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

Analysis and Commentary

Do Trump Voters Want Vouchers?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, December 9, 2016

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.

Analysis and Commentary

ExcelinEd Gets A B On School Accountability

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, December 5, 2016

My respect and appreciation for the Foundation for Excellence in Education is almost boundless, particularly for founder/chairman Jeb Bush and CEO Patricia Levesque. Their “summit” last week in Washington was first rate and their policy advice for state leaders is nearly always sound.

Education Image

Should Trump Bother With An Education Agenda?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

As of Thanksgiving 2016, nobody can forecast what the Trump administration will do—or even try to do—in K–12 education. Practically all he proposed during the campaign was a whopping new federal program to promote school choice. There was also loose talk about “cutting” the Department of Education and about the Common Core State Standards being “a total disaster.”

Analysis and Commentary

All High School Students Count, Not Just Low Performers

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Eleven weeks back, those of us at the Fordham Institute reported that current accountability systems in most states give primary and middle school educators scant reason to attend to the learning of high-achieving youngsters—which is to say, those systems generally fail to create incentives, rewards, or even transparency regarding the learning gains that schools are producing for students who have already crossed the proficiency threshold.


Stop Teaching Anti-Trump Bias

by Frederick M. Hess, Chester E. Finn Jr.via US News
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Teachers aren't helping when they fuel student anxieties about Trump's victory.

Analysis and Commentary

The Massachusetts Charter School Cap Harms Disadvantaged Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Friday, November 4, 2016

The most disadvantaged children in Massachusetts stand to benefit most if the state’s tight cap on charter schools is loosened—a policy decision that will face Bay State voters on Election Day. 

Education Image

Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via EducationNext
Thursday, October 27, 2016

America’s devotion to local control of schools is dying, but it is also being reborn as a new faith in charter schools. These independently operated public schools—nearly 7,000 across the country, and counting—provide a much-needed option for almost three million youngsters in forty-two states and Washington, D.C.

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Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Books by Hoover Fellows
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Charter Schools at the Crossroads offers a frank and nuanced analysis of the successes and shortcomings of the charter movement, and outlines possible directions for the future. 

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School of Hard Knocks

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Hoover Digest
Friday, October 21, 2016

For a quarter of a century now, charter schools have been trying to provide “disruptive innovation.” A summary of what we’ve learned. 

Analysis and Commentary

Disputing Mike And Aaron On ESSA School Ratings

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Chad L. Aldisvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, October 17, 2016

The central problem with making growth the polestar of accountability systems, as Mike and Aaron argue, is that it is only convincing if one is rating schools from the perspective of a charter authorizer or local superintendent who wants to know whether a given school is boosting the achievement of its pupils, worsening their achievement, or holding it in some kind of steady state.