Influential researcher leaves city ed dept. for group that analyzes its data

PHOTO: Chris Nichols for NYU Steinhardt

Among the latest departures from the city Department of Education is a researcher who briefly headed one of the Bloomberg administration’s flagship divisions.

Saskia Levy Thompson is the new deputy director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, according to an announcement from the group today. From August 2010 until this month, she held a variety of roles in the education department, including deputy chancellor for portfolio planning, heading the division that opens and closes schools.

Levy Thompson held that position from September 2013 — when she replaced Marc Sternberg, the education official who spearheaded controversial school closures and co-locations since 2010 — until April, when new Chancellor Carmen Farîna collapsed the division and made her a special advisor.

Levy Thompson — who began her career as a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 110 on the Lower East Side — joined the department after a stint at the research firm MDRC, where she co-authored an influential report about the value of small high schools. City officials leaned heavily on the report during Bloomberg’s tenure, as he closed many large, struggling schools and opened hundreds of smaller ones in their place.

In her newly created role at the Research Alliance, which has an agreement with the Department of Education to scrutinize its data, Levy Thompson will oversee partnerships and build public support for the group’s work, according to the announcement. James Kemple, the organization’s executive director, also announced today that a group of funders had guaranteed the alliance nearly $2 million in funding over the next three years.

“Saskia comes to the Research Alliance at a critical moment in our development as we transition from a start-up enterprise to a sustainable source of evidence about policies and practices that promote success for New York City students,” Kemple said in a statement.

Levy Thompson is not the only high-ranking holdover from the Bloomberg administration to leave the Department of Education this month. Johannah Chase, who took over the special education division in March after working in the department for more than seven years, stepped down last week.