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

A Conservative Agenda For School Board Members

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Let us start with a confession: As card-carrying members of the school-choice and testing-and-accountability wings of the education reform movement, we have at times been dismissive, even hostile, to local school board members. That’s because these elected officials, constrained as they may be by laws, regulations, and the leanings of those they employ, have often seemed willing to protect the status quo and resist changes intended to overhaul the jalopy we call American public schooling.

Analysis and Commentary

Shooting The Test-Messenger To End Accountability

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, May 6, 2020

This year’s holiday from federally-mandated end-of-year assessments in math and English language arts will undoubtedly embolden test haters to declare once again—and louder than ever—that we never needed those damned exams in the first place and that our schools and students are far better off without them. Thus will commence another skirmish in a war on testing that rivals the Seven Years War.


Freedom And The Common Good

featuring Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via City Journal
Thursday, April 30, 2020

A new book of essays offers a range of conservative viewpoints on education.

In the News

Education Policy As Culture War

featuring Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Law and Liberty
Friday, April 24, 2020
Thirty years ago, when asked to define the purpose of public education, the president of America’s second-largest teachers’ union answered: “Public schools were created for the purpose of teaching immigrant children reading, writing, and arithmetic and what it means to be an American.”
Analysis and Commentary

Shooting The Test-Messenger – By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, April 24, 2020

Two cheers for Lynn Olson’s and Craig Jerald’s long, perceptive explanation of hostility to statewide assessments (“Statewide Standardized Assessments Were in Peril Even Before the Coronavirus. Now They’re Really in Trouble.”). Their chronology is spot on. They’re right about the intensity of the “testing backlash.”

Analysis and Commentary

Two Passings Of Note (Neither Related To COVID-19)

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Abby Thernstrom wasn’t a close friend, but she was a lot more than a cordial acquaintance. For as many decades as I can remember, she was both a force to be reckoned with in education and civil rights policy and a treasured colleague in pursuit of excellence and integrity in both realms.

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Putting Aside Woke Things

by Frederick M. Hess, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, April 20, 2020

Far too many schools place social justice ahead of learning. For the sake of students, we must reject this harmful revolution.

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AP Makes the Grade

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Andrew Scanlanvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 20, 2020

Education reforms come and go, most achieving little. But Advanced Placement programs? They work.


Chester Finn: Education Reform In America

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via Conversations with Bill Kristol
Saturday, April 18, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn shares his perspective on the state of American education—covering preschool, K-12, colleges and universities, and continuing education.


Want More Doctor Faucis? Ensure That Smart Kids Get Educated, Too.

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Amid the plague that surrounds us, essential attention is properly getting paid to the education challenges of out-of-school kids: What can their parents, their schools, and their districts do to compensate for missed classroom time and the learning loss that’s bound to occur between now and the resumption of something resembling normalcy.