Colorado Education Chief Calls it Quits After Just Four Months

By Daarel Burnette II — May 20, 2016 2 min read
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Richard Crandall, who took over in January as Colorado’s education commissioner, called it quits Friday, saying he was leaving for family reasons.

“The realities of my large family being out of state, including school-age children, as well as the demands of the position and the time required to fully serve a state as diverse and expansive as Colorado, lead me to this decision,” Crandall, whose 13 children lives in Arizona, said in a statement posted on the state education department’s website. “I have enjoyed getting to know and work with so many supporters of public education, especially the staff at the Department of Education. I wish the state board and staff well as they work on implementation of [the Every Student Succeeds Act] and the many key policy issues facing the [state school] board.”

Colorado’s department of education has clashed with district leaders and politicians in recent years over its Race to the Top plan, its adoption of the Common Core State Standards, and its use of high-stakes testing. More than 65,000 students opted out of the state’s standardized tests last year, one of the highest rates in the nation.

In June, Marcia Neal, the state’s school board chairwoman, resigned after what she characterized as board dysfunction and the state commissioner, Robert Hammond, later announced his retirement, too. Colorado’s board hired Crandall to lead the state’s department earlier this year.

Crandall, a former Arizona politician, served a short stint as Wyoming’s state superintendent in 2013-14, before that state’s supreme court reinstated Cindy Hill, who argued the state’s legislature illegally forced her out of the job.

Over the last several months, since Crandall’s appointment, the department has been in the thick of gathering community input for its work on ESSA implementation. Among other things, the law will require the state to reassess its teacher evaluation and school accountability plans.

Earlier this month, I spoke to Crandall shortly before taking a trip to Pueblo, Colo., an impoverished city in the southeast part of the state where the department held its first leg of a statewide listening tour. The city’s school district has complained for several years now that the department’s turnaround plans have been disruptive, ineffective, and have wasted millions of tax dollars.

During the interview, Randall acknowledged the state’s divisions, but said he saw ESSA as a way to get everyone back on the same page.

“ESSA puts the onus back on states to say, ‘What are you going to do to help these districts, these schools?’ ” said Crandall. “The listening tour is us saying, ‘Hey, guys, we have some flexibility and a lot of responsibility. Let’s do this together. This is not going to be a top-down decision. What in the areas of accountability and turnaround would you like to see? Let’s have a conversation.’ ”

Colorado’s board was to meet Friday afternoon to determine Crandall’s replacement.

Across the country, state superintendents last an average of three years.

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