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David Steiner, top state ed dep't official, to leave at year's end

David Steiner. Photo courtesy of State Education Department.

Yet another top education official is making plans to vacate his position — this time at the State Education Department.

SED Commissioner David Steiner will leave the department at the end of the school year, he announced today.

Steiner appears to be leaving entirely of his own accord. People close to him described him as less interested in the “nuts and bolts” work of implementing the vision he helped the state set out for education. They said that Steiner, a former education school dean, is considering returning to the quieter and less political territory of academia.

The news outdid Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement this morning that his deputy mayor, Dennis Walcott, will replace Chancellor Cathie Black — at least in the department of rattling surprises. Even Steiner himself did not know that he would be announcing his departure today, according to people close to him.

“The only reason the announcement came today is because there clearly were rumors, and then after the Susan Arbetter show, and she raised those rumors, it felt like we needed to address them because we didn’t want to have rumors continue to percolate and circulate over the next few days,” a source at the state education department said.

Asked about rumors that Steiner might resign on that show, Capital Pressroom, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said that Steiner was “exploring other options” after less than two years in Albany. Tisch appeared on the show to discuss teacher evaluations but also addressed the resignation of Cathie Black as New York City schools chancellor.

Steiner became commissioner in July 2009, replacing 14-year veteran Richard Mills. Steiner had been chair of the School of Education at Hunter College, where he pioneered the practice of videotaping teachers as they worked and then critiquing their performance.

Improving teacher evaluation emerged as one of the main themes of Steiner’s tenure as commissioner, with the state reaching an agreement with teachers unions on a plan to change how teachers are assessed. That plan has yet to go into action because it requires individual school districts to develop their own assessments and have those assessments approved by local unions. Recommended guidelines for the local assessments were released only this week.

“With the anticipated approval of a final teacher evaluation program in the coming months, I have informed Chancellor Tisch and members of the Board of Regents that I intend to leave the State Education Department later this year,” Steiner said this afternoon in a statement. “Together we will begin to plan for a seamless transition.”

People close to Steiner said he had grown disinterested in the job of commissioner.

“David came to do the vision stuff. He did it,” according to a person close to Steiner. “And the rest of it’s not up his alley. I think he was ready to do something else.”

Steiner hasn’t said what his next move will be. But Tisch said in a statement, “I know he is weighing a number of exciting options.”

STATEMENTS REGARDING DEPARTURE OF EDUCATION COMMISSIONER DAVID STEINER

As the end of the school year and the legislative session approaches, I am immensely proud of the reforms we’ve achieved — guiding New York’s successful Race to the Top application, designing a new teacher and school leader evaluation system, reforming teacher preparation and certification and implementing a tough re-setting of our 3-8 tests. With the anticipated approval of a final teacher evaluation program in the coming months, I have informed Chancellor Tisch and members of the Board of Regents that I intend to leave the State Education Department later this year. Together we will begin to plan for a seamless transition.

–Commissioner David Steiner

We recruited David because he is one of America’s leading education reform visionaries, and as Commissioner he has delivered – leading New York’s successful Race to the Top application and guiding this department through an amazing array of reforms. As he approaches the end of his second legislative session and second school year as Commissioner, he has informed me of his desire to return to a role outside of state government where he can continue to champion reform. I know he is weighing a number of exciting options. In the weeks to come the Board will begin an orderly transition and continue to move forward with our reform agenda.

— Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch

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