Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Biography: 

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

Hoover Institution Education Summit

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 to Thursday, March 10, 2022
Hauck Auditorium | Hoover Institution, Stanford University

The Hoover Institution hosted its first education summit on Wednesday, March 9, and Thursday, March 10, featuring discussions with scholars, educators, activists, and other experts about the formulation and advancement of policies aimed at improving outcomes for American K–12 students.

Event
Analysis and Commentary

Did Public Education Have It Coming?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, February 3, 2022

Monday’s Washington Post featured a long, front-page article by the estimable Laura Meckler titled “Public schools facing a crisis of epic proportions.”

Interviews

Michael Petrilli And Chester Finn On The Education Gadfly Show

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss whether American education should stop trying to send every student to college, and what that may mean for high school course requirements.

A Nation Still at Risk

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, January 31, 2022

In American schools, the “rising tide of mediocrity” keeps rising.

Analysis and Commentary

A Century Of School Reform, Through The Eyes Of Larry Cuban

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, January 27, 2022

Confessions of a School Reformer, a new book by emeritus Stanford education professor Larry Cuban, still going strong at eighty-eight, combines personal memoir with a history and analysis of U.S. school reform efforts over the past century, seeking to show how his own life and career have been entangled with that history and the lessons he has drawn from that junction. It’s an ambitious undertaking that is ultimately illuminating and sobering.

Interviews

Education Gadfly Show: Grumpy New Year With Checker Finn And Michael Petrilli

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly
Friday, January 7, 2022

Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss the big education issues of the past year and look ahead to 2022.

Featured

Republicans And School Boards

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, January 6, 2022

Recent months have brought much hand-wringing and ink spilling over the possibility that hordes of Republicans are gearing up to plunge into local school board elections, this as part of their discovery that public education is rich with political opportunity (cue incoming Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, his campaign advisors, and observant GOP strategists).

Analysis and Commentary

My Friend Denis Doyle

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Several people I admire have recently passed away (Bob Dole, Colin Powell, Fred Hiatt, Stephen Sondheim…), but the only one in that group who was also a close friend is Denis Doyle, who died at eighty-one on December 2 in Los Angeles, his home in recent years.

Featured

A Parents’ Education Bill Of Rights Is A Fine Thing—Within Limits

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, November 11, 2021

Terry McCauliffe surely blundered when he declared—out of context though it was taken—that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” thereby handing Glenn Youngkin a perfectly-timed campaign issue. 

Interviews

Chester Finn And Michael Petrilli On Education Gadfly Show

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Gadfly
Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hoover Institution fellows Checker Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss last week’s worrisome NAEP results. 

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