Ready for the Bell: Mesa County Valley School District 51 working to embrace state and federal changes while creating warm and inviting learning environments


Students and instructor from East Middle School Science Lab

Special to The Business Times from Mesa County Valley School District 51

 The first day of the new school year is quickly approaching, and as always, our staff will open the doors and invite our students into a warm and inviting learning environment. Along with the 2012-13 opening, Mesa County Valley School District 51 staff will be embracing State and Federal mandated changes. In addition to Senate Bill 191, commonly referred to as the Educator Effectiveness Bill, District 51 is also preparing for the R.E.A.D. Act, a measure aimed at supporting early childhood literacy, as well as alignment to the 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, with continued changes to the schools meals.

            The 2012-2013 school year will serve as a year of preparation for both Senate Bill 191 and the R.E.A.D. act as neither measure is officially enacted until Fall of 2013. This will provide a great opportunity for District 51 to put supports in place ahead of the changes. Senate Bill 191 was passed in 2010 with the goal of providing a basis for improving instruction and a measurement for highly effective educator performance. In the new law, the definition of an effective teacher incorporates six quality standards, including the need to demonstrate content knowledge, leadership and taking responsibility for student growth. District 51 leadership will spend this next year working with the new evaluation process assessing opportunities and impacts of the system in District 51. Senate Bill 191 and the accompanying rules for execution are very complex. In the 2012-2013 school year, the evaluation model used by the district for its educators will not change.

            With the implementation of SB 191, school and district administrators will be required to evaluate all teachers and principals on an annual basis, which is an increase compared to the previous evaluation schedule of every three years.

            The R.E.A.D., or Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act, is a measure set to replace the sunsetting Colorado Basic Literacy Act. Both of these measures seek to ensure younger students, kindergarten through third grade, will have effective supports in place to reach a proficient level in literacy. Students who have been identified as needing extra reading supports will be given a R.E.A.D. Plan. This plan will replace the current I.L.P. (Individual Literacy Plan), a reading intervention set up between a teacher, a student, and that student’s parent or guardian. Perhaps the greatest difference between these two legislative efforts is that starting next year under the R.E.A.D. Act, a stipend of money will be paid to the school from the State Treasury to help aid in reading interventions for students with a R.E.A.D. Plan. Though the new changes will not take effect until Fall 2013, students will be assessed on their literacy skills in Spring 2013 to identify those to receive R.E.A.D. interventions the following school year.

            The third change is a continued move toward healthier school nutrition. Over the past four years, the District 51 Food Service department has been working to improve the health quality of meal and beverage options for students. Parents and students can expect to see this trend continue in the 2012-2013 school year. School District 51 participates in the USDA’s School Meal Program and will continue to change meal patterns to reflect the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This year, the new meal pattern will include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, will meet more specific calorie ranges for children in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, and will contain no trans-fat. Every lunch will now include at least a half-cup serving of fruit or vegetable. The new meal pattern also encourages schools to control portions of high-fat and high-sodium condiments and encourages serving low-fat condiments  instead. The new meal configuration aligns with the USDA MyPlate nutrition recommendations and will serve as an academic support for students to learn. Parents can learn more about the MyPlate program at


A 4th grade student in Ms. Strasser's class at Nisley Elementary reads during a lesson. Ms. Strasser was a student at Nisley and now teaches there.

           The staff within District 51 will be excited to greet all students as we begin the 2012-13 school year. Within every classroom in District 51, all students will have the opportunity to meet or exceed the Colorado Academic Standards that provide a world-class, 21st  Century education. Along the way, partnerships with staff, parents, and community will support the success of every student within District 51.