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

Our Schools and Our Future:...Are We Still at Risk?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Monday, March 17, 2003

The commission's report hit like a bomb when it declared that the weak performance of America's schools placed the nation itself at risk.

Analysis and Commentary

Leaving Many Children Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Monday, December 9, 2002

This halfhearted choice provision was supposed to take immediate effect for pupils in more than 8,000 schools that have already lingered for two years or more on their states' lists of education failures.

The Challenge of Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

How to jump-start the charter school movement. By Hoover fellow Chester E. Finn Jr.

Analysis and Commentary

The Challenges of Charter Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Monday, June 17, 2002

The charter movement itself cannot decide whether it is a trade association obliged to defend every school that wears the charter label or an education reform movement responsible for ensuring that only good schools are so labeled.

An Open Letter to Lawrence H. Summers

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Policy Review
Saturday, June 1, 2002

Three crucial tests for Harvard’s new president

Analysis and Commentary

Beaucracy and School Leadership

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Saturday, May 4, 2002

There are not nearly enough qualified people to lead some 91,000 public schools and nearly 15,000 school systems.

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High Schools and Low Results

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Tuesday, April 30, 2002

If you assumed that nearly every student gets at least a high school diploma these days, prepare yourself for a shock. Hoover fellow Chester E. Finn Jr. on American education’s dirty secret.

Analysis and Commentary

The High School Diploma Drought

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Monday, December 24, 2001

If just three-quarters of young Americans—and barely half of black and Latino students—are managing to graduate from high school on time, we've got a whopping problem.

How to Get Better Teachers—and Treat Them Right

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Digest
Monday, July 30, 2001

Want better students? Find better teachers. Hoover fellow Chester E. Finn Jr. explains how we can lure America’s best and brightest back into the classroom.

Analysis and Commentary

How Bad Is the Education Bill?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Hoover Daily Report
Monday, June 25, 2001

There will, in fact, be no fundamental overhaul of this LBJ-era legislation, despite decades of evidence of its failure. But there will definitely be a whopping price tag.