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

A sober reflection on Race to the Top results

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On sober, morning-after reflection, let me say this about Race to the Top. Arne Duncan deserves at least a B for initiating and persevering with it...

A sober reflection on Race to the Top results

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On sober, morning-after reflection, let me say this about Race to the Top. Arne Duncan deserves at least a B for initiating and persevering with it.

Analysis and Commentary

Race to the Top Round 2

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Paul E. Petersonvia Education Next
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. talk this week (August 17) about how many states are likely to win Race to the Top grants and whether politics will come into play...

Analysis and Commentary

Common Standards Remarkably Uncontroversial

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Paul E. Petersonvia Education Next
Monday, August 9, 2010

Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. talk this week (August 9) about the politics and economics of the Common Core standards...

Obama Administration Breaks Ranks with Civil Rights Groups over Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Paul Peterson and Chester Finn discuss why civil rights groups have been reluctant to embrace charter schools.

In the News

After Bucking Unions, Obama Administration Breaks Ranks with Civil Rights Groups over Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Paul E. Petersonvia Education Next
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. talk this week (August 4) about why civil rights groups have been reluctant to embrace charter schools, even as a new Ed Next poll shows that support for charters is rising among minority parents...

Analysis and Commentary

Do Competitive Grants Hurt Equal Opportunity? Failed Imagination--and Memory

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Journal Expert Blog: Education
Monday, August 2, 2010

The Obama administration's education-reform agenda was already in trouble with the teacher unions. Now it's in trouble with the old-line civil rights community, too...

Analysis and Commentary

Three Cheers for Michelle Rhee

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Corner (National Review Online)
Monday, July 26, 2010

[Rhee] keeps her eye on the ball, doesn’t take no for an answer, recognizes and rewards talent, and purges the ranks of mediocrities...

Analysis and Commentary

Conflicting Research On Core Standards: Nothing "converse" about it!

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Journal Expert Blog: Education
Monday, July 26, 2010

Are Common Core Standards an effective education reform tool..?

Analysis and Commentary

The Common Core Curriculum

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia National Review Online
Thursday, July 22, 2010

National education standards that even conservatives can love...

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