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

Analysis and Commentary

Slow the Preschool Bandwagon

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Washington Post
Friday, May 15, 2009

President Obama has pledged to spend $10 billion more a year on "zero to five" education, and his 2010 budget makes a $2 billion "down payment" on that commitment...

Analysis and Commentary

Our Government, For Better Or Worse

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Forbes
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ever since I came into contact with government, both state and federal, and especially in the four decades since first going to work in it, I've been struck by the gap between what many Americans expect of government and what it's actually good at doing...

cover image for Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut by Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Books by Hoover Fellows
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pre-kindergarten is one of the hottest topics in American education in 2009: Which children really need it? How many aren’t getting it? Who should provide it—and at whose expense? What’s the right balance between socialization and systematic instruction? Between education and child care? Where does Head Start fit in? What are reliable markers of quality in preschool programs? And much, much more.

Analysis and Commentary

Our Endangered Catholic Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Washington Post
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The positive findings in the Education Department's recent evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program provide more evidence that high-quality private and parochial schools can have invaluable benefits for low-income, minority students...

School for $6 a Month

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, April 20, 2009

When governments abroad fail to offer decent schools, entrepreneurs rush in. By Chester E. Finn Jr.

Analysis and Commentary

Stimulating a Race to the Top

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Education Week
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Public education stands to receive some $100 billion from the enormous economic-stimulus package enacted last month by Congress, about one-eighth of the total...

In the News

Can we get to national standards, considering the pitfalls?

by Chester E. Finn Jr. with Tom Lovelessvia Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Thursday, March 5, 2009

My feet aren't frozen, but as the march toward national or "common" academic standards trudges through deepening snow, they're getting chilly...

Analysis and Commentary

Obama Gives Failing Schools a Pass

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia National Review
Thursday, February 26, 2009

President Obama’s address to Congress is earning plaudits for its honesty, candor, and can-do/will-do/must-do spirit...

Analysis and Commentary

Will The Recession Kill School Reform?

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Forbes
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Few doubt that we're living through profound changes on many fronts...

In the News

An open letter to president-elect Obama, secretary-designate Duncan and the 111th Congress

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute appraises the current policy landscape and its main players, and outlines the ideal federal role in K-12 education...