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


Chester Finn And Michael Petrilli On The Education Gadfly Show: The Legacy Of Lamar Alexander

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael J. Petrillivia The Education Gadfly Show Podcast
Thursday, December 3, 2020

Hoover Institution fellows Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli discuss Senator Lamar Alexander’s K–12 education legacy.


Chester Finn On The John Batchelor Show

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via The John Batchelor Show
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn discusses his Washington Post article "How badly has the pandemic hurt K-12 learning? Let state testing in the spring tell us."


A Progressive Assault On Selective High Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Instead of fixing public education, the left tries to end testing at schools it deems inequitable.

Analysis and CommentaryBlank Section (Placeholder)

How Badly Has The Pandemic Hurt K-12 Learning? Let State Testing In The Spring Tell Us.

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s yet-to-be-named education secretary will immediately face a difficult question once in office: Should states, for the second year in a row, be given waivers from their annual obligation to assess every student’s reading and math progress in grades 3 through 8? Biden has indicated that, in matters such as pandemic-fighting, his administration will look at the data and follow the evidence. That approach should also apply in education.

Analysis and Commentary

Testing, Accountability, NAEP, And Reading

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, November 23, 2020

For those of us who still believe that results-based school accountability is an essential part of the education renewal that America sorely needs, not many things are looking great this week.

HESI Policy Analysis

School Accountability—Past, Present, and Future

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Education Success Initiative | The Papers
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Five years into implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this paper examines the past, present, and future of school accountability.


Chester E. Finn, Jr.: A Fond Farewell To Lamar Alexander, The Most Influential Living Figure On American K-12 Public Education

interview with Chester E. Finn Jr.via EdNext Podcast
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Chester Finn discusses Senator Lamar Alexander’s impact on K-12 education over more than 50 years in government.


Leadership Makes A Difference: Lamar Alexander And K–12 Education

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

As governor, secretary of education, and senator, Alexander had vast influence.


Are Schools Essential Or Not?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, November 5, 2020

Are schools essential or aren’t they? Are teachers essential workers or aren’t they? How would Americans respond if large numbers of doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, and postal workers simply opted to stay home—and their unions defended them? If you’re essential, you go to work. Some of your work you can maybe do from home, but all your work needs to be done and done well because society is counting on you.

Analysis and Commentary

Creating Autonomous Schools In Traditional Districts

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Progressive Policy Institute’s indefatigable David Osborne, a long-time student of and advocate for quality charter schools, now joined by Tressa Pankovits, has penned a valuable guide to the creation of autonomous “innovation schools” within traditional districts.