Each day in Ohio's classrooms, great things happen that can't be tested. Caring teachers help reserved children build self-confidence, school administrators challenge at-risk students to continue their education, and students learn the value of cooperation and respect for others.
While we can't directly measure all these wonderful things, the recently released state and local report cards for every district and school in Ohio show the positive impact of teachers' efforts on student learning.
Their hard work--along with the efforts of superintendents, principals, school staff, parents, students and community members throughout the state--is making a difference.
Test scores are up. Over the past seven years, the statewide average of all students' test scores has increased by more than 19 points, up to 92.9.
Our schools continue to improve. Eight out of ten school districts earned Excellent or Effective ratings on the report cards. For the first time, Ohio has no districts in Academic Emergency.
More students are graduating each year. For the eighth year in a row, Ohio's graduation rate increased, up to 86.2 percent.
But we have some tough challenges ahead. We still see unacceptable achievement gaps between groups of students, especially for students with disabilities, students from low-income families and students of color.
Ohio had 19,000 students drop out of high school last year, many from high-poverty school districts. Those young Ohioans may now be destined for low-paying, dead-end jobs at best, or incarceration and generational poverty at worst.
There's a cost to all of us when students don't succeed in school. Higher levels of education are directly tied to higher levels of income. A U.S. Census Bureau report states that high school graduates can earn $1.2 million in a lifetime. Those with a bachelor's can expect to earn $2.1 million and those with a master's, $2.5 million. Every student deserves a quality education that will help them succeed in life.
Educators can't do this alone. It will take the leadership and resources of business and labor, legislators, higher education and local communities to prepare our students for the workforce and life. An investment in public education is crucial. Together, we must guarantee the future of our children.
Susan Tave Zelman is Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Ohio.