NYU to Host New Center; Executive Director Appointed; Initial Funding Secured from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ford Foundation

Taking a major new step to advance school improvement in New York, stakeholders from across the city have formed the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University, a non-partisan applied research center that is independent of city government and the Department of Education. Utilizing recent advances in education science and drawing on the expertise of the city’s and the nation’s top researchers, the Research Alliance hopes to be a source of valid and reliable evidence both about the challenges of providing a high quality education for all students and about the effectiveness of promising strategies aimed at addressing those challenges.

Housed within NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Research Alliance will have close academic connections to other NYU schools - the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service - as well as to Columbia Teachers College and CUNY, and will work to forge connections with other research universities nationally. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey joined other members of the Research Alliance to make the announcement.

The Alliance today announced that it has named Dr. James Kemple as executive director. Kemple, formerly director of K-12 Education Policy at MDRC, a national social policy research organization based in New York City, is a former high school math teacher and program director for a community-based education organization in Washington, DC. He holds a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard University.

The initial funding for the Alliance’s work will be provided by a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Planning for the Research Alliance was funded by the Donors’ Education Collaborative, a group of New York City-based funders interested in school reform, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and other local and national foundations.

William Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University, emeritus president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and chair of the Alliance search committee, said, “Jim Kemple has a demonstrated commitment to public education, impressive experience leading research projects, unquestioned stature in the field, and, perhaps most importantly, a deep commitment to research that would answer pressing questions facing practitioners and benefit students. In addition, Dr. Kemple is familiar with the New York City school system because of his long experience at MDRC. Dr. Kemple was the unanimous choice of the Research Alliance Board, and we are extremely pleased that he has agreed to take on leadership of the Research Alliance.”

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said, “The business community has long contended that a transparent system for measuring results is essential for successful management of the schools. The Research Alliance will provide the independent analysis required to help guide policy and future investment in the education system.”

The Alliance will contribute to scholarly research that is relevant to both policy and practice on issues ranging from student achievement and preparation for higher education and the workforce to instructional practice and administrative decision making and the deployment of fiscal resources. Mary Brabeck, dean of NYU Steinhardt, said, “I am thrilled that NYU will be a partner with other research universities in building knowledge about our New York schools that can inform policy and improve students’ learning, development, and achievement.”

To support the work of the Research Alliance, Chancellor Klein has committed to ensuring that the new center has access to the Department of Education’s rich databases on student, personnel, and school characteristics and performance and that the Department will collaborate on evaluations of initiatives aimed at improving the city’s schools. Additionally, the Research Alliance will work with the New York State Education Department as a key stakeholder in the success of the city’s schools

Said Chancellor Klein, “Many of our reforms reflect the power of data and high-quality analysis, and we believe that the Research Alliance will help us build on our progress by doing independent, high-quality analyses of what programs are working and which aren’t. We are committed to the value of transparency, and we think the public is the winner when our work receives independent scrutiny. I look forward to working with the Research Alliance, which will enlist some of the country’s most talented researchers to examine issues that are critical to New York City’s schools.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said “The UFT has long recognized the need for quality independent research. We are pleased to join the other members of the Research Alliance in ushering in a new era of knowledge, access and transparency that will enable the public to better understand the workings of our schools. We look forward to their analysis of current data and development of research norms to better calculate progress, alert us to developments, and inform our policy decisions.”

“This is a significant step forward for New York City schools,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “By serving as an independent and rigorous evaluator, the Alliance can improve progress on achieving a central goal: providing a quality education to each and every student in our city’s public schools. The Ford Foundation is very pleased to support this important work.”

Dr. Kemple, the newly appointed executive director of the Research Alliance, brings over 25 years of experience as a practitioner and researcher. He said, “I am honored by this opportunity and am committed to the highest standards of research rigor and to drawing on the talents of the city’s and nation’s top researchers. We want to ensure that the Research Alliance will be a source of valid and reliable evidence about how best to educate all of the city’s young people.” Noting the need for balance between independence and collaboration Kemple said, “While we are deeply committed to being an independent and non-partisan resource for policy makers and practitioners, we are equally committed to collaborating with the key stakeholders in the city’s public schools to make sure that we are addressing questions that are of primary importance to students, families and educators.”

Efforts to create a research alliance in New York City had been a goal of education researchers and advocates for many years. The movement to create the Research Alliance began in earnest with a 2005 proposal from researchers in New York City organized by the Social Science Research Council to create a non-partisan research consortium to support assessment and improvement in New York City Schools. This was coordinated by the Social Science Research Council which incubated the Research Alliance project. Chancellor Klein endorsed this proposal in 2006.

The Consortium on Chicago School Research, a dedicated research center housed at the University of Chicago, was a model for the development of the Alliance.

“A non-partisan, independent resource gathering and maintaining data to help improve our public schools is exactly what this city needs,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children.

In order to develop and help implement the mission, goals and programs of the Research Alliance, a separate Governance Board, representing various constituencies with an interest in improving school performance, has been established. At present, the Board includes William Bowen; Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition; Robert Hughes, president of New Visions; Chancellor Klein; David McLaughlin, provost of New York University; Randi Weingarten; and Kathryn Wylde. The Governance Board, currently in the process of expanding membership to include representation from community members and researchers, will oversee the Research Alliance’s research agenda, as well as its operations and budget.

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