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Dr. Cheri Fancsali Named New Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Dr. Fancsali poses on a city street.

This summer, Dr. James Kemple will step down from his role as the Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, after 15 years in the position. He will be succeeded by Dr. Cheri Fancsali, who currently serves as the organization’s Deputy Director.  Fancsali brings a wealth of experience in education research, with a strong focus on helping educators and policymakers use evidence to serve students more effectively.

“Cheri is singularly qualified to take the helm at the Research Alliance,” said Dr. Kemple. “She brings more than three decades of experience leading research aimed at promoting excellence and equity in our nation’s schools. I am excited by the prospects for our continued growth and even greater impact under Cheri’s inspiring leadership.” 

Fancsali has served on the Research Alliance’s leadership team for the last seven years, where she has overseen strategic planning and development and managed a range of high-profile studies, including an evaluation of the 10-year, $81 million Computer Science for All initiative and analyses of NYC’s special education landscape. Prior to joining the Research Alliance, Fancsali was the Managing Director of Education Research for IMPAQ International and Director of Research and Evaluation for AED’s Center for School and Community Services. Fancsali is well known for her work on school reform efforts, teacher professional development, STEM education, afterschool programming, and social and emotional learning. She started her career as a special education teacher in New York City.

"We are grateful for Dr. Kemple's leadership and expertise over the last 15 years as the founder and Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools,” said NYC Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “The research that has come out of this center has been invaluable in shaping the educational experience for our students and educators alike. We look forward to continuing to work alongside Dr. Fancsali in her new capacity as Executive Director as we move toward a more equitable educational system that is rooted in research and evidence."

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to contribute to the important work of the Research Alliance, and I am deeply honored to step into the role of Executive Director of this exceptional organization,” said Dr. Fancsali. “In the years ahead, the Research Alliance will build on our past efforts by focusing on two key strategic priorities: advancing equity and racial justice through our work, and improving the use of evidence in NYC’s education system.”

“FPWA congratulates the Research Alliance for recognizing and elevating such a qualified individual as Dr. Cheri Fancsali as its next Executive Director. Her commitment to center equity and racial justice in educational research is precisely the lens urgently needed today to identify and tackle the many ways in which implicit bias persists in all systems, including education,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director & CEO of FPWA and Interim Chair of the Research Alliance Steering Committee. “FPWA also thanks Dr. James Kemple for his stewardship of the Alliance over the last 15 years. His leadership and contributions have ensured a strong foundation for the continued success of the Research Alliance.”

Fancsali aims to collaborate with school and district leaders, teachers, and community partners to develop new processes and tools that help them build and make sense of evidence and put it to use on behalf of NYC students and families. Fancsali also emphasizes the need to center equity and racial justice at every stage of the Research Alliance’s work—from the topics the organization studies, to the methods it uses and the communities it hopes to benefit.

“We are deeply committed to research that promotes equity in education,” said Fancsali. “This includes cultivating a diverse leadership team and supporting scholars of color on our staff and in our network of partners and affiliates; elevating the voices of teachers, students and families who are too often marginalized in education policy and research; and producing evidence that not only draws attention to educational inequality, but also highlights potential solutions.”

The Research Alliance’s leadership transition will take effect on September 1, 2023. Kemple will stay on as a Senior Fellow at the Research Alliance, where he will focus on special projects. This will include leading an ongoing study of Career and Technical Education, developing new evidence about how to strengthen NYC students’ pathways into college and careers, and curating and expanding access to the Research Alliance data archive. 

Kemple played a pivotal role in founding the Research Alliance and shepherding it from a start-up enterprise into a widely respected and influential source of evidence about NYC’s public schools. “Under Dr. Kemple’s leadership, the Research Alliance has become the primary source of objective analysis of data generated by New York’s public schools,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City and a founding Research Alliance board member. “Its work has contributed to programs and policies that achieve better outcomes for students.”

