Education Matters: District 51 vision sessions define the future

Published: Oct. 19, 2016 at 9:49 PM MDT
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What types of skills do we want a District 51 graduate to have?

"We want them to be able to leave the system ready for the world they're going to enter," said Steve Shultz, District 51 superintendent.

Steve Shultz and the rest of the district staff are getting a clear vision for the local schools and the students they serve by talking to parents, business owners, and other local leaders. He says the district is getting answers.

"We've interacted with over 150 people, asking them questions about what's changed in the last 30 years," said Shultz.

Among many things that have changed in the last 30 years is the economy that schools are preparing students for. Shultz says that for nearly a century American schools have followed an outdated, industrial model.

"We want to create a system that supports what the parents and business leaders of this community, businessmen of this community and businesswomen want to have for the workforce," said Shultz.

As the economy continues to change, particularly here in the Grand Valley, Shultz wants his students ready for the job market.

"We're building a model that really matches western Colorado and Mesa County. You don't go out and buy a program. You don't go and say, 'well we're just going to copy what they did over here," said Shultz. "We have a framework that we're using that's called performance-based learning, but it needs to be designed to fit our community

Performance based learning was tried out in a few District 51 schools last year. This year, the practice went districtwide. It allows teachers and students to get immediate feedback through use of technology, and know whether the student is excelling or needs extra help with a certain subject.

Shultz said students that master their academics in their own way become young adults who can cash in on their know how.

"Careerwise, that's going to allow us to offer apprenticeships to kids while they're juniors and seniors in high school that are paid, that's in line with what they're interested in, its very critical," said Shultz.

The next visioning session is November 2, where Shultz says they'll start narrowing their focus down.