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

Analysis and Commentary

Quality Counts 2015

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ah, January is upon us: The wind is howling, the thermometer is plummeting, and we are greeted by the nineteenth consecutive edition of Quality Counts, Education Week’s compilation of mostly useful data, analysis, rankings, and commentaries.

In the News

Book Review: The Professor and the President: Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

With the fiftieth anniversary at hand for the celebrated and once-controversial "Moynihan Report," the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is back on people's minds and keyboards

Analysis and Commentary

Contentions The NEA’s Racial Profiling Curriculum

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Commentary
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Given the volatility and sensitivity of “racial profiling” these days, heightened by recent developments in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland and by brand new law-enforcement “guidelines” from the Justice Department, one could be tempted to thank the National Education Association for its recent effort, in league with a bunch of other organizations, to develop curricular materials by which schools and teachers can instruct their students on this issue.

Analysis and Commentary

Punishing Achievement In Our Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review Online
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

President Obama’s contempt for the Constitution, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s unfortunate disregard of that document, have been loudly and justly decried by critics of executive overreach.

Analysis and Commentary

A Five-Point Plan To Resuscitate Catholic Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On November 11th, the Fordham Institute’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. addressed a private meeting of reform-minded Catholic education leaders and philanthropists. What follows is adapted from his remarks on that occasion.

Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

The State of Education Reform

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Though amazing progress has been over the past three decades, we need to do more. 

Analysis and Commentary

Time for a Reboot

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review Online
Monday, October 6, 2014

Americans are ambivalent about testing, standards, and accountability in their children’s schools. This is clear from survey results that swing wildly depending on how, exactly, the question is phrased — and on whether the practice in question might inconvenience one’s own kid, as apart from “fixing those awful schools across town.”

Analysis and Commentary

Getting Our History Right

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Frederick M. Hessvia National Review Online
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The College Board’s new framework for teaching Advanced Placement U.S. History has become a flashpoint in the education debate. Much of the criticism is hysterical and inaccurate . . . but not all of it. The critics make a legitimate case that the framework is ideologically slanted and infused with 21st-century progressivist bias.

Analysis and Commentary

The Challenges of AP History: Are You Sure You Want College Credit?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Much of the criticism recently leveled at the College Board’s new framework for its Advanced Placement United States history course and exam is hysterical and undeserved. There’s also reason to suspect that some of the harshest critics may be motivated at least in part by the riches they have reaped by prepping high school kids for the old version of the test.

Analysis and Commentary

We’ll Miss You, Graham Down

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Next
Friday, September 5, 2014

Long before today’s education-reform movement was born, indeed long before A Nation at Risk, there was the Council for Basic Education (CBE), founded in 1956 by such notables as Jacques Barzun, Hyman Rickover, and Mortimer Smith.

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