Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes plans to resign in July.

Anthes, who has served as Colorado’s schools chief since 2016, announced her plan to step aside on Tuesday. Her decision comes as an expanded, nine-member State Board of Education is set to take office in January and as Colorado schools settle into long-term pandemic recovery after more than two years of severely disrupted learning. 

Anthes said in a press release that she was proud of the work the department has done over the last six years.

“Through all the challenges, I’ve always been committed to listening to diverse perspectives, and aiming for the productive middle ground on issues that could have divided us — with a clear focus on students,” she said. “I’m proud to have helped build a culture of responsiveness, transparency, and pride in providing excellent customer service at CDE.”

Unlike other cabinet-level department heads who are appointed by the governor, Colorado’s education commissioner is hired by the independently elected State Board of Education to run the state education department. 

Anthes first was hired as an interim commissioner by a Republican-majority board in May 2016 but largely served under a Democratic majority that took office in January 2017. During her tenure, Colorado implemented a school accountability system that allows state intervention in struggling school districts, adopted new academic standards, and stepped up efforts to improve reading instruction and expand the teacher pipeline. 

And she led the department through the pandemic, which saw many students in remote learning for extended periods of time and schools experimenting with new instructional models.

Anthes and the department have often been constrained by Colorado’s system of local control, which gives school districts broad autonomy.

State Board members praised Anthes’ leadership style and the value she placed on cooperation and consensus.

Board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder said in a press release that Anthes created a positive foundation for challenging school improvement work. In Colorado, schools and districts with persistently low test scores qualify for extra help but schools that still don’t improve can lose autonomy. Under Anthes’ leadership, the Colorado education department often has endorsed district-developed improvement plans.

“Many of the districts that came before the board are now seeing positive trends, and I credit Katy for these outcomes because she understands that we can go farther when we listen to each other and work together respectfully to support students,” Schroeder said.

A notable exception has been the Adams 14 school district, where the superintendent ousted a state-mandated external manager and unsuccessfully took the state to court to fight a State Board order that the district be reorganized after more than a decade of low test scores. 

But after district officials testified in court about how the largely symbolic loss of accreditation had hurt the district’s ability to hire bilingual teachers, Anthes recommended that accreditation be restored while reorganization efforts proceed.

Anthes served a board that was deeply divided on key issues, such as the adoption of new social studies standards that included perspectives from diverse racial and ethnic groups and LGBTQ people. But many State Board decisions have been unanimous or nearly so. 

Vice Chair Steve Durham, a Colorado Springs Republican, said Anthes always has respected different perspectives while keeping a focus on student achievement. 

“We’ve been able to make great strides in several key areas under her leadership — especially the expansion of work-based learning opportunities for our high school students and the meaningful implementation of the READ Act to ensure all students are reading at grade level,” Durham said in the press release.

The State Board is expected to discuss the replacement process in early 2023.

Anthes replaced Rich Crandall, who abruptly resigned in 2016 after only four months on the job. She was hired as commission after serving as interim for seven months.

She first joined the department in 2011 to oversee the state’s rollout of a landmark teacher evaluation law. Before her appointment, she served as the department’s chief of staff, earning a reputation for being a consensus builder amid often tumultuous policy debates.

Anthes holds a doctorate in public policy and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado Denver. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at emeltzer@chalkbeat.org.


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