Chester E. Finn Jr.

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
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 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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Analysis and Commentary

College Credit While In High School

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, December 1, 2017

Like pumpkin-spice lattes during autumn, ways of getting college credit during high school (CCHS) are big business nowadays, whether one is looking at such tried-and-true vehicles as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate or fast-growing newcomers like dual credit, dual enrollment, early-college high schools and P-tech schools.

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College Needs A Rethink

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Remember how the Wizard of Oz, once the curtain was drawn back, turned out to be an insignificant little blowhard? What if “college education” in America, especially the kind that culminates in a bachelor’s degree, is headed toward a similar revelation?

Featured

The Wizard Of Oz Goes To College

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Remember how the Wizard of Oz, once the curtain was drawn back, turned out to be an insignificant little blowhard? What if “college education” in America, especially the kind that culminates in a bachelor’s degree, is headed toward a similar revelation?

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Three Ways Forward

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Brandon L. Wright via Hoover Digest
Monday, October 23, 2017

The charter movement has not one mission but three: improve teaching, spur districts to do better, and—as a last resort—reboot hopeless schools. 

Featured

John Merrow's Flawed Plan To Rescue Public Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Don’t be misled by the provocative title and subtitle of John Merrow's new book, Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, which might lead one to expect in these pages a back-to-the-future, Diane Ravitch–like defense of the education status quo—and which likely account for the book’s fawning jacket blurbs by Jonathan Kozol and by Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, among others.

Featured

When College Students Don’t Understand The Concept Of Free Speech

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Education Next
Friday, September 22, 2017

We’ve known for a while—thanks to the National Assessment and other measures—that American primary-secondary students aren’t learning a heckuva lot of civics, never mind that social studies is taught everywhere and taking high school civics is a widespread graduation requirement.

Analysis and Commentary

Bricks Without Straw: Maryland’s ESSA Accountability Plan

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Monday, September 18, 2017

Last week, Maryland governor Larry Hogan notified the State Board of Education (on which I serve*) and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that he will not sign the state’s ESSA accountability plan, which is due in Washington on Monday. The previous day, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker notified his...

Analysis and Commentary

Should Teachers Be Allowed To Promote Commercial Products?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, September 7, 2017

The New York Times ran an interminable front-page piece on Sunday raising doubts about the ethics and propriety of teachers who promote commercial products, especially those from big tech firms like Apple and Google, for use by other teachers and their schools. The example that reporter Natasha Singer focused on—”one of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States”—is an ace third grade teacher named Kayla Delzer, whose classroom is in the hamlet of Mapleton, North Dakota. 

Analysis and Commentary

Trump's Cruel Move On DACA

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When I endorsed the “Dream Act” fourteen long years ago, I introduced “Alex,” the then-very-young lad whom my wife and I were helping to cope with some of the challenges of life in America for an entirely innocent victim of this country’s wretchedly screwed up and inhumane immigration laws.

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Featured

Diversifying Our Selective Colleges Begins In Kindergarten

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A recent New York Times analysis suggests that a generation of policies meant to bring racial proportionality to our selective colleges has failed. “Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago,” declared the authors.

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