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, chairman of Hoover's Task Force on K–12 Education, and president 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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Recent Commentary


Losing The Ability To Compare Academic Performance Across States

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Robert Pondisciovia EducationNext
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Our friend and colleague Mike Petrilli is right about many things, but he’s wrong to dismiss solid interstate comparisons of academic performance as a “nice to have,” not a “must-have.” 

Failing Our Brightest Kids by Chester E. Finn and Brandon L. Wright
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Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Books by Hoover Fellows
Thursday, November 19, 2015

In this provocative volume, Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright argue that, for decades, the United States has done too little to focus on educating students to achieve at high levels.

John E. Chubb
Analysis and Commentary

R.I.P. John Chubb

by Chester E. Finn Jr.featuring John E. Chubbvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, November 16, 2015

John Chubb was not only a fine scholar, tireless education reformer, and creative innovator.

Analysis and Commentary

Fordham's Mike Petrilli And Checker Finn On The ESEA Compromise

by Michael J. Petrilli, Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Friday, November 13, 2015

As the contours of an ESEA deal become clear, the country has much to celebrate.


Should NAEP Tests Be Updated To Reflect What’s In The Common Core?

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via EducationNext
Thursday, November 12, 2015

A small storm has blown up around the fact that certain math items on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) do not align with what fourth and eighth graders are actually being taught in a few states—mainly places attempting to implement the Common Core State Standards within their schools’ curricula.


A Different Kind Of Lesson From Finland

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Education Week
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finland has been lauded for years as this planet's grand K-12 education success story, deserving of study and emulation by other nations.

Analysis and Commentary

Germany Is Leaving Its Bright Students Behind

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In The Atlantic this week, Carly Berwick praised Germany for raising its nationwide test scores while simultaneously reducing educational inequality.


Pell Grants Should Go (Only) To Needy Students Who Are Ready For College

by Chester E. Finn Jr.via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Monday, November 2, 2015

What if federal aid for college students were focused exclusively on those who are truly ready for college?


How New York Fails Students Who Are Gifted But Poor

by Brandon L. Wright , Chester E. Finn Jr.via New York Post
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New York is leaving gifted children behind. Scads of K–3 students in low-income neighborhoods aren’t even taking entrance exams for gifted programs. Four of the city’s 32 school districts don’t even have programs for gifted students, and many that do aren’t getting the word out. Which leaves it to savvy, pushy parents and watchful teachers to nudge kids forward, an arrangement that nearly always works better in middle-class communities.


America's Abandoned Smart Kids

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Brandon L. Wright via Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Intel’s recent announcement that it will cease sponsoring and underwriting the prestigious Science Talent Search, which it took over from Westinghouse in 1998, is another nail in the coffin of gifted education in the United States.