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

Charters Turn Thirty

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Mannovia Hoover Digest
Monday, October 18, 2021
Charter schools are here to stay. But they, like their students, should never stop learning and growing.
Featured

Blinding Ourselves To America’s Achievement Woes

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Much as happened after A Nation at Risk, the U.S. finds itself facing a bleak education fate, even as many deny the problem. Back then, however, the denials came mostly from the education establishment, while governors, business leaders, and even U.S. presidents seized the problem and launched the modern era of achievement-driven, results-based education reform. There was a big divide between what educators wanted to think about their schools—all’s well but send more money—and what community, state, and national leaders were prepared to do to rectify their failings. 

Featured

2.7 Cheers For The NAEP Reading Framework

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Gadfly habitues have seen me grump, criticize, lament and recently brighten over the protracted fracas that the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) engaged in—and triggered—as it has struggled to revamp the framework that will guide the National Assessment (NAEP) of reading from 2026 onward.

A Republic, if You Can Teach It

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A new effort to teach civics education holds real promise—if our hoary K–12 system can be persuaded to try it.

Featured

An Improved Forecast For The NAEP Reading Assessment

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, July 8, 2021

The prolonged fracas within and far beyond the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) concerning a new “framework” for NAEP’s future assessment of reading has been ominous on several fronts—as I haven’t hesitated to say. But the past few weeks have markedly improved the situation to the point that a reasonable and viable consensus is coming into view.

Analysis and Commentary

Proof that it’s possible to approach civics and U.S. history in a balanced way

by David Griffith, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, June 24, 2021

Is America a racist country? Or the greatest nation on earth? Or both or neither or some of each?

Analysis and Commentary

Reflecting On Fordham’s Silver Jubilee

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, June 17, 2021

At Fordham, we’re not big on grand anniversary galas, the sort of fancy events where organizations toot their own horns and bask in the praise and accolades of longtime friends. We’re not that kind of boastful. But as we get ready to reopen our offices after the long pandemic misery, it’s worth noting that 2021 marks our twenty-fifth anniversary. Yup, a quarter century of the modern, education-centric Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

Featured

What’s Going To Happen To The NAEP Reading Test?

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Thursday, June 3, 2021

Hoover Institution fellows Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss the current kerfuffle over the NAEP reading assessment.

Featured

Charter Schools At 30: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Mannovia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, June 3, 2021

Today, forty-four states—plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam—have public charter school laws on their statute books, laws that have led to more than 7,500 schools employing 200,000-plus teachers and serving 3.3 million students. 

Featured

Preschool Support, Sure. Biden’s Plan, No.

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, May 21, 2021

The overriding problem with President Biden’s education scheme, as presented in his grandiose “American Families” package, is its focus on more schooling rather than more learning. 

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