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Diverse set of representatives to state’s NCLB waiver ‘think tank’

The former principal of a now-closed city high school, a Columbia University economist, and a junior executive at the Department of Education are among the 32 people advising the state on how to apply for an exemption from No Child Left Behind’s requirements.

The officials represent 24 stakeholder organizations from around the state, including parent groups, unions, charter school advocates, and school districts. They form what’s being termed a “think tank” which is charged with coming up with a consensus of recommendations to submit to State Education Commissioner John King and Assistant Commissioner Ira Schwartz, who is overseeing the group.

The last time such a group was convened, for the teacher evaluation law passed last year, it ended in a lawsuit. According to the state teachers union, education officials rejected several key provisions proposed by a 63-member “task force” at the last minute.

The new group assigned to the NCLB waiver might not be as contentious, some members who served on both groups said. For one, state officials specifically renamed the group from a “task force” to a “think tank” — in part to remind the members of their advisory role. A spokesman for NYSED said King and Schwartz pass the task force’s recommendations – as well as their own – onto the state Board of Regents, which has final decision-making power.

In addition, the subject is less controversial. People on both sides of the education aisle agree that NCLB has created unreasonable compliance standards. Dozens of states are applying for a waiver in order to avoid breaking the law, which requires 100 percent student proficiency by 2014, and President Obama’s strict guidelines are likely to limit the topics up for debate.

The entire list of names serving on the “think tank” is below. Some of the New York City representatives include the Department of Education’s Martin Kurzweil, who designs the city progress reports, Jonah Rockoff, an economist and data maven who writes about education, and Eloise Messineo, of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators and a former principal of the now-closed Brandeis High School.

The New York City Charter School Center, United Federation of Teachers and multiple New York City advocacy groups are also represented.