Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams has announced plans to step down from the position he began three years ago as the first African-American to be named in the role.
Williams has worked in Austin for the past 16 years, working on the Texas Railroad Commission from 1999 to 2011 before becoming Education Commissioner in 2012.
He said he is unsure what his next move will be, but that it is “time to simply head home.” He added that he does not “ever expect to be on a ballot again,” and that he thinks he will end up in the private sector after stepping down as of January 1, writes Anna Tinsley for The Star-Telegram.
“I don’t want to engage in thinking about the next career move while I am still on the taxpayer’s dime,” he told the Star-Telegram. “In the course of my life, I’ve been blessed and opportunities have come available. I hope I’ll be blessed again and another opportunity will present itself.”
While in his role, Williams faced a number of challenges, from implementing a new standardized test to dealing with the results of cuts made to public school funding by the Legislature. He was criticized for the rollout of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, which, implemented several months before he took office, was thought by many to be too rigorous. Around the same time, the Legislature cut around $5.4 billion from public school funding as a result of revenue forecasts that turned out to be inaccurate. As a result, many districts had to cut staff positions and class offerings.
Williams said that the new commissioner will face even more challenges.
“Texas is poised to usher in a new level of high-quality Pre-K education, as well as bring greater flexibility and innovation to our school districts,” he wrote to Abbott. “You have worked to assure the return of valuable literacy and math academies as well as other supports for our teachers.
“Finally, we are again broadening the choices and information provided to Texas parents to help them make informed decisions about their children’s education.”
The commissioner added that he was proud of his work improving the morale of the employees of the Texas Education Agency, accountability of school districts and public awareness about the struggles of low-income students in the state, writes Julie Chang for The American-Statesman.
Graduation rates in the state have gone up to an all-time high last year as 88.3% of seniors graduated within four years. The number of charter school students also rose 15% each year that Williams was in office.
Teachers in the state praised him as he stood up for districts to be allowed to choose their own teacher and principal evaluation systems despite federal requirements.