During Kemple’s tenure, Research Alliance studies shed light on both progress and challenges in the City’s education system, documenting areas of improvement, as well as persistent inequities. Across three mayoral administrations and seven NYC School Chancellors, the Research Alliance helped NYC Public Schools develop and apply research-backed frameworks for school improvement, accountability, and support. Research Alliance studies also examined the impact of various policies, programs, and initiatives, including Kemple’s widely cited analysis of performance-based school closures and an in-depth study of the Expanded Success Initiative, which was designed to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of Black and Latino young men in 40 NYC high schools. 

“Jim Kemple's 15 years of leadership at the Research Alliance impacted NYC's education policy landscape in many ways. Among other achievements, Jim’s creation of the Research Alliance data archive benefitted the entire field by making it possible to examine the educational trajectories of millions of NYC students from pre-K through college,” said Mark Dunetz, President of New Visions for Public Schools. “Cheri Fancsali's expertise in research and equity-driven practices makes her an ideal choice to lead the Research Alliance, and I know she will ensure that findings make a meaningful difference for students, schools, and communities.”

"Jim Kemple succeeded where so many others had not. He created, nurtured, and skillfully led an independent Research Alliance, which has become an invaluable resource for improvement of practice and policy in New York City Schools," said Augusta Kappner, President Emeritus Bank Street College of Education. "Under Jim's wise leadership the Alliance's record of producing actionable research evidence on both specific programs and big-picture issues is enviable, and the breadth and depth of its partnerships is extraordinary. The educators and schoolchildren of New York City have benefited tremendously from the work of the Research Alliance, and I know that Dr Cheri Fancsali will build on this strong foundation of excellence."

“The positive impact Jim has had on NYU Steinhardt and the New York City education communities over the past 15 years is inspiring. I am extremely appreciative of his leadership and accomplishments, always providing data-driven, unbiased insight on the most pressing issues our school system faces. I know Cheri's vision will build upon this foundation and am thrilled to see the life-changing improvements the Research Alliance will bring to our country's largest school system,” said Jack H. Knott, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.

“On behalf of El Puente, I extend our sincere thanks to Dr. Jim Kemple for his visionary leadership of the Research Alliance and his stellar accomplishments and contributions as its founding Executive Director,” said Frances Lucerna, Co-Founder and President of El Puente. “We congratulate Dr. Cheri Fancsali and look forward to our continued partnership to build upon the critical work of the Alliance to inform and advance our steadfast commitment to center and amplify the voices of our children, families, and communities in the movement for educational equity and social justice.”

“The Research Alliance has been a valuable partner to CUNY for many years under the thoughtful leadership of James Kemple, informing our strategies to ensure that students from New York City Public Schools can thrive in college,” said Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Chancellor of The City University of New York (CUNY). “We look forward to collaborating with Cheri Fancsali in her new role to advance the Alliance's mission of producing actionable research that increases equitable outcomes in education, promotes social-emotional wellness and, ultimately, improves the lives of New Yorkers from all communities.”

“I am glad to hear that the wonderful foundation Jim has built for the Research Alliance is passing into such capable hands,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “I look forward to continuing to collaborate with Cheri and the rest of the Research Alliance team, and offer my sincere thanks to Jim for all he's done to make the Alliance a successful partner in education research and advocacy. Congratulations to both of them on this exciting transition.”

“The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators congratulates Cheri Fancsali on assuming the influential role of Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. We are confident that, under her leadership, the Research Alliance will continue to impact the work of our City’s school leaders and the families they serve for years to come. We thank founding Director James Kemple for his admirable service in advancing equity within our system using robust research and meaningful evidence, and we look forward to our continued collaboration with the Research Alliance to promote racial justice in our schools,” said Henry Rubio, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

About the Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Housed at NYU Steinhardt, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools is an independent, nonpartisan research center that conducts rigorous studies on topics that matter to the City’s public schools. The Research Alliance strives to advance excellence and equity in education by providing evidence about the policies and practices that promote students’ development and academic success.

Press Contact:

Chelsea Farley