The Olentangy Local School District is on the fast track to implementing new, more-rigorous national educational standards.

The Olentangy Local School District is on the fast track to implementing new, more-rigorous national educational standards.

The district is phasing in curricular tweaks to match the new Common Core standards, which were devised by national legislators and adopted by the state of Ohio in 2010.

A state mandate says all Ohio districts have to fully implement the curriculum changes for grades K-12 by the start of the 2014-15 school year, and Olentangy already is well on its way, said Mark Raiff, the district's director of secondary learning.

Olentangy began introducing new standards for the four "core" subjects in 2011: math, language arts, science and social studies. The transition will be completed over the course of the next two years.

"We're going to be ahead of a lot of other districts that are struggling to figure out how to get it implemented in time," said school board member Stacy Dunbar at the board's Aug. 9 meeting.

The changes will standardize most core content across state lines. So far, 45 states have adopted the Common Core standards.

They also are more rigorous to prepare students for new state assessments that will be introduced in the 2014-15 school year.

Incoming seventh-graders will be affected most. They will be the first to take revamped state assessments starting their sophomore year of high school.

The ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement tests also are set to get tougher in the coming years.

But those challenges ultimately will leave students better equipped for college and the workplace, Superintendent Wade Lucas said at the Aug. 9 meeting.

"It's meant to prepare students to better compete in a global economy," he said.

Raiff said the new standards benefit students by directing instructors to cover fewer subjects, but in greater depth and detail.

He detailed changes to the math curriculum at the Aug. 9 meeting.

The new math standards discourage "plug and chug" teaching methods that ask students to memorize equations without understanding their practical applications, he said.

That will prepare students for new state tests that have them use mathematics in the context of a story or real-world scenario.

"The increased rigor and the ability to go deeper and increase their foundational skills will make them better math students for life, rather than just being kids who can crank through 30 homework problems," Raiff said.

To that end, the district will begin accelerating high-scoring math students in seventh grade instead of fifth grade. That will help all students build a solid foundation before moving on, Raiff said.

Meanwhile, math classes are being reordered and consolidated to allow accelerated students to advance more quickly at the middle school level. Those students can complete a Common Core class that covers all seventh- and eighth-grade material during the seventh grade.

That would free up space for both geometry and algebra during eighth grade, in which students can earn high school credits. Previously, geometry was not offered at the middle school level.

Just five states haven't adopted the Common Core standards: Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Minnesota and Virginia.