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 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

Featured

Education Freedom (Not) In The Free State

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

I’ve lived in Maryland for more than four decades now and in recent years have been honored to serve on the state board of education and the statewide Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (a.k.a. Kirwan Commission). Certainly there are bright spots in this state’s K–12 system—some great schools, many fine teachers, forward-looking leaders, and more. 

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Teach Your Children Well

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Friday, January 25, 2019

Schools teach young Americans about their heritage of freedom. Those lessons must include the failures of socialism.

Analysis and Commentary

Reflecting On Education Week'S 10 Big Ideas Of 2019

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Education Week opened the year with a second annual special issue titled “10 Big Ideas” with, wrote editor Elizabeth Rich, “the potential to define—or redefine—education in the year ahead.” Each includes a staff-written essay accompanied by a commentary penned by an outside researcher, practitioner, or advocate.

Analysis and Commentary

A Nation At Hope (Sic)

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The long-awaited report of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development is now out and will doubtless make some waves within education’s chattering classes and more broadly among practitioners. But will anyone else notice or care? Let me state up front that—aside from its abominably ungrammatical, if slightly clever, title—it’s a solid, respectable product, the sort of thing one rightly expects from the Aspen Institute, the blue-ribbon panel that produced it, and the eminent foundations that paid for it. It’s worth paying attention to. But I will also admit to a fairly serious case of déjà vu.

Analysis and Commentary

Rekindling Moral Education: A Worthy Challenge For Schools Of Choice

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Late December brought not one but two excellent disquisitions on moral education, both the importance of rekindling an emphasis on it in American schools and some thoughtful advice as to how to go about it. Each does a nice job of explaining why such rekindling is needed at this time—though unless you’re completely off the grid you already know why: not so much because of troubles with private morality (teenage pregnancy rates are down, etc.) but because of manifest failures in the public and semi-public squares: with honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, both on the part of elected officials and in the small venues where we observe an excess of selfishness, cheating, laziness, and willingness to be a burden on others.

Analysis and Commentary

Deconstructing Teacher Turnover

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, January 3, 2019

During the news lull between Christmas and New Years, the Wall Street Journal published an alarmist piece about the high rate of teachers and other public educators quitting their jobs. Reporters Michelle Hackman and Erick Morath examined Labor Department data on employee turnover during the first ten months of 2018 and found that educators were exiting at the rate of 83 per 10,000 per month, which would work out to almost one in ten over the course of a full year.

Analysis and Commentary

2020 Is Practically Around The Corner

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
No, this has naught to do with the next election. It’s about an immediate target here at Fordham: to generate and publish some fresh thinking, mostly from prominent conservatives and other sensible folk, about the future direction of American education. We call it Education 20/20, and it got off to an awesome start in the final third of 2018 with a line-up of seven superb thinker/writer/speakers.
Analysis and Commentary

We'll Always Have Policy

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Recent weeks have seen multiple efforts to declare and prove that the United States has entered a post-policy era, complete with multiple references to Francis Fukuyama’s famous 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. As you may recall, Fukuyama suggested that the Berlin Wall’s fall and end of the Cold War signaled the triumph of western-style liberal democracy and a conclusion—even a happy finale—to the various struggles and conflicts that came before.

Analysis and Commentary

Remembering Two Education Reformers

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Sunday, December 2, 2018

American education lost two great leaders last week with the passing of George H.W. Bush and Harold O. Levy. It’s likely they never even met, as they came from different worlds and moved through the education solar system on different orbits. They belonged to different political parties and hailed from different generations. Yet their contributions to the betterment of K-12 education in the United States were both large and in interesting ways parallel.

Featured

Civic Engagement Versus Civics Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

There’s much about Montgomery County, Maryland, that I appreciate—starting with the fact that it’s been a fine home for me and my family for forty-plus years. There’s also much that I respect about the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and several of its current initiatives, including greater attention to the education of gifted kids, particularly those from poor and minority backgrounds.

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