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

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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.

Analysis and Commentary

Philanthropy And The Growth Of Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Stanford Social Innovation Review
Friday, October 14, 2016

What is the right role for private funders in the US education system?

School Buses

Teachers’ Unions Push Democrats To Oppose Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review
Friday, October 14, 2016
At the expense of mostly poor, minority pupils.
Analysis and Commentary

Battle Over Control Of School Calendar Continues In Maryland

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, October 13, 2016

Maryland governor Larry Hogan has excellent political judgment. I wish I could say the same of his educational judgment.


Theresa May—Or May Not—Bring Back Grammar Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

British prime minister Theresa May has set off a royal dust-up with her proposal to loosen England’s half-century-old shackles on grammar schools, the British term for selective-admission public secondary schools focused on preparation for university.


Missing Al Shanker

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three recent experiences have served to remind me how much I miss—and how much the country and the cause of better education were diminished by the loss of—the late Albert Shanker, who passed away in 1997.

Analysis and Commentary

Can Special Ed Be Fixed?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In a searing expose, reminiscent of the heyday of journalistic muckraking, the Houston Chronicle has assembled and published fairly persuasive evidence that the great state of Texas has placed a de facto cap of 8.5 percent on the number of kids who can be placed in special education.

Analysis and Commentary

Opening New York City's Gifted-And-Talented Doors Wide For All City Kids

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via New York Daily News
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Last October, we lamented New York City’s neglect of high-ability students, particularly in its low-income neighborhoods. Since then, the district and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have taken steps to mitigate the problem. Unfortunately, their efforts fall way short.


Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control In Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Wall Street Journal
Monday, September 5, 2016

Charters are supplanting the union-dominated school board model. The big winners are students.