Tallmadge -- Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said the most significant issue the school district will face this year is making the transition to new, more rigorous state assessments.
Ohio is revising its academic system and is expected to roll out new tests to all public school districts, starting with the 2014-15 school year.
The state standards focus on reading, writing, math, social studies and science for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Ferguson called the new standards "more rigorous, more challenging for students." He said the idea behind them is to prepare students for continuing their education.
"I think in the state of Ohio we're looking at what the reality of the world is, that it might not all be four-year college degrees, but at least some form of four-year or two-year, postsecondary training is going to be a requirement, really to do anything successfully when you graduate from high school," he said.
To prepare students for the new assessments, the Tallmadge Board of Education adopted the standards last month, and teachers are incorporating them into their lessons.
"As we look into 2013 there will actually be quite a bit of new when it comes to curriculum in the classroom," Ferguson said.
Students will be expected to know more in-depth information about the subjects they're already studying rather than learn completely different topics or a lot of superficial information on more topics.
The focus is on critical thinking. For example, Ferguson said decades ago, students were only asked to solve math problems, but now they'll be asked to take the computations further and explain why they solved the problems the way did and apply that process to the real world.
During the 2011-12 school year, Tallmadge City Schools was one of the districts in the state that piloted the new state assessment system. Eighth-grade social studies students took the tests online.
"It was actually the first time we took the complete assessment online," Ferguson said. "So that's the future, where we're heading. Eventually all the state testing we take will be done electronically."
Included in the state standards is the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a state law that seeks to ensure every third-grader is reading at that grade level. If any don't perform at that level, the school districts are required to provide an intervention plan for the students.
"Fortunately for us, we've always placed a great deal of emphasis and pride in our early literacy program here," Ferguson said, adding the school district already identifies and helps children who aren't reading at grade level, beginning in kindergarten. "So that won't be a whole lot of new. It just might be a new way of recording and some things we have to do, but I always think we've had a great early literacy program, and we've always used that as a benchmark of future success of our students," he said.
Making the transition
Ferguson said he expects students to adjust well to the new standards and assessments.
"I've been doing this a long time and believe that kids typically rise to the level of our expectations of them," he said. He added that adults, as in the educators and parents of the students, may have a more difficult time with the adjustment.
He said it will take a team effort to be successful.
"There will be times of frustration on everybody's part," he said.
If he could give one piece of advice to parents, Ferguson said he would encourage them to be involved with their children's education. And for those who are already involved, keep it up.
He suggests turning off the TV and video games and creating structure and a schedule at home, including a dedicated study time. The more a child reads and writes, the better reader and writer he or she will be.
"I don't think you can ever be too involved in your child's education," Ferguson said.