Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 

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

Sorting Out The Advice For Mark Zuckerberg And Priscilla Chan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Monday, August 22, 2016

My respected friend Marc Tucker—in his open letter taking issue with my earlier missive —sorely misinterpreted or misstated one of my central points, so I must at least try to set the record straight. 


Knowledge Matters: E. D. Hirsch, Jr.'s Fifth Book On Education Is As Important As His First

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Don Hirsch has done it again. Never mind that he’s eighty-eight. Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories, his fifth book on education reform—there were at least five earlier ones in his original field of English literature, criticism, and composition—is as clear and trenchant as Cultural Literacy was in 1987. 

Analysis and Commentary

Americans Win Gold At Math Olympiad

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Friday, August 12, 2016

While everyone is fixated on the Rio Olympics and the impressive start that U.S. athletes have made there, it’s worth a brief detour to the results of another summer competition—this one in Hong Kong—in which the American team dominated: the International Math Olympiad (IMO) for high-school students.


California Goes Over The Rainbow: An Accountability Farce

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

No, I’m not referring to the Golden State’s rich palette of ethnic and other minority (and majority) groups, nor to its desire that they’ll live, work, and go to school in harmony, like Monet’s Water Lilies or Matisse’s Fauve masterpieces. I’m on the case of California’s nutty new color-coded approach to school accountability and school report cards. 

Analysis and Commentary

An Open Letter To Mark Zuckerberg And Priscilla Chan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Focus your philanthropy on innovation outside the system.

Analysis and Commentary

The End Of Education Reform?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, July 15, 2016

For three decades, leaders of both major political parties have recognized the urgency of reforming and renewing American K–12 education, and major elements of the reform agenda have generally enjoyed bipartisan support: higher standards, better teachers, results-based accountability, and more choices (particularly via charter schools).

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Education Reform Decouples

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Defining Ideas
Thursday, July 14, 2016

For years, the movement was held together by centrists on the left and right—but now it’s grown polarized. 

Teachers picket in La Habra last December
Analysis and Commentary

Teachers' Unions: It Could Be Worse

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, July 1, 2016

With her nonstop knack for making waves, getting noticed, and possibly even advancing the interests of her members, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten is now on the warpath against hedge fund managers. “Why,” she asks, “would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?”

Analysis and Commentary

Finn, Manno, Wright: The Vision For The Next 25 Years Of Charter Schools? Bigger. Broader. Bolder.

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via The 74 Million
Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 4th marked the 25th anniversary of the enactment of Minnesota’s charter school law, the nation’s first. In broad terms, the authors’ vision allowed for the creation of new schools that would be exempt from many of K-12’s overbearing regulations in return for these schools being held accountable for results.

Analysis and Commentary

Jeanne Makes It Manifest

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, June 17, 2016

It isn't perfect, but Jeanne Allen's new education reform "manifesto" makes a number of valuable points and powerful suggestions for the future. Notably, she argues for a fresh emphasis on innovation, an earnest embrace of upward mobility, and a heartfelt commitment to universal opportunity, flexibility, and transparency.