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

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...

Analysis and Commentary

School For $6 A Month

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Forbes
Thursday, December 11, 2008

The private sector takes education to India's slums...

Analysis and Commentary

Bill Gates' New Education Plan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Forbes
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Version 2.0 contains laudable goals but little actionable policy...

No Child Gets Ahead

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia Hoover Digest
Sunday, October 12, 2008

Is the No Child Left Behind Act supposed to help everyone, or only the disadvantaged? By Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli .

Analysis and Commentary

Schools No More For Scandal

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Forbes
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

School reform is bloody hard--Admiral Rickover compared it to moving a graveyard--and harder still in big cities...

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