Education

Gordon Ambach, Long-Time N.Y. Ed. Commissioner, CCSSO Director, Dies at 83

By Daarel Burnette II — June 06, 2018 2 min read

Gordon MacKay Ambach, an engaging and probing technocrat who, while in charge of New York’s Department of Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers, helped usher in the nation’s standards and accountability movement, died at his New Haven, Conn., home May 25 . He was 83.

The cause of death was complications from a stroke, family members said in a press release.

As the education commissioner of New York between 1977 to 1987, Ambach instituted the Regents Action Plan, one of the nation’s most-ambitious statewide reform efforts. It lengthened the time students spent in school, raised learning standards across the state, and instituted statewide exams.

“The influence of those exams over the 20th century has just been incredible, in my judgment, by way of ensuring that any place you went in rural or urban New York, you would have access to the array of courses required for a regents’ diploma,” Ambach said to Education Week reporter Kathleen Manzo in a 2000 interview. “The exam system provided an opportunity for students to stretch themselves and reach for a higher goal. They raised the ante for teachers and students, parents and schools.”

During his subsequent years as the president and then executive director of CCSSO between 1987 and 2001, he advocated for national standards and heavier accountability by state officials. At the time he joined the group, CCSSO was a middling advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with little say over federal and state education policy. Under his leadership, CCSSO grew from a $2.5 million-a- year operation budget employing 18 people to one with 65 employees and a budget of $14 million, much of it from grants. It was influential in advocating for high standards and strict school accountability and in the national debate in the runup to passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Ambach authored three books about leadership and the federal role in education. He also served as a board member of the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, the Education Board of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Center for Naval Analysis.

He is survived by his wife, Lucy Emory Ambach, his three children, and 10 grandchildren.


Don’t miss another State EdWatch post. Sign up here to get news alerts in your email inbox. And make sure to follow @StateEdWatch on Twitter for the latest news from state K-12 policy and politics.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read