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

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Why Bother Educating Smart Kids?

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright quoting Eric Hanushekvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, September 17, 2015

While it’s important to help out low achieving students, it’s the most talented students who will lead our country into the future. 

Analysis and Commentary

Charter Schools: Taking Stock

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Mannovia Education Next
Thursday, August 27, 2015

In 2016, it will be a quarter century since Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law.


Education Governance: Different Schools Of Thought

by Amber M. Northern, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anyone who has spent serious time within the U.S. public education system would likely agree that there are too many chefs in the school governance kitchen.

Analysis and Commentary

New Poll Offers News Both Heartening And Glum For Education Reformers

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, August 20, 2015

The poll results that Education Next released Tuesday carry mildly glum news for just about every education reformer in the land, as public support has diminished at least a bit for most initiatives on their agendas: merit pay, charter schools, vouchers, and tax credits, Common Core, and even ending teacher tenure.

Advancing Student Achievement by Herbert Walberg

The Bright Students Left Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

While everyone focuses on boosting the weakest students, America’s smartest children are no longer being pushed to do their best.

Analysis and Commentary

A Pause In The History Wars

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What’s taught to American children is often controversial nowadays, and our schools will forever be buffeted by the cultural waves that roil our universities. But in that storm, the College Board deserves a cheer for trying to stabilize the vessel known as Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH).

Analysis and Commentary

The Overheated Reactions To The New AP U.S. History Framework

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Frederick M. Hessvia National Review
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Last year, the College Board released a comprehensive framework for teaching Advanced Placement American history (APUSH). It was an earnest effort to help high-school teachers understand what students should learn, but content-wise it was pretty awful.

Analysis and Commentary

Is A Massive New Set Of Federal Regulations The Best Way To Reform Head Start?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Monday, July 13, 2015

As I’ve previously written too many times to recall, for all its iconic status, the Head Start program has grave shortcomings.

Analysis and Commentary

The Yin And Yang Of Reforming Head Start

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, July 9, 2015

As I’ve previously written too many times to recall, for all its iconic status, the Head Start program has grave shortcomings.

Analysis and Commentary

RIP, Marva Collins

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marva Collins was a true pioneer: gutsy, tough, and ahead of her time. May we salute her memory, and may she rest in peace.