Gov. Walker announces ‘change in leadership’ at Dept. of Education
JUNEAU — Governor Walker announced a “change in leadership” for the Department of Education Thursday, just a few days after commissioner Michael Hanley announced the state would be scrapping the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP), a standardized test Alaska students took just once.
Commissioner Hanley says the governor asked him to resign Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t totally out of the blue,” said Hanley. “For the last several months I’ve recognized that the board is looking at going in a different direction.”
The AMP test had only been in place one year, but there were delays in implementing the test and in getting results – a situation the Board of Education now calls the “AMP debacle,” and that Hanley says he takes responsibility for.
“Some things happened with the vendor that made it very difficult for them to follow through and give us the quality we were looking for,” he said. “We couldn’t really forsee that, but it happened on my watch and I’ll own that. So some people are frustrated with the vendor, some people are frustrated with me.”
In a phone interview Thursday, James Fields, Chairman of the Board of Education, said the AMP test wasn’t the only factor in the decision to seek new leadership. President Obama signed new federal regulations under the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law in December. He says the board was looking for fresh eyes and outlooks in implementing ESSA.
“We just felt mutually that it may be better if we look at putting somebody else fresh in there that can move forward with ESSA and navigating that,” said Fields.
Fields says it hadn’t been planned to have Hanley resign during the legislative session. “It’s just circumstances have happened and you know, it is what it is,” said Fields.
During his six years in office Hanley says he’s most proud of his ability to bridge the divide between rural and urban schools.
“When I first came on board, [at the] beginning of 2011, there was a pretty strong divide between urban and rural school districts, conversations were very much us versus them,” said Hanley.
He says he settled two lawsuits the state had hanging over its head and worked to “open up the doors a little bit and look at our students as students, as children not defined by the opportunities that are provided to them.”
In hindsight, Hanley says he would have focused more on outreach during his time in office, to give stakeholders in education a bigger input.
“Stakeholders in education can be anything from our parents and students up to our principals, teachers, superintendents, and again, we’ve done that. I feel like we’ve done that extensively but I think we could have done that better,” said Hanley.
Hanley’s resignation is effective March 1st. Susan McCauley, director for the department’s teaching and learning support division, will act as interim commissioner.
In his state of the state speech last month, Governor Walker referenced a new approach to education in Alaska, which he says hinges on three priorities: modernizing education, honoring local control and recruiting and retaining high quality teachers.
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