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Long-awaited center to study city schools arrives tomorrow

The research center that will aim to conduct apolitical research on the city’s public schools is launching tomorrow, at long last.

James Kemple, a former director of education policy at MDRC, a New York think tank, will be the executive director of the group, which will be called (after several other tentative names were scrapped) the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, according to a press release just sent out. New York University is housing the center.

One thing to pay close attention to is the data-sharing agreement that will determine which researchers get what data and what kind of access to schools. Increasing access was one purpose of the alliance, and to that end, the people who set up the alliance — from luminaries like the former president of Princeton, William Bowen, to the layman executive director, Richard Arum — hammered out a formal agreement with the Department of Education dictating who can see what figures and under what circumstances.

I reported on the terms of a tentative agreement over the summer, for the Sun:

Under the tentative deal, the group would have a fixed set of data that would be kept constantly up-to-date. Some of that data, including figures such as schools’ state test scores, SAT results, and attendance data, would be widely available to the press and public. A larger set, including student-level information would be instantly available to a “Research Corps” selected by the executive director.

To ensure speedy responses to inquiries by the alliance, the Department of Education would also agree to appoint a person in charge of coordination, called a “senior data liaison.” The liaison would be paid for by the alliance but work under the supervision of the department, Mr. Arum said.

Another fun fact: On the name front, one long-time contender was the Research Partnership. Maybe not everyone at the center is ready to give up that name; it’s still the URL address of the center’s Web site and mentioned prominently on the site’s home page, as you can see in a screen shot below the jump.

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