Colorado K-12 Chief Announces Retirement Amid State Board Shift

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 24, 2015 2 min read
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Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond announced that he will retire from his position on July 1, bringing an end to a four-year run as the state’s top K-12 official, Chalkbeat Colorado reported April 24.

Hammond became deputy commissioner of Colorado in 2008 after working in administration at the Wichita district in Kansas and in Colorado’s Boulder Valley district. He was appointed commissioner by the state school board in 2011.

In a statement announcing Hammond’s departure, board Chairwoman Marcia Neal praised the commissioner’s passion for his work, at the same time noting that Hammond is “not an ‘educator’ per se.” The board did not announce Hammond’s replacement.

Last year, the state school board elections led to two new members, Republican Steve Durham and Democrat Val Flores, and the board’s views towards the Common Core State Standards, new assessments, and the state’s accountability model began to shift. Hammond had been responsible for implementing those policies, and tension grew between the commissioner and the board, Chalkbeat reports.

However, Denver Post reporter Eric Gorski reported that the commissioner downplayed any disagreements he had with the board:

In January, the newly constituted board voted to allow districts to seek waivers from the common-core-aligned PARCC test, which the state plans to use for federal accountability purposes. Hammond responded that he wouldn’t act on the board’s vote unless given clearance by state attorney general, whose office subsequently said the board had no power to allow local waivers from PARCC. The state board also endorsed a bill in the state legislature this year that would repeal the common core.

Legislators have been mulling multiple bills this year to alter the state’s testing and accountability systems. Senate Bill 257, for example, which the state Senate approved April 23, would reduce the testing load down to federally required minimums. It would also push back the requirement to use test scores in teacher evaluations from the 2015-16 school year to the 2016-17 school year, the Denver Post reported. This plan could, at least temporarily, scale back many of the policies Hammond was tasked with implementing over the last several years .

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