- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice says he’s stepping down after more than four years at the helm of the K-12 education in the state.

Bice, 61, made the surprise announcement Tuesday in a press conference. The outgoing superintendent said he felt it was the “right time” to change roles after 39 years in education and after the department of education met graduation rate goals and other milestones. He will leave the department March 31.

“While I may be retiring from formal public education, my work on behalf of students is far from over,” Bice said.

Bice said after some time off he will join the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation as its education director later this spring. He said the move will allow him to return to work that represents his greatest passion: helping inner-city students, their teachers and leaders to improve educational opportunities and communities.

The Board of Education tapped Bice to be superintendent in late 2011 and he took the post on Jan. 1, 2012. During his tenure, he oversaw the implementation of the Common Core academic standards and the Plan 2020 improvement strategy.

“I retire knowing that public education in our state is moving forward at an accelerated pace due to the dedicated teachers and leaders who have embraced the policy environment created by our State Board of Education,” Bice said.

He said the decision to retire was personal and professional and not driven by the political fights surrounding education over the last several years. Those included efforts to repeal Common Core and the Alabama Legislature’s approval of a law he opposed that provides tax credits for private school tuition.

“I knew when I took this job there would always be challenges politically. I don’t expect everyone to agree on every subject,” Bice said.

Bice said poverty is the biggest obstacle facing education in the state. Asked what political and policy trends worry him, he said a continued obsession with test scores by reform groups and “the use of one test score on one day as the determinant of all success of kids and schools and school systems.”

Bice said it’s important that Alabama, “not fall back on an environment where we misuse assessment to rank and divide and conquer but rather use assessment to improve instruction, improve student learning which was assessment was intended for.”

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