When David Steiner announced his resignation as commissioner of the State Education Department, people close to him speculated that he was burnt out by trying to push his agenda through.

In an interview posted today with Rick Hess, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Steiner describes the thoughts that led to his decision.

“There is an enormous investment in the status quo, even from those you would think have an incentive for change,” Steiner told Hess. “… Sometimes, I would look out from the offices in Albany and ask where the allies were.”

Steiner’s complaint reflects divisions among state education officials documented by Michael Winerip in today’s New York Times. Some officials — such as Steiner’s successor, John King, and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch — favor speedy policy changes in line with federal priorities. Others are urging a more cautious pace.

Now returning to Hunter College’s School of Education, Steiner told Hess that his biggest accomplishment as commissioner was to change certification requirements for new teachers. And he also said he is not confident that plans to boost test quality will pay off. “It’s still an open question whether the next generation of assessments will really match our aspiration to encourage rigorous, deep thinking rather than the rote-like product from the testing regime,” Steiner said.