The Westerville City School District is preparing for future changes in the Ohio Department of Education's student assessments for the next school year by creating an awareness initiative.

The Westerville City School District is preparing for future changes in the Ohio Department of Education's student assessments for the next school year by creating an awareness initiative.

Scott Ebbrecht, coordinator of the district's Office of Assessment and Alternative Education Services, works to keep people aware of the ODE's Next Generation Assessments by releasing monthly summaries about the district's progress adjusting to the new tests.

"These summaries will be distributed through news releases and other electronic communication channels, as well as compiled on the district's website," Ebbrecht said in a press release. "Our goal is to create a shared understanding within the community of how these forthcoming changes will impact the Westerville City School District and its students."

Next Generation Assessments are Ohio's computer-based statewide tests to continue the state's college- and career-ready standards. The assessments will align with the Common Core standards, which is a set of academic requirements based on grade level in English language arts, literacy and mathematics.

The Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states nationwide; they were created to ensure student readiness for college and careers regardless of where they may live. Ohio adopted the standards in 2010 and mandated that schools implement them by the 2014-15 school year.

New curriculum standards mean new tests for next year. The Westerville district's initiative is to provide teachers and parents with proper resources and updates regarding the changes.

"There are multiple paths to create that awareness," Ebbrecht said in an interview. "The main thing is maintaining communication channels with our public so they understand what the implications are for Next Generation Assessments."

Since the new assessments will be administered by computer only, the district has taken steps to acquire the appropriate devices, bandwidth and Wi-Fi access for the pilot exams in May.

Approximately 330 students in Annehurst, Fouse and Huber Ridge elementary schools, Heritage and Walnut Springs middle schools and Westerville Central High School will participate in a Next Generation Assessment as part of a field test.

Greg Lewis, director of information management at the district's Office of Communication and Technology, said the district is well prepared for the pilot exams after buying more devices, installing appropriate software and expanding Internet capabilities in the tested areas.

The district spent $22,000 to meet minimum requirements to administer the pilot tests, Lewis said. Depending how the pilot assessment finishes, the district will also know how to fix any kinks and be prepared for the next year.

"We're kind of evaluating different devices right now to get an idea of what is going to be the future of testing for here on out," Lewis said. "That's kind of the whole point of this field testing, to kind of learn."

Though these tests will begin next year, some statewide exams will not necessarily be retired.

Unless there are future legislation changes, the Next Generation Assessments will take the place of the Ohio Achievement Assessments for grades 4-8 and third-grade math. However, the new assessments will not replace the Ohio Graduation Test for sophomores or Ohio Achievement Assessment reading exams for third-graders.

As part of the initiative, Ebbrecht said the district will keep the community updated on any legislative changes.

"As is true of any assessment design process, the state could modify its Next Generation Assessment plan based upon ongoing feedback, test trial administration and legislation," Ebbrecht said in the release. "We'll keep our families and community updated on any of these developments as well."