Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
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

Bill Bennett, James Madison, and National Curricular Materials

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Thursday, May 26, 2011

The big fuss about “national curriculum” has lately slid into an argument about whether the federal government may—and should—have anything to do with “curriculum.” Actually, it’s an argument limited to the Education Department, which has in its founding legislation a specific

Analysis and Commentary

Bill Bennett, James Madison, and National Curricular Materials

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The big fuss about “national curriculum” has lately slid into an argument about whether the federal government may—and should—have anything to do with “curriculum...

Are Charter-school reforms on right track?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If the Ohio House's version of the biennial budget makes its way into law, the state's mish-mash of a community-school (i.e. charter school) program will become a full-fledged contender for America's worst. It's up to the Senate and Gov.

Analysis and Commentary

Are charter-school reforms on right track?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Monday, May 9, 2011

No: Bill would reward poor performers and keep out strong ones...

Shanghai Surprise

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Students in China’s largest city just aced three global assessment tests. If American education ever had a “Sputnik moment,” this is it. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

The Rebirth of the Education Governor

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Monday, March 14, 2011

Thirty years ago, Saturn started its current revolution around the Sun, Mt. St. Helens erupted, and Americans began to understand that governors are the most important people in U.S. K-12 education. They control, on average, about half of schools’ budgets.

Analysis and Commentary

The Rebirth of the Education Governor

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Friday, March 11, 2011

Thirty years ago, Saturn started its current revolution around the Sun, Mt. St. Helens erupted, and Americans began to understand that governors are the most important people in U.S. K-12 education...

The Mouse and the Elephant

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Thursday, February 10, 2011

The mouse that scared the elephant? The D.C. voucher program is (and always was) tiny alongside the behemoth that is federal K-12 policy. A few thousand kids in one city.

Analysis and Commentary

A Question of Vouchers: The Mouse and the Elephant

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Journal Expert Blog: Education
Monday, February 7, 2011

Is there a place for vouchers in the current elementary and secondary education system...?

Nobody Deserves Tenure

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Advancing a Free Society
Monday, February 7, 2011

Nobody deserves tenure, with the possible exception of federal judges. University professors don’t deserve tenure; civil servants don’t deserve tenure; police and firefighters don’t deserve tenure; school teachers don’t deserve tenure.

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