WINNEMUCCA - Our commitment to continually improving student results requires that we regularly revisit what children need to learn, how we teach them and how we measure their learning.

As educators, we are always trying to improve so that all our students will be ready for both college and career. The state of Nevada, as well as the Humboldt County School District, is focused on increasing student success through implementing:

•Focused and rigorous new standards

•Meaningful assessments aligned to the new standards

•Improved teacher and administrative evaluations

Let's begin with WHAT we teach kids. The Nevada Academic Standards are clear statements of what students are expected to learn at each grade level (for each subject). These standards guide teaching and ensure our students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need for college and career success.

All Nevada school districts are in full implementation of the new Colorado Academic and English Language Proficiency Standards. To support this endeavor, our late start Thursdays are designed to provide intensive professional development to our staff to support this implementation. Currently, our focus is on math, and we hope to continue with both math and English language arts next year.

In direct association with having standards that guide our teaching, it is essential that we have assessments that determine if students are learning the right skills and concepts. In short, our teachers need to be able to test their students' learning to see if their educational goals are being met.

With new standards come new state assessments. Nevada's assessments will be changing in order to accurately measure if students are learning the new standards. This performance will be evaluated through assessment measures, identified as SBAC, as well as changes to proficiency testing in high school. Specifically, students will be required to pass four End of Course assessments in 9th/10th grade, as well as participate in an 11th grade college and career readiness assessment. Currently, the state, in conjunction with the 17 superintendents, is working to more clearly define how these new assessments will look.

As a result of these efforts, we have standards that tell us what students need to know and assessments that tell us if they know it. The state is now adding one more very important part - more feedback and support for our teachers and principals. Clearly, educators have an important and complex job and it is essential that we provide each with the tools necessary to get better and better every year.

Changes defined during the 2013 legislative session will change the manner in which both teachers and principals are evaluated in Nevada. Beginning in either the 2013-2014 or the 2014-2015 school year, all teachers and principals will be subject to a different evaluation system. Under the new system evaluations will be based on a set of statewide expectations which define what it means to be an effective teacher/principal. Half of our staff's evaluation will be based on their professional practice and half will be based on students' academic growth. All educators will be responsible for showing that their students are showing increased levels of learning.

To support these changes to educator evaluation, the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) is developing a model that meets the new requirements. This has been identified as the Nevada Education Performance Framework (NEPF).

While holding educators responsible for student growth, the system is focused on giving educators more feedback on how their teaching is impacting their students' learning. Our administrators are currently being trained on this new evaluation system, while one of our schools has been selected to participate in a validation study. In addition, we will be rolling out additional training for all staff members to ensure that each is clearly aware of the expectations associated with the new system.

More information is available on the NDE's website under Commissions and Councils. From there, the section identified as Teachers and Leaders Council provides detailed information. A link to this page can be found at: http://www.doe.nv.gov/Commissions_and_Councils_Detail_Page/.

As a district, we are committed to the success of all our students and the professional growth of our educators. There is nothing more important than seeing our students succeed and we believe that the new standards, aligned assessments and improved evaluations for our educators are important steps.

Dr. David Jensen is superintendent of Schools and can be reached at 775-623-8196 or at djense@humboldt.k12.nv.us.