Last month, the Ohio Department of Education released the annual report cards for local school districts throughout the state. The report cards come out annually and are used to measure levels of achievement and effectiveness at our local schools, while also acting as a tool for what areas and subjects are in most need of improvement. The 20th Senate District was well-represented as 10 of our local districts were deemed excellent by the state.

Districts being recognized with this high mark were: Alexander Local, Athens City, Belpre City, East Muskingum Local, Ridgewood Local, River View Local, Tri-Valley Local, Warren Local, West Muskingum Local, and Wolf Creek Local.

Overall, Ohio saw an increase in 2011 of the number of districts named excellent. Last year, 296 earned the honor while 352 received it this year. In addition, nearly 90-percent of all districts showed improvement on their Performance Index scores in comparison to last year. Without question, improvement like this is important to Ohio s future prosperity and I hope that we all find some way to take an active role in our local schools.

Our childrens education is a constant and noble effort that is worthy of our utmost commitment. Educators, administrators, parents, and policymakers must continue working together in order to bring forth innovative new ways to place Ohios classrooms among the best in the nation. This should begin by placing a renewed focus on students rather than bureaucracy and finding ways to ensure that our best and brightest teachers remain in the classroom.

I also encourage every parent to maintain an active role in their childrens schooling. Studies continue to illustrate that students whose parents remain engaged in their learning will go on to realize higher academic outcomes as they grow older.

Together, we must always keep in mind that our children will one day inherit the communities that we so dearly love. For that reason, and many others, we must work to cultivate a strong sense of pride in our schools and stewardship of our communities.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to the faculty, administrators, and students for their continued effort and hard work and commend them for exemplifying true excellence in Southeast Ohio.

State Senator Troy Balderson (R) covers one of the largest districts in the state including, Athens, Coshocton, Guernsey, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble and Washington counties. He may be reached at 614-466-8076.