Maryland state school board selects education scholar as vice president

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Chester E. Finn Jr. was named vice president of the Maryland State Board of Education. (Maryland State Department of Education)

The Maryland State Board of Education tapped a longtime education scholar who lives in Chevy Chase as its new vice president.

Chester E. Finn Jr., president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, stepped into the board leadership role Monday after the October resignation of Vice President S. James Gates Jr.

Gates, a highly recognized physicist and professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, left the board after the recent mandate by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that schools in Maryland open for classes after the Labor Day holiday and end by June 15.

 “I do not now confidently work in an environment I perceive as supportive of education nor respects the independence of the board,” Gates said in a three-page resignation letter.
 As the Hogan mandate stirred debate in the fall, Finn did not support the idea. He said school calendars should be a matter of local control and wrote in a blog post that limiting the school year, with a mandate about start and end dates, was “educationally unsound.”

“Maryland has way too many disadvantaged kids who are not achieving enough in school, and for those kids, an extended school year is an educational option that should certainly be available,” he said in an interview.

Finn later described Gates’s departure as a loss and said that although the board wanted to emphasize its independence, he also believed it would move forward and work with Hogan on education issues in Maryland.

Finn held the Fordham Institute’s top post from 1997 to 2014. He was a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University from 1981 to 2002. From 1985 to 1988, he was assistant secretary for research and improvement at the U.S. Education Department.

 The author or co-author of more than 20 books, he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.
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