters Want Vouchers?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, January 20, 2017

Insofar as Donald Trump paid any attention to primary-secondary education during his campaign, he mostly touted school choice and promised, if elected, to mount a $20 billion federal program to enable low-income kids to attend private or charter schools.


Quality Control In Dual Enrollment

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dual enrollment is on a roll. Enabling high school students to take college courses for college credit while still enrolled in high school is intended by its advocates to help solve multiple problems that plague American education.