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And the data are handed over — sort of, almost

At today’s coming-out party for the Research Alliance for the New York City Schools (party take two, as City Room points out), the person who seemed most attuned to the significance of the event was Kathryn Wylde, the president of the business community’s lobbying group, the Partnership for New York City, and a board member of the alliance.

In a short speech, Wylde referred to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as “the person who really had to give something up in all of this.”

“Control of all the data is a lot of control,” she explained.

Indeed, the ambitiousness of the pledges being made — that the alliance will have free and open access to study the city’s public schools, and that it will be a totally independent body, despite the presence of several political heavy-hitters on its board (Klein is one, and so is union president Randi Weingarten) — was so remarkable that it was the subject of quiet conversation in the audience.

And despite the exciting promises, there was still some unfinished business. The data-sharing agreement that will be the core of the alliance has not yet been formalized, and so it is not yet clear precisely who will have access to the data and under what conditions.

But leaders of the alliance said they are confident it will succeed at its mission of being both independent and collaborative.

Speaking on behalf of Weingarten, a UFT vice president, Leo Casey, said praised the alliance and said he expects it to be transparent and independent.

“Mark my words,” Klein said. “It will have integrity.”

Klein said he will not play a role in determining the alliance’s research agenda, though he said he will give ideas for what he’d like to see studied.

The new executive director, James Kemple, said he is confident Klein will allow him to study data. “I would not have taken the position unless I had a firm commitment from the chancellor that we would have access to the city’s data,” Kemple told me.

The person who shepherded the project until now, Richard Arum, told me that the tentative deal he described to me over the summer is still in place. That deal outlined a group called the “Research Corps” that would have access to city data, and also included a new city position to handle data requests, a “senior data liaison.”

Arum said that “legal technicalities” are the only thing keeping the agreement from becoming permanent.

Arum also said that the research group in Chicago that the alliance is modeled after has no formal data-sharing agreement.

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