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Gordon Ambach, an engaging and probing technocrat who, while in charge of education in New York state and as the leader of the Council of Chief State School Officers, helped usher in the nation's standards and accountability movement, has died at 83.

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

As the education commissioner of New York from 1977 to 1987, he 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.

Ambach later served as the president and then executive director of the CCSSO from 1987 to 2001. At the time he joined the group, it was a middling advocacy organization based in Washington with little say over federal and state education policy. Under his leadership, the council grew from a $2.5 million-a-year operation employing 18 people to one with 65 workers and a budget of $14 million, and became influential in championing high standards and strict school accountability as well as in the national debate in the run-up to passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.

He wrote three books about leadership and the federal role in education and served as a board member of such groups as the Newspaper Association of America Foundation and the Education Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vol. 37, Issue 35, Page 5

Published in Print: June 13, 2018, as Obituary
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