Canal Winchester schools Superintendent Jim Sotlar expects his district will face challenges in 2015, but he's confident that teachers and staff members will help students achieve success and reach district goals.

Canal Winchester schools Superintendent Jim Sotlar expects his district will face challenges in 2015, but he's confident that teachers and staff members will help students achieve success and reach district goals.

One of those challenges is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, he said.

Sotlar believes these two assessments are "very challenging, not only for the students but for the teachers and staff in preparing for the test."

The new tests have two components. The first test, to be administered in February, is a performance-based assessment.

"The performance-based (assessment) allows students to show what they can do with what they have learned in the first seven months of school," Sotlar said.

The second test, which is taken at the end of April or early May, is an end-of-year assessment that measures what students learned in an entire school year.

"These tests will be more rigorous and lengthy," Sotlar said.

The scores on the two tests are combined to give each student one score.

In addition to the PARCC assessments, Sotlar said the next challenge is to ensure the current class of high school freshmen is prepared for new graduation requirements.

According to the Ohio Department of Education website, the new graduation requirements did not change the number of course credits students need to receive a diploma.

However, students will now earn points toward graduation on seven year-end exams, including English I and II, algebra I, geometry, integrated math I and II, physical science, American history and American government. Students can earn one to five points on each exam, based on their performance, according to the website.

To be eligible for a diploma, students must earn a minimum of 18 points from scores on these tests.

While the new testing will be challenging, Sotlar said the district hopes to have continued success on the assessments because of a dedicated workforce.

"Our staff members aren't just teachers; they are educators," Sotlar said. "Their passion for student success is contagious. Every day, they rise to the challenge of meeting national and state education policies while finding creative ways to reach students and ignite a passion for learning and success both in the classroom and beyond."

To help teachers help students achieve success, Sotlar said one of his goals for 2015 is to finish the Innovative Learning Zones project at the elementary schools. When the $878,583 Straight-A grant to help increase student achievement was announced in July, Sotlar said Innovative Learning Zones would "help redesign traditional classroom settings in elementary schools to help improve engagement and learning" and would be the "first step in the district's overall plan to re-envision teaching and learning ... for all children in grades K-12."

Sotlar said another goal for 2015 is to provide teachers with professional development "to bring the best learning opportunities to our students when using these labs and then carrying over into the regular classroom."

"The professional development training is focused on problem-based learning, and the 4 C's -- communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity skills," he said.

He noted that all of these areas are part of implementing the district's STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics) program.