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 Jessica Hockett) is Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools. Earlier works include 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

School’s Out

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Forbes
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Diane Ravitch’s important new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, will surely stir controversy, exactly as she intends. . . .

Analysis and Commentary

Obama on Education: Not Bad, Not Great

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Corner (National Review Online)
Thursday, January 28, 2010

On primary and secondary education, as on most topics, Mr. Obama stayed at 30,000 feet in his speech last night. . . .

Test Your Social Literacy

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 14, 2010

A decent education doesn’t merely confer good grades. It confers the ability to understand complex social issues—the health care battle, for instance. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

Analysis and Commentary

The Great Centrist Issue

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review
Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is 2010 the year for No Child Left Behind? . . .


Studies Find No Effects

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Paul E. Petersonvia Education Next
Thursday, January 7, 2010

Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. talk this week (Jan. 7) about whether randomized field trials in education should be abandoned, since they so rarely find that the treatments have any effects. . . .

Analysis and Commentary

Racing to National Tests?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via National Review
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Any national tests and standards need to be strong, substantive, and well administered. . . .

Analysis and Commentary

The End of the Education Debate

by Chester E. Finn Jr. with Caroline M. Hoxbyvia National Affairs
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The education-reform debate as we have known it for a generation is creaking to a halt . . . .


Saving Jobs or Stimulating Reform?

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Paul E. Petersonvia Education Next
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Education Next’s Paul Peterson and Chester E. Finn, Jr. talk this week (Nov. 24) about the effect of the stimulus package on education, a sector that has proven to be very good at job creation. . . .

Analysis and Commentary

Education Reforms . . . or Union Jobs?

by Chester E. Finn Jr. with Eric Hanushekvia National Review
Thursday, November 12, 2009

What the stimulus really stimulates. . . .

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Preschool Can’t Do It All

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Friday, October 9, 2009

Visions of universal preschool only distract us from urgent educational needs. By Chester E. Finn Jr.